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11:06 p.m. - June 20, 2007
A Look At Matty Groves!
Ah, yes, it’s time to look at a song with fresh eyes. This one may be obscure for those of you who can’t get your head around things recorded before you were born, or written back in the 16th century or so, but this be a fine piece of murder balladry done by the Fairport Convention.

Sandy Dennis takes the vocals and is spot on perfect, but the band, featuring Richard Thompson on guitar, Dave Swarbrick on violin and Dave Mattacks on drums all turning in vital performances. Mind you, one of the variations of this is about 30 verses long (they had a lot of time to kill back in the day) so Fairport do you a favor.

Let’s dissect this one, shall we?

A holiday, a holiday, and the first one of the year
Lord Donald's wife came into the church, the gospel for to hear
And when the meeting it was done, she cast her eyes about
And there she saw little Matty Groves, walking in the crowd

Well, according to my Catholic Church calendar, the first holiday of the New Year is on New Year’s Day. And I’m assuming this is ye olde church. So Lord Donald’s wife is out, being the good wife that she is, but then…what what? She’s looking out an about and sees little Matty Groves. I assume that he’s small in stature, and not like 13 or something with the adjective “little”. Please, let’s hope so.

"Come home with me, little Matty Groves, come home with me tonight
Come home with me, little Matty Groves, and sleep with me till light"

Not exactly the kind of conversation that you expect the wife of Lord Donald to strike up with you after church. That’d be like Tony Blair’s wife coming onto you after Sunday services.

"Oh, I can't come home, I won't come home and sleep with you tonight
By the rings on your fingers I can tell you are my master's wife"

Trust me Matty, go with your first instinct.

"But if I am Lord Donald's wife, Lord Donald's not at home
He is out in the far cornfields bringing the yearlings home"

Ah, while the Lord is away, the Lady shall play.

And a servant who was standing by and hearing what was said
He swore Lord Donald he would know before the sun would set
And in his hurry to carry the news, he bent his breast and ran
And when he came to the broad millstream, he took off his shoes and he swam

So the servant is a huge brown-noser, I guess. Selling out little Matty Groves for a tuppence is going to get him far. Actually, I think it’s a tuppence, some extra gruel, and one less beating.

He was in a hurry too, bending his armor and losing his shoes. I hope he carried the shoes, because running through a forest with bare feet. Yeowch!

Little Matty Groves, he lay down and took a little sleep
When he awoke, Lord Donald was standing at his feet

Uh-oh, this doesn’t look good for our hero.

Saying "How do you like my feather bed and how do you like my sheets
How do you like my lady who lies in your arms asleep?"

Lord Donald has a sense of humor?

"Oh, well I like your feather bed and well I like your sheets
But better I like your lady gay who lies in my arms asleep"

Is your wife a goer? Eh, know what I mean, nudge nudge, say no more!

"Well, get up, get up," Lord Donald cried, "get up as quick as you can
It'll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man"

Lord Donald has NO sense of humor, but a sense of fairness, at least.

"Oh, I can't get up, I won't get up, I can't get up for my life
For you have two long beaten swords and I not a pocket knife"
"Well it's true I have two beaten swords and they cost me deep in the purse
But you will have the better of them and I will have the worse
And you will strike the very first blow and strike it like a man
I will strike the very next blow and I'll kill you if I can"

Matty’s unarmed, so Lord Donald at least gives him a sporting chance. But I think Lord and Lady Donald should have gone through couples counseling or something. There’s some dynamic that’s not working in that relationship, with him out all the time so she goes around picking up peasants at church services. I think there are some issues, and killing poor Matty Groves isn’t going to help them.

So Matty struck the very first blow and he hurt Lord Donald sore
Lord Donald struck the very next blow and Matty struck no more

See, Matty. Go with the first instinct. You wind up less dead that way.

And then Lord Donald took his wife and he sat her on his knee
Saying "Who do you like the best of us, Matty Groves or me?"
And then up spoke his own dear wife, never heard to speak so free
"I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips than you or your finery"

Ouch, babe! That’s harsh!

Lord Donald he jumped up and loudly he did bawl
He struck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall

Temper, temper. Though wasn’t this in a Tarantino movie? Anyway, Sonny Chiba would be proud.

"A grave, a grave," Lord Donald cried, "to put these lovers in
But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin

Again, Lord Donald has proper etiquette. He is burying the adulterers together, but she’s on top. Wait, wouldn’t Matty like that? (Oh, Smed, behave!)

Well, as you see, the moral of the story is: Watch out at church and don’t use it for a pickup joint. You never know when a husband will ram a sword through you for sleeping with his wife.

 

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