Black Sloven (The)

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Black Sloven (The)

(The Traditional Tune Archive)   Browse Properties Browse/:Black Sloven (The)
 Theme code Index   1H2H3H3H 1H2H3H3H
 Also known as    Black Seven (The), Colonel Pickering's March to Lexington
 Composer/Core Source    
 Region    England, Scotland, United States
 Genre/Style    Contra, English, Scottish
 Meter/Rhythm    Country Dance, March/Marche
 Key/Tonic of    D
 Accidental    2 sharps
 Mode    Ionian (Major)
 Time signature    6/8
 History    USA(New England)
 Structure    AABB
 Editor/Compiler    Henry Livingston
 Book/Manuscript title    Henry Livingston's music manuscript
 Tune and/or Page number    
 Year of publication/Date of MS    n.d. (latter 18th century)
 Artist    
 Title of recording    
 Record label/Catalogue nr.    
 Year recorded    
 PDF Score    ("" is not recognized as a Boolean (true/false) value.)   


BLACK SLOVEN. AKA and see "Colonel Pickering's March to Lexington." English, Scottish, Amercan; Jig. A Major (Johnson): G Major (Winstock). AEac# (Johnson) or Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The tune was used for the "British Light Infantry Song" in the Revolutionary War by the British army and Tory sympathizers, but originally was a lullaby (or so identifies David Johnson). The original song and tune were printed in The Universal Magazine (1771, printed with text only in the similarly titled Universal Songster, 1825/26; pg. 99), and by Thompson in A Choice Collection of Favorite Hunting Songs (1770). The song begins:

Last Valentine's day, bright Phoebus shone clear,
We had not been a hunting for the space of one year.
I mounted Black Clover, that horse of great fame,
For to hear the horn blow and the words "Tally ho! Ho!"

Despite the naming above of the horse as "Black Clover," the song is titled "Black Sloven," and it is believed Black Sloven was the name of a renowned hunting horse (sloven means a careless person in appearance or work). It was the name of a favourite hunting mare of legendary speed that belonged to a Mr. Charles Turner (died c. 1733), of Clegg Hall, Lancashire, although it is not known if this was the original Black Sloven or not. The ancient Clegg Hall is known for its boggart (ghost), and was itself turned into a tavern in the 19th century called the Horse and Hounds, but generally known as the Black Sloven in rememberance of Turner and his steed.

Several other subsequent songs were sung to the tune of "The Black Sloven," which had proved to be popular. Printer Isaiah Thomas, of Worcester, Massachusetts, issued a broadside ballad in 1787 called "Pegasus of Apollo," set to "Black Sloven". Its lyric was pointedly in sympathy with the post-Revolutionary insurgency called Shay's Rebellion (after its most famous leader, Daniel Shays (c. 1747-1825), which developed out from a deep post-war economic depression in the northern states. The song (echoing the sentiments of the just-concluded conflict with Britain) begins:

Come, come my bold boxers, 'tis Liberty calls,
Hark, hark, how she lustily bawls and bawls!
It is high time, if ever for mobbin 'twas time;
To mobbin, ye chicks of dame Liberty run;
Scour up the old whinyard, and brush the old gun;
Freedom we'll chime,
While Tag, Rag, and Bobtail,
Lead up our decorum, Huzza!

Sure these are the plaguiest of all plaguy times,
When villains must hang for their crimes, their crimes,
And debtors a gauntlope of bailiffs must run;
When rulers will govern, and we must obey,
And low down our gullets is cramm'd every day-
Rap, Rap, 'tis a dun!
The sheriff's behind him
We'll gag him, and bind him, Huzza!

The tune's martial connections were confirmed by its appearance in the Revolutionary War era manuscripts of several fifers and musicians. "Black Sloven" is, for example in Henry Beck's music book (1786) and the 1786 music manuscript copybook of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), of Newburyport, Massachusetts. "Black Sloven" is one of the melodies in Hannah Dawes' music copybook (bound with a harpsichord tutor) c. 1790, from Massachusetts. It has been recorded as played by musicians attached to Colonel Pickering's American regiment as it marched from Salem, Massachusetts to Lexington, on April 19, 1775. The tune is preserved in an old manuscript music book that was kept at the turn of the 20th century at the Essex Institute at Salem, in which it is called "Col. Pickering's March to Lexington." It also appears, under the title "Black Seven," in the music 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 Québec 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 poet and 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. There was even an American privateer named Black Sloven, operating out of New London, captianed by James Young. On the night of May 8, 1782, the Black Sloven captured the British schooner Betsey, bound for New York with a cargo of gunpowder and lumber.

Source for notated version: Brown MS. (Scotland) [Johnson].

Printed sources: Johnson (Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century), 1984; No. 45, pg. 111. Winstock (Songs and Music of the Redcoats), 1970; pg. 76 (appears as "The Light Infantry Song").

X:2
T:Black Seven 
T:Black Sloven
M:6/8
L:1/8
R:March
S:Henry Livingston's manuscript copybook, late 18th century
Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion
K:D
|: A|ded !trill!e>de|fgf !trill!f2e|ded !trill!e>de|fde !trill!f2e|f2e f2g | 
(a3 a2)a | a>gf gee | e3 z2 :: f/g/ | a>ba a>gf | gef !trill!g2a | f>ef dfa | 
e>de A3 | Add d2e | f>(gf/e/) fde | f>gf !trill!e>de |(d3 d2)e |f2e f2g| 
(a3 a2)g|f2e d2A|AAA A3|Add !trill!d2e|f>(g/f/e/) fde|fgf !trill!e>de|(d3d2):||
X:1
T:Colonel Pickering's March to Lexington
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:G
DEF|GAG AGA|BcB Bcd|GAG AGA|BcB B2G|BAB B2c|
ded dcB|cBA A3|z3 B2c|ded dcB|cAc c2e|cBG GAB|
GFD D3|G3A3|BcB AGA|BcB AGA|GGG G3||
X:1
T:Black Sloven
M:6/8
L:1/8
R:Slow
S:Brown manuscript, Elgin  c. 1775
B:David Johnson - Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century
N:Fiddle tuned A,EA^c, drones used throughout
N:Notation is as sounds, not as fingered in scordatura tuning
K:D
A>BA BAB|cdc "tr"c2B|AEA BEB|cdc "tr"c2B|
ABc cde|dBB "tr"B3|efe edc|dBc "tr"d2f|ecA A>Bc|
BFE "tr"E3|A>BA A2B|c>dc/B/ cAB|cdc B>AB|A2A A2:|
|:c2B c2d|e2e edc|.B2.B .B2.B|"tr"B6|
AEA A2B|c>dc/B/ cAB|cdc B>AB|A2A A3:||