DESCRIPTION: A man tells Moll that he has her parents' or friends' approval to marry. She demands a servant boy [or handsome husband], silver buckles, meat, tea for breakfast and wine at night. He offers no silver, bacon and milk. She refuses and they part.
EARLIEST DATE: 1909 (Taylor, recalling a play enacted c.1875))
KEYWORDS: courting marriage rejection food wine dialog
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Williams-Thames, pp. 95-98, "Old Moll" (2 texts) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 385)
Wiltshire-WSRO Bk 19, "Old Moll"
Purslow-Constant, pp. 97-98, "Sweet Moll" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Antoinette Taylor, "An English Christmas Play" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXII, No. 86 (Oct-Dec 1909 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 392-393 ("Sweet Moll, Sweet Moll, where art thou going") (1 text)
Charles Read Beckwith, "Mummers' Wooing Plays in England" in Modern Philology, Vol. XXI, No. 3 (Feb 1924 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 268-272 "A Christmas Play [from Keynsham]" (1 text)
NOTES [1236 words]: Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 385 is the same version as Williams-Thames pp. 97-98.
Williams-Thames: "It dates probably from the seventeenth century ...."
Since Saint George's name is associated with a kind of mummers' play, and since a subset of those plays is discussed below, this may be the place to introduce him as he appears here. "[Saint George] is particularly important in relation to the mummers' play as we have it. As Miss Dean-Smith has pointed out [Life-Cycle or Folk Play, p. 247], the characteristic English form of the folk-play is the combat play, and it takes its origin from the battle between the King of Egypt and the armies of Christendom in the eleventh century, and the apparition of St George seen at the seige of Jerusalem" (source: P. Happe, "The Vice and the Folk Drama" in Folklore, Vol. LXXV, No. 3 (Autumn 1964 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 165). A relatively small number of these "combat" plays include a wooing dialog that seems incongruous. These "wooing" plays were - "mainly in the East Midland counties" - performed on "Plough Monday", the first Monday after Twelfth Night, and the beginning of the ploughing season (see the ploughmonday.co.uk site; also Roger deV. Renwick, "The Mummers' Play and The Old Wives Tale" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XCIV, No. 374 (Oct-Dec 1981 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 439). Alford writes "the St George play and the Plough play ... are in reality two distinct plays but where the geographical dividing line has been uncertain, encouraging both plays, St George and his characters have invaded the Plough play" (source: Violet Alford, "Letters to the Editor" [re Happe, cited above] in Folklore, Vol. LXXVI, No. 1 (Spring 1965 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 63).
Here I can only sketch Beckwith's theme explaining the sexual rejection in his and Taylor's texts of "wooing" play. He writes that "There is little doubt that the rejection and marriage symbolize the virgin union of the representatives of the new season and the displacement of the representatives of the old season" (p. 227). "It is also reasonably certain that the similarity of the season and fertility rites in the English and Greek plays is not due to any influence of a relatively modern period but to the retention of the same pagan symbolism in both, however far the customs may be from the original forms" (p. 229).
In the Beckwith text, a Sussex Saint George mummers' "wooing" play the man is a Prince and Moll a shepherdess. Here the dialog takes place after a soldier kills St George who is restored to life by the doctor. Father Christmas, once a shepherdess's courter, gives the shepherdess "a little bottle [to] quench your thirst" and the shepherdess immediately becomes in the mood that Father Christmas "shoot the dart So let us gain the Prince's heart." Her enchantment doesn't last long enough to stop her from rejecting the Prince.
In the Taylor text, a Worcestershire Saint George mummers' "wooing" play, the man is Saint George. The dialog takes place after St George kills everyone in sight except Beelzebub and the Italian doctor, and the doctor brings everyone back to life. After the dialog with Sweet Moll, who leaves alive, St George kills a clown, again restored to life by the doctor, and the hat is passed and ale requested for the troop. While other reports of "Sweet Moll" are independent of the Saint/King George play it's a fair question whether the song is from the play.
