Johnny Lad (I)
DESCRIPTION: Sundry verses about Johnny, biblical themes, King Arthur, and Scottish politics, with refrain "And wi you, and wi you, And wi you, Johnny lad, I'd drink the buckles o my sheen Wi you, Johnny lad."
EARLIEST DATE: 1827 (quoted in Kinloch)
KEYWORDS: wife commerce Bible talltale royalty food humorous
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Bronson 279, "The Jolly Beggar" (37 versions, but #21 is a fragment of "Johnny Lad")
Logan, pp. 443-445, "Johnny Lad" (1 text)
Ford-Vagabond, pp. 45-47, "Jinkin' You, Jockie Lad" (a fragment of this song is quoted in the notes to that)
GreigDuncan4 755, "Johnnie's Nae a Gentleman" (6 texts, 5 tunes)
Ord, pp. 168-169, "Johnnie Lad" (1 text)
Jack, p. 48, "Good King Arthur" (1 short text, a floating fragment sometimes found with "Johnny Lad (I)" and sometimes with "In Good Old Colony Times")
ST Log443 (Full)
cf. "There Was a Man of Thessaly" (lyrics)
NOTES [575 words]: The account of Samson fighting with "cuddie's jaws" is in Judges 15:15-16. There is, of course, no Biblical basis for the statement that he "focht a score of battles wearing crimson flannel drawers." While Samson spent most of his life battling the Philistines (mostly by accident), the clothing hardly fits an Israelite of the time.
The story of the Queen playing "fitba' with the lads on Glesga green" is unhistorical; by the time football/soccer became a major sport, Scotland's queen was a German lady living in England -- who, in any case, had no power to order an arbitrary arrest.
The story of King Arthur buying/stealing barley-meal to make pudding seems to have been imported from a nursery rhyme (known to Halliwell; see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #207, p. 144, "(When good King Arthur ruled this land)." Roud seems to lump these verses with "In Good Old Colony TImes"; this strikes me as an extreme stretch.
The man of Ninevah (Thessaly, Bablyon) who scratched out his eyes is unbiblical. But it may be the oldest part of the song, and may have originated independently. The lines appear, in rather different form, in Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book Volume II (c. 1744); others appear in the second edition of Gammer Gurton's Garland or The Nursery Parnassus (c. 1799). These verses can be found in Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #28, p. 40, ["There was a Man so Wise"].
These verses seem to have provoked a great deal of discussion. Katherine Elwes Thomas, who never met a tall tale she didn't blow all out of proportion, connects this to the career of Dr. Henry Sacherevell (died 1724), who for a time was forbidden from preaching, then restored to favour.
It has also been argued that this verse was known to Shakespeare; in Twelfth Night, act II, scene III, line 79 (Riverside lineation), Sir Toby sings "There dwelt a man in Babylon, lady, lady." But this is more likely from a broadside known as "The Ballad of Constant Susanna" (BBI ZN2467), which is of course from the deuterocanonical additions to the Book of Daniel (Daniel chapter 13 in Catholic Bibles; it even begins "There was a man living in Babylon").
At least one version known to Rimbault (according to the Opies) made it King Stephen, not King Arthur, who was the thieving king. This is an interesting variant, because Stephen (reigned 1135-1154) had arguably stolen the kingdom from his cousin Matilda/Maud, the only surviving legitimate child of King Henry I. Henry had made his barons swear to support Matilda, but the barons preferred a king to a queen, and chose Stephen. The result was a reign marked by civil war and unrest. Not all sources consider Stephen to have stolen the kingdom -- but many did. - RBW
See Opie-Oxford2 11 for the King Arthur lines cited above by RBW. Opie also mentions "There was a man of Nineveh" or Thessaly, etc (Opie-Oxford2 497) as being "similarly embodied" in "Johnny Lad" (I).
Also see Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor, "Johnny Lad" (on Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor, "Two Heids are Better than Yin!," Monitor MF 365 LP (1962)). From the liner notes: "A few years ago, this was probably the most popular song of the folk revival in Scotland. Since then, endless dozens of verses have been added on themes historical, political, satirical, and nonsensical." - BS
(E.g. it includes the verse about the king being in the counting-house from "Sing a Song of Sixpence," although the verse has been dated as early as the sixteenth century.)
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