Jolly Beggar, The [Child 279]

DESCRIPTION: A beggar asks lodging. He is admitted to the house, but wants more than his beggar's fare. Receiving much of what he asks, he at last receives the daughter of the house into his cloak. He then reveals that he is a nobleman; (perhaps he marries the girl)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1769 [Herd]
KEYWORDS: begging courting escape money sex nobility mother children
FOUND IN: Britain(England(West),Scotland(Aber,Bord)) Ireland US(NE,So)
REFERENCES (19 citations):
Child 279, "The Jolly Beggar" (3 texts)
Bronson 279, "The Jolly Beggar" (37 versions, but #21 is a fragment of "Johnny Lad" and #28 is "Davy Faa (Remember the Barley Straw)"; it is likely that several of the other texts also belong with other songs.)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 279, "The Jolly Beggar" (6 versions: #1, #6, #13, #15, #17, #36)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #30, p. 2, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan2 274, "The Jolly Beggar" (10 texts, 7 tunes) {A=Bronson's #8, B=#20, C=#18, D=#14, E or G=#7}
Porter/Gower-Jeannie-Robertson-EmergentSingerTransformativeVoice #21, pp. 147-149, "The Beggar Laddie" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 108, "The Ragged Beggar Man" (1 text)
Barry/Eckstorm/Smyth-BritishBalladsFromMaine pp. 475-476, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 songster text)
Flanders/Olney-BalladsMigrantInNewEngland, pp. 47-48, "Hind Horn" (1 short text, properly titled "The Jolly Beggar," which might be "Hind Horn" [Shild #17] or "The Jolly Beggar" [Child #279] or a mix; 1 tune) {Bronson's #18}
Flanders-AncientBalladsTraditionallySungInNewEngland1, pp. 223-225, "Hind Horn" (1 short text, properly titled "The Jolly Beggar," which might be "Hind Horn" [Shild #17] or "The Jolly Beggar" [Child #279] or a mix; 1 tune) {Bronson's #18}
Ford-VagabondSongsAndBalladsOfScotland, pp. 9-12, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
Randolph 37, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 short text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H183, p. 268, "The Rambling Suiler" (1 text, 1 tune, in which the visitor is not a nobleman but the colonel of a visiting headquarters; there might be a bit of "Pretty Peggy-O" mixed in)
MacColl/Seeger-TravellersSongsFromEnglandAndScotland 18, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 text, 1 tune)
Davis-MoreTraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 41, pp. 328-332, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 fragment, which Davis believes to be this song but which in fact could be almost anything)
Cox/Hercog/Halpert/Boswell-WVirginia-A, #14, pp. 61-63, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 text, but not from West Virginia) {Bronson's #2}
Olson-BroadsideBalladIndex, ZN2500, "There was a jovial Begger-man"
ADDITIONAL: ADDITIONAL: James Johnson, Editor, _The Scots Musical Museum_ [1853 edition], volume III, #266, pp. 274-275, "The Jolly Beggar" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #118
Jeannie Robertson, "The Jolly Beggar" (on FSB5, FSBBAL2) {Bronson's #6}
Lucy Stewart, "The Beggar King" (on LStewart1)

Bodleian, 2806 c.13(1), "The Jolly Beggar" ("There was a jolly beggar and a begging he had been"), unknown, n.d.; also Firth c.26(57)[some lines illegible], Firth c.26(57), "Was a Jolly Beggerman"
cf. "The Gaberlunzie Man" [Child 279A]
cf. "The Beggar-Laddie" [Child 280]
cf. "The Tinker"
cf. "The Pedlar"
cf. "The Shepherd's Song (III)"
He Wadna Lie in Barn
The Beggar Man
NOTES [592 words]: Although this ballad is associated in tradition with James V of Scotland, there is no evidence that he ever courted in a manner such as this. James V in fact married a noble foreign lady, Mary of Guise-Lorraine. The basis for the song may be the fact that he was a fairly lusty liege; according to Stanley B. R. Poole, Royal Mysteries and Pretenders, Barnes & Noble, 1993, p. 36, he was thought to have had as many as nine illegitimate children.
There actually is a sort-of-similar situation in British history; when the future King George II, in seeking a wife, "raised the possibility of marrying Caroline [of Ansbach], his father insisted his son should meet her first, and suggested that he do so in disguise, so that he could make an honest assessment of her person and character. In 1705, George obediently travelled to Ansbach, where he was presented to an unsuspecting Caroline as a Hanoverian nobleman. He was smitten at their very first meeting. As intemperate in passion as in so much else, George insisted for the rest of his life that he had fallen in love with Caroline the moment he saw her" (Janice Hadlow, A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III, Henry Holt, 2014 (published in Britain by William Collins as The Strangest Family), p. 30). However, the ending is somewhat different: "Without declaring himself, [George] hurried back to Hanover, and urged his father to open negotiations for her hand." The two soon married and had eight children.
However, it is hard to believe that that was the inspiration for this song, since the earliest versions of "The Gaberlunzie Man" date from no later than 1724, before George II even came to the throne.
Child draws a distinction between this and "The Gaberlunzie Man" (which he calls "The Gaberlunyie-Man" -- and, indeed, his texts are metrically distinct ("Gaberlunzie Man" uses eight-line stanzas with four feet per line; "The Jolly Beggar" typically has the standard four-line 4-3-4-3 stanza). In addition, his "Gaberlunyie-Man" lacks the ending. However, both songs occur in tradition and have so heavily cross-fertilized that it is often not possible to distinguish.
If there is a distinction to be drawn, it is probably in the form of the ending. In "The Jolly Beggar," the beggar sleeps with the girl and then reveals his status the next morning (perhaps abandoning her); in "The Gaberlunzie Man," he lures the girl away (as opposed to sleeping with her on the spot), and only later returns and reveals his wealth.
Due to the degree of cross-fertilization of these ballads, one should be sure to check both songs to find all versions. - RBW
See the Bruce Olson note at "The Juggler"; Bruce sees "The Juggler" as a sequel to "The Jolly Beggar."
Of the Bodleian broadsides listed, "Was a Jolly Beggerman" lacks the usual ending. - BS
William Bernard McCarthy, in the article "'Barbara Allen' and 'The Gypsy Laddie': Single-Rhyme Ballads in the Child Corpus," printed on pp. 143-154 of Thomas A. McKean, editor, The Flowering Thorn: International Ballad Studies, Utah State University Press, 2003, makes the interesting observation that there are only two ballads in the Child collection -- "The Jolly Beggar" [Child 279]/"The Gaberlunzie Man" [Child 279A] and "The Beggar-Laddie" [Child 280], which are known to cross-fertilize, which normally use the rhyme scheme aaab, with the same b rhyme in all the verses. This is an extremely common form in medieval carols (there are hundreds of such in R. L. Greene's collection); I have no idea if this is significant. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.3
File: C279

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