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Penguin: Mother, Mother, Make My Bed

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Mother, Mother, Make My Bed (from The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs)

Alan of Australia 19 Mar 00 - 02:40 AM
Joe Offer 13 Jan 05 - 02:54 AM
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Subject: Penguin: Mother, Mother, Make My Bed ^^
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 19 Mar 00 - 02:40 AM

From the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, Ed Pellow's rendition of the tune of Mother, Mother, Make My Bed can be found here.


'Mother, mother, make my bed,
And wrap me in a milk-white sheet,
And wrap me in a cloak of gold,
And see whether I can sleep.

'And send me the two bailies,
Likewise my sister's son,
That they may fetch me my own true love,
Or I shall die before ever he can come.'

The first three miles they walked,
The next three miles they ran,
Until they came to the high water side,
And laid on their breast and swam.

They swam till they came to the high castle
Where my lord he was sitting at meat:
'If you did but know what news I brought,
Not one mouthful more would you eat.'

'What news, what news have you brought me?
Is my castle burnt down?'
'Oh no, your true love is very, very ill,
And she'll die before ever you can come.'

'Saddle me my milk-white horse,
And bridle him so neat,
That I may kiss of her lily lips
That are to me so sweet.'

They saddled him his milk-white steed
At twelve o'clock at night.
He rode, he rode till he met six young men
With a corpse all dressed in white.

'Come set her down, come set her down,
Come set her down by me,
That I may kiss of her lily, lily lips,
Before she is taken away.'

My lady, she died on the Saturday night
Before the sun went down.
My lord he died on the Sunday following
Before evening prayers began.

My lady she was buried in the high castle
My lord was buried in the choir;
Out of my lady grew a red rose,
And out of my lord a sweet briar.

This rose and the briar they grew up together,
Till they could grow no higher,
They met at the top in a true lover's knot,
And the rose it clung round the sweet briar.

Sung by Mrs Ford, Blackham, Sussex (A.G.G. 1906)

Previous song: The Mermaid.
Next song: The New York Trader.

Alan ^^

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Subject: RE: Penguin: Mother, Mother, Make My Bed
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jan 05 - 02:54 AM

Here are the notes from Penguin:
    Mother, Mother, Make my Bed
    (FSJ V 135)
    There has been argument whether this ballad derives from Lady Maisry or Lord Lovel. The manner of the lady's impending death, which would provide the essential clue, is missing. We do not know whether she is to be put to death on account of her disgrace (like Lady Maisry) or is pining for her lover's absence (like Lord Lovel's sweetheart). It hardly matters. In the version of Mrs Ford, a Sussex blacksmith's wife, the ballad is a good one. It has also been found in Somerset (FSJ I 44), Dorset (FSJ III 74—6), and Hants (FSJ III 304—6).

Here is the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Mother, Mother, Make My Bed

DESCRIPTION: A young woman, dying, sends for her true love. He hastens home, but finds her already dead. He kisses her, and dies the next day. They are buried side by side, and a rose and briar twine over their grave.
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: love death dying magic lover burial
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Bronson 65, "Lady Maisry" (13 versions, of which #4, #5, #7, #8, #10, and perhaps #9 and #11 are this piece)
MacSeegTrav 22, "Mother, Mother, Make My Bed" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, p. 71, "Mother, Mother, Make My Bed" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #45
cf. "Lady Maisry" [Child 65] (floating verses)
cf. "Lord Lovel" [Child 75] (floating verses)
cf. "Bonny Barbara Allen" [Child 84] (floating verses)
Notes: This ballad shares verses with the cross-referenced titles; it's essentially a composite of floating verses and plot elements. -PJS
The problems with this song are myriad, though enough versions exist that it must be treated as a separate piece (at least; *I* say so; Roud lumps it with "Lady Maisry"). It shares material with many ballads (MacColl & Seeger see contacts with no fewer than ten Child ballads in their version, though some of these are stretched or verses found floating in several Child ballads -- e.g. the contact with "Little Musgrave" is the stanza "The first two miles the little boy walked, and the next two miles he run," which is an element which can float easily).
The real difficulty is, every version seems fragmentary. We don't know why the young woman is dying. If the ultimate source were "Lady Maisry," she is to be executed; if "Lord Lovel," she is dying for love. But neither explanation gains any support from the extant texts, implying that the cause of death was never stated. Paul Stamler suggests the possibility of plague. I doubt we'll ever know.
It is worth noting that Bronson has thirteen tunes listed under "Lady Maisry," and that eight of them (#4-11) belong to his "C" group, and that *all* of the texts of "Mother, Mother" are in the C group, and *every* song in the C group is either "Mother Mother" or a fragment which could be either song. Thus "Mother Mother" in fact appears to have its own distinct tune group. - RBW
File: VWL071

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The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

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