Shepherd's Wife (The)

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X:1 T:Shepherd's Wife, The M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Air Q:"Lively" B:William Napier - Selection of Scots Songs, vol. 3 (1794, p. 29) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Eb P:"Vocal air" V:1 B,|E2F G2A|B2e {e}d2B|(cd) e (BA) G|(FG) E {E}D2B,| E2F G2A|B2e {e}d2B|(Bc) e f>e d|e3 E2|| e|g>ag (f>e)d |(e>f) e e d B|(cd) e (BA) G|(EF) E D2B,| g>a g (fe) d|(e>f) e {e}d>c B|(c>d) e f>e d|e3 E2|| P:"Violin part by Haydn" V:2 B,|E2D E2F|G2G F2E |E3- EDE|C3 B,2z| G,/B,/E/B,/A,/B,/ G,/B,/E/B,/A,/B,/|G,/B,/E/B,/G/E/ GF B,/E/|C/E/D/F/E/G/ [CF]z[A,D]|[G,E][G,E][G,E] [G,2E2]|| z|EGB DFB|CG=A B2G|_A3 GFE|A,2 =A, B,2z| [G3e3] [Fe]d[Fd]|([Ed]c)[Ec] ([Dc]B) _D/B/|C/B/A/=D/E/G/ A,/F/G,/E/A,/D/|E/B,/G,/B,/G,/B,/ G,2||



SHEPHERD'S WIFE [1], THE. AKA and see "Hesitation Waltz" (America?). English, Waltz; Scottish, Slow Air (6/8 time). G Major (Kennedy, Raven): E Flat Major (Gow). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Kennedy, Raven, Silberberg): ABB (Gow): AA'B (Matthiesen). "The Shepherd's Wife" is an air, perhaps a slow dance tune, sometimes used as a waltz in modern times. It was printed in Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum (vol. IV, song 362, pp. 372-373) as the vehicle for the song “The Shepherd’s Wife,” with pastoral but comic verses by poet Robert Burns. They begin:

The shepherd's wife cries o'er the knowe,
'Will ye come hame, will ye come hame?'
The shepherd's wife cries o'er the knowe,
'Will ye come hame again e'en jo?'
'O what will ye gie me to my supper,
Gin I come hame, gin I come hame,
'O what will ye gie me to my supper,
Gin I come hame again e'en jo?

The song consists of a husband answering his wife's questions. Poet Robert Burns re-wrote an older song, the original of which Robert Chambers [1] traced back to David Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, vol. ii (1775). The 19th century antiquarian Stenhouse, in his notes to the Scots Musical Museum, suggested that the original tune for the song was "Bab at the Bowster"/"Babbity Bowster", AKA "Country Bumpkin (The)," a rather better-known melody, while Chambers thought the "Shepherd's Wife" melody could also be traced to Herd. John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900, p. 175), disagrees with both conclusions, saying that there is no evidence of precursor melodies or earlier appearances in print. Glen finds that the first appearance of the tune was in William Napier's Selection of Original Scots Songs, vol. 3 (1794, p. 29). Samuel Bayard[2] thinks the tune part of the parcel of tunes he groups under the standard of "Muirland Willie," variants of which include "Northern Lass (1) (The)," "Auld Maid of Fife (The)," "My Boy Tammie/Tammy," and "Forty Miles" (Pa.). This group is part of a much larger family (see notes for "Lannigan's Ball." A modernized and popular form of this old tune is the vehicle for the song called "Rosebud by my early walk (1) (A)," composed by David Sillar, formerly a merchant and then a schoolmaster at Irvine (Neil, 1991).

A jig or quadrille version of the tune appears as "Tennessee Hornpipe" in Bayard's 1981 collection (No. 499, p. 458), collected in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - Steve Trampe [Silberberg].

Printed sources : - Carlin (Gow Collection), 1986; No. 375. Gow (Fourth Collection of Niel Gow’s Reels), 2nd ed., originally 1800; p. 22. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician's Occasional: Waltz, Air and Misc.), No. 1, 1991; p. 10. Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol.2), 1954; p. 32. Matthiesen (The Waltz Book), 1992; p. 43. Petrie (Third Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1802; p. 11. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 139. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 143. Smith (The Scottish Minstrel, vol. 2), 1820 24, p. 20 (as "A Rose Bud by My Early Walk").

Recorded sources: -F&W Records 1, "F&W String Band." Front Hall 024, Fennig's All Stars "Fennigmania" (1981).



Back to Shepherd's Wife (The)


  1. Chambers, Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns, 1862.
  2. Samuel Bayard, Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife, 1981.