Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard [Child 81]

DESCRIPTION: (Lady Barnard), left alone at home by her lord, convinces (Little Musgrave) to sleep with her. Her husband returns unlooked-for, and finds Musgrave in bed with his wife. Lord Barnard slays Musgrave in a duel, and then kills his wife
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1611 (Beaumont & Fletcher)
KEYWORDS: adultery death
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland,England) Ireland US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Mar,Newf) Jamaica St Croix, St Vincent
REFERENCES (62 citations):
Child 81, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (15 texts)
Bronson 81, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (74 versions+1 in addenda)
Lyle-Crawfurd1 75, "Mossgrove" (1 text)
Lyle-Crawfurd2 107, "Wee Mess Grove" (1 text)
GlenbuchatBallads, pp. 50-53, "Moncey Grey" (1 text)
Dixon III, pp. 21-29, "Lord Burnett and Little Munsgrove" (1 text)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 150-194, "" (11 texts plus a collation, a fragment, and a text not from Maine, several of these being variants on versions learned from the same source; 8 tunes from Maine plus one from elsewhere; also extensive notes on version classification) {Ab=Bronson's #70, B=#59, Db=#21, E [Yankee Doodle]=#73, Gb=#60, H [The Little Red Lark] = #71, I=#66; the non-Maine tune is #13}
Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 68-74, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
Belden, pp. 57-60, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
Randolph 20, "Little Mathy Groves" (1 short text plus 2 fragments, 2 tunes) {A=Bronson's #58, C=#12}
Eddy 15, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #40}
Gardner/Chickering 7, "Lord Valley" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
Flanders-NewGreen, pp. 135-139, "Lord Banner" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #68}
Flanders-Ancient2, pp. 195-237, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (10 texts, 7 tunes) {A=Bronson's #46, F=#65, J=#68}
Flanders/Olney, pp. 86-91, "Lord Arnold" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #46}
Davis-Ballads 23, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (6 texts, 1 tune entitled "Lord Daniel's Wife"; 1 more version mentioned in Appendix A) {Bronson's #72}
Davis-More 24, pp. 170-181, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
BrownII 26, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (3 texts plus 2 excerpts)
BrownSchinhanIV 26, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (7 excerpts, 7 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 12, "Little Matthew Groves" (1 text)
Cambiaire, pp. 50-54, "Lord Daniel" (1 text)
MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 65-68, "Matha Grove" (1 text)
Boswell/Wolfe 7, pp. 15-18, "Little Matty Grove" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 143-149, colectively "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard," with individual texts "Little Mose Grove," "Lord Donald's Wife" (2 texts plus 2 excerpts; 1 tune on p. 400) {Bronson's #36}
Ritchie-Southern, pp. 30-32, "The Lyttle Musgrave" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 23 "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (10 texts plus 7 fragments, 17 tunes){Bronson's #16, #18, #22, #9, #17, #11, #19, #20, #37, #27, #14, #29, #42, #43, #48, #38, #10}
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 18, "Matthy Groves (Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard)" (1 text, 1 tune -- a composite version) {Bronson's #17}
Korson-PennLegends, pp. 32-34, "Lord Darnell" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #49}
Wells, pp. 110-113, "Little Matthy Grove" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #4}
Creighton/Senior, pp. 43-49, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #2, #23}
Creighton-Maritime, pp. 11-13, "Lord Arnold" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-NovaScotia 5, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 fragment, called "Little Matha Grove" by the singer, 1 tune) {Bronson's #47}
Peacock, pp. 613-616, "Lord Donald" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 11, "Matthy Groves" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Mackenzie 8, "Little Matha Grove" (5 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
Manny/Wilson 54, "Little Moscrow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 265-273, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (3 texts)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 111-115, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
Leach-Labrador 5, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text, 1 tune)
