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Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch [Half Hitch]

10 Jul 10 - 05:18 PM (#2943145)
Subject: Lyr/Tune Add: THE HALF-HITCH
From: Artful Codger

The text for "The Half-Hitch" in the DigiTrad matches that in Songs from the Hills of Vermont, which I believe to be the actual source. The originally posted MIDI appears now to be lost, but was probably prepared from the same source, rather than from Seeger's recording. In order to more clearly identify the spoken parts, I reproduce the text in its entirety below.

1. A noble rich man in Plymouth did dwell,
He had but one daughter, a beautiful girl.
A handsome young farmer with riches supplied
He courted this fair maid to make her his bride.

2. He courted her long and gained her love,
And then she intended this young man to prove;
When he asked her to marry, she quickly replied
And told him right off she would not be his bride.

3. He vowed then that home he quickly would steer,
And by a sad oath to her he did swear
How he'd wed the first woman that e'er he did see,
If she was as mean as a beggar could be!

4. She ordered her servants this man to delay.
Her jewels and rings, she laid them away.
She put on the worst of old rags she could find:
She looked like a teapot before and behind.

5. She rubbed both her hands on the old chimney back,
And then blacked her face from corner to crack;
Then around to the road she flew like a witch,
With her petticoat hoisted all on the half-hitch.

6. The young man came riding and when he did see her,
He cried out, "Alas!" for his oath he did fear.
But being so faithful to keep his words true,
He soon overtook her, saying, "Pray, who are you?"
   (Spoken:) "I am a woman."

7. This answer did suit him as well as the rest,
It lay very heavy and hard on his breast;
"How can I bear for to make her my bride?"
But still he did ask her behind him to ride.
   (Spoken:) "Your horse'll throw me, I know."

8. "No," replied he, "my horse he will not."
So then she climbed up, and behind him she got.
He wished himself well from his promises free,
But he turned to her, saying, "Will you have me?"
   (Spoken:) "Yes, I will!"

9. "My heart, it doth fail me, I dare not go home,
My parents will think I am sorely undone.
I will leave you here with my neighbor to tarry,
Within a few days with you I will marry."
   (Spoken: "You won't, I know."

10. He told her he would, and home he did go;
He soon told his father and mother also
Of his woeful case and how he had sworn.
His parents said to him, "For that do not mourn."

11. "Oh, ne'er break your vows, but bring home your girl,
We'll soon snug her up and she'll do very well."
They asked his old spark to the wedding to come,
Her servants replied that she was not at home.

12. They invited her maidens to wait on her there,
And then for the wedding they all did prepare;
Published they were, and invited the guests,
And then they intended the bride for to dress.
   (Spoken:) "I'll just be married in my old clothes."

13. When they were married they sat down to eat,
With her fingers she hauled out the cabbage and meat,
As she stood a-stooping, some called her his bride,
Saying, "Pray go along and sit by his side."
   (Spoken:) "I'll sit in the chimney corner as I'm used to."

14. She burned all her fingers in the pudding, I fag,
Then licked them and wiped them off on her old rags;
They gave her a candle, what could she want more?
And showed her the way to the chamber door.
   (Spoken:) "Husband, when you hear my shoes go 'clung' you may come along."

15. Upstairs then she went and kept stepping about,
His mother said to him, "What think is the rout?"
He cried out, "Dear mother, pray don't say a word,
For ne'er any comfort can this world afford!"

16. A little while later her shoes they went "clung,"
They gave him a candle and bade him go 'long.
Upstairs then he went, and quickly he found
As handsome a lady as e'er stepped the ground.

17. All dressed in the richest of clothes to behold,
She was finer and fairer than pictures of gold;
He greatly rejoiced at this end to his fears,
For he married the lady he'd courted for years.

18. Downstairs then they went and a frolic they had,
Which made both their hearts feel merry and glad;
They looked like two flowers which pleased the eye.
With many full glasses all wished them great joy.

Source: Songs from the Hills of Vermont, pp. 50-57. Collected by Edith B. Sturgis, music arranged by Robert Hughes. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc., 1919.
As sung by James Atwood.

ABC transcription: (Observe the notes in the trailing comment lines)

T:The Half-Hitch
C:As sung by James Atwood.
S:Songs from the Hills of Vermont, pp. 50-57, ed. Edith B. Sturgis
Z:Artful Codger
Q:3/8=72 "Allegretto"
K:C#m % 4 sharps
G | G c c (B> B) B | c d B c2 (G/ G/) | G c c B> B B |
w: 1.~A no-ble rich man_ in Ply-mouth did dwell, He_ had but one daugh-ter, a
c d B c2 B | c d c G F E | F G E F2 (E/ E/) |
w: beau-ti-ful girl. A hand-some young farm-er with rich-es sup-plied He_
F E F G F E | F E D C2 z ||
w: court-ed this fair maid to make her his bride.
% Sometimes, a line is spoken between verses.
% 2nd verse like 1st.
% 3rd and 4th verses raised a semitone (Dm, 1 flat).
% 5th and 6th verses like 1st (C#m)

Click to Play

To play or display ABC tunes, try

10 Jul 10 - 05:47 PM (#2943162)
Subject: RE: Song Add: The Half-Hitch
From: Joe Offer

Thanks, Artful Codger - MIDI links added. Hey, and Songs from the Hills of Vermont is available at Google Books for full review online.


Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Half-Hitch, The [Laws N23]

DESCRIPTION: A girl pretends to refuse her fiance. Finally he gives up, promising to marry the first girl he sees. She disguises herself as the ugliest woman possible and makes sure he sees her. He asks her to marry; she consents. She reveals herself after they wed
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1919 (Sturgis and Hughes)
KEYWORDS: courting disguise trick marriage
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Bronson (31), 1 version
Laws N23, "The Half-Hitch"
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 382-389, "The Loathly Bride" (1 text plus a version reprinted from Sturgis)
Flanders/Brown, pp. 236-239, "The Half-Hitch" (1 text)
Flanders/Olney, pp. 33-37, "The Half-Hitch" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's (#1) in the appendix to #31}
Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 265-275, "The Half-Hitch" (2 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's (#1) in the appendix to #31}
Sturgis/Hughes, pp. 58-65, "The Half-Hitch" (1 text, 1 tune)
ThompsonNewYork, pp. 417-421, "The Half-Hitch" (1 text)

Roud #1887
cf. "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" [Child 31]
NOTES: This text is associated by some editors (e.g. notably Flanders) with Child 31, "The Marriage of Sir Gawain." It should be noted, however, that the only themes the two have in common are a marriage made for honour rather than love and an ugly woman who turns out to be beautiful (themes also found in "King Henry," Child 32). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.0
File: LN23

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The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

11 Jul 10 - 11:30 AM (#2943441)
Subject: RE: Song Add: The Half-Hitch
From: Charley Noble


Charley Noble

02 Feb 11 - 04:22 PM (#3087487)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch

The Half Hitch is included on the CD "ON THE BANKS OF COLDBROOK" (Black Isle Music, 2010) by Tony Barrand and Keith Murphy. The whole recording is of songs from James and Mary Atwood, James' son Fred, and a friend "Aunt Jenny" Knapp. Good songs, well sung.

02 Feb 11 - 06:23 PM (#3087559)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch
From: GUEST,Joe_F

Margaret MacArthur sings another version on _Them Stars_:
here. I could have sworn I asked her a question about it here on the Mudcat, but I can't find the place.

03 Feb 11 - 11:18 PM (#3088330)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch
From: Artful Codger

Bill Evenhouse (TheFolksinger) on YouTube:

16 Nov 20 - 04:30 PM (#4079869)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch
From: GUEST,diplocase


It may be that this part of the song dates back to the Elizabethan period when the word “petticoat” had a different meaning. according to a site on making women's garb of this period:

16th century English women generally wore a lightweight garment called a smock or shift as the first layer. This was of fine thin linen, the best of which came from the Netherlands hence “Holland smock, Holland handkerchief”—or silk for the rich— and was loose-fitting, often with sleeves and a collar attached. [in Scotland, sark]

A woman would wear over this smock a supportive garment, at that time called a petticoat.   [in Scotland, kirtle] The top part of the petticoat was a sleeveless bodice (‘bodies’ or “upperbodies’), that laced in front. The bodice of the petticoat was often stiffened with a layer of buckram, canvas, or fustian, flattening and supporting the breasts and pressing them upward as fashion of the time required.

“petticoats without bodies” meaning just the skirt.

The lower part of the petticoat played the role of providing extra warmth, adding shape and volume to the hips and skirt, and maintaining propriety by blurring the hip and leg outline, even when damp.

Some petticoat bodies were actually more of a long A-line dress without a waist. In that case the wearer would don a corset over the smock to provide breast support and give the proper line in front, and probably wear an overskirt and a belt to define the waist. Scots proverb “near is the kirtle, but nearer is the sark.”

Unless the wearer was well off, the petticoat would serve as the primary outer garment. Sometimes a woman who could afford it would make a stiff front piece with embroidery, which was pinned or sewn on over the front lacing to conceal it and give the illusion of a gown. Sometimes a stiffened ‘stomacher’, often of a contrasting color, was inserted between the shift and the petticoat bodice.   The bodice and skirt portion of a petticoat were often of different colors, and a wearer might make more than one bodice to attach to her skirt to change the look.

Those who could afford it wore another layer or two over the petticoat.

The gown was usually a garment composed of a fitted bodice with attached skirt.

18 Nov 20 - 11:44 PM (#4080174)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch
From: GUEST,Jon Bartlett

Didn't Peggy Seeger sing this on a Blood and Roses LP?

20 Nov 20 - 10:38 AM (#4080342)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Add: The Half-Hitch
From: Cool Beans

Pete Seeger sings it on his Columbia LP "Story Songs," recorded live at a concert in New York, circa 1960.