Nottamun Town

This ballad has had a life in a number of traditions, including Medieval English all the way to American Appalachian. The tune even crops up in Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” It’s a great tune with a set of contradicting lyrics that seem to obfuscate a deeper meaning, whether that is true or not. The video is the legendary Bert Jansch‘s gritty version of the song.

From Wikipedia:

The song is fairly popular in the English Midlands, particularly in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Southern Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, which lends credence to the theory that the Nottamun in the song is a corruption of Nottingham.

Theories abound as to the meaning of the song, but two are generally accepted as probable:

1. That it derives from the Feast of Fools or Mummers’ Plays and their absurd topsy-turvy worlds.
2. That it refers to the English Civil War. In this war, Charles I of England raised his first army around Nottingham, and it may be a corruption of that city’s name that gives the song its title. A popular theme at the time with diarists and pamphleteers was ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ and there are many famous woodcuts dating from this period with illustrations of cats chasing dogs, men wearing boots on their hands and the like.

Nottamun Town

In Nottamun Town, not a soul would look up,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town

I bought me a horse twas called a grey mare
Grey mane and grey tail and green stripe on her back
Grey mane and grey tail and green stripe on her back
Weren’t a hair upon her that was not coal black

She stood so still threw me to the dirt
She tore at my hide, she bruised my shirt
From saddle to stirrup I mounted again
And on my ten toes I rode over the plain

When I got there no one did I see
They all stood around me just looking at me
I called for a cup to drive gladness away
And stifle the dust for it rained the whole day

And the King and the Queen and the company more
Came a riding behind and a walking before
Come a stark naked drummer beating a drum
With his hands in his bosom came marching along

Sat down on a hard hot cold frozen stone
Ten thousand stood round me but I was alone
Took my hat in my hand to keep my head warm
Ten thousand was drowned that never was born

In Nottamun Town, not a soul would look up,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town

Advertisements

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