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This air is printed in Burke Thumoth's collection of Irish Airs (1720), in Holden's "Old Irish Tunes" (1806), and in "Songs of Ireland," p. 164 (Boosey).
T. Crofton Croker quotes the words of the original song in "The Popular Songs of Ireland" (1839), of which the first verse is as follows:—
AIR—"Sandy lent the man his Mull." Beauing, belling, dancing, drinking, Breaking windows, damning, sinking, Ever raking, never thinking, Live the rakes of Mallow.
Mr. Kimber, the leader of the Headington Morris, could only give us the first verse of their song, which, however, is quite different from the Irish words:—
When I go to Marlow Fair With the ribbons in my hair, All the boys and girls declare, Here comes the rigs o' Marlow.
Mallow is in County Cork and was a fashionable watering-place in the eighteenth century, when it was known as the "Irish Bath." Croker says that the young men of that fashionable water-drinking town were proverbially called "the rakes of Mallow," and he adds: "A set of pretty pickles they were, if the song descriptive of their mode of life, here recorded after the most delicate oral testimony, is not very much over-coloured."
Neither the Oxfordshire nor the Gloucestershire Morris-men, from both of whom we recovered this tune, had probably heard of "Mallow"; it was natural enough, therefore, to substitute "Marlow," which, of course, they know very well.
This is the prototype of "The Vicar of Bray," and Mr. Kidson tells us that he has it in an old book of airs under the more ancient title. It is also called "The Country Garden" in Playford's "Dancing Master," and in Chappell's "National English Airs," Nos. 25 and 26. Chappell gives it in 3-4 time, and remarks that it then becomes "a plaintive love ditty instead of a sturdy and bold air."
This air bears some resemblance to "The Faithful Shepherd" in Thompson's "Complete Collection of Country Dances" (circa 1775), which is reprinted in Mr. Kidson's "Old English Country Dances," p. 10.
This is a variant of the "Constant Billy" printed in Playford's "Dancing Master" (1726), p. 170, and also in one of Walsh's dancing books. It is also in Gay's "Beggars' Opera," where it is set to the words, "Cease your funning." Mr. Kidson tells us that the air is known in old books as "Over hills and lofty mountains" or "Lofty mountains."