Posts tagged ‘tune’

Song: Three Mavens

In the lead up to Great Northern War, I’ve been thinking on the songs I’ve been packing away in my arsenal. I think that must have been seeping into my subconscious, because at roughly 2am this morning I had a song pop into my head, almost fully formed. I’ve worked on it through the day, and I bring you my song:

Three Mavens (to the tune of Three Ravens)

There were three mavens sat on a bench
Down a down they tore her down
Staring at a badly dressed wench
With a down
The one of them said to her friend
Look how badly that dress is hemmed
With a down truly truly they tore her down

That outer layer’s Florentine
Down a down they tore her down
But that chemise is from an earlier time
With a down
That’s a Viking circlet on her head
Why does she mix her period
With a down truly truly they tore her down

They called her over eagerly
Down a down they tore her down
And she stepped to those mavens three
With a down
She hoped for wisdom and new friends
They lectured her on fashion trends
With a down truly truly they tore her down

This fact will shock you and appall
Down a down they tore her down
The garb she wore was borrowed all
With a down
She quickly saw she was outclassed
Her first event shall be her last
With a down truly truly they tore her down

I’m releasing this song under a CC0 Waiver. For those familiar with Creative Commons, this is the least restrictive licence they supply.


To the extent possible under law,

Kristine Sihto

has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
Three Mavens.
This work is published from:


Songs 5: Annachie Gordon

I fell quite in love with this song when I heard Sinead O’Connor performing it (here).  So of course, I ran off immediately to research where it came from, and listen to a heap of other performers doing it.

Annachie Gordon does not strictly fall within the period covered by the SCA.  It’s Child Ballad 239, Roud 102, and it’s earliest appearance (that my admittedly limited research could find) is cca. 1824, though in 1828 it was apparently listed in Buchan‘s “Ancient Ballads and Songs 2”, suggesting it may be at least a few decades older.

This song has gone through a few odd permutations.  At some point, the town of Buchan (pronounced Buck-an) became the town of Harking, which doesn’t actually exist.  This seems to happen in a fair amount of folk songs, where often the song is passed on purely by ear, resulting in a “Chinese Whispers” style evolution.  Indeed, this phenomenon has happened a few times with this song, Lord Saltoun becoming Lord Salting or Sultan, Auchanachie being shortened to Annachie, and at one point our hero became Hannah Le Gordon (you may need to scroll across on the link to see) when the song moved south from Scotland into England.

Almost all commercial versions of this song can be tracked back to the rendition performed by Nic Jones (unfortunately I don’t have a link to the song to offer), and all renditions using the place name “Harking” can be tracked back to Mary Black (who, it seems, misheard Nic Jones).  Thanks to the Mudcat Cafe  for their lovely thread I got this info from.

In the tradition of singers everywhere, I’ve tweaked this song until it makes vocal and logical sense to me, so there’s a good possibility that you won’t find this exact set of lyrics anywhere else.  However, it’s close to most commercial versions.

Buchan is bonny, and there lives my love.
My heart lies on him and cannot remove.
It cannot remove for all that I have done,
And I never will forget my love Annachie.
For Annachie Gordon, he’s bonny and he’s braw,
He’d entice any woman that ever him saw.
He’d entice any woman and so he has done me
And I never will forget my love Annachie.

Down came her father and he’s standing at the door
Saying, “Jeannie, you are trying the tricks of a whore.
You care nothing for a man who cares so much for thee,
You must marry Lord Saltoun and leave Annachie.
For Annachie Gordon, he’s barely but a man.
Even though he may be pretty but where are his lands?
The Lord Saltoun’s lands are broad and his towers they run high.
You must marry Lord Saltoun and leave Annachie.”

“With Annachie Gordon I beg for my bread
But before I marry Saltoun his gold to my head,
His gold to my head and fringes straight down to my knee,
I will die if I don’t get my love Annachie.
And you who are my parents to church you may me bring
But unto Lord Saltoun I’ll never bear a son.
Not a son or a daughter, I will never bend my knee
And I’ll die if I don’t get my love Annachie.”

Jeannie was married and from church she was brought home,
And when she and her maidens so merry should have been,
When she and her maidens both merry should have been
She runs into her chamber and she cries all alone.

“Come to bed now Jeannie me honey and me sweet,
To stile you, my mistress, it would be so sweet.”
“Be it mistress or Jeannie it’s all the same to me,
But in your bed, Lord Saltoun, I never will lie.”
And down came her father and he’s spoken with renown,
Saying “You that are her maidens, go loosen up her gown!”
And she fell down to the floor, so close down by his knee,
Saying “Father, look, I’m dying for me love Annachie.”

