Sunday, November 18, 2007

An early modern fart-lighting contest, and other sonic delights.















I cannot remember what I was looking for when I strayed that way, but I found myself reading through Catch that catch can, or, A choice collection of catches, rounds & canons for 3 or 4 voyces collected & published by John Hilton (1652).

These are jolly songs for drunken amateur performers – male performers, that is to say. Among my ancient vinyl, I do not have any catches from this collection performed, but have posted here

http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhle/001/sincetimesokind.mp3

members of the Hilliard Ensemble doing very nicely a similar naughty song, Purcell’s catch, ‘Since time so kind to us does prove’, with Paul Hillier as the baritone, Leigh Nixon, tenor, and David James singing counter-tenor (and having great fun as the girl). All over in a minute and a half, so no wonder the lady is less enraptured than the gentleman. This was released on ‘The Merry Companions’ back in 1981.

But my life is the poorer for not having heard this splendidly bawdy catch performed, ideally at the Wigmore Hall:

“My Lady and her Mayd upon a merry pin, they made a match at farting, who should the wager win. Jone lights three Candles then and sets them bolt upright, with the first fart she blew them out, with the next she gave them light. In comes my Lady then with all her might and maine, and blew them out, and in, and out, and in, and out againe. My Lady, &c.”

I suppose that Dame Emma Kirkby is too grand these days to enact such fooleries.

Here’s another naughty one, about lovers on May Day, and it exploits the way a word can be syllabically divided in a musical setting to produce its bawdy:

“See how in gathering of their May, each Lad and Lass do kiss and play, do kiss love’s hole, & play with love’s hole, do kiss and play, do kiss and play, each thing doth smile as it would say, this is love’s hole, love’s Holiday, love’s hole doe kiss, and play with love’s hole, love’s hole, love’s Holyday, & while love’s kindly fires doe sting, hark Philomel doth sweetly sing, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, doth sweetly sing. See, &c.” William Lawes, no less, is responsible.

This one by ‘Mr. Cranford’ uses a low pun for the same joke:

“Here dwells a pretty Mayd, whose name is Sis, you may come in and kisse: Her hole, her hole, her hole, her whole estate is seventeen pence a yeare, yet you may kisse, you may kisse, you may kisse, you may kisse her, if you come but neare. Here, &c.”

But to come to a serious point, I have heard many, many versions of Shakespeare songs using the limited surviving early settings, but I have never heard anyone picking up on Hilton’s own setting of the catch in As You Like It:

“What shall he have that kill’d the Deere, his leather skin and horns to wear, take you no scorn to wear a horn, it was a crest e’re thou was born, thy father’s father bore it, and thy father wore it, the horn, the horn, the lusty horn is not a thing to laugh to scorn. What shall he, &c.”

In the Shakespearean text, Act IV scene 2, the words with a minor variation, and indication that the original setting was a solo voice and then a chorus:

Forester
What shall he have that kill'd the deer?

His leather skin and horns to wear.
Then sing him home;
(The rest shall bear this burden)
Take thou no scorn to wear the horn;
It was a crest ere thou wast born:
Thy father's father wore it,
And thy father bore it:
The horn, the horn, the lusty horn
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.

This is jolly too: I can imagine finding these words funny after a glass or two
“Let Simon’s beard alone, alone, let Simon’s beard alone, 'tis no disgrace to Simon’s face, for he had never one: then mock not, nor scoff not, nor jeer not, nor fleer not, but rather him bemoan. Let, &c.”

I do not think that I have sung songs in a pub since I was an undergraduate, and it seems so long ago it might as well have been the Carmina Burana.

1 comment:

Decidedly Bookish said...

I love dirty folk songs. You can find a whole bunch of them here http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/bawdy-songs/idxv14as.htm