When she cam ben

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WHEN SHE CAM BEN (SHE BOBBIT). AKA and see "Laird o' Cockpen.” Scottish, Air (6/8 or 6/4 time, "andante con moto" or "brisk"). D Minor (Carolan): G Minor (Johnson): G Dorian (Johnson): A Dorian (Aird). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Carolan): ABCDEF (Johnson): AABBCCDD (Johnson). The title in English means "When she came through to the parlour, she curtseyed.” Johnson (1984) says the tune is related (through its alternating 6/4 and 3/2 rhythms) to the 16th century English coranto, and was composed in passamezzo antico form, which was an imported style of accompaniment chord progression borrowed from 16th century Italy. The original words to the tune were bawdy or risqué, but around 1810 Lady Nairne (Caroline Oliphant) wrote new words to it, and since then it has often been known as "The Laird o' Cockpen.” Her song was requested by Queen Victoria to be included in a concert programme during her 1842 visit to Taymouth Castle; John Wilson, then a famous singer of Scots songs, gave the recital.

In 1792 the Scots national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) revised the verses. His version, printed in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum Vol. IV (Song 353, pp. 364-365) goes:

O when she cam' ben she bobbed fu' law, (x2)
And when she cam' ben, she kiss'd Cockpen,
And syne denied she did it at a'.

And was na Cockpen right saucy witha'? (x2)
In leaving the daughter of a lord,
And kissin' a collier lassie an' a'!

O never look down, my lassie, at a', (x2)
Thy lips are as sweet, and thy figure complete,
As the finest dame in castle or ha'.

Tho' thou has nae silk, and holland sae sma', (x2)'
Thy coat and thy sark are thy ain handiwark,
And lady Jean was never sae braw.

It appears in one of the earliest Scottish fiddlers MS repertory books, c. 1705, now in the private collection of Frances Collinson (1966), and in the John Leyden lyra viol MS. See also John Young's related "Buckingham House (3)."

Source for notated version: the 1705 Bowie Manuscript (set by John McLachlan, c. 1700) and McGibbon's 1742 Scots Tunes (set by Willian McGibbon but very similar to Oswald's) [Johnson].

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1785; No. 80, p. 29. Complete Collection of Carolan's Irish Tunes, 1984; No. 205, pp. 138 139 (variations on the theme by Turlough O'Carolan). Johnson (Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century), 1984; No. 15, p. 30 and No. 20, pp. 48 50. McGibbon (Scots Tunes, Book 1), c. 1746; p. 22. Oswald (A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes), c. 1739; p. 40. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 1), 1760; p. 14.

Recorded sources: Maggie’s Music MM220, Hesperus – “Celtic Roots.”

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