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Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version

DigiTrad:
LADY GAY
OLD WIFE OF COVERDALE
THE WIFE OF USHERS WELL
THE WIFE OF USHER'S WELL 2


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Wife of Usher's Well (#79, Hedy West) (8)
Reverse lyric search 'Wife at Usher's Well' (4)
Child #79 : Wife of Usher's Well (16)
Chord Req: Wife of Usher's Well-Peter Blegvad (3)
wife of ushers well (30)
Lyr Req: Lady Gay (Buell Kazee, #79) (6)


CET 09 Jan 05 - 06:20 PM
CET 09 Jan 05 - 06:50 PM
GUEST 10 Jan 05 - 02:05 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Jan 05 - 02:35 PM
John C. 11 Jan 05 - 03:39 PM
GUEST 11 Jan 05 - 05:48 PM
CET 11 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM
Joe Offer 12 Jan 05 - 02:25 AM
CET 12 Jan 05 - 08:14 PM
CET 13 Jan 05 - 08:40 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jan 05 - 09:29 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Jan 05 - 09:34 PM
GUEST,Outa_Spaceman 30 May 08 - 08:09 PM
GUEST 06 Aug 10 - 07:14 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Aug 10 - 09:00 AM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Aug 10 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Sadie Damascus 07 Apr 15 - 06:23 PM
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Subject: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: CET
Date: 09 Jan 05 - 06:20 PM

Does anyone know anything about the version of "The Wife of Usher's Well" that Martin Carthy sings on his "Signs of Life" album? I want to learn this song and have been comparing various versions. The Carthy version is more modern - no words like "sheugh" and "channering", but definitely sounds trad. The version on "Signs of Life" has some verses that don't appear in Child #79 or DigiTrad, and I would be interested to know Mr. Carthy's sources, or if he wrote any of the verses himself.

Thanks

Edmund


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: CET
Date: 09 Jan 05 - 06:50 PM

My apologies: "chunnering worm" does appear in Martin Carthy's version.

CET


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jan 05 - 02:05 PM

I remember our English teacher, Miss Lewis (a very well spoken lady) telling me to stop "chunnering". I always took it to mean not to speak/gossip during class; does anyone agree that this is what it means? Since I have a recording of Martin Carthy doing "The Wife of Usher's Well" I must listen out for "chunnering worms".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Jan 05 - 02:35 PM

Grumbling, muttering. More commonly found nowadays as "chunter".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: John C.
Date: 11 Jan 05 - 03:39 PM

I heard Martin Carthy sing his version of this ballad at the National Folk Music Festival (Sutton Bonnington) a couple of years ago; I'm sure he said that the tune that he used was Basque.
For another version of this ballad, see the version sung by Alison McMorland on the CD 'Ballad Tree' by Alison and Geordie McIntyre (The Tradition Bearers Series LTCD 1050, 2003). This is a wonderful CD of classic ballads, beautifully sung - highly recommended!
I've always thought that the eerie line, 'the channerin worm doth chide' refers to the impatience of the worms in the grave who are keen to get back to digesting the mortal remains of the 3 dead sons.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 05 - 05:48 PM

In the sleeve notes (usually a good place to start) MC says:

The tune is Basque and bent slightly from that taught to me by Rupert Ordorika and Bixente Martinez of Hiru Truku and it's called "Bakarrik Aurkitzen Naz."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: CET
Date: 11 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM

I have the sleeve notes (from a German website devoted to English folk music), so I was aware of the Basque tune, but I would like to know something about the words. I am particularly interested in the verses:

So she has laid the table
With bread and with wine
Come eat and drink my darling babes
Eat and drink of mine

We may not eat your bread mother
Nor may we drink your wine
For cold death is lord of all
To him we must resign

The green grass is at our head
And the clay is at our feet
And your tears come tumbling down
And wet our winding sheet

Thanks for the reference to the Ballad Tree CD.

