As Jon says, “This is another classic from the Copper family,” then rather more surprisingly adds, “The Witches of Elswick used to perform this on roller-skates, I can’t remember why exactly but I’m sure there was a good reason.” We’re back in shirtless, purple beehive territory then, although someone can possibly explain. Any road, this is possibly one of the oldest songs in the Coppers’ considerable repertoire, being discovered in a manuscript notebook printed around 1700. Although it subsequently appeared in several important collections, including Allan Ramsay’s attractively titled Tea Table Miscellany, it wasn’t much favoured by the main broadside printers in the 19th Century and as such, it is really down to the Coppers that the song survives at all. Despite that, the shepherd and the maid, or nymph, were a popular pairing with poets, song writers and other artists, although the story certainly has its roots in antiquity and can be found in Greek mythology (probably other ancient tales too.) There’s the sense of a union with nature with the shepherd unburdened of any worldly concerns, mixing in a desire for a return to Eden like paradise and a simpler, purer life. This link is interesting showing a poem by Christopher Marlowe and a riposte by Sir Walter Raleigh no less. The notes are instructive, as Raleigh’s picking over the Shepherd’s offer of love seems somewhat cynical.
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