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The Two Magicians

[ Roud 1350 ; Child 44 ; G/D 2:334 ; Ballad Index C044 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd accompanied by Dave Swarbrick sang his own re-writing of the Child Ballad 44, The Two Magicians, in 1966 on the theme album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Songs of Love and Lust. This recording was also included in 1994 on this compilation CD Classic A.L. Lloyd and in 2002 on the 4CD anthology The Acoustic Folk Box. A.L. Lloyd commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

Not just for centuries, but for thousands of years the fantasy of this song has haunted the sex-dreams of men and, doubtless, women too. In Hindu scripture, when the first man pursued the first woman, she thought to hide by changing into a cow, but he became a bull and so cattle were born. She turned into a mare and he into a stallion, she a jenny and he a jackass, ewe and ram, on and on till all the world was created, down to the ants. Somewhat later, when Peleus set out to rape Thetis, she transformed herself into fire, water, lion, serpent and ink-squirting cuttlefish before yielding to his determined embrace. In Latin countries, the metamorphosis fantasy became a pretty, rather insipid ballad, but in Britain it long remained tough and witty. Eventually the ballad dwindled away, but it seemed too good a song to remain unused, so I brushed it up and fitted a tune, and now it appears to have started a new life. Dr Vaughan Williams once said: “The practice of re-writing a folk song is abominable, and I wouldn't trust anyone to do it except myself.”

Martin Carthy sang The Two Magicians in 1965 on his first album Martin Carthy. A live recording with Dave Swarbrick at the Folkus Folk Club in 1966 is available on Both Ears and the Tail. Martin Carthy commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

In his notes to the ballad of The Two Magicians, Child describes it as a “base-born cousin of a pretty ballad known all over southern Europe, in especially graceful forms in France.” He goes on to say that there is little doubt that they were derived from stories either of a youth and a maid pursued by an ogre or sorcerer and eluding him by transforming themselves, or of a youth apprenticed to a sorcerer learning the black arts by surreptitious reading, being pursued, assuming various forms, and finally killing his master. There is a story in the Arabian Nights Entertainment of a battle of transformation and others from all over the world telling of supernatural battles of giants, so in fact this “base-born cousin” may be closer to the source. This tune was fitted to the (anglicised) words by A.L. Lloyd.

A Dave Swarbrick solo version from The Assembly Hall, Melbourne, was recorded in 1996 and included in 2003 on the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!.

The Young Tradition sang The Two Magicians on November 17, 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. Heather Wood commented:

[…] from Bert Lloyd, probably via Martin Carthy. Royston was obviously having fun with the verbs preceding the line “Bide, Lady, bide”.

Steeleye Span recorded this ballad with fewer verses and a completely different chorus in 1974 for their sixth album, Now We Are Six (the first one with drummer Nigel Pegrum), and a second time in 2002 for the CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour.

Another version of The Two Magicians (which contains the words “box of gold” in Martin Carthy's version) by Bob Fox and Stu Luckley was on their 1982 LP Wish We Never Had Parted, on their 1997 Fellside CD Box of Gold, and on the 2007 Wild Goose anthology Songs of Witchcraft and Magic from the British Folk Tradition. Bob Fox's note on his CD insert acknowledges their debt to Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.

Vulcan's Hammer sang The Two Magicians as the title track of their 1975 album The Two Magicians.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand recorded The Two Magicians too for their 1977 Folk-Legacy album Dark Ships in the Forest: Ballads of the Supernatural.

The idea of changing shape to avoid capture and outwit or kill a pursuer is common in European folk tale. In Britain, the tales spawned this ballad. A.L. Lloyd writes (Sing Out! 18/1): “Eventually the ballad dwindled away, but it seemed too good a song to remain unused; so I brushed it up and fitted a tune, and now it appears to have started a new life.”

Crows sang Two Magicians in 1981 on their eponymous Dingle's album Crows.

Bill Smith sang a fragment of The Two Magicians at Easter 1883 that was included in 2011 on his Musical Traditions anthology A Country Life.

Scotch Measure sang The Twa Magicians in 1985 on their eponymous Topic album Scotch Measure.

Duncan Williamson sang The Lady and the Blacksmith to Mike Yates in Ladybank, Fife, on August 13, 2001. This recording was included in 2002 on Yates' CD of songs, stories and ballads from Scottish Travellers, Travellers' Tales Volume 1.

