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The Female Drummer

  • Trad

    I listed in the army in uniform quite new
    And if they let me have a drum I'll be a drummer too
    To rush into the battlefield with a broadsword in my hand
    To hear the cannon rattle and the music play so grand
    And the music play so grand, and the music play so grand
    To hear the cannon rattle and the music play so grand

    When I was a young girl at the age of sixteen
    From my home I ran away to go and serve the Queen
    The officer who enlisted me said, You are a fine young man
    I think you'll make a drummer, so just step this way, young man

    They led me to my office, they let me off to bed
    And lying by a soldier's side I never was afraid
    And taking off my old red coat I oftimes used to smile
    To think myself a drummer, yet a female all the while

    My waist long and slender, my fingers neat and small
    And very soon they taught me how to play the best of all
    I played upon the kettle drum as other drummers played
    I played upon my kettle drum and I'll beat the drum again

    They sent me off to London to be guard o'er the Tower
    And there I would have been until this very day and hour
    But a young girl fell in love with me, she found I was a maid
    She went straightway to my officer, my secret betrayed

    My officer he sent for me to see if it was true
    But I all for to beat him said I already knew
    There's a pension award for you, he smiled and he said
    It's a pity we should lose you, such a drummer as you made

    So fare you well, my officer, you have been kind to me
    And fare you well, my comrades, you ne'er forgot shall be
    And should the British Army fall short of any men
    I'll put on my hat and feather and I'll beat the drum again

    (as sung by Frankie Armstrong)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • english  [1971:] [From] a Yorkshire girl via Percy Grainger, Bert Lloyd and the Watersons. (Notes Steeleye Span, 'Please to See the King')

  • english [1972:] [Words substantially similar to above version, slightly more ribald but not enough, perhaps, to merit Dallas's comments.] This is one of my favourite bits of ribaldry. The charming drum:maidenhead symbolism of the chorus
    With her gentle waist so slender, her fingers long and small
    She could play upon the rub-a-dub the best of them all
    (which suggests she wasn't actually a maiden all the while after all) and the suggestive buttoning and unbuttoning which goes on must have made it a delightful fancy for soldiers separated from their womenfolk. (Dallas, Wars 36)

  • english [1975:] Evidently a great favourite, this song, not so long ago. 'Well known in Aberdeenshire', said Gavin Greig. Hammond found versions in Somerset. About the same time, Grainger heard it in Lincolnshire. Frankie got her version from the singing of Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk. It goes back at least to the eighteenth century, and there's a broadside of it, c. 1790, in the Bodleian Library. The adventurous girl who disguises herself as a drummer-boy runs her risks with admirable lightness. One version of the song has: 'In pulling on my breeches, it causes me to smile, To think I lay with a thousand men and a maiden all the while.' (A.L.Lloyd, notes Frankie Armstrong, 'Songs and Ballads')

  • english [1977:] The ballad may well date from between 1793 and the end of the century. Its main point is less, of course, the army's campaigns than a sprightly treatment of the well-worn theme of the woman warrior. It is possible that The Female Drummer is partly based on incidents in the life of Mary Anne Talbot, whose autobiography appeared in 1809 under the title of 'Life and surprising adventures of Mary Anne Talbot in the name of John Taylor, related by herself'.

    She was born in London in 1778, the youngest of sixteen natural children which her mother bore to Lord William Talbot. Her mother died in childbirth but Mary Anne was brought up by guardians, presumably at his lordship's expense, first at Chester, then at Newport, Shropshire. In 1792 a Captain Bowen was entrusted with the task of taking her to London to put her 'under the care of a female friend', but he preferred to make her his mistress. When he was ordered to the West Indies he forced her to take the name of John Taylor and to accompany him, dressed as a foot boy. No sooner had they arrived in the West Indies than Bowen was ordered to join the Duke of York's army in Flanders. He decided to enrol his protegee in the army as a drummer boy, and overcame her objections by threatening to sell her as a slave. She 'was immediately equipped in the dress of a drummer, and learnt the art of beating the drum from the instructions of drum-major Rickardson'. Duly prepared, she travelled to Europe with Bowen, in time to be at the siege of Valenciennes, where she was twice wounded. This might have proved very inconvenient, but 'I ... effected a perfect cure', she tells us, 'by the assistance of a little basilicon, lint, and a few Dutch drops'.

    After the fall of Valenciennes she witnessed a distressing incident [the hanging of a deserter]. Shortly afterwards she received the news that Bowen had been killed during the final assault. She decided to desert, and made good her escape dressed as a sailor. Her adventures as a female tar do not concern us here. Suffice it to say that her secret was finally uncovered when a surgeon came to dress further wounds which she had sustained. She underwent a good deal of treatment at various hospitals, petitioned the Duke of York for assistance, and went on the stage. In short, by about 1800, she had become a minor celebrity. She died in 1808, at the age of 30. Her book, if it be hers, may be partly or wholly fictional. In its defence, one can say that there do appear to be reasonably well-authenticated instances of women serving in the army and navy in men's attire. (Palmer, Soldier 164ff)

  • english [1979:] Women in men's clothes [...] existed not only in the fantasies of lonely men in the army or navy, but in real life too. The Parish Register of St. Botolph's, Aldgate, for example, has this entry for 17 July 1655. "William Clark, son of John Clark, a soldier and Thomasina his wife who herself went for a souldier and was billeted at the Three Hammers in East Smithfield about seven months and after was delivered of this child. [...] She had been a souldier by her own confession about five years and was sometime drummer to the company." There was Mrs. Christian Welsh who enlisted twice in the army, once to find her husband, the second time for her own interest; Hannah Snell, marine in the East Indies, later Chelsea outpensioner and publican and, among others, Mary Anne Talbot on whose experiences this song may have been based. Nor were these women always in pursuit of their lost lovers. Some, like Mrs. Welsh or the female drummer, joined up on their own account. Most important, their existence in the songs demonstrated to the many women who couldn't follow their course, the possibility of seeing their own justice done. [???]
    (Henderson/Armstrong 49)

  • german [1980:] Es gibt viele Lieder, in denen sich eine Frau als Mann verkleidet, aus Abenteuerlust, um einen bestimmten Beruf zu ergreifen, um etwas von der Welt zu sehen. Männer, die sich als Frauen verkleiden, kommen sehr selten vor und werden lächerlich gemacht. "Solche Lieder", sagt Frankie Armstrong, "verraten viel über den Status der Geschlechter." In The Female Drummer verkleidet sich eine Frau und geht zu den Soldaten. Es gibt einige belegte Fälle dieser Art. Uns erscheint das heute kaum vorstellbar; wir müssen aber bedenken, daß in früheren Zeiten die Kleider von Männern oft sehr unterschiedlich waren und daß einfach niemand auf die Idee kam, er könne eine verkleidete Frau vor sich haben. (Gabriele Haefs, Folk Michel 17)

  • english See also ???

Quelle: England

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 Sammlung : Susanne Kalweit (Kiel)
Layout : Henry Kochlin  (Schwerin)

02.11.1999, aktualisiert am 16.10.2003