Cease Your Funning (1)

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CEASE YOUR FUNING [1]. AKA and see "Lofty Mountains," "Constant Billy." English, Air (6/8 time). The song appears in John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1729) and The Fashionable Lady (1730). Chappell reminds us that the tune is, as are all the tunes in Gay's famous work, older than the opera. Kidson (1922) dates the tune to the late 17th century where he finds it on half-sheet music attached to the song "Constant Billy." In fact, the air appears as "Constant Billy" in the third volume of Playford's Dancing Master. Sharp (1907) explores the relationship between "Constant Billy" and "Cease Your Funning," and points out that Gay was not a musician himself and employed the services of a German, Pepusch, by name, to note down and arrange the airs which Gay sang to him. "It needs but a cursory examination of this opera to see that the airs are anything but faithful transcriptions of genuine peasant-tunes..." and concludes that Gay or Pepusch, or both, were guilty of alterations or 'improvements.' "The rhythm of the fine old melody 'Constant Billy' is changed that it might fit the metre of the new words of 'Cease Your Funing', and the tune adorned with a dominant modulation at the middle cadence."

In the Beggar's Opera the untitled lyric goes:

Cease your funning, Force or cunning,
Never shall my heart trepan;
All these sallies Are but malice
To seduce my constant man.
'Tis most certain, But their flirting,
Women oft have envy shown;
Pleas'd to ruin Others' wooing,
Never happy in their own.

There have been some claims that "Cease Your Funing" was derived ("stolen", some accuse) from the Welsh tune "Ash Grove (The)," despite the fact that the latter first appeared in print in the Bardic Museum of 1802. As above, it clearly derives from "Constant Billy," and the claim for Welsh provenance has no merit, according to Kidson (Groves). A "Mr. Richardson", quoted in The Musical World of Jan. 4, 1873 (p. 10), does not agree, and says:

The air is said to belong either to the county of Carmarthen or Glamorgan. Among other titles given to it was 'Llewellyn' in a ballad on that prince. Whether 'Cease your funning' was borrowed from 'Llyn on' or not, we know that it was brought to London by John Gray, from his native place in North Devon, which was frequently visited by Welsh harpers. The melody is a genuine specimen of Welsh music, of which many similar forms are to be found in our national airs. The peasantry, so I am informed, in that part of the county of North Devon, often sing snatches of 'Llyn on,' or 'The ash grove' but know nothing of it by the English title, 'Cease your funning.'

Elias Howe printed the tune in his section of "Irish Airs" in Musician's Omnibus No. 3 (c. 1866), which probably led to Francis O'Neill printing it in his Music of Ireland (1903), but there seems to be no other suggestion of Irish provenance.
Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 2), 1859; pp. 119–120. Howe (Musician's Omnibus, No. 3), 1866; p. 220. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 230. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 635, p. 113. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 6), 1760; p. 13. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 61. Sharp (English Folk-Song), 1907; p. 113.

Recorded sources:




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