The Maerlock sang Bide Lady Bide in 2008 on their Fellside CD The Sofa. This track was also included in the same year on the anthology Folk Rising 2.

Bellowhead recorded Two Magicians in 2010 at their Hedonism sessions but it was left out of the CD and was included only on the iTunes download of this album. Jon Boden sang it as the January 24, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar sang The Two Magicians in 2012 on their first Fellside CD, The Queen's Lover. A 2014 recording from The Theatre Royal, Workington, Cumbria, was released on their 2015 DVD In Concert.

Lady Maisery sang The Lady and the Blacksmith on their 2013 CD Mayday. They commented in their liner notes:

The Lady and the Blacksmith is a song that has roots in both gender and class inequalities. Stories of magical shape-shifting chases are very common across Europe broadly falling into two strands: master vs. apprentice tales and man vs. woman tales. We were all familiar but uncomfortable with the British version of the story, The Two Magicians, because of the predatory feel and connotations of sexual harassment. So we looked towards the European stories for our rewrite of the song and Hazel [Askew] wrote a new tune to set it to.

The Dovetail Trio recorded Two Magicians in 2014 for their eponymous EP, The Dovetail Trio, and in the following year for their CD Wing of Evening. Rosie Hood commented in the latter's liner notes:

In true [oral] tradition I heard this song from a friend at a singing session when I lived in Toronto, Canada; she had learnt it from her dad, who in turn had learnt it from the 1974 Steeleye Span record Now We Are Six. The tune is still pretty similar to Steeleye Span's version and when teaching it to Matt [Quinn] and Jamie [Roberts] I found it in my (rather battered) copy of Cecil Sharp's Folk Songs from Somerset, from where we took our extra verses.

This video shows The Dovetail Trio at Shepley Spring Festival 2015:

Kirsty Law sang The Twa Magicians on her 2014 album Shift.

Kim Edgar took verse 5 and chorus of her Twa Magicians from the fragment that was collected by Gavin Greig from Miss Bell Robertson and printed in Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs. She added some verses of her own and recorded the song in 2016 for her CD Stories Untold.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Two MagiciansMartin Carthy sings The Two Magicians

The lady stood at her own front door
As straight as a willow wand,
And along there come a husky smith
With a hammer in his hand.

The lady sits in her own front door
As straight as the willow wand,
And by there come a lusty smith
With a hammer in his hand.

And he said, “Bide lady, bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
The husky smith will be your love
And that'll pull down your pride.

And he said, “Bide lady, bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

“Well may you dress, you lady fair,
All in your robes of red.
Before tomorrow at this same time
I'll have your maidenhead.”

“Well may you stand, you lady fair,
All in your robes of red,
But come tomorrow at this same time
I'll have you in me bed.”

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

And he said, “Bide lady, bide, …”

“Away, away, you coal blacksmith,
Would you do me this wrong?
To think to have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long.

“Away, away, you coal blacksmith,
Would you do me this wrong?
To think to have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long.

“I'd rather I was dead and cold
And my body laid in the grave
Than a husky, dusky, coal blacksmith
My maidenhead should have.”

“I'd rather I was dead and cold
And my body laid in the grave
Than a lusty, dusty, coal blacksmith
My maidenhead should have.”

Then the lady she held up her hand
And swore upon her soul,
She never would be the blacksmith's love
For all of a box of gold.

So the lady she held up her hand,
She swore upon her soul
That she'd not need the blacksmith's love
For all of a box of gold.

And the blacksmith he held up his hand
And he swore upon the mass,
“I'll have you for my love, my girl,
For the half of that or less.”

But the blacksmith he held up his hand
And he swore upon the mass,
Saying, “I'll have you in me bed young girl
For the half of that or less.”

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Bide lady bide …”

Then she became a turtle dove
And flew up in the air,
And he became an old cock pigeon
And they flew pair and pair.

So the lady she turned into a dove
And she flew up in the air,
But he became an old cock pigeon
And they flew pair and pair.

And he cooed, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Crying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

And she became a little duck,
A-floating in the pond,
And he became a pink-necked drake
And chased her round and round.

Quacking, “Bide lady, bide, …”

She turned herself into a hare
And ran upon the plain,
And he became a greyhound dog
And fetched her back again.

So the lady she turned into a hare
And she ran across the plain,
But he became a greyhound dog
And he ran her down again.

Barking, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Crying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

And she became a little ewe sheep
And lay all on the common,
And he became a shaggy old ram
And swiftly fell upon her.

