The hand weaver and the factory maid

AVI's posting of a Steeleye Span song led me, as such things often do, to a YouTube jaunt.  Here is a song about the social dislocations of the industrial revolution:  a hand-weaving man's girlfriend has become a factory maid who no longer wants to let him into her bedroom at night.  It's always been one of my favorite Steeleye Span productions, not only for the way Maddy Pryor alternates with the instruments between the primary and secondary tunes, but for the glorious a cappella ending chorus, with her terrific voice tripled in tracks.  The YouTube notes suggest that this is a mashup of at least three traditional songs.  The uploader provided appropriate images of looms and fabrics.

Oh, when I was a tailor, I carried my bodkin and shears. 
When I was a weaver, I carried my roods and my gear. 
My temples also, my smallclothes and reed in my hand. 
And wherever I go, there's the jolly bold weaver again.

I'm a hand weaver to me trade; I fell in love with a factory maid. 
And if I could but her favor win, I'd stand beside her and weave by steam.

Me father to me scornful said, "How could you marry a factory maid? 
When you could have girls fine and gay, dressed like unto the Queen of May?"

"As for your fine girls, I don't care. If I could but enjoy my dear, 
I'd stand in the factory all the day, and she and I would keep our shuttles in play."

I went to my love's bedroom door, where oftentimes I had been before. 
But I could not speak nor yet get in the pleasant bed where my love lay in.

"How can you say it's a pleasant bed, when nought lies there but a factory maid?" 
"A factory lass although she be, blessed is the man that enjoys she."

Oh, pleasant thoughts run through me mind, as I turn down her sheets so fine 
And see her two breasts standing so, like two white hills all covered with snow.

The loom goes click and the loom goes clack 
The shuttle flies forward and then flies back 
The weaver's so bent that he's like to crack 
Such a wearisome trade is the weaver's.

The yarn is made into cloth at last 

The ends of weft they are made quite fast 
The weaver's labors are now all passed 
Such a wearisome trade is the weaver's.

Where are the girls?  I will tell you plain: The girls have all gone to weave by steam, 
And if you'd find them you must rise at dawn, and trudge to the mill in the early morn.


Anonymous said...

They also did a find rendition of "Sheepcrook and Black Dog" ("Fine Flora") about a young man in a similar plight. His love goes to be a house maid and after a year decides that marrying a shepherd is beneath her. More urban-rural divide than hand vs. steam, but the theme is an old one it seems.


Texan99 said...

"And she wrote me a letter; such a contrary line . . . ."