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Jack Orion / Glasgerion

[ Roud 145 ; Child 67 ; Ballad Index C067 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang Jack Orion, accompanied on fiddle by Dave Swarbrick, on his 1966 LP First Person. this recording was later included on the Fellside anthology CD Classic A.L. Lloyd and in 2003 on the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

In the roll call of famous musicians the sonorous name of the Bardd Glas Geraint—Geraint, the Blue Bard—occurs. He was a ninth century Welsh harper of such legendary eminence that when Chaucer wrote his House of Fame he set “the Bret Clascurion” up in the minstrels' gallery alongside Orpheus and similar well known string-pickers. That was in the 1380s, some five hundred years after the harper's time, but his fame endured for much longer in the English folk ballad named Glasgerion, that by chance came to be called Glenkindie when it spread to Scotland. The ballad of Glasgerion dropped out of tradition long ago, but the story it tells is an engaging one (a modern and more democratic parallel is the well-liked Do Me Ama) and it seemed to me too good a song to be shut away in books, so I took it out and dusted it off a bit and set a tune to it and, I hope, started it on a new lease of life. Farm boys, tailors' apprentices, stable-grooms and other tricksters who overhear assignations and forestall the lover are standard stuff in folklore, but they don't usually come to such an unjustly sticky end as opportunistic Tom, the apprentice minstrel of our ballad. The fiddler Dave Swarbrick likes this one: does he see himself as Jack or Tom?

Martin Carthy sang Jack Orion on his 1968 album with Dave Swarbrick, But Two Came By, and it was included on both the compilation album This Is... Martin Carthy and on the definitive Martin Carthy anthology, The Carthy Chronicles. He commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A.L. Lloyd has done exceptional work in many fields, especially, to my mind, in knocking into singable shape songs that were lost in tradition, but have attractive and not to say very powerful story lines: Jack Orion is such a one. It is a reworking of the ballad Glasgerion or Glenkindie, and has a story not unlike the sea song Domeama, but more detailed and with an exceedingly violent end. The song in its traditional form was, according to evidence at our disposal, not very widespread, which serves to highlight one of the curious features of the folk revival, that is, the many songs which were not at all common in tradition are very commonly sung in the revival and vice versa.

Another version was sung by Bert Jansch as title track of his Transatlantic album of 1966, Jack Orion.

Sandra Kerr sang Jack Orion in 1969 on John Faulkner's and her Argo record John & Sandra, and Nancy Kerr and James Fagan recorded it for their 1997 album Starry Gazy Pie. They commented in their liner notes:

A.L. Lloyd's re-working of Glasgerion (Child 67). An illustration of inter-class conflict in sexual and musical terms. Tragically the better fiddle player meets a violent end after his master's mistress, whom he seduces, spots his mucky attire and gets suspicious.

Fairport Convention sang Jack Orion in 1978 on their Vertigo album Tipplers Tales. A live recording from Home Farm, Cropredy, on August 13, 1983 was released a year later on their Woodworm cassette The Boot.

Barry Lister sang Jack Orion in 2006 on his WildGoose album Ghosts & Greasepaint.

Jon Boden sang Jack Orion as the March 18, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

Learnt from Bert Lloyd but the best version I've heard is Swarb and Carthy on The Carthy Chronicles. Mighty stuff.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Jack Orion Martin Carthy sings Jack Orion

Jack Orion was as good fiddler
As ever fiddled on a string,
And he could drive young women mad
With the tune his wires would sing.

Jack Orion was as good fiddler
As ever fiddled on a string,
And he could drive young women mad
By the tune his wires would sing.

He could fiddle the fish out of salt water
Or water from a marble stone,
Or the milk out of a maiden's breast
Though baby she had none.

But he would fiddle the fish out of salt water,
Water from bare marble stone,
Or the milk from out of a maiden's breast
Though baby she had none.

So he sat and played in the castle hall
And fiddled them all so sound asleep,
Except it was for the young countess,
And for love she stayed awake.

And there he played in the castle hall
And there he played them fast asleep,
Except it was for the young countess,
And for love she stayed awake.

And first he played a slow, slow air
And then he played it brisk and gay,
And, “O dear love,” behind her hand
This lady she did say.

And first he played there a slow, slow air
And then he played it brisk and gay,
And it's, “O dear love,” behind her hand
The lady she did say.

“Ere the day has dawned and the cocks have crown
And flapped their wings so wide,
It's you may come up to my bedroom door
And stretch out at my side.”

“Ere the day has dawned and the cocks have crown
And flapped their wings so wides,
It's you must come up to my chamber there
And lie down by my side.”

So he lapped his fiddle in a cloth of green
And he stole out on his tip toe,
And he's off back to his young boy Tom
As fast as he could go.

