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"Matty Groves", also known as "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" or "Little Musgrave", is a ballad probably originating in Northern England that describes an adulterous tryst between a young man and a noblewoman that is ended when the woman's husband discovers and kills them. It is listed as Child ballad number 81 and number 52 in the Roud Folk Song Index This song exists in many textual variants and has several variant names. The song dates to at least 1613, and under the title Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard is one of the Child ballads collected by 19th-century American scholar Francis James Child.
Little Musgrave (or Matty Groves, Little Matthew Grew and other variations) goes to church on a holy day either "the holy word to hear" or "to see fair ladies there". He sees Lord Barnard's wife, the fairest lady there, and realises that she is attracted to him. She invites him to spend the night with her, and he agrees when she tells him her husband is away from home. Her page goes to find Lord Barnard (Arnel, Daniel, Arnold, Donald, Darnell, Darlington) and tells him that Musgrave is in bed with his wife. Lord Barnard promises the page a large reward if he is telling the truth and to hang him if he is lying. Lord Barnard and his men ride to his home, where he surprises the lovers in bed. Lord Barnard tells Musgrave to dress because he doesn't want to be accused of killing a naked man. Musgrave says he dare not because he has no weapon, and Lord Barnard gives him the better of two swords. In the subsequent duel Little Musgrave wounds Lord Barnard, who then kills him. (However, in one version "Magrove" instead runs away, naked but alive.)
Lord Barnard then asks his wife whether she still prefers Little Musgrave to him and when she says she would prefer a kiss from the dead man's lips to her husband and all his kin, he kills her. He then says he regrets what he has done and orders the lovers to be buried in a single grave, with the lady at the top because "she came of the better kin". In some versions Barnard is hanged, or kills himself, or finds his own infant son dead in his wife's body. Many versions omit one or more parts of the story.
It has been speculated that the original names of the characters, Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard, come from place names in the north of England (specifically Little Musgrave in Westmorland and Barnard Castle in County Durham). The place name "Bucklesfordbury," found in both English and American versions of the song, is of uncertain origin.
Some versions of the ballad include elements of an alba, a poetic form in which lovers part after spending a night together.
Early printed versions
There are few broadside versions. There are three different printings in the Bodleian Library's Broadside Ballads Online, all dating from the second half of the seventeenth century. One, The lamentable Ditty of the little Mousgrove, and the Lady Barnet from the collection of Anthony Wood, has a handwritten note by Wood on the reverse stating that "the protagonists were alive in 1543".
It seems that the ballad had largely died out in the British Isles by the time folklorists began collecting songs. Cecil Sharp collected a version from an Agnes Collins in London in 1908, the only known version to have been collected in England. James Madison Carpenter recorded some Scottish versions, probably in the early 1930s, which can be heard on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website. The Scottish singer Jeannie Robertson was recorded on separate occasions singing a traditional version of the song entitled "Matty Groves" in the late 1950s by Alan Lomax, Peter Kennedy and Hamish Henderson. However, according to the Tobar an Dualchais website, Robertson may have learned her version from Johnny Wells and Sandy Paton, Paton being an American singer and folk song collector.
Dozens of traditional versions of the ballad were recorded in the Appalachian region. Jean Bell Thomas recorded Green Maggard singing "Lord Daniel" in Ashland, Kentucky in 1934, which was released on the anthology 'Kentucky Mountain Music' Yazoo YA 2200. Bascom Lamar Lunsford was recorded singing a version called "Lord Daniel's Wife" in 1935. Samuel Harmon, known as "Uncle" Sam Harmon, was recorded by Herbert Halpert in Maryville, Tennessee in 1939 singing a traditional version. The influential Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie had her family version of the ballad, called "Little Musgrave", recorded by Alan Lomax in 1949, who made a reel-to-reel recording of it in his apartment in Greenwich Village; she later released a version on her album Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition (1961). In August 1963, John Cohen recorded Dillard Chandler singing "Mathie Groves" in Sodom, North Carolina, whilst Nimrod Workman, another Appalachian singer, had a traditional version of the song recorded in 1974.
|The Old ballad of Little Musgrave and the Lady Barnard||Barnard||Little Musgrave||This version has the foot-page|
|Mattie Groves||Arlen||Little Mattie Groves|||
|Matty Groves||Darnell||Matty Groves|||
Some of the versions of the song subsequently recorded differ from Child's catalogued version. The earliest published version appeared in 1658 (see Literature section below). A copy was also printed on a broadside by Henry Gosson, who is said to have printed between 1607 and 1641. Some variation occurs in where Matty is first seen; sometimes at church, sometimes playing ball.
