Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Matty Groves, lyric, Alela Diane

To see the latest update on this thread follow the link below:

Thank you to whosoever searched today for the lyric to 'Matty Groves', as performed by Alela Diane. A definitive answer is difficult, as I heard it live at 'End Of The Road 2009' and it is not, as far as I know, an Alela Diane album track but it was in so far as I could tell from memory quite faithful to the 'In Real Time - 1987' Fairport Convention' rendition and this is the lyric for that:

Matty Groves
A holiday, a holiday, and the first one of the year
Lord Donald's wife came into the church, the gospel for to hear
And when the meeting it was done, she cast her eyes about
And there she saw little Matty Groves, walking in the crowd
"Come home with me, little Matty Groves, come home with me tonight
Come home with me, little Matty Groves, and sleep with me till light"
"Oh, I can't come home, I won't come home and sleep with you tonight
By the rings on your fingers I can tell you are my master's wife"
"But if I am Lord Donald's wife, Lord Donald's not at home
He is out in the far cornfields bringing the yearlings home"

And a servant who was standing by and hearing what was said
He swore Lord Donald he would know before the sun would set
And in his hurry to carry the news, he bent his breast and ran
And when he came to the broad millstream, he took off his shoes and he swam

Little Matty Groves, he lay down and took a little sleep
When he awoke, Lord Donald was standing at his feet
Saying "How do you like my feather bed and how do you like my sheets
How do you like my lady who lies in your arms asleep?"
"Oh, well I like your feather bed and well I like your sheets
But better I like your lady gay who lies in my arms asleep"
"Well, get up, get up," Lord Donald cried, "get up as quick as you can
It'll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man"
"Oh, I can't get up, I won't get up, I can't get up for my life
For you have two long beaten swords and I not a pocket knife"
"Well it's true I have two beaten swords and they cost me deep in the purse
But you will have the better of them and I will have the worse
And you will strike the very first blow and strike it like a man
I will strike the very next blow and I'll kill you if I can"

So Matty struck the very first blow and he hurt Lord Donald sore
Lord Donald struck the very next blow and Matty struck no more
And then Lord Donald took his wife and he sat her on his knee
Saying "Who do you like the best of us, Matty Groves or me?"
And then up spoke his own dear wife, never heard to speak so free
"I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips than you or your finery"

Lord Donald he jumped up and loudly he did bawl
He struck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall
"A grave, a grave," Lord Donald cried, "to put these lovers in
But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin."

If there are subtle differences then and with luck this will at least help you with the greater part of the remainder. It is a traditional song so bear in mind that there are probably many versions of both the lyric and its accompaniment in existence and, in particular, I think Joan Baez may have recorded one that is notably different.

Added October 15, 2009:
Well here's something interesting that reinforces the point about alternate versions, even ones by the same artist.
The lyric above may actually be that to an idealized or a recorded version. I've just listened to 'Matty Groves' from
'In Real Time - 1987' Fairport Convention' very carefully indeed and they are are some subtle differences:
Some are totally trivial and are common in any canon but one, which struck me as being rather more significant, is that in the live version the servant who relays the tale of adultery is now female (consistently so, therefore I don't think I have misheard it) and the wronged party is Lord Arnold (not Lord Donald). It answers another issue that struck me as slightly strange yesterday evening:
Why would yearlings (sheep, cattle or any other kind) be in cornfields? It seemed rather strange agricultural practise to me, but then what do I know? Listen carefully and it is this:

He is out in the far country bringing the yearlings home.

That makes much more sense and 'the far country' is a well known, if somewhat archaic, term for the distant parts on one's estates, if one were lucky enough to have so much as the ground beneath one's feet to call ones own! The Lord Donald/Lord Arnold dichotomy may be merely a regional variation, each using the name of a local dignitary or a play on it, as much traditional music was carefully veiled sedition in any case.

Much later, still to this day indeed, there are regional variations even though the locations may not be far apart at all. The song 'Stanley Market' (Co. Durham), dating from the 19th century I suspect, is 'Bedlington Market' when just across the Tyne in Northumberland. It is recognizably the same song but, as above, the lyrics vary somewhat.


Richard G said...

A 'yearling' in this context is a lamb born the previous calendar year, so it is either one year old or will soon be so because most lambs are born in early spring. The term is also used for other ungulates, race-horses included, with a similar meaning.

seanthecyclist said...

I see this post is quite old. Try Naomi Bedfords 2012 redition from her Bluebirds EP. Very good.