Won’t You Marry Me?

4848b

We don’t have a TV aerial in our house, so when we watch anything, it tends to be on DVD. One of the films we sometimes watch with Dora is a frankly astonishing 1980s compilation of classic nursery rhymes. The rhymes are sung by a raft of top folk singers like Martin Carthy, while the stories are acted out in a combination of puppets, animation, or against nascent green screen technology. Taken in one sitting, it’s like Alice is having a nightmare. WHILE in Wonderland. The whole collection swings between the trippy and terrifying, but there are a few surprisingly haunting songs in there. One in particular has stuck with me; it’s an old song, but I don’t think I’d heard it before watching the film. It’s called ‘Soldier Soldier, Won’t You Marry Me?’. It’s a duet between a young lass and a soldier, and it goes a bit like this:

 “Oh soldier, soldier; won’t you marry me?
With your musket, fife and drum.”
 
“Oh no sweet maid, I cannot marry you,
For I have no boots to put on.”
 
So off she went to her grandfather’s chest
And brought him some boots of the very very best
And the soldier put them on. 
 
“Oh soldier, soldier; won’t you marry me?
With your musket, fife and drum.”
 
“Oh no sweet maid, I cannot marry you,
For I have no coat to put on.”
 
So off she went to her grandfather’s chest
And brought him a coat of the very very best
And the soldier put it on. 
 
“Oh soldier, soldier; won’t you marry me?
With your musket, fife and drum.”
 
“Oh no sweet maid, I cannot marry you,
For I have no hat to put on.”
 
So off she went to her grandfather’s chest
And brought him a hat of the very very best
And the soldier put it on. 
 
“Oh soldier, soldier; won’t you marry me?
With your musket, fife and drum.”
 
“Oh no sweet maid, I cannot marry you,

For I have a wife of own…”

It’s really sad, isn’t it? It reminds me of Alan Garner. I sing it to Dora every now and then – it’s one of the few songs she doesn’t try to sing along with. She prefers to listen. It feels curiously grave. And what happens next? Does the sweet maid pine after the soldier, or pick herself up and find another man? I feel like she needs vengeance. I’ve been imagining another verse:

So off she went to her grandfather’s chest
And fetched out a pistol of the very very best

And the sweet maid shot him down…..

It doesn’t make the song any happier, of course, but the soldier needs comeuppance.I haven’t yet decided whether I can sing it to my daughter.

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. Holly

    Interesting to find your post. I was reminded of this sad song today and penned an alternative last verse too (no guns).

    “So sod you soldier, now it’s time for me,
    Cause you’re just a drunken bum.
    Go buy your own things I am done with you,
    I’m an independent woman on my own.

    So off she went to the bar nearest
    And bought a bottle of the very very best (Champagne)
    And she didn’t drink it all alone.” 😉

    • simonsylvester

      Good stuff Holly – glad to see I’m not the only person needing closure for the maid…

  2. Pingback: A century of… | Simon Sylvester
  3. Cha-Cha

    I know that nursery rhyme cd…lol…used to watch it when I was younger. It is pretty gruesome though, I was just singing it to my daughter luckily she’s too young to understand the lyrics.

  4. Pat Lockhart

    My mother sang this song to me as a child and she always included the last verse. Her version was – So up she went to her grandfathers chest and she brought down a GUN of the very very best and she shot that soldier DEAD! – sung very slowly and with great emphasis as if she was very determined.

  5. Bear Kutziv

    Another WW I (1917) version said lyrics like these, and the reason because the soldier left the girl wan’t because he was a cheater, instead because he was selected to go to the war:

    Soldier Soldier will you marry me with your musket, fife and drum?
    Sorry lady, he can’t marry you because he is highlight to go to the war
    and the general read the whole war ad and all it was very very bad,
    so the girl go home, said the soldier bye
    and went to cry alone…

    Another similar version of the Napoleonic Era said this, very similar:

    Soldier Soldier will you marry me with your musket, fife and drum?
    O no, sweet maid I can’t marry you, ‘cos I have to go Waterloo
    and the soldier kissed at the sweet sweet maid with a long long kiss of the very very best
    took the uniform, musket, fife and drum, and the sweet maid cried alone.

    The actual version was modified because was very sad to children, but the modifications were also sad, because the soldier, from a hero was transformed into a cheater and selfish scoundrel. But was a little less sad to kids than the original one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s