Gee Ho Dobbin (1)

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GE(E) HO, DOBBIN [1]. English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBC (the 'C' part is really a terminal strain of the 'B'). 'Gee ho' = giddy up or start moving, as in a command to a horse, however, "Gee, ho, Dobbin" was also used as a phrase of contempt when applied to a person. Oliver Goldsmith in his description of "The Club of Choice Spirits," makes the pimple-nosed gentleman sing "Gee Ho, Dobbin" [Chapell]. Charles Dickens mentions the song in David Copperfield, in the passage:

Mrs. Micawber having now raised her voice into a perfect scream, I was so frightened that I ran off to the club-room, and disturbed Mr. Micawbar in the act of presiding at a long table, and leading the chorus of

Gee up, Dobbin
Gee ho, Dobbin,
Gee up, Dobbin,
Gee up, and gee ho-o-o!

Dickens has Micawbar sing the song again, over a steaming bowl of punch, in his misery in the Fleet street prison. The older version of this very popular tune to which countless broadside songs have been set (some quite bawdy-see "The Buxom Dairy Maid"). Chappell (1857) says that "Laugh and lay down" is another name for the tune, deriving from a song that commences:

While others attempt heavy minutes to kill,
With Ombre, with Commerce, Picquette, and Quadrille.

Kidson (1890) finds it in John Sadler's Apollo's Cabinet, or the Muses Delight (1757) under the title "The Waggoner, or Ge ho, Dobbin!" (also known as "Jolly Waggoner (The)"), although it also appears in Thompson's Country Dances (vol. 1, c. 1757). A song ("if you want a young man with a true honest heart") in the ballad opera Love in a Village (1762) is set to the air. Kidson remarks that its popularity was due to the fact that the melody was quite "good and catching, with a refrain everybody knew."

As I was driving my wagon one day,
I met a young damsel tight--buxom and gay;
I kindly accosted her with a low bow,
And I felt my whole body I cannot tell how;
Ge ho, Dobbin! Hi ho Dobbin!
Ge ho, ge Dobbin! Ge ho, ge ho!

The melody appears in a few musicians' manuscript collections of the 18th and 19th centuries, including those of William Clarke (1770, Lincoln) and poet John Clare (Helpstone).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Kidson (Old English Country Dances), 1890; p. 8. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 1), 1757; No. 108.

Recorded sources:




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