Miller and his sons (The)

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MILLER AND HIS SONS, THE. English, Air (4/4 time). England, Northumberland. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. A popular ballad [Laws Q1] that has a variety of titles. "The miller of the olden time was deemed fair game for the satirist. Chaucer, describing the miller, says:

A thief he was, forsooth, of corn and meal,
And that a sly, and usant for to steal.

This ballad is one of the most popular of the numerous songs written in ridicule of the trade. Many different versions of it are in existence; the tune also varies in different localities. The present air is evidently a slightly varied set of the old tune called 'Oxfordshire Tragedy (The)', which Mr. Chappell believes to have been one of the old ditties used by the minstrels of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in chanting their lengthy narratives at Christmas dinners and bride-ales" (Stokoe).

There was a jolly miller, and he
Had lusty sons, one, two, and three;
He called them all and asked their will,
If that to them he left his mill.

The song has indeed been collected in myriad versions; see, for example, the American old-timey versions called "The Miller's Will" as played by the Gypsy Gyppo String Band (Bay 209) and the New Lost City Ramblers (Folkways).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; pp. 94-95.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
The Ballad Index [1]

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