Other names for the ballad:
- Based on the lover
- Little Sir Grove
- Little Massgrove
- Matthy Groves
- Wee Messgrove
- Little Musgrave
- Young Musgrave
- Little Mushiegrove
- Based on the lord
- Lord Aaron
- Lord Arlen
- Lord Arnold
- Lord Barlibas
- Lord Barnabas
- Lord Barnaby
- Lord Barnard
- Lord Barnett
- Lord Bengwill
- Lord Darlen
- Lord Darnell
- Lord Donald
- Based on a combination of names
The earliest known reference to the ballad is in Beaumont and Fletcher's 1613 play The Knight of the Burning Pestle:
And some they whistled, and some they sung,
Hey, down, down!
And some did loudly say,
Ever as the Lord Barnet's horn blew,
Away, Musgrave, away!
|Year||Release (Album / "Single")||Performer||Variant||Notes|
|1956||John Jacob Niles Sings American Folk Songs||John Jacob Niles||Little Mattie Groves|
|1958||Shep Ginandes Sings Folk Songs||Shep Ginandes||Mattie Groves|||
|1960||British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains, Volume 2||Jean Ritchie||Little Musgrave|
|1962||Joan Baez in Concert||Joan Baez||Matty Groves|
|1964||Introducing the Beers Family||Beers Family||Mattie Groves|
|1966||Home Again!||Doc Watson||Matty Groves|
|1969||Liege & Lief||Fairport Convention||Matty Groves||Set to the tune of the otherwise unrelated Appalachian song "Shady Grove"; this hybrid version has therefore entered other performers' repertoires over time (the frequency of this as well as the similarity of the names has led to the erroneous assumption that "Shady Grove" is directly descended from "Matty Groves"). Several live recordings also.|
|1969||Prince Heathen||Martin Carthy||Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard|
|1970||Ballads and Songs||Nic Jones||Little Musgrave|
|1976||Christy Moore||Christy Moore||Little Musgrave||Set to a tune by Andy Irvine|
|1977||Never Set the Cat on Fire||Frank Hayes||Like a Lamb to the Slaughter||Done as a parody talking blues version|
|1980||The Woman I Loved So Well||Planxty||Little Musgrave|
|1990||Masque||Paul Roland||Matty Groves|
|1992||Just Gimme Somethin' I'm Used To||Norman Blake and his wife, Nancy Blake||Little Matty Groves|
|1992||Out Standing in a Field||The Makem Brother and Brian Sullivan||Matty Groves|
|1993||In Good King Arthur's Day||Graham Dodsworth||Little Musgrave|
|1994||You Could Be the Meadow||Eden Burning|
|1995||Live at the Mineshaft Tavern||ThaMuseMeant|
|1997||On and On||Fiddler's Green||Matty Groves|
|1999||Trad Arr Jones||John Wesley Harding||Little Musgrave|
|2000||Hepsankeikka||Tarujen Saari||Kaunis neito||(In Finnish)|
|2001||Listen, Listen||Continental Drifters||Matty Groves|
|2002||Ralph Stanley||Ralph Stanley||Little Mathie Grove|
|2003||sings Sandy Denny||Linde Nijland||Matty Groves|
|2004||Live 2004||Planxty||Little Musgrave|
|2005||Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads||Dillard Chandler||Mathie Grove||Acapella Appalachian.|
|2005||De Andere Kust||Kadril||Matty Groves|
|2007||Season of the Witch||The Strangelings||Matty Groves|
|2007||Prodigal Son||Martin Simpson||Little Musgrave|
|2008||The Peacemaker's Chauffeur||Jason Wilson||Matty Groves||Reggae version, featuring Dave Swarbrick & Brownman Ali|
|2009||Folk Songs||James Yorkston and the Big Eyes Family Players||Little Musgrave|
|2009||Alela & Alina||Alela Diane featuring Alina Hardin||Matty Groves, Lord Arland|
|2009||Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards||Tom Waits||Mathie Grove|
|2010||Sweet Joan||Sherwood||Matty Groves||(In Russian)|
|2011||Birds' Advice||Elizabeth Laprelle||Mathey Groves|
|2011||"Little Musgrave"||The Musgraves||Little Musgrave||YouTube video recorded to explain the band's name|
|2011||In Silence||Marc Carroll||Matty Groves|
|2012||Retrospective||The Kennedys||Matty Groves|
|2013||The Irish Connection 2||Johnny Logan|
|2019||Dark Turn of Mind||Iona Fyfe||Little Musgrave||Scots folklore variant written in Scottish English|
|2019||Návrat krále||Asonance||Matty Groves||(In Czech)|
Film and television
In season 5 episode 2, "Gently with Class" (2012), of the British television series Inspector George Gently, the song is performed by Ebony Buckle, playing the role of singer Ellen Mallam in that episode, singing it as "Matty Groves".
