Ed de Moel

Child Ballads - Narrative

The Jolly Beggar

  1. 'Ther was a wife in yon toun,' "Old Lady's Collection," No 36. Version A
    1. 'The Jolly Beggar,' Herd, The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, 1769, p. 46; ed. 1776, II, 26.
    2. 'The Jolly Beggars,' Curious Tracts, Scotland, British Museum, 1078. m. 24. No 30 (a collection made by James Mitchell at Aberdeen in 1828).
    3. 'The Jolly Beggar-Man,' Macmath Manuscript, p. 103, a fragment,
    4. The same, a fragment.
    Version B

I have not found this piece in any printed collection older than Herd, 1769, but it is cited in the second edition of Percy's Reliques, 1767, II, 59 (preface to 'The GaberlunyieMan'), and was known before that to Horace Walpole, who, as Percy remarks, confounds it with 'The Gaberlunyie-Man,' or gives it that title: Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, II, 202 f., second edition, 1759 (not mentioned in the first edition). It was probably in circulation as a flying-sheet.[foot-note]

We are regularly informed by editors that tradition imputes the authorship of both 'The Jolly Beggar' and 'The Gaberlunyie-Man' to James Fifth of Scotland. 'The Gaberlunyie-Man' was, so far as can be ascertained, first printed in the Tea-Table Miscellany (in 1724), and I am not aware that it is mentioned anywhere before that date. Ramsay speaks of it as an old piece, but says nothing about the authorship. The tradition as to James Fifth is, perhaps, not much older than the publication in either case, and has no more plausibility than it has authority.

The copies in Pinkerton's Select Scotish Ballads, II, 35, 1783, Johnson's Museum, p. 274, No 266, 1790, Ritson's Scotish Songs, I, 168, 1794, etc., are all from Herd's second edition, 1776. In this we have, instead of the Fa la la burden, the following, presumably later (see Herd's Manuscripts, I, 5):

  And we'll gang nae mair a roving,
Sae late into the night,
And we'll gang nae mair a roving, boys,
Let the moon shine neer sae bright,
And we'll gang nae mair a roving.

Motherwell's Manuscript, p. 124, has a recited copy which seems to be B a as in Herd, 1776, corrupted by oral transmission. It does not seriously differ from the original until we come to the end, where we find an absurd stanza which is derived from B b.

The variations of B b are not the accidents of tradition, but deliberate alterations. 'The Jovial Beggarman,' in The Forsaken Lover's Garland, No 15 of a collection of garlands, British Museum, 11621. e. 1 ("Newcastle? 1750?"), is a rifacimento, and a very inferior piece. Of this Rev. S. Baring-Gould took down a copy from the singing of a laborer on Dartmoor, in 1889.[foot-note]

'The Jovial Tinker and Farmer's Daughter,' British Museum, 1346. m. 7 (31), 'The Tinker and Farmer's Daughter's Garland,' British Museum, 11621. a. 6 (34), is another rifacimento, with less of the original in it. The tinker, we are told at the outset, is a noble lord disguised.

An English broadside ballad of the second half of the seventeenth century, Pepys, III, 73, No 71, has the same story as the Scottish popular ballad, and may have been the foundation of it, but the Scottish ballad is a far superior piece of work. The English broadside is given, substantially, in the notes.

'Der Bettelman,' Hoffmann u. Richter, Schlesische Volkslieder, p. 45, No 24, has a generic resemblance to this ballad.[foot-note] So, more remotely, a Flemish ballad, 'Ein schoner Krüppel,' Hoffmann, Niederländische Volkslieder, p. 129 and elsewhere. Again, a very pretty and innocent Portuguese ballad, 'O Cego,' Almeida-Garrett, III, 191, No 35, Braga, Romanceiro Geral, p. 147, No 55, and Cantos pop. do Archipelago Açoriano, p. 372, No 76 (all in Hartung, II, 103 ff.), which Almeida-Garrett, quite extravagantly, supposed might be derived from 'The Gaberlunyie-Man,' brought home from Scotland by Portuguese sailors. There is an accidental similarity in one or two points with the Spanish ballad 'Tiempo es, el caballero,' Duran, I, 163, No 307, Primavera, II, 91, No 158.

'The Gaberlunyie-Man' is given in an appendix.

This page most recently updated on 18-May-2011, 05:21:53.
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