Merry Merry Milkmaids (The)

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MERRY, MERRY MILKMAIDS, THE. AKA - "Merry Milkmaids in Green (The)." English, Country Dance Tune (6/4 or 6/8 time). C Major (Barnes, Karpeles, Raven, Sharp): G Mixolydian (Chappell). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Chappell): AABB (Barnes, Karpeles, Raven, Sharp). This air, which Chappell (1849) believes a country dance air from c. 1600 or earlier, was published by John Playford in his English Dancing Master [1] (1650). Walker (History of Music in England, 1924) concurred with Chappel, opinining that the mixolydian tune was "obviously earlier" than the latter half of the 17th century. It's longevity is thus a wonder, as it was one of the relative handful of tunes that was printed in every edition of the Dancing Master series, which ran from 1651 to 1728 (in the last two editions the title was changed to "Merry Milkmaids in Green (The)").

Milkmaid, c. 1675

The following passage is from Hannah Woolley's volume The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex (London, 1675):

Instructions for Dairy-Maids

Have a care that all your Vessels be scalded well, and kept very clean; that you milk your Cattel in due time; for your Kine by custom, will expect it, though you neglect it, which will tend much to their detriment.

Waste not your Cream by giving it away to liquorish persons; keep certain days for your Churning, and be sure to make up your Butter neatly and cleanly, washing it well from the Butter-milk, and then salt it well.

Be careful to make your Cheeses good and tender, by well ordering them; and see that your Hogs have the whey, and that it be not given away to idle or gossipping people, who live meerly upon what they can get from servants: That you provide your Winter-Butter and Cheese in the Summer, as in May; and when your Rowens come in, be sparing of your Fire; and do not lavish away your Milk-butter or Cheese.

Milkmaids, by George Scharf

If you have any Fowls to fat, or Pigs, look to them that it may be your credit, and not your shame, when they come to the Table.

When you milk your Cattel, stroke them well, and in the Summer-time save those strokings by themselves, to put into your morning-Milk-cheese.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barlow (The Complete Country Dances from Playford's Dancing Master), 1985; No. 60, p. 29. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; pp. 290-291. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 16. Playford (The English Dancing Master), 1651; p. 31. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; pp. 26 & 40 (the latter is a facsimile copy of the Playford original). Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 35.

Recorded sources: Dorian 90238, The Baltimore Consort - "A Trip to Killburn." Maggie's Music MMCD216, Hesperus - "Early American Roots" (1997).

See also listing at:
See the dance performed on [2]

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