Smirking Nan

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X:1 T:Smirking Nan M:C| L:1/8 R:Air S:The late 18th century copybook manuscript of Henry Livingston Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D Minor FG | A3c (Ac)AG | F2 (ED) D2 dD | A3G (AB)cA | d2 GA G2 FG | A2 A/B/c BAGF | G2A2f3e | d3c AcGA | d2 D>F D2 AB | c3d c2BA | f2c2c2 fe | d3e fefg | agfe d3c/B/ | A2f2 cAGF | G2A2f3e | d2 cB AcGA | d2 D>F D2 ||



SMIRKING NAN. AKA – “Poor Walley's Complaint.” English, Air (cut time). D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. "Smirking Nan" was a popular song by poet and writer Allan Ramsay from the mid 18th century. It appeared in the London Magazine (1751, p. 228), and Ramsays’s The Muses Delight (1754). It was also issued on broadsides with the title “Smirking Nan, or Poor Walley’s Complaint.” The name was earlier used for a racehorse, Marksman’s “Smirking Nan”, recorded as having been sent to Ireland in 1748. She was still racing in April of 1754, losing the Sportsman’s Purse at the Curragh to “Trunnion”. The air was included in the late 18th century manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery’s invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a musician and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly’s dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York. The words to the the song (printed in The Encyclopedia of Comic Songs, London, 1820, p. 369) go:

Oh! Wae is me poor Walley cry’d…
See how I'm wasted to a span;
My heart I lost when first I spied
That lovely smirking milk-maid Nan:
I'm grown so weak, the gentlest breeze
Of dusty Roger's winning fan,
Would waft me o'er yon beaches trees,
And all for the sake of my smirking Nan.

The ale-wife misses me of late;
I used to take a hearty can:
But I can neither drink nor eat,
Unless 'tis brew'd or baked by Nan.
The baker makes the best of bread,
The flour he takes, and leaves the bran;
The bran is every other maid,
Compared with thee, my smirking Nan.

But Dick o' th' green, that nasty lown,
Last Sunday to my mistress ran;
He snatch'd a kiss--I knocked him down,
Which hugely pleases my smirking Nan.
But hark! the rearing soger comes,
And rattles tantara tarran;
She leaves her cows for noisy drums,--
Wae's me, I've lost my smirking Nan.

The first 'recorded' version of the melody was on a mechanical clock by the skilled craftsman Timothy Williamson of London (worked c. 1769-1790), one of four tunes played every hour; "Gramachree," "Smirking Nan," "[{Topsey Turvey]]," and a hornpipe. Williamson made clocks for the export market, primarily to China. His masterpiece was a musical clock with an automaton figure which could write Chinese characters (now housed in the Palace Museum, Beijing).

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : -

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