A FOLKSONG FOR THE COMMON MAN
S Hartwell, 1998

I am a common man, my furlong do I plough,
And when my lord is passing, my common head I bow,
I'm brother to the ox and husband to the herd,
And to my master's estate, I always tithe my third.
I live to serve a master, like all the common folk,
Bend my back to hard work and toil beneath the yoke.

I'm a common man, just a common man,
I'm a common man, just a common man,
The world was built by the toil of men like me
All common men, all grown from common seed.

I am a common man, a uniform I wear,
And to my kingdom's flag, allegiance do I swear,
I'm brother to the gun, years past it was a sword,
And at the foe I run, upon some master's word,
I fight to serve a master, as a common soldier man,
While all the lordling's sons are officers by rank.

I'm a common man, just a common man,
I'm a common man, just a common man,
The war was won by the blood of men like me
Fighting common men who were just like me.

I am a common man and made that way by birth,
No noble titles have I, I am formed of humble earth,
And all this country's greatness, and all that she has won,
Was built upon the sweat of her toiling common sons -
For though we serve a master, within our hearts we're free,
And the one we truly serve is our birthright, our country.

I'm a common man, just a common man,
I'm a common man, just a common man,
This world was built by the toil of men like me
All common men, all grown from common seed.

The Chelmsford Witch Trials Ballad
Copyright 1995, S Hartwell

This is about Chelmsford, Essex. Dates, names, people and places are correct according to local history books. Blanche Worman of Moulsham hamlet, Chelmsford was hanged for witchcraft at Gallows End (Primrose Hill), Rainsford Lane, Chelmsford in 1607. Mathew Hopkins, the infamous Witchfinder General came from Manningtree, Essex. The 1645 witchtrial at Chelmsford is a well-known episode in local history. For 118 years, old women could be executed as witches, the last execution was in 1684. This ballad commemorates those like Blanche Worman who were sentenced as witches and all those who later fell foul of Mathew Hopkins.

In fifteen hundred and sixty three, we got the witchcraft law,
And then they passed another in sixteen hundred and four,
Between those years in Chelmsford, the witches hanged and burned,
But still the witches cast their spell, the lesson not yet learned,
So in sixteen hundred and seven, at the gallows in rainsford Lane,
Went a Moulsham witch to justice, Blanche Worman was her name.

She had warts upon her skin, from these she suckled fiends,
And set them onto neighbours and those who once were friends,
Six families they accused her, three goodwives she had cursed,
And three young boys had died through her, their fathers cursed her worse,
She kept her fiends in bottles and consorted with old Nick
Upon the word of neighbours, Blanche Worman died a witch.

Then from Manningtree in Essex, the Witchfinder General came
To bring the scum to justice, Mathew Hopkins was his name,
He rounded up Essex's witches and in sixteen forty five
He hauled the crones to Chelmsford town, they numbered twenty five -
All of them old women, and all mumbling words of fear,
As they went to Chelmsford Shirehouse, their sentences to hear.

From Manningtree in Essex, one Mathew Hopkins came,
To terrorise old women who for some ill luck were blamed.

Mathew charged them with consorting with Lucifer himself,
And cursing harmless neighbours with their ill-gotten spells.
You could spite an ugly neighbour if your bowels began to quake,
Hopkins fetched some hag to Chelmsford to the gallows or the stake
They'd be tested in the millpond to see if they could drown
And if they did they were innocent, for a witch will not sink down!

Most were simpleminded folk, and others were insane
The evidence was flimsy, confessions from fear came.
If a person had the bloody flux, if the bowels had curdled,
They'd drag some hag to Gallows End strapped upon a hurdle
Mathew made her neighbours testify, for they were scared as well,
Then he sent some witch's blackened soul plummeting to Hell!

Now Mathew he is sleeping, but in death he'll find no rest,
For he can hear the weeping of the witches sent to death.

From Manningtree in Essex, one Mathew Hopkins came,
To terrorise old women and condemn them to the flames.

ST GILES AND DAME GENEVA (GIN AND ST GILES)
Copyright 2004, Sarah Hartwell

In 1750s London, Geneva (gin) was the opium of the masses and gin house signs said "A penny to get drunk, two pennies to get dead drunk, fresh straw for free". The poorest could buy gin soaked rags to suck on. A woman strangled her baby and sold its clothing to buy more gin. St Giles, full of tenements ("rookeries") was noted for drunkeness and vice. Women sold gin from flasks hidden in their skirts. To circumvent new licensing laws on coloured liquor, gin was then made without juniper berries and nicknamed "Parliamentary Brandy"; it's also called "Mother's Ruin". The dissolute Madonna refers to a Hogarth engraving.

In the stews and rookeries,
The gin clubs and the dives,
Drunkeness and gambling
And the other vices thrive;
You'll find Lady Geneva,
Her handmaidens and whores,
Their men dead drunk for tuppence
Lie insensible on straw.

Along St Giles High Street -
If you can stand the stink -
You'll find the mothers ruined
On the Dutchman's fragrant drink -
There they'll ply their favours
For a penny for a glass,
Or lift their skirts to offer men
A penn'orth from their flask.