The day that Jeannie married was the day that Jeannie died,
And the day that young Annachie came home on the tide.
And down came her maidens all wringing of their hands
Saying “Oh, you’ve been so long, you’ve been so long upon the sands.
Oh, so long upon the sands, so long upon the flood,
They have married your Jeannie and now she lies dead.”

“You that are her maidens, come take me by the hand
And lead me to that chamber where my love she lies in.”
And he kissed her cold lips until his heart it turned to stone,
And he died there in that chamber where his love she lies in.

My rendition:  Annachie Gordon

As an aside, I found another version, not based on Nic Jones’ version.  Raymond Crooke looks like he’s an excellent resource, look for him either on YouTube or here.

The Spirit of Lochac, and on writing filk (and why I can’t teach it)

Looking through my blog, I realised that I’ve not yet put in a plug for The Spirit of Lochac.

That’s probably because I wrote it before I started this blog.  Not only that, but it exists elsewhere on the internet, at the Lochac Performers and Entertainers Guild.  However, I am currently constructing a page to place all my song links onto, and I believe The Spirit of Lochac needs to be on that list.

A Lochac warrior stepped out
One bright and shining day
To face a horde of armed men
Upon the battle fray
His armour gleamed, his shield held high,
His sword held fast in hand
As he stepped forth that fateful day
For to protect his land

‘Twas on the field at Rowany
Our hero stood his ground
An army waited by his side,
But not one made a sound.
For on the ridge, an awful sight,
The enemy was vast,
And then they roared, that mighty horde,
And fell upon them fast.

Swords and shields did crash and bang
In dizzy fearsome flight
But every time the one foe fell,
Another joined the fight
Weariness did take its toll
Our hero’s arms ran red
And amongst the gore of those he slayed
None noticed that he bled.

His strength was sapping mighty quick,
In vain our hero tried,
But from one foe, the telling blow
And our dear hero died.
But lies a heart of fortitude
In every Lochac man
And like unto a Lazarus
Our hero rose again.

His pallid flesh was icy cold
But his eyes they burned like flame
A demon in him bursted forth
As each opponent came
The bodies piled within his wake,
None could withstand his might,
And as the last opponent fell
He vanished in the night.

Seven times that day he fell
And seven times he rose,
For Lochac men do not lie down
To face their battle foes.
A horde of men that day he fought,
A horde of men he slayed
For none can match the valour of
A Lochac hero’s shade!

The song was written specifically (at least in part) for Festival, where I received nothing but positive feedback for it, especially from the fighters that heard it.  But the best feedback was the silence after I sang it in the bardic circle, and seconds later, the almost whispered “Huzzah“.

This recording is not the best rendition.  It was recorded when the song was in its very first stages of being settled in my head, and contains none of the tempo changes I use now.  I do intend to re-record this song at some stage, but until then, please, if you see me at an event, don’t be afraid to collar me for a live performance.  So long as my throat is in good condition, I’ll be more than willing.

For those who find the tune familiar, you may indeed have heard it before.  It’s a direct rip of The Handsome Cabin Boy by Kate Bush.

This was not the original tune I had planned for this song.  The original tune was going to be Tempus Adest Floridum, more popularly known now as Good King Wenceslas.  Nor is it the original lyrics.  In fact, very little of the ditty that woke me up in the wee hours of the morning late 2010 actually remains.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was twelve.  Reams and reams of the stuff.  I’m 36 as of the writing of this post, so that makes 24 years of experience.  Writing is like any other skill, it improves with practise.  But for me, writing has never been a process of sitting down with the aim of writing something.  That process works with some people, but every time I actually attempt to write poetry, I end up with drivel.  My best works have been spontaneous, and tend to occur at the most inconvenient times.  The middle of the night, while riding a bicycle, while sitting in a restaurant… I recall one time in particular when I wrote on the back of a shopping docket in eyeliner because I had no paper or pen handy, but the words burning through my mind so quickly that I knew I would lose them if I waited.

For a long time I thought that spark was all I needed for my writing, and if I had continued with that line of thought, you would, instead of listening to The Spirit of Lochac, be listening to The Seven Deaths of ****** (name blocked to protect the innocent), a jaunty tune which describes how one specific SCAdian dies several times in succession.  It was very specific.  I thought he might have taken it amiss that I killed him over and over again in song.  I quite like him, and you don’t try to kill friends.  So I tabled it.  It didn’t scan well, the lyrics were off colour, it just wasn’t going to work as it was.
But editing is an important part of writing poetry, and the core of the story was a good one, so I took what was good and worked with it.  Sometimes you’ve got a heap of good that’s wiped out by just a few lines.  Experience is the only thing that can tell you what to cut and what to keep.

