Maid of the Mill (1) (The)

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MAID OF THE MILL [1]. English, Country and Morris Dance Tune (6/8 time). G Major (Bacon-Longborough, Carlin, Mallinson): C Major (Johnson): C Mixolydian (Bacon): D Major (Aird). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Carlin): AABB, x4 (Bacon-Longborough, Johnson, Mallinson): AABABA (Bacon). Van Cleef and Keller (1980) remark that as a topic the 'Maid of the (or in) the Mill' appears frequently in 17th and 18th century English literature, dating back at least as far as a play by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher called The Maid in the Mill, performed in 1647 in London. Country dance versions of a tune by the name appear in Playford's Dancing Master of 1698 and in subsequent editions, as well as in Walsh's Country Dancing Master of 1718. A song on the theme is contained in James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (volume VII, London, c. 1750), the tune of which was reproduced in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (volume V, Edinburg, 1796). Still another song called "The Maid of the Mill" was printed in the Universal Magazine (volume XLI) in 1767, and another opera on the theme was penned in 1765 by Samuel Arnold.

Sara Johnson (1988) dates the contra dance and tune that is usually now known as "Maid of the Mill" from c. 1795, and prints contra dance instructions set to both "Maid of the Mill" and "Money in Both Pockets (1)." The tune predates his estimate, however, as its origins have been found to have derived from a new tune in William Shield's popular opera Rosina (1783), which takes its name from the last line of the first verse of the duet (no. 7) between William and Phoebe beginning:

I've kiss'd and I've prattled with fifty fair maids,
And changed them as oft do you see;
But of all the gay lasses that sport on the green,
The Maid of the Mill for me.

(A caveat to this as the ultimate source of the usual tune is that Shields could have adapted his air from a folk tune in common currency at the time he was writing, as were many of the melodies used in ballad operas of the 18th century.)

As with many popular English melodies, it was quickly transported to America. Just two years after the London appearance of Shield's opera the words his "The Maid of the Mill," varied only slightly from the printed version, were copied along with the tune by a student at Harvard, John Cabot. One Nancy Shepley wrote out the figures for a country dance to the tune which she learned in Pepperell, Massachusetts, around 1794 and German flute student Cushing Eells copied it into his music MS (Norwich, Conn., 1789). Nancy Shepley's MS notwithstanding, Van Cleef and Keller report the title does not appear frequently in American dance sources, and they conclude she copied it from a published collection of dances from England. Oddly enough, the tune, almost identical to Eells' version, was preserved mechanically on two chime clocks of the time manufactured in East Windsor, Connecticut (one of which is at the Wadsworth Atheneum and the other at the Connecticut Historical Society).

Morris dance versions survived in tradition in rural England with most villages having a "Maid of the Mill." Those variants closest to the Shield's and the American versions were collected in the villages of Bledington (Gloucestershire), Ilmington (Warwickshire) and Longborough in the Cotswolds.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), 1788; No. 412, p. 159. Bacon (A Handbook of Morris Dances), 1974; pp. 78, 215, 255. Carlin (Master Collection), 1984; No. 52, p. 39. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 8: 28 Country Dances), 1988; p. 7. Kidson (Old Country Dance and Morris Tunes). Mallinson (Mally's Cotswold Morris Book, vol. 2), 1988, No. 17, p. 10. Neal (Espérance Morris Book, vol. 1), 1910; p. 24.

Recorded sources:




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