Carman's Whistle (The)

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X:1 T:Carman's Whistle, The M:6/4 L:1/8 S:Chappell - Popular Music of the Olden Times (1859) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:C c4c2 B4G2 | A4A2 G6 | c4c2 B4G2 | A3G A2 G6 :| F2A4 E2G4 | D2F4 E4C2 | F2A4 E2G4 | F3E D2C6 || F2A4 E2G4 | D2F4 E4C2 | F2A4 E2G4 | FEDC D2 C6 ||



CARMAN'S WHISTLE, THE. English, Air (6/4 or 6/8 time). C Major (Chappell): D Major (Raven). Standard tuning. One part (Kines): AABB (Chappell, Raven). The air, harmonized by the famous English composer William Byrd, appears in both the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and My Lady Nevells Virginal Book (1591), as well as Jane Pickering's Virginal Book and a British Museum Eg. MSS. 2,046. Chappell (1859) decided the popular sixteenth century ballad "was not suitable for publication" in his book, being risque by Victorian standards. The unexpurgated lyrics are printed by Kines (1964) and contain the usual double entendres of such bawdy songs of the period:

When he had played unto her
One merry note or two,
Then was she so rejoiced
She knew not what to do.
"Oh, God-a-mercy, carman,
Thou art a lively lad;
Thou hast as rare a whistle
As ever carman had." (Kines)

Chappell explains that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries carriages and coaches were introduced from Europe and the trade of carter or carman developed. These individuals "appear to have been singularly famous for their musical abilities; but especially for whistling their tunes." Chappell and Pulver (1923) reference several works which allude to the musical skill of the carmen; one is Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair (I,1) when Waspe says:

I dare not let him walk alone, for fear of learning idle tunes, which
he will sing at supper and in the sermon times! If he meet but a carman
in the street, and I find him not talk to keep him off him, he will whistle
him all his tunes over at night, in his sleep. (Act i., sc. 1)

Shakespeare has Falstaff say of Justice Swallow in Henry IV, Part II, Act 3, that he "Sang the tunes he heard the carmen whistle and swore they were his Fancies or his Good-nights."

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; p. 253. Kines (Songs From Shakespeare's Plays and Popular Songs of Shakespeare's Time), 1964; p. 57. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 8.

Recorded sources: -



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