Breedloves's Folk Songs


    “Matty Groves” is an English language folk ballad which describes an adulterous tryst
    between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman’s husband discovers and kills
    them. It dates to at least the 17th century, and is one of the Child Ballads collected by the
    19th-century American scholar Francis James Child.
    The wife of a nobleman, Lord Arlen (other names include Lord Daniel, Arnold, Donald,
    and Barnard) entices Matty Groves (or Little Musgrave), a servant or retainer of her
    husband, into an adulterous affair. Lord Arlen receives word of the betrayal (in some
    versions a foot-page hears them planning and warns Lord Arlen; the lord promises reward
    if he is telling the truth — to make him his heir, or marry him to his eldest daughter — and
    execution if he is lying) and returns home, where he surprises the lovers in bed. The death
    may be put off by Matty arguing for a weapon. Lord Arlen kills Matty Groves in a duel.
    When his wife spurns him and expresses a preference for her lover, even in death, over
    her husband, he stabs her through the heart. The ballad may end there, or with the lord’s
    death, by suicide or execution.
    A holiday, a holiday, and the first one of the year
    Lord DArlen’s wife came into the church,
    the gospel for to hear.
    And when the meeting it was done, she cast her eyes about
    And there she saw little Matty Groves, walking in the crowd
    “Come home with me, little Matty Groves, come home with me tonight
    Come home with me, little Matty Groves, and sleep with me till light”
    “Oh, I can’t come home, I won’t come home and sleep with you tonight
    By the rings on your fingers I can tell you are my master’s wife”
    “But if I am Lord Arlen ‘s wife, Lord Arlen’s not at home
    He is out in the far cornfields bringing the yearlings home”
    And a servant who was standing by and hearing what was said
    He swore Lord Arlen he would know before the sun would set
    And in his hurry to carry the news, he bent his breast and ran
    And when he came to the broad millstream, he took off his shoes and he swam
    Little Matty Groves, he lay down and took a little sleep
    When he awoke, Lord Arlen was standing at his feet
    Saying “How do you like my feather bed and how do you like my sheets
    How do you like my lady who lies in your arms asleep?”
    “Oh, well I like your feather bed and well I like your sheets
    But better I like your lady gay who lies in my arms asleep”
    “Well, get up, get up,” Lord Arlen cried, “get up as quick as you can
    It’ll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man”
    “Oh, I can’t get up, I won’t get up, I can’t get up for my life
  • For you have two long beaten swords and I not a pocket knife”
    “Well it’s true I have two beaten swords and they cost me deep in the purse
    But you will have the better of them and I will have the worse
    And you will strike the very first blow and strike it like a man
    I will strike the very next blow and I’ll kill you if I can”
    So Matty struck the very first blow and he hurt Lord Arlen sore
    Lord Arlen struck the very next blow and Matty struck no more
    And then Lord Arlen took his wife and he sat her on his knee
    Saying “Who do you like the best of us, Matty Groves or me?”
    And then up spoke his own dear wife, never heard to speak so free
    “I’d rather a kiss from dead Matty’s lips than you or your finery”
    Lord Arlen he jumped up and loudly he did bawl
    He struck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall
    “A grave, a grave,” Lord Arlen cried, “to put these lovers in
    But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin

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