'Twas within a Furlong of Edinburgh Town

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X: 1 T:Twas within a Furlong of Edinburgh Town. (p)1696.PLFD1.369 M:4/4 L:1/8 Q:1/2=90 B:Playford, Dancing Master,9th Ed,1st Supp.,1696. O:England;London H:1696. Z:Chris Partington <www.cpartington.plus> K:Gm GA|B3cd2(cB)|(cA)(dB)G2GA|B>cd>ef2(ed)|(c<B)(f<d)B2d=e| f>=ef>gf2_ed|(ed)(cB)c2(Bc)|(dB)(cA) (BG)(AG)|(^FD)(FA)d2:| |:de|f3g (gf)(ed)|(ed)(cB)c2A2|BABcd2cB|AG^F>GA2(A/B/c)| (BA)(BG)c2de|(fd)(g=e)^f3f|(g<d)(e<c) (d<B)(c<A)|(B<G)(D<^F)G2:|

'TWAS WITHIN A FURLONG OF EDINBURGH TOWN. English, Air and Country Dance Tune (whole time). G Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCCDD. The tune was published in Henry Playford's Dancing Master, 9th edition (1696, p. 213) with directions for a longways country dance. It was retained in subsequent editions of the Dancing Master through the 18th and final edition of 1728. It was also published by rival London music publisher John Walsh in his Compleat Country Dancing Master, 1718, 1731, and 1754, and in his Compleat Country Dancing Master, Volume the Fourth (1740). The melody was used as the vehicle for airs in a number of period London ballad operas, including Edward Phillips The Chamber-Maid (1735), William Rufus Chetwood's The Lover's Opera (1729), John Gay's Polly (1729), The Devil to Pay, or the Wives Metamorphos'd (1731), Charles Johnson's The Village Opera (1729), The Footman (1732), John Arthur's The Lucky Discovery, or the Tanner of York (1738), and others. The song remains part of the core repertoire of British traditional music today.

The music for “’Twas within a Furlong of Edinbrough Town” has often been credited to English composer Henry Purcell (1658-1695), as poet Thomas D'Urfey is sometimes credited with the lyric, and the two did work together on occasion. However, some sources credit the music to a younger contemporary of Purcell, Jeremiah Clarke[1] (1674-1707). D'Urfey printed his song of seduction in the first volume of his Wit and Mirth; or, Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-20), set to Purcell/Clarke's melody, which was first published in Deliciae Musicae, vol. III (1696), under the title "A Scotch Tune" with the alternate title "'Twas within a furlong of Edinburgh town." D'Urfey's first stanza goes:

'Twas within a furlong of Edinborough Town,
In the rosy time of year when the grass was down;
Bonny Jocky blithe and gay,
Said to Jenny making hay,
Let's sit a little (dear) and prattle, 'tis a sultry day.
He long had courted the black-brown maid,
But Jocky was a wag and would ne'er consent to wed,
Which made her Pish and Pooh,
And cry out it will not do,
I cannot, cannot, wonnot, wonnot buckle to.

D'Urfey had more explicit rhymes, but this one centers on a girl who knows full-well that to give into Jockey's persuasion and offer of trinkets in return for her maidenhead would undoubtedly lead to life of prostitution in the big city. She will be with him, she states, but as a wife and not a mistress. A reworking (i.e. sanitized) version of the song with a different melody was printed in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. 1 (1787) as "Within a Mile of Edinburgh."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Elias Howe (Musician’s Omnibus Nos. 6 & 7), Boston, 1880-1882; p. 614. James Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 4), 1760; p. 32. John Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 37.

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  1. See Cyrus Lawrence Day, The Songs of Thomas D'Urfey, Cambridge (MA.), 1933.