A holiday, a holiday,
And the first one of the year,
Lord Darnell's wife came into the church,
The gospel for to hear.
And when the meeting it was done,
She cast her eyes about,
And there she saw little Matty Groves,
Walking in the crowd.
“Come home with me little Matty Groves,
Come home with me tonight,
Come home with me little Matty Groves,
And sleep with me till light.”
“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 Darnell's wife.”
“What if I am Lord Darnell's wife?
Lord Darnell's not at home.
For he is out in the far cornfields,
Bringing the yearlings home.”
And a servant, who was standing by,
And hearing what was said,
He swore Lord Darnell, he would know
Before the sun would set.
And in his hurry to carry the news,
He bent his breast and ran,
And when he came to the broad mill-stream,
He took off his shoes and swam.
Little Matty Groves, he lay down,
And took a little sleep;
When he awoke, Lord Darnell,
He was standing at his feet.
Saying, “How d'you like my feather bed?
And how d'you like my sheets?
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 gay,
Who lies in my arms asleep.”
“Well get up, get up,” Lord Darnell cried,
“Get up as quick as you can!
It'll never be said in fair England,
I slew a naked man.”
“Oh, I can'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 not a pocket-knife.”
“Well, it's true I have two beaten swords,
And they cost me deep in the purse,
But you will have the better of them,
And I will have the worse.
“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 Matty struck the very first blow,
And he hurt Lord Darnell sore;
Lord Darnell struck the very next blow,
And Matty struck no more.
And then Lord Darnell, he took his wife,
And he set her on his knee,
Saying, “Who do you like the best of us,
Matty Groves or me?”
And then up spoke his own dear wife,
Never heard to speak so free,
“I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips
Than you or your finery.”
Lord Darnell, he jumped up,
And loudly he did bawl.
He struck his wife right through the heart,
And pinned her against the wall!
“A grave, a grave,” Lord Darnell cried,
“To put these lovers in;
But bury my lady at the top,
For she was of noble kin.”
“Matty Groves” or “Little Musgrave” is a very common ballad in the English language, and is found in England, Scotland, Ireland and America. I called this version English because it's the version reworked and recorded by the predominately English band Fairport Convention (on Liege and Lief, 1969), and the words are fairly well Anglicized. Regardless of where the original words to this version came, the tune is derived from the traditional American song “Shady Grove.”