Nottamun Town

Jean Ritchie and some friends.

The passing of Jean Ritchie reminded me of this song. Jean said it was a nonsense song from the Mummer's Plays of medieval England. The moody melody lends the song a surreal quality. Bob Dylan liked it and used the tune for Masters of War.

Nottamun sounds like a corruption of Nottingham. This is likely because the song is still sung in that same region of the English midlands.

I learned countless songs for Jean's recordings and I hope I may have learned a little of her unparalleled song-craft.

Here, I use one of Peggy Seeger's 'dulcimer tunings' for the banjo: gCGCC.

Lyrics: 

In fair 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 Nottamun Town

I rode a grey horse, it was called a gray mare
Grey mane and grey tail, green stripe down her back
Grey mane and grey tail, green stripe down her back
There wa'nt a hair on her be-what was coal black

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

Met the King and the Queen and the company more
Came a riding behind and a marchin' before
Come a stark naked drummer, -a beating a drum
With his heels in his bosom come marching along

They laughed and they smiled, not a soul did look gay
They talked all the while, not a word they did say
I bought me a quart to drive gladness away
And to stifle the dust, for it rained the whole day

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

Instruments: