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Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants (from M MacArthur)


GUEST,Paul Stamler 30 May 06 - 04:44 PM
KathWestra 30 May 06 - 11:29 PM
Joe Offer 31 May 06 - 02:30 PM
karen k 31 May 06 - 05:14 PM
Desert Dancer 31 May 06 - 10:09 PM
Desert Dancer 31 May 06 - 10:39 PM
Desert Dancer 01 Jun 06 - 10:04 PM
Joe Offer 07 Mar 19 - 05:44 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants^^^
From: GUEST,Paul Stamler
Date: 30 May 06 - 04:44 PM

Hi folks:

In doing a tribute show for Margaret MacArthur, who passed last Tuesday, May 23, 2006, I played a song she recorded at least twice and clearly cherished. It's called "Marlboro Merchants" or "Marlboro Medley", and the lyrics come from a 1787 manuscript in her possession. As my own tribute to the memory of this lovely and delightful woman, I post the lyrics here. They're copied from the booklet of her Folkways LP, "Folk Songs of Vermont", with some transcription errors corrected by listening to the recording. There may still be some errors, or extinct spellings.


Marlboro Merchants
^^ by a Mr. Greenleal (typo for Greenleaf?), Brattleboro, VT, 1787
Sung to the tune of "The Black Joak"

When Marlboro merchants set out for peddling
Made lawful by custom let none be meddling
Barter is legal when trading for grain.
With wherry and horses see how they turn out
Each peddler taking his different route
With notions and things both curious and common
To please men and children and gratify women
Which I shall here attempt to name.

Their budgets consist of variety
There's no two pungs whose loads agree
Each peddler hath his different ware
Whirls and spindles, and jews harps and thimbles
Shoemaker's lasts and peg awls and wimbles
Dippers and noggins and cans to make grog in.
To barter for corn, have you any to spare?

Here comes the bowls and wooden dishes
And sleek looking trouts, most excellent fishes
From Marlboro's ponds and holes in the brook.
Where in winter a fishing they go
Up to their waist bands through the snow
There through the ice they cut a hole
Then they fish without a pole
Dextrous anglers with a hook.

Low hog yokes and goose yokes and taps and fassets
And tools to make them jack knives and hatchets
To hamper your pigs, your geese and draw beer.
Parchment screens to clean flax seed
Cheese tongs and wooden fans and weaver's read
Great spinning wheels and swifts and reels
And snow shoes strung from toe to heel
To run on the crust and catch the deer.

Come buy our bread troughs, buy our sieves
To sift your meal from bran and sheives
Different sorts, both hide and hair.
Half bushels and pecks all made by guess
Two quart dippers a thousand or less
Pokes, ox yokes, and hopples for horses
Straw hats and bonnets for lads and for lasses
As good as the best the gentry wear.

Now comes the baskets and the rakes
Enough to supply the thirteen states
Besides a large pile of new-made chairs.
Pails, pipkins, and tubs for washing and brewing
Great wooden platters to take up your stew in
Brooms, dyepots and keelers, salt mortars, and pestles
Pudding sticks, ladles and whipstocks and whistles
Besides wooden spoons as plenty as hairs.

Here comes the turnips and fine bobbin laces
Braided bark mittens your hands to case
(A rare invention everyone says.)
Saddle tree wood and birch barrel bottles
Shoemaker's spools and ironwood shuttles
Besoms and oven lids, handy when baking
Boxes for flour and trays to make cake in
And Wickopy stay tape to lace up the stays.

But now we must leave the ingenious mechanic
Sing how the root doctors pursue their botanical
Rambles through forests o'er hills and the plain,
To dig blue cohosh and sarsaparilla
Green petty morel and purple anjelica
And snake root and gensing and modest wood peony
The root for consumption and mending old china
And poke root and blood root and ella campane.

In early settling the town one year
They'd no luck in hunting the bear or the deer
No bread to be had, potatoes were scarce.
Then had the smallpox with all its infection
Have passed through the town in every direction
It could not have touched such dioted men
Where dozens could breakfast on robin or wren
Disease disappointed, must sneak from the place.

But now they fare better there's something to eat
Various fowls and four-footed meat
Partridge and woodcock and wild turkey hen.
Geese, pidgeons, and ducks, skunks and woodchucks
Lusty raccoons well fatted with nuts
Porcupines, squirrels, rabbits and hares
For beef they have moose and for pork they have bears
And saddles of venison now and then.

A pung or two more brings up in the rear
With green spruce boughs for brewing beer
Rosin of hemlock and hack metack gum
Balsam of fir and sugar of maple,
Lime shingles and salts the Marlboro staples
Red ochre, saltpeter, butternut physic
And assmart pills a cure for the pthysic
And candy, black strap, too stubborn to run.

And now my medley draws nigh a close
A rap on my knuckles, a wring of my nose
Shant hinder my toast, I'll out with it here.
May manufacturers long abound
In this mechanical peddling town
And may those sons whose sires are dead
Has (Have??) as good means to get their bread
As their fathers have had this many a year.

    Note from Joe Offer: These lyrics were added to the Digital Tradition in February, 2007.
Notes from the lyrics from Smithsonian Folkways (
    A pung is a sleigh.
    Black strap, commonly called Wax, is made by pouring hot molasses on the snow, which prevents granulation.
    (this term was so starred on the original manuscript), which was written by a Mr. Greenleal of Brattleboro in 1787 about Marlboro, the town in which we live.

The Folkways notes and the MacArthur recording have the first word of the second-last line as "have."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: KathWestra
Date: 30 May 06 - 11:29 PM

Thanks for the smile and the remembrance, Paul. I can close my eyes and see and hear Margaret singing this (with wonderment that anyone could ever remember such a long and incredibly tongue-twistingly complicated song full of quaint words--as Margaret invariably did. It was a show-stopper, in Margaret's quiet way). Kathy

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: Joe Offer
Date: 31 May 06 - 02:30 PM

Is this song available on a CD, other than the Folkways custom CD of "Folk Songs of Vermont"?

I can't find any mention of this song in the usual indexes. It's not in Roud, and it's not in the Traditional Ballad Index. The only print source I can find, is the liner notes from the record album, Anybody have more background information?

-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: karen k
Date: 31 May 06 - 05:14 PM

Kathy, I second that. Each time I heard Margaret sing this song I was amazed at how she could remember all those words! I'm still reeling from her loss. I will miss her.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 May 06 - 10:09 PM

The Marlboro Medley is the first track on Margaret's cd "Vermont Ballads & Broadsides" (Whetstone Records 01 -- her home label), which comes as a set with a (non-cd-sized) booklet of the full texts and notes. It was originally a cassette produced in 1989, in association with the 1991 Vermont bicentennial.

The whole cd is made of historic Vermont texts, some unaltered, some adapted, some with their original tunes, and some with new ones.

The notes for The Marlboro Medley are as follows:

   The Marlboro Medley tells us of the many items brought into the colonial village of Marlboro, Vermont, by a peddler, and of the multitudinous products made by the settlers to be offered in trade. The 1787 handwritten manuscript of this song (printed here exactly as written) was given to me in the mid-1950s by Elsie Newton Howe of Newfane, Vermont. She had inherited it along with other papers of Ephraim Holland Newton, the minister in Marlboro in 1828. At that time, he was collecting notes for a history of the town. Although he did not include the early medley in the history, he preserved it along with the following letter:

Rev. E. H. Newton.
   Sr. Enclosed, is the productino of my Brother, when a Youth, which after much solicitation, he with reluctance, submitted to critical flagelation -- please to make due allowances, spare him as much as you can & oblige your friend
          Stephen Greenleaf
Brattleboro' June 2d 1828

   In the 1787 manuscript, the tune is given as "Black Joke." In 1962, Rae Korson of the Library of Congress Archive of Folk SOng found the tune for me in Moore's Irish Melodies (1879), printed as the air for Moore's song, "Sublime was the Warning that Liberty Spoke." Nowadays the tune is quite common in New England, used for a contra dance and for an English Morris dance.


~ Becky in Tucson
very glad to have seen Margaret in March when she was here.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 May 06 - 10:39 PM

While I'm looking at it, here's the track list from Margaret MacArthur's Vermont Ballads & Broadsides:

The Marlboro Medley
   (tune Black Joke was specified in the MS)
The Ballad of Runaway Pond
   (re-write of a section of a poem by Harry A. Phillips; written with students during a school residency; tune by Margaret MacArthur)
Ballad of Pudding Hill
   (tune by Margaret)
The Ballad of Devil's Hill
   (poem based on a letter, written by Margaret & students, tune by Margaret)
Incidents in the History of Vermont
   (from a broadside, to tune specified, We'll Settle on the Banks of the Ohio)
Margery Grey
   (originally a poem, passed into singing tradition, collected by Helen Hartness Flanders)
The Legend of Duncan Campbell
   (words and music by Margaret based on a tale from the Revolution)
The Song of the Vermonters 1777
   (text by John Greenleaf Whittier, collected as a song by Helen Hartness Flanders) (DD/BinT note: I learned this to a different tune from a Vermont Girl Scout camp counselor-apprentice in 1978)
The Banks of Champlain
   (song collected by Margorie Porter)
Lines Composed for Hugh J. Williams
   (translation of a poem in Welsh, tune by Megan MacArthur (Margaret's daughter))
The Pucker Street Song
   (composite text and traditional tune)
The West Rutland Marble Bawn
   (text from a songster, set to The Rocks of Bawn, the likely intended tune)
In Sugarin' Time
   (a poem, tune by Margaret)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Jun 06 - 10:04 PM

refresh for Joe on Pacific time.
    Got it. Guess I'd better get out my credit card.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Marlboro Merchants (from M MacArthur)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Mar 19 - 05:44 PM

The song is now available on YouTube:

I still haven't found this song in print, other than in the Folkways liner notes. It's not in Roud or in the Traditional Ballad Index, or in songbooks indexed here at Mudcat. Anybody know of other versions or sources for this song?


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