Old Ballad

O silly love! O cunning love!
An old maid to trepan:
I cannot go about my work
For loving of a man
I cannot bake, I cannot brew,
And, do the best I can
I burn the bread and chill the mash,
Through loving of a man

Shrove Tuesday last I tried, and tried,
To turn the cakes in pan
And drop’t the batter on the floor
Through thinking of a man
My mistress screamed, my master swore,
Boys cursed me in a troop
The cat was all the friends I had
Who helped to clean it up

Last Christmas eve, from off the spit
I took the goose to table
Or should have done, but teasing Love
Did make me quite unable
And down slip’t dish, and goose, and all
With din and clitter-clatter
All but the dog fell foul on me
He licked the broken platter

Although I'm ten years past a score
Too old to play the fool
My mistress says I must give o'er
My service for a school
Good faith! What must I do, and do
To keep my service still
I'll give the winds my thoughts to love
Indeed and so I will

And if the wind my love should lose
Right foolish were the play
For I should mourn what I had lost
And love another day
With crosses and with losses
Right double were the ill
So I'll e'en bear with love and all
Alack, and so I will

Recorded in 1991 as ‘Mad Meg’ by Vikki Clayton:
Midsummer Cushion -- Prestige Records [CDSGP008]
(The odd word changed)


Vikki’s version includes the following alternative verse (also in a Clare Manuscript held in Peterborough), instead of the final verse above with the additional two lines completing the song:

I’ll sit from morn till dewy eve
Tho chairs & tables dance
Till on the midnight’s sutty wings
The witches ride to France
I’ll sit on till I’m roaring full
& well can hold no more
& then I’ll like Tom Hickathrift*
To bed upon the floor

Thro’ the loving of a man
Thro’ the lusting of a man

*Tom Hickathrift was a legendary figure of East Anglian folklore — he famously battled a giant, and is sometimes said to be a giant himself, though normally he is just represented as possessing giant-like strength.

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