The previous and next Child Ballads:
- Francis James Child (13 November 2012). The English and Scottish Popular Ballads Vol. 2. p. 243. ISBN 9780486152837. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Matty Groves". vwml.org. English Folk Dance and Song Society / Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Archived from the original on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector". Oldtime Central. 23 June 2020. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
- DiSavino, Elizabeth (2020). Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector. University Press of Kentucky.
- "A Lamentable Ballad of Little Musgrave, and the Lady Barnet". ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Bodleian Ballads Online. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "The lamentable Ditty of little Mousgrove, and the Lady Barnet". ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Bodleian Ballads Online. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "[A] Lamentable Ballad of the Little Musgrove, and the Lady Barnet". ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Bodleian Ballads Online. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Ballads Online". ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk.
- "Little Musgrave (Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/9/1553)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrave (Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/10/1691)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrove (VWML Song Index SN18800)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrove (VWML Song Index SN19227)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Lord Donald (Roud Folksong Index S341660)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (Roud Folksong Index S242813)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (Roud Folksong Index S437094)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- Jeannie Robertson singing "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard", recorded in Scotland by Hamish Henderson (September 1960). "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard". www.tobarandualchais.co.uk (Reel-to-reel). Scotland: Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o' Riches. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Roud Folksong Index (S243414) - "Lord Daniel"". vwml.org. English Folk Dance and Song Society / Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Lord Daniel's Wife (Roud Folksong Index S262168)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Matthew Grove (Roud Folksong Index S261972)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Little Musgrave (Roud Folksong Index S341705)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- Jean Ritchie singing "Little Musgrave" in Alan Lomax's apartment, 3rd Street, Greenwich Village, New York City (New York), United States (2 June 1949). "Little Musgrave". research.culturalequity.org (Reel-to-reel). New York: Association for Cultural Equity. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Jean Ritchie: Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition". Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Mathie Groves (Roud Folksong Index S373182)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "Lord Daniel (Roud Folksong Index S401586)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "VWML: rn52 sound usa flanders". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
- "Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection : Free Audio : Free Download, Borrow and Streaming : Internet Archive". archive.org. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
- "rn52 sound canada". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
- "Little Musgrove- Maroons (JM) pre1924 Beckwith C". bluegrassmessengers.com. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Garoleen- Joseph (St Vincent) 1966 Abrahams C". bluegrassmessengers.com. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Matty Glow- Antoine (St Vincent) 1966 Abrahams B". bluegrassmessengers.com. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Little Musgrove- Forbes (JM) pre1924 Beckwith A , B". bluegrassmessengers.com. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Mattie Groves". contemplator.com. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- "The Celtic Lyrics Collection - Lyrics". celtic-lyrics.com. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- Francis James Child (13 November 2012). The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. p. 243. ISBN 9780486152837. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- Keefer, Jane (2011). "Fair Margaret and Sweet William". Ibiblio. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- Niles, John Jacob (1961). The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles. Bramhall House, New York. pp. 159–161, 194–197.
- "The Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Beaumont & Fletcher, edited by F. W. Moorman". gutenberg.ca.
- Hine, Al (1961). Lord Love a Duck. babel.hathitrust.org. Longmans, Green & Co. pp. 2, 367. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- Grabien, Deborah (2005). Matty Groves. amazon.com. Minotaur Books. ISBN 0-312-33389-7. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- Midwest Folklore. Indiana University. 1954.
- The Gramophone. C. Mackenzie. 1969.
- ""Mattie Groves" by Shep Ginandes". secondhandsongs.com. SecondHandSongs. 1958. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "YouTube". www.youtube.com.
- Smithsonian Folkways – SFW 40170
- Fyfe, Iona (1 January 2019). "Little Musgrave". Dark Turn of Mind. Bandcamp (Media notes). Retrieved 9 December 2020.
- Reviews at Musical Quarterly 51 (4), 722; Music & Letters 34 (2), 172.
- "Fresh Yesterday Lyrics - Big Musgrave". The Kipper Family. Retrieved 28 February 2016.