4. Gypsy Davey, One Year After
Lyrics and Music: Mike Agranoff ©1996 Mike Agranoff
Vocal and Acoustic Guitar: Mike Agranoff
Fiddle: Pete Sutherland
Electric Guitar: Tom Rhoads*
Bass: Jim Speer*
Electric Violin: Helene Zisook*
Oboe: Amy Ksir*
Drums: Joe D'Andrea*
(* members of Broadside Electric)
Well met, well met my own dear wife.
Well met, my blue-eyed lady.
How strange to see thee at my gate.
How strange to see thy baby,
Thy dark-eyed crying baby.
Come in, come in, my own dear wife.
Come in out of the rain-o.
Come dry thy feet and warm thy hands
All by my fire again-o,
All in my hall again-o.
Call for the cook to bring thee meat,
The maid to bring thee wine-o.
And for also the suckling nurse,
Thy babe that he might dine-o,
Thy hungry babe might dine-o.
Where is thy gown of silk so fine,
Thy boots of Spanish leather?
And where is the Gypsy Davey now
Since you rode off together?
Rode hand in hand together?
Thou left behind thy goose-feather bed,
Thou left thy husband and baby
All for to lie on the cold cold ground
In the arms of the Gypsy Davey,
The handsome Gypsy Davey.
Thou took'st with thee my best grey mare.
To ride when thou dids't part-o.
Thou took'st with thee my silver and gold,
And took as well my heart-o.
Forever took, my heart-o.
I could forgive my best grey mare.
Of gold I have great store-o.
But my heart I gave but once away,
And I cannot give it more-o,
Which grieves me ten times more-o.
Come, daughter greet thy mother dear.
Come greet thy new half-brother.
Come wish them well before they go
And leave this hall forever,
And bid farewell forever.
It's not often one gets to read the author's notes on a traditional ballad. Perhaps for the traditionalists amongst you, you might want to hold off before reading this and come to your own conclusions first. Who knows? If we differ in opinion, you may be right.
I've always had trouble with the Gypsy Davey ballad. It's this wonderfully romantic story of the handsome stranger who rides in out of the countryside and steals the heart of a lady. My problem is I've always felt for the husband. There is nothing I've read in any of the versions of the ballad to indicate that the husband has done anything to merit being abandoned by his wife. Yes, he's rich. But jumping to the conclusion that he is therefore also a son of a bitch who has driven his wife into the arms of a stranger is making a rash assumption. I see him as this hard-working Spanish leather salesman who comes home from the office one night to find the house dark.
And what is his reaction? He goes riding after the fleeing couple, not with sword in hand like Lord Arnold after his wife and Matty Groves, but with heart in hand. He confronts her, not with a threat, but with a plea:
" Wilt thou forsake thy house and land?
Wilt thou forsake thy baby?
Wilt thou forsake thy husband dear
To go with the Gypsy Davey?"
And when she says, essentially, "Yep!", he leaves with what grace and dignity a man can muster under such circumstances.
The other problem I have is this: What is a high-born woman, who has lived in luxury all her life, and has no survival skills, going to do on the road with a band of gypsies? It's not going to last a month. And no matter who abandons whom, she's going to be pregnant when they part ways. So a year later, in desperation, cold and hungry, she arrives at her husband's door, babe in arms. That's where I picked up the story.
I did not know how the story would go when I started writing it. I put them in a situation, asked myself the question, "What would happen now?", and then wrote a verse. I then said "Now what would happen?" and wrote another verse. I did not know how it would end, until I wrote the lines,
" But my heart I gave but once away And I cannot give it more-o."
At that point, I knew he could never take her back. And although he does not "pierce his wife through the heart and pin her against the wall" like Lord Arnold, he nonetheless does send her and her newborn back out into the wintry wilderness, undoubtedly to die of exposure or hunger. It's sad indeed. It's particularly sad for me because I think that Mike Agranoff would have taken her back, but the character he created was not able to.
21 December 1996