Edmund


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Jan 05 - 02:25 AM

Reinhard Zierke took over Garry Gillard's Waterson-Carthy site a while back, and has been expanding the information. You'll find his piece on the song here (click). I'll post Garry's transcription of Carthy's version below.
-Joe Offer-
Martin Carthy's version Steeleye Span's version

There lived a wife in Usher's Well
And a wealthy wife was she
She'd three fine and stalwart sons
And sent them o'er the sea

There lived a wife in Ushers Well
A wealthy wife was she
She had three stout and stalwart sons
And sent them o'er the sea

They'd not been gone a week
And a week but barely one
When death sweeping over the land
Took 'em one by one

They had not been from Ushers Well
A week but barely one
When word came to this carlin wife
That her three sons were gone

And they'd not been gone a week
A week but barely three
When word come to that young girl
Her babes she'd never see

I wish the wind would never blow
No fish swim in the flood
Till my darling babes are home
They're home in flesh and blood

I wish the wind may never cease
Nor flashes in the flood
Till my three sons return to me
In earthly flesh and blood

And there about the Martinmas
Nights are long and dark
Her three kids come to her door
Their hats were made of bark

It fell about the Martinmas
The nights were long and dark
Three sons came home to Ushers Well
Their hats were made of bark

And the tree never grew in any ditch
Nor down by any wall
But at the gates of Paradise
Grew strong grew tall

That neither grew in forest green
Nor on any wooded rise
But from the north side of the tree
That grows in Paradise

Blow up the fire my maidens all
Bring water from the well
Since my darling babes are home
They've come home safe and well

Blow up the fire my merry merry maidens
Bring water from the well
For all my house shall feed this night
Since my three sons are well

So she has laid the table
With bread and with wine
Come eat and drink my darling babes
Eat and drink of mine

We may not eat your bread mother
Nor may we drink your wine
For cold death is lord of all
To him we must resign

The green grass is at our head
And the clay is at our feet
And your tears come tumbling down
And wet our winding sheet

So she has made the bed for them
Spread the milk-white sheet
She's laid it all with cloth of gold
To see if they could sleep

And up and crew the red cock
Up and crew the grey
And the youngest to the eldest says
Brother we must away

Then up and crowed the blood red cock
And up and crowed the grey
The oldest to the youngest said
It's time we were away

And the cock had not crowed once
And clapped his wings for day
When the eldest to the youngest says
Brother we must away

For the cock crow the day dawn
The chunnering worm chide
And if we're missed out of our place
Then pain we must bide

For the cock does crow and the day doth show
And the channerin worm doth chide
And we must go from Ushers Well
To the gates of Paradise

Farewell farewell my mother dear
Farewell to barn and byre
And farewell the sweet young girl
Kindling my mother's fire

I wish the wind may never cease
Nor flashes in the flood
Till my three sons return to me
In earthly flesh and blood


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: CET
Date: 12 Jan 05 - 08:14 PM

Thanks Joe. This is indeed where I found the lyrics. It looks like a good site.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: CET
Date: 13 Jan 05 - 08:40 PM

I think I may have solved this question, or rather Charmion did, who put me on to it. The three verses seem to have been borrowed from "Lady Gay", an American variant of Wife of Usher's Well. The verses are almost identical to the version recorded by Buell Kazee in 1928. There is one notable difference, however. Mr. Kazee sang "For yonder stands our Savior dear, to him we must resign." Martin Carthy sings "For cold death is lord of all." I don't know if those particular words are "trad" or if he changed the lyrics to make them even harsher and less comfortable.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jan 05 - 09:29 PM

It may be that that, too, is at least partly derived from Buell Kazee. His second verse:

They had not been there very long
Scarcely six months and a day
Till Death, cold Death came hasting along
And stole those babes away

(Bronson, II, 257-8)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Jan 05 - 09:34 PM

For anyone interested, the Buell Kazee and other verses of Lady Gay in thread 71401: Lady Gay
and also a version (Joan Baez, not credited in her songbook) in the DT.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST,Outa_Spaceman
Date: 30 May 08 - 08:09 PM

I'm working up a version of this song based on the Carthy tune and the Steeleye/Childe lyric...
What's a carlin wife then...?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Aug 10 - 07:14 AM

Here is the version by Alistair Hulett which is on youtube.



