It Was a Mayde of Brenten Arse
DESCRIPTION: "It was a maid of brenten arse, She rode to mill upon a horse, Yet was she mayden never the worse." She asks the miller not to hurt her back as she lays upon a sack. The maid returns often to the mill -- and the miller's two millstones
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1550 (Kele)
KEYWORDS: miller sex bawdy MiddleEnglish
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Greene-TheEarlyEnglishCarols, #460, p. 311, "(It was a mayde of brenten arse)" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Edward Bliss Reed, editor, _Christmas Carols Printed in the Sixteenth Century: Including Kele's Cristmas carolles newely Inprynted_, Harvard University Press, 1932, pp. 36-37 ([18-19), "(Synge Dyllum dyllum dyllum dyllum)" (1 text)
ST STIWMBA (Full)
cf. "The Maid Gaed to the Mill," (theme: a miller trading work for sex) and references there
NOTES [248 words]: There is no direct evidence that this is traditional, but it seems to be the earliest case of song involving a miller trading work for sex, which is perhaps worth including just on that basis.
And it's just possible that it was traditional, or at least popular. Most of the songs in Richard Kele's Christmas Carolles Newely Inprynted are genuinely religious, or even if secular, are at least clean (e.g. it includes "The Boar's Head Carol"). Not this, obviously! Why would Kele have included this piece (and the next one, about a friar groping a nun), which so breaks the mood, if it weren't something that would drive sales? It can't even be argued that it was included to fill out a page, since it spans two pages.
If it is not traditional, one wonders if it might not be by Robert Copland (for whom see the notes to "Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" [Child 116]). The title page lists only Kele as the printer, but the DigitalIndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse says that Copland printed it, and it certainly looks like Copland's work, although the typeface doesn't quite match Copland's standard Textura. But it is known that Kele often employed other printers, including Copland's successor William Copland, to do his typesetting.
And Copland wrote poetry, and often it was pretty lowbrow (see both "Jil of Brentford's Testimony" and "The Hye Way to the Spyttell Hous"). This frankly looks pretty Copland-like to me, although it's better than a lot of his work. - RBW
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