Friday, February 4, 2011

The Maid of Australia

More a song about an imagined Australia than a true song of this land, but I thought I'd stretch the theme today. (It's also unlikely that the relationship unfolded in this way outside the imagination of the author).

Trad.





As I walked down by the Oxborough Banks
Where the maids of Australia do play their wild pranks,
By a shady green bower I sat myself down,
Where the birds sang so gaily, enchanting all round
In the forest of native Australia,
In the forest of native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh I had not been long at that beautiful scene
Where the fields are delightful, the trees evergreen,
When a lovely young damsel to me did appear.
From the banks of the river she quickly drew near,
She's a native of happy Australia,
She's a native of happy Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

She tore off her clothes and before me she stood
As naked as Venus just come from the flood.
She looked me in the face and smiling said she,
“This is the robe that nature gave me
On the day I was born in Australia,
On the day I was born in Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

She leapt in the water without fear or dread,
Her beautiful limbs she quickly outspread,
Her hair hung in ringlets, her colour was black,
“Kind sir, you can see how I swim on my back
In the stream of my native Australia,
In the stream of my native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

Being tired of swimming she came to the bank,
“Assistance, kind sir, or I surely shall sink.”
Like lightning I flew, took her out by the hand,
My footing I lost and we fell on the sand.
She took me to the bush of Australia,
She took me to the bush of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh we sported together in the highest of glee,
In the fairest Australia you ever did see.
My hair to her beautiful breast was inclined
Till the sun in the west all its glories resigned
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.


These notes from Mainly Norfolk:

[Roud 1872 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang The Maid of Australia on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and in another recording by Leslie Shephard in Catfield, Norfolk, on October 9, 1965. That one was included in 1996 on the Topic anthology Hidden English: A Celebration of English Traditional Music, and in 2000 on his Topic CD box, The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud commented in the latter's sleeve notes:

This song of male wish-fulfilment has only rarely been reported in Britain—perpaps its risque subject-matter kept it out of collector's notebooks, but it is pretty mild by modern standards. The fact that all three known English versions are from East Anglian singers—Walter Pardon and Sam Larner being the other two—is most probably a coincidence. It is reported only once from Canada, but several times in the USA (see Guy Logsdon, The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing, 1989).

Peter Bellamy recorded The Maid of Australia during the sessions for his 1979 Topic LP, Both Sides Then, but it was left out and didn't find its way onto it before the CD reissue in 1992. The recording was included, however, on his 1983 cassette Fair Annie: English, Irish, Australian and American Traditional Songs, on the 1986 Fellside anthology Flash Company, and in 1999 on Free Reed's Peter Bellamy anthology, Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Martin Carthy sang The Maid of Australia on Brass Monkey's fifth album Flame of Fire; this track was reissued on the anthology Evolving Tradition 4. He commented in the former record's sleeve notes:

I think of Maid of Australia as a sweet piece of Pre-Raphaelite fantasy and I think that it's true to say that it has only ever been found in Norfolk. What's sung here is a mixture of versions of Harry Cox and Walter Pardon, and according to the latter, the song was forbidden in certain pubs. The late and much lamented Peter Bellamy was the first person I heard actually singing it so there is a very large dollop of him to be found here. And thank him very much.


Mainly Norfolk also gives three alternative lyrics. I have chosen the Martin Carthy lyrics to my own arrangement.

4 comments:

  1. You could almost call this a silly song, couldn't you? It would be interesting to re-write the lyrics reversing the roles of the sexes.

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  2. As I walked down by the Oxborough Banks
    Where the blokes of Australia do play their wild pranks
    By a shady green bower I sat myself down,
    Where the birds sang so gaily, enchanting all round
    In the forests of native Australia,
    In the forests of native Australia,
    Where the fellas are horny and hot.

    Oh I had not been long at that beautiful scene
    Where the fields are delightful, the trees evergreen,
    When a sexy young codger to me did appear.
    From the banks of the river he quickly drew near,
    He's a native of happy Australia,
    He's a native of happy Australia,
    Where the fellas are horny and hot.

    He tore off his clothes and before me he stood,
    As naked as Mars, like, just come from the flood.
    He looked me in the face and smiling said he,
    "This is the robe that nature gave me
    On the day I was born in Australia
    On the day I was born in Australia
    Where the fellas are horny and hot."

    He leapt in the water without fear or dread,
    His beautiful limbs he quickly outspread,
    His hair rung in ringlets, his colour was black,
    "Young girl, you can see how I swim on my back
    In the stream of my native Australia,
    In the stream of my native Australia,
    Where the fellas are horny and hot."

    Being tired of swimming he came to the bank,
    "Assistance please, miss, or I surely shall sink."
    Like lightning I flew, took him out by the hand.
    My footing I lost and we fell on the sand.
    He took me to the bush of Australia.
    He took me to the bush of Australia,
    Where the fellas are horny and hot.

    Oh we sported together in the highest of glee
    In the fairest Australia you ever did see.
    His head to my fair naked breast was inclined
    Till the sun in the west with its glories resigned
    To this beautiful bloke of Australia,
    To this beautiful bloke of Australia,
    Where the fellas are horny and hot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I must admit on the first reading I did miss the reference to her colour being black. That certainly does add another dimension to it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have always loved this song. It's innocent and provocative at the same time, which is (to me) a great combination of. The double entendres are wonderful, too. I really wanted to learn this song to sing it at a dear friend's wedding but I ended up being on tour. Too bad as it was a lesbian couple. :D They would have loved it! I would have left out the "sir" of course...

    Nice blog, John! Got any good songs about warrigals or brumbies???

    xo
    Felicia.

    ReplyDelete