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Come, Write Me Down / The Wedding Song

[ Roud 381 ; Master title: Come, Write Me Down ; G/D 5:980 ; Ballad Index K126 ; VWML CJS2/10/977 ; Bodleian Roud 381 ; DT COMWRIT1 ; Mudcat 48191 ; trad.]

This song from the repertoire of the Copper Family is known both as Come Write Me Down and as The Wedding Song. It is printed in The Copper Family Song Book and in Bob Copper’s book A Song for Every Season. A BBC recording (BBC 17986) of Jim, John, Bob and Ron Copper made by Séamus Ennis on 3 April 1952 was included in 2001 as of title track of the Topic anthology of their early recordings, Come Write Me Down. Bob and John Copper sang it on 4 June 1965 at the Royal Festival Hall, London, which was published on the EFDSS album Folksound of Britain. Bob, Ron and John Copper sang it on the Copper Family’s 4 LP set A Song for Every Season; and John Copper and his brother-in-law Jon Dudley sang it on the LP Coppersongs: A Living Tradition.

Cecilia Costello sang Write Me Down on 30 November 1951 in Birmingham to Maria Slocombe and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw. This and other recordings from the Sound Archive of the BBC were published in 1976 on her eponymous Leader album, Cecilia Costello, and were included in 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology Old Fashioned Songs.

A number of Mrs Costello’s songs are sombre or charged with deep emotion. Equally, however, she has some lighter pieces, of which this is one. The revival knows this as The Wedding Song, although it appears to be only the Copper Family which uses this title—it was widely printed in the broadside trade as Second Thoughts are Best.

Apart from 6 Scottish and 3 North American examples, all of Roud’s 76 examples are from the southern half of England. Although there are 13 sound recordings, only those by Mabs Hall and Cecilia Costello have ever been published; apart from the famous one by Bob, John, Jim and Ron Copper.

Shirley Collins sang The Wedding Song as part of and her and her sister Dolly’s Song Story which was one half of both their albums Anthems in Eden (1969) and Amaranth (1976). This recording was also included in 1975 on the 4 LP anthology The Electric Muse.

In 1980 Shirley Collins toured Australia with Peter Bellamy. Although they performed separate sets, they sang duets at the end of each half of their concerts. A recording of Come Write Me Down from Sydney Opera House was included in 1999 on the Peter Bellamy anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Cyril Tawney sang the Devon version The Scornful Dame, on his 1973 album of traditional love songs from South West England, I Will Give My Love.

Mabs and Gordon Hall of Horsham, Sussex, sang Come Write Me Down in the 1980s to Mike Yates and John Howson. This recording was included on the Veteran tape of English traditional singers, Horkey Load 1 (VT 108), and in 2008 on their posthumous Veteran CD As I Went Down to Horsham. Yates and Howson commented:

Many Victorian broadside printers had this song in their catalogues. John Pitts of London called it Second Thoughts Is Best, while Birt and Catnach, both of London, Pierce of Southborough, Pratt of Birmingham, and Sharman of Cambridge, all corrected the title to Second Thoughts Are Best. At least three other printers, Fordyce of London, Robertson of Wigton and Whiting of Birmingham, printed the song under the heading A New Song Called The True Lovers. Versions have been collected from various parts of England and Scotland (it is in the repertoire of the Copper Family of Sussex and there are five versions in the Greig/Duncan collection Volume 5, song 980) and also in Come Write Me Down including their final verse:

So to church they went that very next day
And were married by asking, as I heard say.
So now that girl she is his wife,
She will prove his comfort day and night.

When Mabs and Gordon were recorded singing this song Gordon finished with this verse, albeit under his breath. Mabs maintained she had never known the verse.

The Arthur Family (Dave and Toni Arthur with their sons Jonathan and Tim) recorded Come Write Me Down in 1992 for the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album notes:

The Copper Family from Rottingdean, Sussex, from whom this song came are probably the most famous of singers in the English tradition. In 1898 Mrs. Kate Lee noted down songs from James “Brasser” Copper and his brother, Thomas. Brasser could recall his Grandfather singing the songs and so it has gone on from generation to generation up to the present day. Part of this is due to Bob Copper’s own appreciation of his family’s tradition (he became a collector himself), the recording of their songs for the BBC Archives and the attention given to them by the folk song movement in the 1960’s and early 70’s. Groups such as The Young Tradition learnt a lot from the Coppers and, in turn, did a lot to draw attention to the family, its repertoire and its harmony singing. Dave and Toni Arthur had semi retired from singing (Toni pops up as a TV presenter from time to time and Dave is the editor of English Dance & Song magazine), but we coaxed them out and they were joined by their two sons, Jonathan and Tim. There is no attempt to recreate the Copper’s style—they do it their own way!

Terry Yarnell sang The Wedding Song in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers CD A Bonny Bunch. He noted:

I first learnt this song from the singing of the Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex. It would appear to be extremely old, one precursor being entered in the Stationers Register in 1656 as, “If you love mee, tell mee so”. Many other variants have been collected over the years, with the west of England being particularly rich in sources, but I have kept with my original because of its lovely tune. I’m also quite fond of the line, “Then go your way you scornful dame.” It is often found in collections under the title Come Write Me Down.

Sharron Kraus and electronic musician David Muddyman recorded Come Write Me Down in 2002-3. This was finally released in 2023 on their download album, Birdloom.

Serafina Steer sang Come Write Me Down in 2007 on Old Wine New Skins, a CD of modern recordings of traditional English songs to accompany The Folk Handbook.

Jon Boden sang Come Write Me Down as the 17 July 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Tim Laycock sang Write Me Down on his 2010 CD of folk songs and tunes from Dorset, Sea Strands. He noted:

One of the most important singers that the Hammonds found was Joseph Elliott, from Todber in North Dorset. Mr Elliott was aged 74 when the Hammonds called, but had recently remarried, and had a 9 year old daughter. He was working as a farmworker on the Pitt-Rivers estate, but in his youth had spent several years fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. His repertoire consisted mostly of sea songs, but I particularly enjoy this version of The Wedding Song.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang Come Write Me Down in 2011 on their CD The Old Songs.

The Andover Museum Loft Singers conducted by Paul Sartin sang Come Write Me Down in 2012 on their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking.

Pilgrim’s Way sang Come Write Me Down at the Homegrown Festival at The Met in Bury in October 2012:

Martin Simpson sang Come Write Me Down on his 2013 Topic CD Vagrant Stanzas.

Elle Osborne sang Come Write Me Down in 2015 as the title-giving track of her CD It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice.

The Furrow Collective sang Write Me Down, with words very similar to Cecilia Costello’s, on their 2018 album Fathoms. They noted:

Write me Down is perhaps best known as The Wedding Song sung by the Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex. Our version is from the singing of Cecilia Costello (1883-1976), the youngest of ten children born to Irish parents who emigrated from Co Roscommon to Birmingham. Cecilia had a treasure trove of folk songs, mainly learnt from her father; she sang them to Marie Slocombe for the BBC sound archives in 1951. They later appeared on an LP for the Leader label and have more recently been released by the Musical Traditions label.

Nick Dow sang The Wedding Song on his 2020 album of love songs from the British Tradition, In a Garden Grove. He noted:

Also known as The Scornful Maid. This version comes from Betsy Smith via Cecil Sharp [VWML CJS2/10/977] . She had no words, or at least none were collected so I have used the ‘standard’ words from the Copper Family.

Andy Turner learned Come Write Me Down as one of his first Copper Family songs. He sang it as the 23 July 2020 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Edgelarks sang Come Write Me Down on their 2020 CD Henry Martin. They noted:

Kennedy and Baring-Gould both have versions of this song, with Baring-Gould’s titled The Scornful Dame. Really it’s hard to approve of this young man’s methods of wooing, first attempting to buy her, and then emotionally manipulating her into submission. She seems fully aware of the loss of independence and potential drudgery that this marriage holds for her; hopefully, despite the last line, he proved a comfort to her as well. However, despite a 21st century feminist reading of the text, we were drawn to the simple beauty of the melody, which reminded us of a Methodist hymn.


The Copper Family sings Come Write Me Down

Come write me down, ye powers above
The man that first created love,
For I’ve a diamond in my eye
𝄆 Wherein all my joys and comforts lie. 𝄇

“I will give you gold, I will give you pearl
If you could fancy me, dear girl.
Rich costly robes that you shall wear
𝄆 If you could fancy me, my dear.” 𝄇

“’Tis not your gold shall me entice
To leave off pleasures to be a wife,
For I don’t mean or intend at all
𝄆 To be at any young man’s call.” 𝄇

“Then go your way you scornful dame
Since you’ve proved false I will prove the same.
’Tis I don’t seek, but I shall find
𝄆 Some other fair maid to my mind.” 𝄇

“Oh, stay young man don’t be in haste,
You seem afraid your time you will waste.
Let reason rule your roving mind
𝄆 And unto you I will prove kind.” 𝄇

So to Church they went that very next day
And were married by asking, as I’ve heard say,
And now that girl she is his wife,
𝄆 She will prove his comfort day and night. 𝄇

Cecilia Costello sings Write Me Down

Write me down, the powers above
That first created a man to love,
For I have a diamond in my eye
Where all me joy and fancy lies.

Now I’d give her gold and I’d give her pearls
If only she’d fancy to be my dear.
And all such costly robes she’d wear
If only she’d fancy to be my dear.

“Oh it’s not your gold would me entice
To leave my friends for your advice.
I never intend to marry at all
Nor be at any young man’s call.”

So he picked up his hat, he was going away.
She says, “Don’t go, young man, but stay.
Stay, oh stay, my heart is true,
I never will wed a man but you.”

Cyril Tawney sings The Scornful Dame

Descend, ye powers from above
That first created woman’s love,
And see, as with a pitying eye,
My hopes and prospects broken lie.

“I’ll give you gold, I’ll give you pearl
If you’ll love me, my fair, sweet girl,
And silken robes for you to wear,
And diamonds for your yellow hair.”

“Your gold and pearls I do disdain,
Your silken robes I’ll not put on.
You need not seek, in vain you try,
I ne’er will wed you till I die.”

“Then go your way you scornful dame,
If you prove shy I’ll prove the same.
I never will be held in thrall
At any woman’s beck and call.”

Then I arose to go my way
When she stood up and bade me stay.
“O stay, O stay, I own ’tis true,
There’s no one that I love save you.”

Since now my wooing days are past,
My joy and comfort found at last.
Since her I have whom I adore,
Naught I want, or will seek more.