Mattie Groves
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John Renfro Davis

This ballad appears in Wit and Drollery (1658). A copy was also printed on a broadside by Henry Gosson, who is said to have printed between 1607 and 1641. It is quoted in several old plays earlier than this. Circa 1611 it is quoted in a play by Beaumont and Fletcher, Knight of the Burning Pestle. The ballad appears in southern Scotland, England and America.

This ballad is a variant of Child Ballad #81 (Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard). It is also spelled Matty Groves or Matthy Groves. These words and the single line melody are from Digital Tradition.

In some versions of the ballad the two men are brothers. In others Musgrave is married, and in some versions Lord Bernard kills himself and Musgrave is hanged.

In the many Child variants the Lord is known as Lord Barnard, Lord Barnetts, Lord Barnaby, Lord Bengwill, Barlibas, Lord Barnet, Lord Burnett. Among the seventeen variants Sharp collected in the Appalachians the Lord is also known as Lord Thomas, Lord Dannel and Lord Banner.

Variants and alternate titles include: Little Musgrave and Lady Barnet, Lord Barnard, Young Musgrave, Lord Barnaby, Wee Messgrove, Little Musgrave, Little Sir Grove, Lord Barnabas, Lord Barnett and Little Munsgrove, Little Miushiegrove, and Little Massgrove.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

A holiday, a holiday,
The first one of the year
Lord Arlen's wife came into church
The gospel for to hear.

And when the meeting it was done
She cast her eyes about
And there she saw little Mattie Groves,
Walking in the park.

Come home with me
Little Mattie Groves,
Come home with me tonight
Come home with me
Little Mattie Groves
And sleep with me tonight.

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 Lord Arlen's wife.

'Tis true I am Lord Arlen's wife,
Lord Arlen's not at home
He is out to the far corn fields,
Bringing the yearlings home.

And the sundt who was standing by
And hearing what was said
He saw Lord Arlen, he would know,
Before the sun would set.

And in his hurry to carry the news,
He filled his breast and ran
And when he came to the broad mill stream
He took off his shoes and swam

Little Mattie Groves, he lay down
And took a little sleep
When he awoke Lord Arlen,
Was standing at his feet

Saying how do you like my feather bed
And how do you like my sheets
And how do you like my lady,
Who lies in your arms asleep.

Oh well I like your feather bed
And well I like your sheets
But better I like your lady maid
Who lies in my arms asleep.

Well Get Up! Get Up! Lord Arlen cried,
Get up as quick as you can
It'll never be said in fair England
I slew a naked man!

Oh I won'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 have but a pocket knife.

Well it's true I have two beaten swords,
They cost me deep in the purse
But you will have the better of them
And I will have the worst.

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.

So Mattie struck the very first blow
And he hurt Lord Arlen sore
Lord Arlen struck the very next blow
And Mattie struck no more.

And then Lord Arlen he took his wife,
He sat her on his knee
Saying who do you like the best of us,
Mattie Groves or me.

And then spoke up his own dear wife
Never heard to speak so free
I'd rather kiss one dead Mattie's lips
Than you and your finery.

Lord Arlen he jumped up
And loudly he did bawl
He stuck his wife right through the heart
And pinned her against the wall.

A grave, a grave, Lord Arlen cried,
To put these lovers in
But bury my lady at the top
For she was of noble kin.
From English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.