OBB 50, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 186, "Little Musgrave and the Lady Barnard" (1 text+2 fragments)
Wyman-Brockway II, p. 22, "Little Matthew Grove (or, Lord Daniel's Wife)"; p. 62, "Lord Orland's Wife (or, Little Matthew Grew)" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {p. 22=Bronson's #51; p. 62=#6?}
Fuson, pp. 52-55, "Little Musgrove and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
Warner 78, "Mathy Grove" (1 text, 1 tune)
PBB 36, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
McNeil-SFB1, pp.119-122, "Little Massie Grove' (1 text, 1 tune)
Niles 34, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 164, "Little Matthy Groves" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
Gummere, pp. 337-340, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text, printed in the notes to "Lord Randal")
Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 123-127, "[Lyttle Musgrave]" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #15}
Hodgart, p. 60, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (1 text)
TBB 17, "Little Musgrave" (1 text)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 105-108, "Matha Grove" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
LPound-ABS, 15, pp. 37-39, "Little Matty Groves" (1 text)
JHCox 15, "Little Musgrave and Lary Barnard" (1 text)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 230-231, "Lord Barnaby" (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 47-50, "Lord Darnell" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 226, "Matty Groves" (1 text)
BBI, ZN286, "As it befell on a high Holyday"
DT 81, MATTIEGR* MATTIEG2*
ADDITIONAL: Roger D Abrahams, "Child Ballads in the West Indies: Familiar Fabulations, Creole Performances" in Journal of Folklore Research, Vol. XXIV, No. 2 (May-Aug 1987 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 120-126, "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" (3 texts)
Martha W Beckwith, "The English Ballad in Jamaica: a Note Upon the Origin of the Ballad Form" in Publications of the Modern Language Association [PMLA], Vol. XXXIXI, No. 2 (Jun 1924 (available online by JSTOR)), #1-#3 pp. 470-473, 480, "Little Musgrove" (3 texts, 2 tunes)

ST C081 (Full)
Roud #52
RECORDINGS:
Blinky (Sylvester McIntosh) and the Roadmasters, "Matty Gru" (on VIBlinky01)
Dillard Chandler, "Mathie Groves" (on OldLove)
Green Maggard, "Lord Daniel" (AFS, 1934; on KMM)
Jean Ritchie, "Little Musgrave" (on JRitchie02)
Mrs. Thomas Walters, "Lord Donald" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Wood 401(91), "The Little Mousgrove, and the Lady Barnet," F. Coles (London), 1658-1664; also Douce Ballads 1(115b), Firth b.19(13)[many words illegible], "[The] Little Musgrove, and the Lady Barnet"
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Bonny Birdy" [Child 82] (plot)
cf. "Run Mountain" (words)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Matty Groves
Matty Grove
Little Mattie Groves
Little Mathey Groves
Mathie Groves
Lord Barnard
Lord Arnold's Wife
Lord Daniel's Wife
Little Mathigrew
Lord Donald
NOTES: A fragment of this ballad is found in John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont's 1611 play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act V, scene iii (Wine, p. 376):
And some they whistled, and some they sung,
"Hey, down, down!"
And some did loudly say,
Ever as the Lord Barnet's horn blew,
"Away, Musgrave, away!"
Chambers, p. 163, also mentions that a song of this title was entered into the Stationer's Register in 1630, so it was apparently well-known in the early seventeenth century.
Simon Fury makes an interesting note about the names. In a post to the Ballad-L mailing list, he observes, "I think it likely that the idea of 'Little Musgrave' as being a small person is just a mis-association of part of a place name to a personal attibute. Little Musgrave and Great Musgrave both still exist in Cumbria, in what used to be Westmorland... and are about 20 miles from Barnard Castle in County Durham. So what we have in the song IMHO is a simple bit of hanky-panky between the wife of the lord of Barnard Castle (the ancient seat of the de Balliol family) and a landowner in Little Musgrave.... In other words, the standard stuff of border ballad plots."
There is a somewhat interesting twist in several of the versions. Usually the song says that the wife loves Musgrave/Mattie more than her Lord and all his kin -- but in both of Scarborough's texts and in Creighton and Barry/Eckstorm/Smythe, p. 164 and a version from Sharp (Bronson's #42) and another from Karpeles (Bronson's #56) she loves his finger, and in Creighton/Senior #1 his tongue. Maybe it just strengthens the comparison -- but they're interesting body parts to care for; maybe there was more going on in that bedroom than we thought.
