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Miller and the Lass

[ Roud 1128 ; Ballad Index ReSh063 ; trad.]

Gordon McIntyre with a chorus of Martyn Wyndham-Read, Danny Spooner and Peter Dickie sang The Miller and the Maid in 1966 on their Australian album A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale.

Gordon [MacIntyre] put the tune to a text collected by Cecil Sharp and printed in James Reeves' The Idiom of the People. It is a good example of what Reeves has called the “lingua Franca”, the colloquial sexual symbolism of the English countryside.

George Dunn sang The Miller's Song in a recording made by Bill Leader in December 1971. It was published in 1975 on his eponymous Leader album George Dunn. Another recording made by Roy Palmer in July 1971 was included in 2002 on Dunn's Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Roy Palmer and Rod Stradling commented in the latter album's booklet

This is one of the songs first recalled by George Dunn (in March 1971) and one of the last recorded by him (in January 1975, three months before his death). He greatly relished singing this marvellously life-affirming piece which, after being noted a handful of times between them in the early years of the twentieth century, though not published, by Sharp (in Somerset) and Gardiner (in Hampshire), became decidedly rare. An equally rare early version appeared in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (4 vols, 1787-1803), iii, no. 481. George's is the only known recording of the song.

SM (first four verses), p. 44, Roy Palmer (ed.), Everyman's Book of English Country Songs (1979), p. 135 (five verses)
Cf: Sharp, ed. Karpeles, no. 185 A and B; Gardiner, in Frank Purslow, ed., The Constant Lovers (1972), p. 60.

Eliza Carthy sang Miller and the Lass in 1998 on her album Rice with Saul Rose playing melodeon and singing chorus and Ed Boyd playing guitar.

Andy Turner found The Maid and the Miller in Roy Palmer's book Songs of the Midlands and sang it as the March 23, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

The Miller and the Maid in The Idiom of the People Gordon McIntyre sings The Miller and the Maid

A brisk you lass so brisk and gay
She went unto the mill one day.
There's a peck of corn all for to grind,
The devil of the miller could she find

A brisk you lass, so brisk and gay,
She went down to the mill one day.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
To me right ful la, my diddle diddle lay do,
Right ful, right ful ay

She'd a peck of corn all for to grind
But the devil of the miller could she find.

But alas last the miller he did come in
And this fair maid she did begin:
“There's a peck of corn all for to grind;
I can but stay a litte time.”

When at last the miller came in
This fair young lass she did begin.

“I've a peck of corn all for to grind
And I can but stay a litte time.”

“Come sit you down, my sweet pretty dear,
For I cannot grind your corn, I fear.
My stones is high and my water low;
I cannot grind for the mill won't go.”

“Come sit you down, my sweet pretty dear,
For I cannot grind your corn, I fear.”

Then she sat down all on a sack,
They talked of this, and they talked of that,
They talked of love, of love proved kind,
She soon found out the mill would grind.

Then she sat down all on a sack,
And they talked of this, and they talked of that.

Then he got up the mill to grind
And left her down the stones to mind.
Then an easy up and down,
She scarce could tell when her corn was ground.

Then an easy up and down,
She scarce could tell when her corn was ground.

“Then go you home, my sweet pretty dear,
The corn is ground and the mill is clear.”
She swore she'd been ground by a score or more
But never been ground so well before.

“Now go you home, my sweet pretty dear,
For your corn is ground and the mill is clear.”

She swore she'd been ground by a score or more
But never been ground so well before.

George Dunn sings The Miller's Song Eliza Carthy sings Miller and the Lass

A bonny lassie bright and gay
Went up into a mill one day.
A peck of corn she had to grind,
And never a miller could she find.

There was a buxom and a brisk young lass,
Went down to the mill one day-o
To get some corn oh for to grind
But the devil out there to the miller could she find

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
With a/me fal the diddle i do fal the diddle ay,
Fal the diddle i do fal the diddle ay.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Singing dum dub a dum dum day

At last the miller he came in;
The pretty fair maid she did begin:
“A peck of corn I have to grind
But never a miller can I find.”

At last the miller boy he did come in,
And this young girl she did begin:
“I've a bag of corn oh for to grind
But I can't stay I've a very little time”

“My stones are up, my water's low,
My mill is not in tune to go.”
But they talked of love till love grew kind,
And then the mill began to grind.

“Come, sit you down, my sweet pretty dear
I cannot grind your corn I fear;
My stones is high and the water's low,
And I can't grind for the mill won't go.”

So she sat down on a sack,
And he talked of this, and he talked of that,
He talked of love, of her love proved kind
And she soon found that the mill would grind.

“Now you go home, my pretty dear,
For your corn's ground and my mill's clear;
And if it has been ground a thousand times o'er,
I'm sure you never had it ground so well before.”

Said this bonny lass, still blithe and gay,
“A bargain I will make this day;
I'll bring my corn here every year
To be ground at the same price as before,
With a fal the diddle i do, tal the diddle ay,
That means I'll never, never have to pay.”

Eliza Carthy sings Miller and the Lass

Acknowledgements and Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Miller and the Lass.

Transcribed from the singing of Eliza Carthy by Kira White. Thanks also to Steve Willis for further assistance.