X:1 T:Woodicock L:1/8 M:6/8 S:William Chappell K:Dmin d2 d f>ed|^cAA A>=Bc|d2d f>ed|^cAA A3| c2d c2A|BGG G>AB|A2A A>=B^c|dDD D3||
WOODICOCK. AKA and see "Difyrrwch Gwyr Dufi," "Gigge-a-Gogge," "Green Man (The)," "Whirligig." English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB'. The melody appears in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (1609, pp. 138-45, as "Wooddy-cock") where it was set by Giles Farnaby. Set with directions for a country dance, it was printed in John Playford’s English Dancing Master of 1651 and was retained (with some spelling variants) in subsequent editions through the eighth edition of 1690, after which it was dropped from the long-running Dancing Master series. Beginning with the 4th edition of The Dancing Master (1670) "The Green Man" was added as an alternate title. Samuel Bayard (in his article “Miscellany of Tune Notes”) says it was a reputed to be a Welsh harp and perhaps dance tune, known in England since the 16th century by its appearance in the Fitzwilliam. Chappell (1859) says the Welsh version was known as “Difyrrwch Gwyr Dufi/Delight of the Men of Dovey (The),” although on the whole he believes it is “an inferior copy of ‘Greensleeves’.” Five 17th century Dutch sets appear, under the title “Wooddicock”, in van Duyse Oude Nederl. Lied, II (1905), and a set appears in Adriaen Valerius’ Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626) under the title “Engels Woddecot,” confirming the tune’s popularity in England. Bayard concludes from a comparison of these variants that the Welsh forms are examples of secondary lengthening, and are borrowings from the English or Dutch traditions. The melody also resembles the Scottish tune "When she cam ben she bobbit", now known as "Laird o' Cockpen" from Lady Nairne's song written to the tune.
Musicologist Anne Gilchrist explains that a 'woodicock' was a simpleton, and that the term was common in early plays:
The woodcock was a bird easily caught in the twilight in cock-shuts--nets suspended across a glade along which the 'cocks' (woodcocks) were driven, hence "Go like a woodcock, And thrust your neck i' the noose .
Early 20th century collector Cecil Sharp used the tune for the Playford dance Whirligig, substituting the Woodicock melody for the original Whiligig tune because he found it preferable.
- Beaumont and Fletcher, Loyal Subject, iv, 4 (Theodore), quoted by Anne G. Gilchrist, "Some Additional Notes on the Traditional History of Certain Ballad-Tunes in the Dancing Master", Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol. 3, No. 4, Dec., 1939, p. 276).