There are examples of Saint/King George "wooing" play song that migrate into rather than out of the play:
See the discussion of the St Croix text of "Matty Gru" under "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" [Child 81]; there an explicit sexual episode is inserted into the play.
See the comment on Rouse's Rugby text under "Old Man Came Over the Moor" and Rudkin's Lincolnshire text under "The Keys of Canterbury."
See the comment on the Wiltshire-WSRO text of "Rolling in the Dew."
See the comment on the Campbell text of "Wheel of Fortune."
See the comment on the Beckwith text of "Young Roger of the Mill."
Beckwith, p. 254 ll. 86-93 and fn 4, cites a verse from an 1824 Broughton Christmas play, specifically, "be she gone be she gone farewell I care not for if she's a pretty thing I've had my share on't for if she has more Land than I by one half acre I've plow'd and sown in her Ground let the Fool take her," that dates back at least to 1671. See:
* J Woodfall Ebsworth, Westminster Drolleries ... of 1671, 1672, (Boston, 1875 ("Digitized by Google")), Part 1, p. 81, "The Careless Swain" ("Is she gone? let her go; faith Boys, I care not") (1 text) 
* Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, editor, The Roxburghe Ballads: Illustrating the Last Years of the Stuarts (Hertford, 1883 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. IV Part 1 [Part 10], pp. 22-25, "The Deluded Lasse's Lamentation" or "The False Youth's Unkindness to his Beloved Mistress" ("Is she gone? let her go. I do not care") (1 text) ["Probable date, 1672"]
* Broadside EngBdsdBA 22124, Pepys 5.289, "The Deluded Lasses Lamentation" or "The False Youth's Unkindness to his Beloved Mistris" ("Is she gone, let her go, I do not care"), J. Deacon (London), 1689, accessed 08 Dec 2013.
The wide variety of song imported into the mummers' plays makes me wonder how a particular song was chosen. In 1706 D'Urfey produced a comic opera that ran for only five performances, was considered a failure, and was apparently not performed again. However, it included a song that seems to fit the function of a wooing song very well: a milkmaid (Maturity) is leary of being seduced by a young man of bad reputation (Sport); she tells him she will not "lie down for a crown," he proposes, and she accepts ("Of two to make three, We'll Wed, and we'll Bed, There's no more to be said, And I'll ne'er go a Milking more") (Thomas D'Urfey, Wonders in the Sun; or, The Kingdom of the Birds (Jacob Tonson, London, 1706 (reprinted as Issue 104 of Publication (Augustan Reprint Society), University of California, 1964) [with an Introduction by William Worthen Appleton]; see Appleton's note on p. i, and the song ("Oh Love if a God thou wilt be"), Act III, Sc. 1, pp. 51-53).
D'Urfey reprinted the song in 1719 and Ramsay printed it after that ([Thomas d'Urfey,] Wit and Mirth, or, Pills to Purge Melancholy (London, 1719 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol I, pp. 100-102, ("Oh Love if a God thou wilt be") (1 text, 1 tune); Allan Ramsay, The Tea-Table Miscellany: or, A Collection of Scots Sangs (in three vols) (London, 1733 (ninth edition) ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. III, # 16 pp. 264-266, ("Oh love! if a God thou wilt be") (1 text)). In Beckwith's 1824 Broughton Christmas play, ll. 124-128, only a fragment is left and that is just a plea to be left alone ("My father's working at his loom My Mother's spinning hard at home Their Dinners they've got Their suppers they want So I pray be gone and give me your room"). Was this a fragment in the oral tradition in 1824? If not, and the song was inserted from a printed source, why wasn't the whole song used?
For further confirmation that the "Wooing Ceremony is confined to four East-Midland counties -- Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Rutland," see Allan Brody, The English Mummers and Their Plays, (London, 1969), p. 99. Although he has a chapter on the wooing ceremony, and mentions that it may include a wooing song, he gives no examples. - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
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 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.