Geneva sold her virtue and
Juniper killed her babe,
She sold its clothes for thruppence
And lies drunk upon its grave,
There's dissolute Madonna,
Her child falls from heedless arms,
While she funds her fall to ruin
By the sale of fleshly charms.

Too drunk to nurse their infants,
The mothers bare their breasts,
And in thrall to Dame Geneva,
For small coin will lift their dress;
The drunkards of St Giles
Pay a fare those whores to tup,
But in thrall to Dame Geneva
Find they cannot get it up.

They have gone from rags to ruin,
In the gutters of St Giles,
Where each dull-eyed starving infant
Is Lady Geneva's child.
The baby dies unsuckled,
As his mother lies dead drunk,
St Giles' wretches cannot see,
How low on gin they've sunk.

THE SEA WITCH
Copyright 1990, S Hartwell
Written as folk song (male/female duet) for friend's band

Chorus:
Sail on, sail into the night
For your ship will find no anchor
In the wave-combed coves of the wind-scoured isles
So sail on and find safe harbour

Captain:
Twas a clear blue day when our ship set sail
Upon the briny ocean blue,
The current was gentle, the winds were fair
As I set in search of one love true.

Her vessel ne'er returned from a winter storm,
But I prayed she'd found safe harbour,
For she was as canny as the water-witches' get,
And no winter storm could have drowned her!

(Chorus)

Eager and salt was the pulse of her blood,
The wash of the waves was her heartbeat,
The untamed sea in full-running flood,
Could not have claimed my love so sweet.

On that journey many wonders did we spy
As we sailed upon the ocean blue,
But we could not linger to feast our eyes
For I had sworn to find my one love true!

(Chorus)

The seas they did rise and the sky grew grey
Foul weather came upon us,
Then the mate espied a sheltered bay,
Where from storms our ship might shelter.

There upon the headland stood my love,
And she sang a song so strange to me,
Calling the winds to tempest force
And drawing the wrath of the raging sea.

(Chorus)

When she saw it was I she smiled at me,
And I heard her words quite clearly,
"Sail far away from my sea witch's isle",
Above the wind her voice rang eerily.

Female Vocal:
Sail far away from my wind-scoured shore,
For the sake of my love I will spare thee,
Seek not your old love, for she is no more,
She sold her soul to the salt sea.

Crew:
A sea-witch was she and she called the storms
To wreck on her shore many vessels fair,
Yet she had mercy 'pon her once true love
And bade our ship sail away from there.

(Chorus)

Capt:
Her vessel ne'er returned from a winter storm
I knew her soul had found safe harbour,
For a siren now was she and estranged I must be
From my own true love who I'll see no more.

Female Vocal:
The storm blew high and the winds did shrill,
My ship was tossed and broken,
All my crew died in those foaming waters chill,
And my own soul by the storm was taken.

Now a sea witch am I and I call the storm
Which wrecks so many vessels here,
But I let go of my one true love,
Who in my heart I once held so dear.

Sail on, sail into the night
For your ship will find no anchor,
In the wave-combed coves of my wind-scoured isle
So sail on and find safe harbour!

(Chorus including sea witch to fade)

THE LAST LAY OF MATTY GROVES
Copyright 1996, Sarah Hartwell
This was written as a female standpoint on the wellknown folk ballad "Matty Groves" (and has been performed!).
I wanted to explore Lady Darnell's motives and decided there might be more to her story.

A holiday, a holiday and the first one of the year,
Lord Darnell's wife had gone to church, the gospel for to hear.
When the service it was done and all walked out of doors,
Her wicked eyes did rove about and on a hostler's lad did pause!

"Come home with me young Matty Groves, she whispered in his ear,
Come home with me and sleep with me till morning's light is here -
I'll pay you well, little Matty Groves, to keep my back from the cold,
And to give me something warm inside, if I may make so bold."

Matty Groves was an honest man and he wanted to refuse
If he did as the lady bid, his master's trust he would abuse;
"Oh, I can't come home, I daren't come home and sleep with you tonight
By the rings on your fingers I can tell you are Lord Darnell's wife"

"So what that I'm your master's wife, you master's not at home,
My husband's out in the farthest fields and this night I'm alone."

Lady Darnell's maid she heard this talk for she was standing near,
Kitty Hopkins swore on her mother's grave the master himself would hear,
She gathered her skirts up to her knees and across the glebe she ran,
When she reached the broad millstream, she tore off her skirt and she swam.

Lord Darnell was in the far country, but yearlings were far from his mind,
He'd found himself a peasant lass and was fondling her behind;
So when his Lady's maid appeared Lord Darnell was not well pleased,
He'd only just got settled in and got his polestaff greased.

Kitty said as she reached Lord Darnell's side "Come home and look to your wife,
For she has taken some common hostler's lad into her bed tonight!"
Her master swore that he'd reward Kitty Hopkins handsomely,
He unlaced her bodice and stroked her thigh as he sat her on his knee.

Lord Darnell took to his fastest horse and galloped hard for home,
When into his chamber at last he strode, his wife was not alone!
The pair had coupled and kissed all night and then they fell to sleep,
And when they woke at break of day, Lord Darnell stood at their feet.

"Tell me how do you like my fine feather-bed and how do you like my sheets?
And how do you like my lady-wife who lies in your arms asleep?"

"Very well do I like your feather bed, very well do I like your sheets,
Best of all I do like your fair lady who lies in my arms asleep"

"Get up, get up," Lord Darnell cried, "Get up and fight for your life,
For I'll not slay an unarmed man, though he lies in the arms of my wife;
So get you up little Matty Groves and all of your clothes put on,
For it shall never be said in Old England that I slew a naked man."

"I can't get up" said Matty Groves "I've been getting it up all night,
A full eight hours I've been getting it up at the bidding of your wife!
Nay I can't get up and I'll not get up, for I hear the tone of your words,
And I have only a pocket knife against your two fine swords"

"Truly I have two fine swords and they cost me deep in my purse,
You shall take the better of them and I shall take the worse
And you shall have the very first blow and strike it like a man,
Then I will strike the very next blow and I'll kill you if I can!"

Matty he struck the very first blow and pierced Lord Darnell's side
Lord Darnell struck the very next blow, and young Matty Groves, he died.
Lord Darnell lifted up his wife and he sat her on his knee,
"Now tell me who you liked the best, that hostler's lad or me"

Sat on his knee, his lady spoke, her manners not so mild,
"Do you think your own withered stick would ever get me with child?"
Lord Darnell was shocked right to his heart when he heard her speak so free:
"I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips than you or your finery."

In anguish her husband pushed her aside and took of his swords the best,
Before his wife could speak again, he sheathed it in her chest.
Lord Darnell he went red in the face and loudly he did bawl,
He'd struck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall.

"As you shared my own feather bed, so you'll share a pauper's grave,
But you'll be buried at the top, for you were a noble lady."
Then he called for his lady's maid, he called her to his side
"Your mistress sought the single thing her husband couldn't provide,

Had I not known about Matty Groves, she have might have borne a son
And knowing not his parentage, I'd have raised him as my own,
But Kitty Hopkins you were keen upon my rod to ride,
And called me home to end the tryst, thus childless I shall die."

"A grave, a grave," Lord Darnell sighed, "to put these lovers in
But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin."

IMOGEN (THE SPIRIT OF MUSIC SHALL CLAIM HER)
Copyright 1996, Sarah Hartwell

Lord Linley's babe was christened in May,
All guests blessed her as in arms she lay,
Till a gypsy crone came to the new-named babe,
To foretell her future on that naming day.
She looked about and finally spoke,
Her wits were quick though her words were slow:
And for Imogen's fortune he'd blame her -
That the spirit of music would claim her:

"She'll bring you great joy and great sorrow too,
This girl-child, do not seek to chain her,
For the spirit of music shall come by here
And the spirit of music shall claim her."

The Lord he flew to a murderous rage,
And drove that witch from his fine estate,
And in his castle keep he cloistered that babe,
For the words of the witch made him afraid;
O'er the cold stone keep in a tall tower grey,
His fair Imogen like a mewed hawk kept,
For eighteen years while he raged and wept,
That the spirit of music won't claim her.

A piper came to the tower that May,
Dressed in his finery so gay,
Piped he high and piped he low,
Piped he fast and piped he slow,
And though well he played, still the maid said "No -
'Tis the spirit of music shall claim me!"

A fiddler came to the tower one day,
With be-ribboned bow and feathered braids,
Fiddled he high and scraped he low,
Fiddled he fast and sawed he slow,
And though well he played, still the maid said "No -
'Tis the spirit of music shall claim me!"

A gypsy man came in his motley clad,
He sang such songs as made hearts grow glad,
Well did he sing and the maid said "Lo!
Here's the spirit of music to claim me!"

Lord Linley searched throughout the land,
To find that gypsy and his roving band,
Searched he high and searched he low,
Through sward and swale in sorrow did go,
And though often he asked, yet none did know,
Of the gypsy whose spirit had claimed her.

THE BLACKBIRD IN THE HAWTHORN
S Hartwell, 1998

I met him by the millstream in the merry month of May,
The elder and the hawthorn filled the air with perfume,
There was larksong in the meadow on that spring afternoon,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

We swore then to be sweethearts, firm and true from that day,
In the sweet grass, under larksong, we found a soft bed,
And with May bloom for confetti, we called outselves wed,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

Late in summer choked with roses and the call to arms came,
My waist thick with the baby, I waved him farewell,
To fight for his country while my belly did swell,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

The letter came in the winter when the snow thickly lay,
That the father of my first child in some foreign field died,
In the name of king and country, widowing a bride,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

Now I walk by the millstream in the sweet month of May,
Hawthorn blossom bruised and scentless trod in dirt 'neath my feet,
A child so like his father, in my arms lies asleep,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

 

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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