It also occurs to me that there is a certain similarity in this tale to "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Not in plot, really, but in incident. Note that Lord Barnard kills Little Musgrave in a formal contest in which Musgrave is granted the first blow. This is obviously a variant on the Beheading Game of "Sir Gawain" -- though in fact the contest is older; the first instance of the Beheading Game appears to have been the Irish prose saga of "Fled Bricrend," "Bricriu's Feast" (cf. Tolkien/Gordon, p. xv); in this, Cuchulainn twice wins the Beheading Game (and others dodge the challenge -- O hOgain, p. 49).
The idea of surviving the Beheading Game might be inspired by the legend of St. Denis of France, who carried off his head after being beheaded; Benet, p. 969. Or, closer to England, there is the story of St. Nectan of Wales, who in the sixth century was killed and beheaded by robbers and supposedly carried his head to the well where he is buried; Kerr, p. 74) There is also a sort of a variant in Blind Harry's "Life of Wallace," in which Wallace cuts off the traitor Fawdoun's head, and Fawdoun returns to him carrying the head. This even has Fawdoun announce his presence by sounding a horn (Garnett/Gosse. volume I, p. 293.
But "Sir Gawain" adds to this the temptation of Gawain by a lady while her husband is out hunting. One might say that "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" is "Sir Gawain" if Gawain had given in to temptation.
Not that there is much likelihood of literary dependence; "Sir Gawain" was effectively lost (only one copy is extant, although there is a rougher parallel, "The Green Knight," in the Percy folio), and the tale seems to come from a region not associated with the main versions of "Little Musgrave." But there are a number of romances (listed in Tolkien/Gordon, pp. xvi-xvii) which are similar to "Sir Gawain" though weaker. Most of these are French, but they might have inspired the story.
The other thing it reminds us of is the idea of "trial by combat," which according to Benet, p. 1181 (under the title "wager of battle") goes back to "early Teutonic times," and was incorporated into English law by William the Conqueror, not being formally repealed until 1818.
Of course, there is an important footnote here: Three people ended up in Lord Barnard's bedroom: Barnard, his wife, and Musgrave. Only Barnard came out alive. Thus every detail must have been attested by Barnard. We could not know if there was actually a contest of blows, or what Lady Barnard said; it's perfectly possible, e.g., that Barnard struck Musgrave without warning, and that Musgrave inflicted Barnard's wound after he was himself struck. Or -- well, I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader, until someone comes up with an actual incident that might be the basis for the song. - RBW
Mary Jane Soule in the liner notes to VIBlinky01: "'Matty Gru' exhorts a young man to leave the bedroom of a married lady. (Although the need for such advice is not outside the realm of possibility in St Croix, the song actually derives from a British folk drama known locally as the King George play.)" (See VIZoop01. The CD and liner notes by Mary Jane Soule give the background of scratch bands, a little on Matty Gru -- included as an instrumental -- and a selection from a "King George play.") A version of Matty Gru is in the Supplemental Traditional Text File.
The insertion of the sex theme of Matty Gru into the St/King George play is not as much a reach as might seem. See the discussion of the St George play for "Sweet Moll."
The St Croix and St Vincent versions are similar -- sharing a verse -- though the Crucian version is connected with the St/King George mummers' play and the St Vincent version is connected with wakes. The Jamaica versions, like the St Vincent version, mix prose and song, but the story line is closer to the usual Child 81 plot. In all versions a parrot - not in other versions of Child 81 - is a central character. Beckwith notes, "The theme of the messenger bird who reveals crime appears in all collections of African texts and is closely bound up with the idea that the spirit of the dead takes the form of a bird in order to protect the innocent or avenge itself upon the guilty here on earth." So, for example, Jekyll reports a Jamaican version of "The Twa Sisters" in which the crime is revealed by a parrot rather than by a fiddle created from the victim's bones (See Walter Jekyll, C.S. Meyers and Lucy E Broadwood, Jamaican Song and Story (London, 1907 ("Digitized by Google")) #3 pp. 14-15, "King Daniel"). - BS
Bibliography Last updated in version 3.2
File: C081

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2014 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.