So he lapped his fiddle in a cloth of green
And he stole out on his tip toe,
And he's off back to his young boy Tom
As fast as he could go.

“Ere the day has dawned and the cocks have crown
And flapped their wings so wide,
I;m bid to go to that lady's door
And stretch out at her side.”

“Ere the day has dawned and the cocks have crown
And flapped their wings so wide,
I'm bid to go up to that lady's door
And stretch out by her side.”

“Well lie down, rest you, my good master,
Here's a blanket to your hand.
And I'll waken you in as good a time
As any cock in the land.”

“Lie down, lie down, me good master
And here's a blanket to your hand.
And I'll waken you in as good a time
As any cock in the land.”

And Tom took the fiddle into his hand,
Fiddled and he sang for a full hour,
Till he played his master fast asleep
And he's off to that lady's bower.

So Tom took the fiddle into his hand
And he fiddled and he sang for a full hour,
Until he played him fast asleep
And he's off to the lady's bower.

And when he come to the countess' door
He twirled so softly at the pin,
And the lady true to her promise
Rose up and let him in.

And when he come to the countess' door
He twirled so softly at the pin,
And the lady true to her promise
Rose up and let him in.

Well he didn't take that lady gay
To bolster or to bed,
But down upon her bedroom floor
Right soon he had her laid.

Well he did not take that lady gay
To bolster nor to bed,
But down upon the hard cold bedroom floor
Right soon he had her laid.

And he neither kissed her when he came
Nor yet when from her he did go,
But in and out of her bower window
The moon like a coal did glow.

And neither did he kiss her when he came
Nor when from her he did go,
But in at the lady's bedroom window
The moon like a coal did glow.

“Oh ragged are your stockings, love,
And stubble is your cheek and chin,
And tangled is that yellow hair
That I saw late yestre'en.”

“Oh ragged are your stockings, love,
And stubbly is your cheek and chin,
And tousled is that yellow hair
That I saw late yestre'en.”

“My stockings belong to my boy Tom
And they were the first come to my hand,
And I tangled all my yellow hair
When coming against the wind”

“My stockings belong to my boy Tom
But they were the first came to my hand,
And the wind did tousle my yellow hair
As I rode over the land.”

He took his fiddle into his hand,
So saucy there he sang,
And he's off back to his own master
As fast as could run.

Tom took the fiddle into his hand
And he fiddled and he played so saucily,
And he's off back to his master's house
As fast as go could he.

“Well up, well, my master dear,
For while you sleep and snore so loud
There's not a cock in all this land
But has flapped his wings and crowed.”

“Then up, then up, my good master,
Why snore you there so loud?
For there is not a cock in all this land
But has clapped his wings and crowed.”

Jack Orion took the fiddle into his hand
And he fiddled and he played so merrily,
And he's off away to the lady's house
As fast as go could he.

Jack Orion took the fiddle into his hand
And he fiddled and he played so merrily,
And he's off away to the lady's house
As fast as go could he.

Well, when he come to the lady's door
The fiddler twirled upon the pins,
Saying softly, “Here's your own true love,
Rise up and let me in.”

And when he come to the lady's door
He twirled so softly at the ring,
Saying, “Oh me dear it's your true love,
Rise up and let me in.”

She says,“Surely you didn't leave behind
A bracelet or a velvet glove,
Or are you returned back again
To taste more of me love?”

She said “Surely you didn't leave behind
A golden brooch nor a velvet glove,
Or are you returned back again
To taste more of me love?”

Jack Orion swore a bloody oath,
“By oak and ash and bitter thorn,
Lady, I never was in your room
Since the day that I was born.”

Jack Orion he swore a bloody oath,
“By oak, by ash, by bitter thorn,
Lady, I never was in this room
Since the day that I was born.”

“Oh then it was your little foot page
That falsely has beguiled me,
And woe that the blood of that ruffian boy
Should spring in my body.”

“Oh then it was your own boy Tom
That cruelly has beguiled me,
And woe that the blood of that ruffian boy
Should spring in my body.”

And home then went Jack Orion, crying,
“Tom, my lad, come here to me!”
And he hanged that boy from his own gatepost
High as the willow tree.

Jack Orion took off to his own house saying,
“Tom, my boy, come here to me!”
And he hanged that boy from his own gatepost
As high as the willow tree.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard. Thanks for suggestions to Wolfgang Hell and Susanne Kalweit. There are still a few small guesses and/or assumptions here. And then still more changes, thanks to Malcolm Douglas, from the Mudcat Café threads Lyr/Chords Req: Jack Orion - Bert Jansch and Lyr Req: Jack O'Rian the Fiddler.