I removed all references to the original victim of the song.  I wanted this to be a ghostly hero rather than a real life person.  And I got rid of the music altogether and stepped back into an easy rhythm which I call “horseplod”, but which probably had a much nicer name somewhere outside of my own head.  Basically, the accent is on every second syllable.  Eight syllables first line, six the second, eight the third, six the fourth, rhyme on the second and fourth lines.  When I’d finished cutting and shaping, which was quite a tedious process, I had 4 verses of usable material.

Later that day I was listening to various ballads, and The Handsome Cabin Boy was amongst them.  It stuck me that this used the same beat pattern I had settled on for my poem, so that was the tune I used.

Unfortunately, the very first person I showed it to (beyond my other half, whom I automatically expect to be biased), after raving at how it read like music, tried to give me the tune she thought I should put with it.  All I heard coming from her lips was the same note over and over again in a rather unrhythmic pattern, which does not a tune make.  At which point I told her I already had decided on using the tune from another ballad (a wonderfully period practice), and sang her the first verse.  Her face turned sour and she told me that I didn’t need to turn it into a dirge, that this should be a more uplifting song, and that I should write my own music, I shouldn’t make filk.

Please don’t ever do this to anyone.

I put this song away for months because of her comments.  I knew it was good poetry, but I wanted it to be good music.   I’d even forgotten I’d written it, as I hadn’t wanted to look at it after hearing negative comments the first time I’d shown my work.  Criticism does not equal critiquing, and can be very harmful.

Eventually I found it again during a tidy up months later,  and reading through it with fresh eyes I found there was a lack within the story at two points.  I didn’t have a description of where my warrior was, or what he was facing (which became verse 2), nor did I have a description of what happened when he rose (this became verse 5).  I spent roughly a week on those two verses.  I knew what I wanted to say, but writing with purpose is not my strong suit.  It was at this point that I decided to make the song specifically for Rowany Festival, as I was steadily gearing up to attend.  Those two verses were, I think,  the thing that took this from good poetry to great poetry.

I then revived the tune.  I was convinced it could sound good despite what had been said, so I persevered.  And thus was born The Spirit of Lochac.

I was asked just a few days ago about perhaps doing a collegia on how to write period style filk.  But I can’t teach that.  I just don’t know how to teach a skill that’s grown from something I do without thinking about it.  Perhaps this blog entry gives a small taste of why that is.

And if you haven’t found the link to the song yet, here it is one more time:  The Spirit of Lochac

(c) Kristine Robinson 2011

Songs 2: Henry Martin

Henry Martin is a lovely old song.  It’s not strictly period though.  It is, however, very close, appearing first in print in the early 17th Century as Child Ballad 167, and being a true story about the exploits of the privateer Andrew Barton and his two brothers.  It later appears with a name change in Child Ballad 250.

Sir Andrew Barton sailed under a letter of marque on behalf of the Scottish crown, but was considered by the English and Portuguese to be a pirate.  Under the guise of searching for Portuguese shipping, Andrew Barton levied a toll against any English ships he happened across also.  He and his ship, the Lion, were captured in August, 1511, at which time he was beheaded.

There is a marked difference between the stories “Henry Martin” and “Andrew Bartin”.  The earlier, being some 82 verses long, gives a full account of King Henry VIII calling upon his lords to stop the piracy, and the subsequent battle in which Andrew Barton is slain.  “Henry Martin”, however, describes a raid against a ship bound for London.

At this point I would like to give a shout-out to the wonderful people at The Mudcat Cafe, with their amazing archive of material, including tunes.  If it weren’t for them, I would not know that the tune for “Andrew Bartin” was still in existence.  When I learn that rather extensive song, it will be coming up under another heading on this blog.

Henry Martin

There were three brothers in merry Scotland
In merry Scotland there were three
And they did cast lots which of them should go, should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea.

The lot it fell first upon Henry Martin,
The youngest of all of the three
That he should turn robber all on the salt sea, the salt sea, the salt sea,
For to maintain his two brothers and he.

Well, he had not been sailing but a long winter’s night
And part of a short winter’s day,
When he e-spied a stout lofty ship, lofty ship, lofty ship,
Come a-bibbing down on them straightway.

“Hullo, hullo,” cried Henry Martin,
“What makes you sail so nigh?”
“I’m a rich merchant ship bound for fair London Town, London Town, London Town.
Would you pray for to let me pass by”

“Oh no, oh no,” cried Henry Martin,
“This thing it never could be.
For I have turned robber all on the salt sea, the salt sea, the salt sea,
For to maintain my two brothers and me.”

“So lower your topsail and brail up your mizzen,
Bring your ship under my lee,
Or I will give to you a full cannon ball, cannon ball, cannon ball,
And all your dear bodies drown in the salt sea.”

“Oh no, we won’t lower our lofty topsail,
Nor bring our ship under your lee,
And you shan’t take from us our rich merchant goods, merchant goods, merchant goods,
Nor will we point our ball guns to the sea.”

And broadside, and broadside, and at it they went,
For fully two hours or three,
Until Henry Martin gave them the death shot, the death shot, the death shot,
And then straight to the bottom went she.

Bad news, bad news, to old England came,
Bad news to fair London town,
There’s been no rich vessel, she’s cast away, cast away, cast away,
All of them, all of those merry men drowned.

I will admit to having known this song for many years, but this is a) the first time I’ve recorded it and b) the first time I’ve taken a really in-depth look at the history of it.  The words I have written here are the words I sing, and having sung this song many times over the past couple of decades, my version is slightly different to commercial versions (none of the context is changed, only a word or phrasing here or there).  There have been many covers of this song over the course of the 20th Century, and I encourage you to search them out.  Off the top of my head, you should be able to find this song covered by Donovan, Joan Baez, Burl Ives, Figgy Duff, and Sherwood, and I’m sure there are more that I have failed to recall.

In closing, my recording of Henry Martin.

Item #8: A Filk!

I’ve been a poet since I was a teen, and I’ve come to know that if the urge to write strikes in the middle of the night, I had better get it all down on paper right then, or it gets lost forever.  So there I sat in the middle of my living room, shivering, in a bathrobe, madly scribbling away on a sheet of computer printer paper, at 4am this morning.

I’ve heard the tune before.  Some of you may even have heard my heavily edited rendition of The Ball of Kirriemuir at an SCA event some time ago.  Though I must admit, it took me a little while to work out where the tune in my head had come from.

This song is for my friend Ragnar, who fences, and is a Viking.  Thus the “whippy stick”…

Ragnar: the Viking with Flair
by Pelagia Aldinoch

I sing of a Viking warrior,
Ragnar is his name.
He had a little whippy stick,
A sword, he did proclaim.
It was so light and slender
It felt like thrusting air,
So he pillaged long and far,
And he did it all with flair.
He pillaged long and far,
And he did it all with flair.

He had a Viking longship,
And he sailed it round about,
And every port he sailed into
His whippy stick came out,
Saying, “Give us gold, and we might let you live,
Does that sound fair?”
Then he raped the wives and daughters,
And he did it all with flair.
He raped the wives and daughters,
And he did it all with flair.

Now Ragnar’s put his sword up,
He’s hauled the longship in,
For every port he pulls into
The kids all look like him.
But don’t discount the danger
As he sits there in his chair-
He tells other Vikings what to do
And he tells them all with flair.
He talls the Viking what to do,
And he tells them all with flair!

To hear my rendition, click the link below.  You are welcome to download my song for your own personal use, but please don’t publish it anywhere else without discussing with me first.
Ragnar: The Viking with Flair

(c) Kristine Robinson 2011

Songs 1: Adam Lay I-Bownden

I’ve been planning for a while to start putting together a book of songs for the solo SCA singer.  Mainly because there doesn’t seem to be much singing happening in the Northern Reaches that I’ve seen, and those songs I have heard around and about seem to be focussed on the Known Words that Eric the Fruitbat put together (you can find it here).  This is a lovely text, but there is little in the way of actual period material in there.  It would, I think, be nice to have a one-stop-shop of period and near-period lyrics whose tunes are easy to find online.

I have no intention of putting songs into this text unless I know them.  Thus I am starting a second challenge, where I will attempt to gather together 50 period or near-period songs, learn each by heart, and track the origins of the song as well as possible.  I will do this with only the aid of the internet, as I don’t read music.

Today I’m learning “Adam Lay I-Bownden“.  The lyrics come from a Sloan manuscript, held by the British Museum, who have dated the work from c.1400.

Adam lay i-bowndyn,
bowndyn in a bond,
Fowre thowsand wynter
thowt he not to long

And al was for an appil,
an appil that he tok.
As clerkes fyndyn wretyn
in here book.

Ne hadde the appil take ben,
the appil taken ben,
Ne hadde never our lady
a ben hevene quen.

Blyssid be the tyme
that appil take was!
Therfore we mown syngyn
Deo gracias!

These words are the ones I’ve transcribed directly from Wikipedia, the original Middle English version.

The original tune for these lyrics is lost.  However, there have been a number of performers who have come up with their own tunes.  I found a lovely version of this on YouTube, performed by “The Medieval Babes”, this is the version I’m learning.  I have only one criticism of their performance.  They pronounce “app-le” rather than “app-il”.  I can understand the pronunciation if they were working on a transcribed version which spelled apple in the modern way, however, the original seems to offer a different pronunciation.

I like this tune mainly for its simplicity and its constant beat pattern.  To hear my rendition of this song, please click on the link below.   I don’t mind if people download it for their own usage, just please don’t publish it elsewhere without checking with me first.

Adam Lay I-Bownden

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