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

She changed herself to a swift young mare
As dark as the night was black,
And he became a golden saddle
And clung onto her back.

So she became a little mare
As dark as the night was black,
But he became a golden saddle
And he clung onto her back.

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Crying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

And she became a little green fly,
A-flew up in the air,
And he became a hairy spider
And fetched her in his lair.

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Then she became a hot griddle
And he became a cake,
And every change that poor girl made
The blacksmith was her mate.

So she became a hot griddle
And he became a cake,
And every move that poor girl made
The blacksmith was her mate.

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Crying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

She turned herself to a full-dressed ship
A-sailing on the sea,
And he became a captain bold
And aboard of her went he.

So she became a full-dressed ship
And she sailed on the sea,
But he became a bold captain
And aboard of her went he.

Saying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

Crying, “Bide lady, bide, …”

So the lady ran in her own bedroom
And changed into a bed,
And he became a green coverlet
And gained her maidenhead.

So the lady she ran into the bedroom
And she changed into a bed,
But he became a green coverlet
And he gained her maidenhead.

And was she woe, he held her so,
And still he bad her bide,
And the husky smith became her love
And that pulled down her pride.

And was she woke, he held her so
And still he bade her bide,
And the lusty smith became her love
For all her mighty pride.

Steeleye Span sing The Two Magicians The Dovetail Trio sings Two Magicians

She looked out of the window as white as any milk
And he looked in at the window as black as any silk

She looked out the window as white as any milk
And he looked in the window as black as any silk

Chorus (after each verse):
Hello, hello, hello, hello you coal blacksmith
You have done me no harm
You never shall have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long
I'd rather die a maid
Ah, but then she said and be buried all in my grave
Than to have such a nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky
Coal blacksmith
A maiden I will die

Chorus (after each verse):
Hello, hello, hello, hello you coal blacksmith
You have done me no harm
But you never shall have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long
I'd rather die a maid
Ah, but then she said and be buried all in my grave
Than to have such a nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky
Coal blacksmith
A maiden I shall die

Then she became a hare, a hare all on the plain
And he became a greyhound and fetched her back again

She became a duck, a duck all on the stream
And he became a water dog and fetched her back again

Then she became a duck, a duck all on the stream
And he became a water dog and fetched her back again

Then she became a fly, a fly all in the air
And he became a spider and fetched her to his lair

She became a star, a star all in the night
And he became a thundercloud and muffled her out of sight

She became a rose, a rose all in the wood
And he became a bumblebee and kissed her where she stood

Then she became a rose, a rose all in the wood
And he became a bumblebee and kissed her where she stood

Then she became a star, a star all in the night
And he became a thundercloud and muffled her out of sight

She became a nun, a nun all dressed in white
And he became a canting priest and prayed for her by night

Then she became a nun, a nun all dressed in white
And he became a canting priest and prayed for her by night

She became a trout, a trout all in the brook
And he became a feathered fly and catched her with his hook

She became a corpse, a corpse all in the ground
And he became the cold clay and smothered her all around

Then she became a corpse, a corpse all in the ground
And he became the cold, cold clay and smothered her all around

Kim Edgar sings Twa Magicians

There lived a charmed enchanting girl,
A blacksmith did her woo,
To him escape she shifted shape
But he had magic, too.

She became a leaf, a leaf,
Well hidden in a tree;
And he became the tree branch,
Adjoined to her was he.

Chorus 1
Sayin, bide, lassie, bide—
And aye he bade her bide,
An' be the brookie smith's wife,
An' that'll lay your pride.

She became a tawny owl,
Her wary eyes shone bright;
And he became the gloaming mirk
Enfolding her each night.

Chorus 2
Sayin, bide, lassie, bide—
But never would she bide
An' be the brookie smith's wife;
She'd never lay her pride.

She became a headstone,
Sombre, straight and cold;
So he chose to engrave her,
He chiselled deep and bold.

Chorus 1 + Chorus 2

She became a ship, a ship,
And sailed upon the sea;
And he became a mariner,
Aboard o her gaed he.

So she became the salt sea air,
She shook the stormy sea;
An' neither one was seen again
But I believe she's free, she's free.

Links and Acknowledgements

A.L. Lloyd's verses are from Roberto's transcription in the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: A. L. Lloyd's Two Magicians, and Martin Carthy's version was transcribed by Garry Gillard. See also the Mudcat Café thread Help: Two Magicians?.