Mattie Groves

Traditional

Audio

This example of "Mattie Groves" is performed by Mary Smith.
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

This is #81 in the F.J. Child collection of broadside ballads, and it was also collected in Appalachia, having changed very little.  Irish singer Christy Moore does a very stirring version of this song called "Little Musgrave."

Hi ho, hi ho, on high holiday, the best day of the year 
Little Mattie Groves to church did go, some holy words to hear
Some holy words to hear

He saw two ladies dressed in black, as they came into view
Lord Arlen's wife was gaily clad, a flower among the few
A flower among the few

She tripped up to Mattie Groves, her eyes so low cast down
Sayin stay, oh stay, come with me pray as you pass through the town
As you pass through the town

I cannot go, I dare not go, I fear it would mean my life
For I see by the little ring you wear you are Lord Arlen's wife
You're the great Lord Arlen's wife.

This may be false, this may be true, I can't deny it all
Lord Arlen's gone to consecrate King Henry at Whitehall
King Henry at Whitehall

Her little page did listen well to all that they did say
And err the sun did rise again, he quickly sped away
He quickly sped away

And he did run the King's highway, he swam across the tide
He ne'er did stop until he came to the great Lord Arlen's side
To the great Lord Arlen's side

How now, how now my bully boy? What news brings you to me?
My castle burnt, my tenants robbed, my lady with baby?
My lady with baby?

No harm has come to your house and lands, his little page did say
But Mattie Groves is bedded up with your fair lady  gay
With your fair lady gay

Lord Arlen called his merry men, he bade them with him go
he bade them nary a word to speak and nary a horn to blow
And nary a horn to blow

Now  among Lord Arlen's merry men was one who wished no ill
nd the bravest lad among the crew blew his horn so loud and shrill
Blew his horn so loud and shrill

What's this, what's this cried Mattie Groves, what's this that I do hear
It must be Lord Arlen's merry men, the ones that I do fear
The ones that I do fear

Lie down, lie down little Mattie Groves and keep my back from cold
It's only Lord Arlen's merry men calling the sheep to fold
Calling the sheep to fold

Little Mattie Groves he did lie down, he took a nap asleep
And when he awoke Lord Arlen was standing at his feet
A-standin at his feet

How now, how now, my bully boy, how do you like my sheets?
And how do you like your fair young bride who lies in your arms asleep?
Who lies in your arms asleep?

Oh it's very well I like your bed and it's fine I like your sheets
But it's best I like your fair young bride who lies in my arms asleep
Who lies in my arms asleep

Rise up, rise up little Mattie Groves as fast as e'er ye can
In England it shall ne'er be said that I slew a sleepin man
I slew a sleepin man

Now the first to struck little Mattie struck, he hurt Lord Arlen sore
But the next to stroke Lord Arlen struck little  Mattie struck no more
Little  Mattie struck no more

How now, how now my fair young bride, draw on your pretty clothes
Now tell me do you like me best, or like  your Mattie Groves
Or the dying Mattie Groves

She picked up Mattie's dying head she kissed from cheek to chin
Said it's Mattie Groves I'd rather have than Lord Arlen and all his kin
Lord Arlen and all his kin

Woe is me, woe is me, why staid ye not your hand
For you have killed the fairest lad in all of England
In all of England

Alternate Words

A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year 
Lord Arlen's wife came into church the gospel for to hear. 

And when the meeting it was done she cast her eyes about 
And there she saw little Mattie Groves, walking in the park. 

Come home with me little Mattie Groves, come home with me tonight 
Come home with me little Mattie Groves and sleep with me tonight. 

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 Arlen's wife. 

'Tis true I am Lord Arlen's wife, Lord Arlen's not at home 
He is out to the far corn fields, bringing the yearlings home. 

And the sundt who was standing by and hearing what was said 
He saw Lord Arlen, he would know, before the sun would set. 

And in his hurry to carry the news, he filled his breast and ran 
And when he came to the broad mill stream he took off his shoes and swam 

Little Mattie Groves, he lay down and took a little sleep 
When he awoke Lord Arlen, was standing at his feet 

Saying how do you like my feather bed and how do you like my sheets 
And 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 maid who lies in my arms asleep. 

Well Get Up! Get Up! Lord Arlen cried, Get Up as quick as you can 
It'll never be said in fair England I slew a naked man! 

Oh I won'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 have but a pocket knife. 

Well it's true I have two beaten swords, they cost me deep in the purse 
But you will have the better of them and I will have the worst. 

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 Mattie struck the very first blow and he hurt Lord Arlen sore 
Lord Arlen struck the very next blow and Mattie struck no more. 

And then Lord Arlen he took his wife, he sat her on his knee 
Saying who do you like the best of us, Mattie Groves or me. 

And then spoke up his own dear wife never heard to speak so free 
I'd rather kiss one dead Mattie's lips than you and your finery. 

Lord Arlen he jumped up and loudly he did bawl 
He stuck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall. 

A grave, a grave, Lord Arlen cried, to put these lovers in 
But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin.