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Violin Beginner Music


Halamus Publishing - Archived Articles - # 14, May, 2003



The Articles from the Monthly Newsletters

Written by

M. Lesley Halamek

May, 2003:–

SONG: "The Pretty Maid Milking the Cow" (English lyrics)

SONG: "Cailín Deas Crúite Na Mbó" (Irish Gaelic lyrics)

SONG: "Oh! would I were but that sweet linnet" (English lyrics)

– Traditional,

"...The earliest record of the tune is probably "Calin deas scruidadh na mbo" [Cailín deas crúite na mbó] in Edward Bunting, ed., A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, Vol. 1 (1796) [p. 54; the credit is to Arthur O'Neill]; the score is in Aloys Fleischmann, ed., Sources of Irish Traditional Music c.1600-1855, Vol. 1 (Garland, 1998, p. 619 [no. 3379])..."

( from a Digital Tradition (Mudcat) thread:      12 Oct 02 )

Q: Why was the milk maid 'pretty'?

Q: Why did "Dabbling in the dew make(s) the milk maids fair"?

A: Read on: All will be revealed. (Well…all that's politely printable...
      I never know quite what I'll find when I start researching a song...)

Q: Apart from the tune, what is the link between "The Pretty Maid Milking the Cow" and a sweet linnet singing in a tree?

A: : Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as you will see...

"...It is to be noted that Scotland and Ireland were greatly helped in the preservation of their folk tunes by the work of (Robert) Burns (1759-96) and (Thomas) Moore (1779-1852). Burns was in close touch with George Thompson (1757-1851) who for half a century was Secretary to the Board for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures in Scotland, and thus in touch with all parts of the country.

Thompson was a musical enthusiast who set to work to collect the old songs of Scotland and Ireland and the harpers' airs of Wales. He engaged the foremost composers of the time, including Haydn, Beethoven, and Weber, to write accompaniments; he even tried to persuade Beethoven to write sonatas and chamber music with the airs as subject matter.

This was an…attempt to conserve a national possession."

~ The Oxford Companion to Music, Tenth Edition (Folk Song 3.)

Beethoven began his arrangements of Scottish, Irish and Welsh songs in 1809. His first volume of Irish songs was published by Thompson in London and Edinburgh in 1814.

The project included the following arrangements, with the dates of their London and Edinburgh publication:-

  • WoO 152. Twenty-five Irish songs, 1814
  • WoO 153. Twenty Irish songs, 1814
  • WoO 154. Twelve Irish songs, 1816
  • WoO 155. Twenty-six Welsh songs, 1817
  •    op. 108. Twenty-five Scottish songs, 1818
  • WoO 156. Twelve Scottish songs, 1822, etc.

For the full list of Beethoven's Folk song arrangements, with a 'Note from Grove', Go to:

WoO 154. Twelve Irish songs, 1816, includes three songs (at least) with a reference to a young man called Dermot:

  •   5. Oh! Who, my dear Dermot,
  •   9. Oh! Would I were but that sweet linnet, (duet), and
  • 12. He promised me at parting, (duet).

[HMV recorded Nos. 9 and 12 (on vinyl, titled "Duets"), sung by Victoria de Los Angeles and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, accompanied by Gerald Moore.]

And here are the lyrics to the Beethoven arrangement:

Oh! Would I were but that sweet Linnet!

1. Oh! Would I were but that sweet Linnet!
That I had my apple tree too!
Could sit all the sunny day on it,
With nothing but singing to do,
I'm weary with toiling and spinning,
And Dermot I never can see,
Nor sure am I Dermot of winning,
There's never good luck for poor me!

2. Quite set was my heart all the Sunday
On going to Killaloe fair,
So my father fell ill on the Monday,
And, look ye, I could not be there.
And it was not the fair that I minded,
For there was I Dermot to see;
But I'm always before or behind it,
And there's never good luck for poor me!

  3. I tried with my sweetest behaviour
To tell our good priest my distress;
And ask'd him to speak in my favour,
When Dermot came next to confess.
But he said I was but a beginner,
And from love and temptation must flee!
So if love will but make me a sinner,
There's never good luck for poor me!

4. Ye Saints, with the Virgin! believe me,
I join with the priest in your praise!
Contrive but my Dermot to give me,
And I'll love you the length of my days.
In vain would they bid me be wiser,
And never my Dermot to see,
Bad luck to advice and adviser!
Good luck! to dear Dermot and me!

—–William Smyth

The tune for The Traditional Irish Melody "Cailín Deas Crúite Na Mbó" is on
Page 56 of

Part 4: A Brief Introduction to the Second, Half, Fourth, and Fifth Positions
(A Graded Selection of Melodies for Beginners of All Ages)

Details on the MUSIC PAGE

Here are the English Lyrics to

"The Pretty Maid Milking the Cow"
     (or A Cow, or Her Cow...)

Cailín Deas Crúite Na Mbó

It was on a fine summer's morning,
When the birds sweetly tuned on each bough;
I heard a fair maid sing most charming
As she sat a-milking her cow;
Her voice, it was chanting melodious,
She left me scarce able to go;
My heart it is soothed in solace,
My Cailín deas crúite na mbó.
(My pretty maid milking the cow)

With courtesy I did salute her,
"Good-morrow, most amiable maid,
I'm your captive slave for the future."
"Kind sir, do not banter," she said,
"I'm not such a precious rare jewel,
That I should enamour you so;
I am but a plain country girl,"
Says Cailín deas crúite na mbó.

"The Indies afford no such jewel,
So precious and transparently fair,
Oh! do not to my flame add fuel,
But consent for to love me, my dear;
Take pity and grant my desire,
And leave me no longer in woe;
Oh! love me or else I'll expire,
Sweet Cailín deas crúite na mbó."

"Or had I the wealth of great Damer,
Or all on the African shore,
Or had I great Devonshire treasure,
Or had I ten thousand times more,
Or had I the lamp of Alladin,
Or had I his genie also,
I'd rather live poor on a mountain,
With Cailín deas crúite na mbó."
  "I beg you'll withdraw and don't tease me;
I cannot consent unto thee.
I like to live single and airy,
Till more of the world I do see.
New cares they would me embarrass,
Besides, sir, my fortune is low,
Until I get rich I'll not marry,"
Says Cailín deas crúite na mbó.

"An old maid is like an old almanack,
Quite useless when once out of date;
If her ware is not sold in the morning
At noon it must fall to low rate.
The fragrance of May is soon over,
The rose loses its beauty, you know;
All bloom is consumed in October,
Sweet Cailín deas crúite na mbó."

"A young maid is like a ship sailing,
There's no knowing how long she may steer,
For with every blast she's in danger;
Oh! consent, love, and banish all care.
For riches I care not a farthing,
Your affection I want and no more;
In wedlock I'd wish to enjoy you,
My Cailín deas crúite na mbó.."

(Lyrics may or may not be by Thomas Moore)

And here is a version of the Gaelic lyrics:-

Cailín Deas Crúite Na Mbó

1. Tá bliain nó níos mó 'gam ag eisteacht,
Le cogar doilghéasach mo mhéoinn,
Ó casadh liom grádh geal mo chléibhe,
Tráthnóna breágh gréinne sa bhfoghmhar
Bhí an bhóbhainne chumhrtha ag géimnigh,
A's na héanlaith go meidhreach le ceól,
A's ar bhruach an tsrotháin ar leathtaobh díom,
Bhí cailín deás crúidhte na mbó.

2. Tá a súile mar lonnradh na gréine
Ag scaipeadh tré spéarthaibh an cheoigh:
'S is deirge a gruadh 'ná na caora
Ar lasadh 'measg craobha na gcnó:
Tá a béilin nios milse 'na sméara,
'S is gile 'ná leamhnacht a snódh:
Ní'l óigbhean níos deise' san tsaoghal seo
'Na cailín deás crúidhte na mbó.

3. Dá bhfaghainn-se árd-thighearnas na hÉireann
Agus éideacha síoda 'gus sróil:
Dá bhfaghainn-se an bhainríoghan is aeirde
Dá bhfuil ar an dtalaimh so beó:
Dá bhfaghainn-se céad loingeas mar spré dham
Pioláití, caisleáin, agus or:
Do b'fearr liom bheith bocht ar druim sléibhe
Le cailín deás crúidhte na mbó.

4. Muna bhfuil sé am' chomhair bheith i n-éinfheacht
Leis an spéir-bhean ro-dhílis úd fós,
Is daoirseacht dobrónach mo saoghal-sa
Gan suairceas, gan éifeacht, gan treó:
Ni bhéidh sólás am' chroidhe, 'ná am' íntinn,
'Ná suaimhneas orm oidhche ná ló,
Chun go bhfeicfead lem' thaoibh ó n-a muíntir
Mo cailín deás crúidhte na mbó.

For a translation of these lyrics, go to:

Date: 28 Mar, 2003

Q:Why were milkmaids 'pretty' ?

Q:Why did "Dabbling in the dew make(s) the milk maids fair"?

     (fair = pretty; maid = young girl)

Go to: then "Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America" ... Songs sorted by Country (Warning: Turn down the volume!!)... Songs of England, then scroll down to 18th Century Music ... Folksongs ... "Dabbling in the Dew"

Dabbling in the Dew

O where are you going to, my pretty little dear,
With your red rosie cheeks, and your coal black hair?
I'm going a milking, kind sir, she answered me,
And it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.

A: "As a matter of interest ...

... the reason why there were so many songs /poems about milkmaids/ dairymaids was that, while the majority of the population suffered from the ravages of smallpox, those people working with cattle could develop immunity to the disease ... so had flawless complexions."

(~ the Mudcat thread).

And from:

"Period Costume" by Patricia Gerrard Cooke © William Collins & Co. Ltd., 1962:

"Samuel Pepys lived during Charles II's reign…Beauty spots were worn in the shape of stars, half-moons or lozenges. Keen-eyed Pepys watching a court lady, saw her feel a pimple on her face and then suddenly turn to one of her ladies, snatch a beauty spot from her face, lick it and pop it over the rising pimple on her own skin. Some blemishes were too big to hide with a little velvet spot. Smallpox was greatly feared by beautiful women.

If one managed to survive the dreaded pox, one was left permanently scarred by deep pits on the face. Ladies thus marred wore masks at court...


In the middle of the 18th century it became fashionable to ape the country life. Court ladies dressed as milkmaids in wide brimmed sunhats, laced-up stomachers which were looped back, shorter skirts and high heeled chopins. Ladies had their portraits painted in an idyllic setting, perhaps holding a milk pail or with a few cows in the background. In France, Marie Antoinette (who is thought by many to have begun the "country craze") frolicked every weekend in a little mock farm near the lake at Versailles. She amused herself by decking cows with flower garlands and tossing her fellow shepherdesses' hats into the water.

One reason for this fashion to dress as shepherdesses (bergères) ...goes back to smallpox...(Above) is a reference to the court ladies' dread of this disease, of which there seemed to be no escape, but there was a notable exception.

The envious eyes of pitted court ladies saw that country milkmaids rarely contracted smallpox. Their skins were beautiful. The reason was that they had had cowpox, which is mild and leaves no scars and which had immunised them against smallpox. Court ladies childishly thought that if they dressed likewise, they would be safe from smallpox, but they still stayed in the overcrowded, germ-filled cities and paraded in milkmaid gowns past open sewers."

Today, smallpox has been almost wiped out, thanks to the work begun by Dr Edward Jenner in 1796.

Jenner Edward (1749-1823) B. Berkeley, Gloucestershire, son of a clergyman, he was apprenticed to a surgeon and later studied under John Hunter in London. Famous for his work on smallpox, he made the first successful practical experiment in inoculation for this disease in 1796 at Berkeley where he was in practice. Despite violent opposition to his discovery, he successfully developed it and in 1802, and again in 1806, was voted considerable sums by Parliament in recognition of his services.
~ Collins New Age Encyclpedia

Jenner Edward (1749-1823), British physician who developed VACCINATION. Aware that cowpox, a minor disease, seemed to protect people from smallpox, Jenner in 1796 inoculated a healthy boy with cowpox from the sores of an infected dairymaid. The boy developed the disease but six weeks later, when inoculated with smallpox, was found to be immune to that dreaded infection. This finding established the principle of vaccination as an invaluable technique in medicine.
~ Rigby Joy of Knowledge, A-K Fact Index

You can find more lyrics and info at the Digital Tradition website. Go to:

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