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The Goose and the Common

[trad.]

The Goose and the Common is a 17th century protest song against English enclosures.

The Claque sang The Goose and the Common in 2008 on their WildGoose CD Sounding Now. They noted:

The late Martin Bloomer took the well-known late medieval verse, added a chorus, tune and extra stanzas to make The Goose and the Common, a song from the time of the early enclosures of common land to accommodate sheep. The last verse has a lesson for societies that accept their bad lot, blindly and advocates fighting back!

The Askew Sisters sang Goose & Common on their 2019 CD Enclosure. They noted:

Hazel was inspired to put this song together by a talk in her local park which celebrated the 170th anniversary of the Chartists marching on Kennington Common to gain better voting rights for working people. What stayed with her most was discovering that the current park was only gifted to the people of Kennington on the condition that it have a fence around it, to prevent any future protests and stop it being a public right of way. It reminded us of current struggles over the privatisation of public spaces and resources, as well as this old rhyme condemning the land enclosures. We really like the power and simplicity of the words and how they feel starkly relevant in today’s society. The earliest reference to it that we can find is from The Gentleman's Mathematical Companion in 1816, where it’s noted as being seen on a handbill in Plaistow protesting a Bill for the enclosure of Epping Forest, but its origins may well be much older. Hazel wrote a tune for the words and the whole song fell into place once Emily added some driving cello.

Lyrics

The Claque sing The Goose and the Common The Askew Sisters sing Goose & Common

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But turns the bigger robber loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But leave the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

Chorus (after each verse):
Whose is the Kingdom, the power and the glory?
For ever and ever, will it be the same old story?

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own,
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own,
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

(repeat first verse)

The poor and wretched don't escape
If they conspire the law to break.
This must be so, but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The poor and wretched don't escape
If they conspire the law to break.
That must be so, but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

(repeat first verse)

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But geese will still a common lack
Until they go and steal it back.

Links

See also the Union Songs page The Goose and the Common and the Mudcat Café thread The Common and the Goose.