Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics:
Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid

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Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid

Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid

 Hoo can I keep my maidenheid,
 My maidenheid, my maideheid;
 Hoo can I keep my maidenheid
 Amang sae mony men, O.

 The captain bad a guinea for't,
 A guinea for't, a guinea for't;
 The captain bad a guinea for't,
 An' the colonel he bad ten, O.

 But I'll do as my minnie did,
 My minnie did, my minnie did;
 I'll do as my minnie did,
 For siller I'll hae nane, O.

 I'll gie it tae a bonnie lad;
 A bonnie lad, a bonnie lad;
 I'll gie it tae a bonnie lad,
 For just as gude again, O.

 An auld moulie maidenheid,
 A maidenheid, a maidenheid,
 An auld moulie maidenheid,
 The weary wark I ken, O.

 The stretchin' o't, the strivin' o't,
 The borin' o't, the rivin' o't,
 And ay the double drivin' o't,
 The farther ye gang ben, O.

 Hoo can I keep my maidenheid,
 My maidenheid, my maidenheid;
 Hoo can I keep my maidenheid
 Amang sae mony men, O.

"Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid" appeared in the 1800 edition
of The Merry Muses of Caledonia to the tune of "The Birks o'
Abergeldie". Burns used the tune once before for a song of
the same name in The Scots Musical Museum. He likely collected
the lyrics from tradition and had a hand in editing them and
putting them to music.
"Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid" has a sing-song quality to it
with its nursery rhyme-like simplicity and meter. Yet it is a
rather adult tale about a maiden keep ing her virginity. Burns
delights in the adult subject matter placed in the child-like
voice of the song.
Although men have offered her money "for't", she will have none
of that and will do as her mother did. The temptation is strong
and it is "weary wark" to keep her maidenheid, but she will wait
and "gie it tae a bonnie lad". This song might have found its way
to an anthology of Burns's work for a general audience were
it not for the second to the last stanza:

 The stretchin' o't, the strivin' o't,
 The borin' o't, the rivin' o't,
 And ay the double drivin' o't,
 The farther ye gang ben, O.

It was far too sexually suggestive for the "polite" audiences many
anthology editors sought. However, this bold and clever little song
found a home in The Merry Muses of Caledonia. Even among Burns's
other bawdy songs, "Hoo Can I keep My Maidenheid" stands out as
exceptional.

There's a nice fragment of what looks like an older relative of
this song, to be given in Vol 8 of the Greig & Duncan Collection,
due out next year or so.
 (I've omitted repetitions in lines 1 and 3)

 My father bigget a bower for me
 To haud me frae the men.
 But the win' dung in the gavel o't
 And in cam' a' the men.

 They're seekin' me the but the hoose
 And they're seekin' me the ben
 And I canna keep my maidenhead
 Amo' so many men
KL, EMV
oct99
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