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DARGASON/DARGISON. AKA and see "Sedan(n)y," "Melody of Cynwyd (The)," "Country Courtship," "Irish Washerwoman." English, Air and Country Dance Tune (6/4 or 6/8 time). F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The earliest printing of this popular and long-lived "circular" or "endless" tune was in Thomas Ravencroft's Pammelia (London, 1609, p. 30), which would date it probably to the 16th century--it appeared in that work in altered form under the title "Oft have I ridden upon my Grey Nag". Chappell (1859) finds several references to it in early sixteenth century literature, including Ben Jonson's Tale of a Tub:

But if you get the lass from 'Dargison,'
what will you do with her?

The tune, which is in typical British four-bar variation form[1], was later printed in the 1650-1 edition of Playford's Dancing Master (p. 71) where it was already considered quite old and part of the traditional repertoire, and in the 1794 edition of Edward Jones's Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (London, p. 129) under the title "Melody of Cynwyd (The)." Some sources maintain the tune was the precursor to the (in its time) well-known tune "Country Courtship," which in turn evolved into the even more well-known "Irish Washerwoman" of 19th and 20th century popularity, however, Fuld (1971) states that the song apparently developed independently of the melodically similar "Washerwoman" tune. Little is known regarding the title, however, 'darg' is a Middle English word which means 'a day's work' and both 'darger' and 'dargsman' are forms which refer to day laborers; thus 'dargeson' may also mean a day laborer. The Dargason melody was used by the English composer Gustav Holst in his "Second Suite in F" (for Concert Band), where it appears in the powerful climax to the final movement.

For a distanced duple time derivative of "Dargason" see the first strain of "Touch under the Blanket (A)" from Lake District musician William Irwin's music manuscript.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times), vol. 1, 1859; pp. 230-231. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 24.

Recorded sources:

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  1. John M. Ward, "The Lancashire Hornpipe", Essays in Musicology: A Tribute to Alvin Johnson, 1990, pp. 140-173