O'h there was a woman, and she lived alone, babies she had three
She sent them away to the north country, to learn their grammerie
They had not been gone but a very short time, scarcely six weeks to the day
Till death cold death blew over the land, and bore them babes away.

She prayed to the Lord in the heavens above, wearing the starry crown
Send to me my three little babes, tonight or in the morning soon
And as it grew near to old Christmas time, the night it was long and cold
That very morning at the break of the day, them babes came a runnin' home.

She laid a table in the uppermost room, on it put bread and wine
Come eat come drink my three little babes, come eat come drink of mine
They said Mother we cannot, we cannot eat your bread, neither can we drink your wine
For tomorrow morning at the break of the day, our saviour must rejoin.

Cold clouds of clay, roll ower our heads, green grass grows on our feet
And all our tears sweet mother dear, they wed a winding sheet.
O'h there was a woman, and she lived alone, babies she had three
She sent them away to the north country, to learn their grammerie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Aug 10 - 09:00 AM

There's a fascinating variant by Jim Eldon up there too:

Farewell Stick ande Farewell Stone

My own is more standard, though the tune isn't, which was given to me by the fiddle in an instance of pure improvisation & stuck fast ever since!

Sedayne: Child Ballad #79 - The Wife of Usher's Well


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Aug 10 - 12:21 PM

"What's a carlin wife then...?"

from the unabridged dictionary:

1. a carl is a peasant or rough person (male)

2. a female carl is a carlin or carline. the word then morphed into a derogatory term for old woman or witch

3. carl is also a verb, meaning to snarl. so a carlin wife might be a snarling wife


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Subject: RE: Origins: Wife of Usher's Well:Carthy version
From: GUEST,Sadie Damascus
Date: 07 Apr 15 - 06:23 PM

The version with the cock in the dish crowing, right out of "The Carnal and the Crane"? Very weird, but so beautiful. I believe it was recorded by Roberts and Barrand. I will be singing it or playing it if I can find it on my "Traditiional Ballads with Sadie" radio show this Thursday (and every Thursday, 6 to 8 pm, streaming at www.kggv.blogspot.com)

THE WIFE OF USHERS WELL

There lived a lady in merry Scotland
And she had sons all three
And she sent them away into merry England
To learn some English dee'

They had not been in merry England
For twelve months and one day
When the news came back to their own mother dear
Their bodies were in cold clay

I will not believe in God, she said
Nor Christ in eternity
Till they send me back my own three sons
The same as they went from me

Old Christmas time was drawing near
With the nights so dark and long
This mother's own three sons came home
Walking by the light of the moon

And soon as they reached their own mothers gate
So loud did the bell they ring
There's none so ready as their own mother dear
To loose these children in

The cloth was spread, the meat put on.
No meat, Lord, can we take.
It's been so long, been so many a day
Since you our dinner did make

The bed was made, the sheets put on
No rest, Lord, can we take
It's been so long, been so many a day
Since you or bed did make

Then Christ did call for the roasted cock
Feathered with His holy hand
It crowed three times, all in the dish
In the place where he did stand.

He crowed three times, all in the dish
Set at the table head
And isn't it a pity, they all did say
The quick should part from the dead

So farewell stick, farewell stone
Farewell to the maidens all
Farewell to the nurse that gave us suck
And down the tears did fall.

Child #79
Recorded by John Roberts and Tony Barrand on Dark Ships of the
Forest, Folk Legacy FSI-65.


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