We're a Nodding

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WE'RE A NODDING. AKA - "Ae Noddin'," "We're a' Noddin'." Scottish, Air (2/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "We're a Nodding" was a humerous mid-19th century song that was included in a musical play based on Sir Walter Scott's Tales of My Landlord, called Montrose, or the Children of the Mist (1822), staged at Covent Garden Theatre in February of that year. It was sung by Miss Stephens (who also sang "Charley is My Darling") and received an encore after it was first sung. The music was selected by Bishop from existing Scotch airs. Robert Burns "corrected" the existing words for the Scots Musical Museum vol. 6 (1803, Song 523, p. 540) published under the title "Gudeen to you kimmer" ('Good evening to you, gossipy woman') with a different tune:

Gudeen to you kimmer
And how do you do?
Hiccup, quo' kimmer,
The better that I'm fou.

We're a' noddin, nid nid nodding,
We're a' nodding at our house at hame,
We're a' noddin, nid nid nodding,
We're a' nodding at our house at hame.

Kate sits i' the neuk,
Suppin hen-broo;
Deil tak Kate
An' she be na noddin too!

How's a' wi' you, kimmer
And how do ye fare?
A pint o' the best o't,
And twa pints mair.

How's a' wi' you, kimmer,
And how do ye thrive;
How mony bairns hae ye?
Quo' kimmer, I hae five.

Are they a' Johny's?
Eh! atweel no:
Twa o' them were gotten
When Johny was awa.

Cats like milk
And dogs like broo;
Lads like lasses weel,
And lasses lads too.

The two first stanzas appear in David Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776), as "They're a' Nodding," presented as a song fragment, and it may have been old at the time. Its popularity remained high through the first half of the 19th century and beyond, and it was much parodied and copied. When it was blatently pirated in an English magazine the arranger of the music for Montrose applied to the Lord Chancellor for an injuction, and the case began its way through the courts. It eventually cost the plaintiff the large sum (for those days) of £120, while the defendant (a Mr. Taylor) spent £80. In the end, Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, declared that he knew nothing of music and left each party to pay his own costs. [c.f. William T. Parke, Musical Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 169]. 20th century nonsense writer Edward Lear also wrote verses to the tune, commencing:

We’re all nervous, very very nervous,
And we’re all nervous, at our house in town,
There’s myself, & my Aunt, & my Sister, & my Mother, —
And if left in the dark we’re quite frightened at each other!
Our Dog runs away if there’s a stranger in the house,
And our Great Tabby Cat is quite frightened at a mouse, —

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 148. Sutherland (Edinburgh Repository of Music, vol. 2), 1818; p. 14. Westrop (Westrop’s 120 Country Dances), c. 1860's; p. 62.

Recorded sources:

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