The Coo Song

Kage Baker loved to sing. Her prodigious memory allowed hundreds of song lyrics to live comfortably in her head, and some trick of mental organization gave her an extraordinary ear for harmony. She could improvise harmony instantly, to just about anything, in particularly gorgeous ways. She also had a beautiful smoky alto voice, sometimes husky but never hoarse.

We sang together. A lot. Our household was always filled with music; all our trips had sound tracks. I, being a soprano, sang melody – it takes so much oxygen to sing that high at all (said Kage) that one cannot expect a soprano to manage harmony as well …  and anyway, I was used to being the trellis, the sturdy  frame around which Kage wove arabesques and tessellations of harmony.

We sang at Renaissance Faires – not usually as an act (though there was a brief trio with our good buddy Athene, memorably named – by Kage – as Dame Fortune’s Privates …) but just sitting about. Group singalongs were common in the Inn Yard, beautiful explosions and fireworks of music. For those occasions, of course, we learned every folk song we could find – and believe me, the dedicated singers and musos of a Renaissance Faire can find a lot of music. It didn’t take us long to exhaust Steeleye Span and mind out everything intelligible from the Watersons – though one or two of those we actually had to translate out of the original Yorkshire, as otherwise no one could ever have told what the hell we were saying. Some of those turned out to be amazingly risque, too …

Anyway. I could go on for days about our singing – and probably will, eventually – but someone raised a question concerning yestreday’s post. Medrith (such a lovely name!) asked for the lyrics to The Cow Song.

Now, I don’t remember where we learned this. But it was one of our favourites. The trick of it is, every verse has a slightly different melody – so it’s a bit of an exercise in memory, especially for Kage, the Queen of Harmony. Also, there is the amusingly relentless way the girl in the song just keeps yelling “NO – I think my mother will see us,” no matter what her sweetheart pleads. Even after he gives up.

This song – called, by us, back in the sweet misty dawn of time, The Coo Song to make the first couplet rhyme – was a favourite. We sang it to Scotty, our then-little friend who is now a paternally bearded man of 46 … we sang it as we walked under the flowering oaks and willows, through the thickets of wild rose, between the booths breathing perfumes of frankincense and marinated beef. There are other songs about cows (and we knew them, too) but this is It. The One. The. Coo. Song.

If I figure out a way to attach the melody, I will try. But it will not have Kage’s voice of liquid amber working through the changes … still, Medrith, I offer what I have. Enjoy it.

Hey, trolly lolly lo, maid, whither go you?
I go to the meadow to milk my cow.
Then at the meadow I shall you meet,
To gather the flowers so fair and sweet
Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not be!
Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

Now in this meadow fair and green
We may esport and not be seen
And if ye will, I shall consent
How say ye, maid? be ye content?
Nay, in good faith, I will not mell with you!
I pray you, sir, let me go milk my cow!                                                                                      Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not  be!                                                             Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

Why will ye not give me no comfort,
That now in these fields we may us sport?                                                                               Nay, in good faith, I will not mell with you!
I pray you, sir, let me go milk my cow!
Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not be!
Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

Ye are so nice and  meet of age
Ye have greatly moved my courage
Sith I love you, love me again.
Let us make one, though we be twain.
Nay, in good faith, I will not mell with you!
I pray you, sir, let me go milk my cow!
Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not be!
Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

Ye have my heart, say what ye will,
Wherefore ye must my mind fulfill,
And grant me here your maidenhead,
Or else I shall for you be dead.
Nay, in good faith, I will not mell with you!
I pray you, sir, let me go milk my cow!
Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not be!
Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

Then for this once I shall you espare,
But the next time ye must beware,
How in the meadow ye milk your cow (your cow)
Adieu, farewell, and kiss me now!                                                                                            Adieu, farewell, and kiss me now!
Nay, in good faith, I will not mell with you!
I pray you, sir, let me go milk my cow!
Nay, God forbid, that may not be, that may not be!
Iwis my mother then shall I see
Iwis my mother then shall I see

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to The Coo Song

  1. Medrith says:

    Thank you so much! That’s a wonderful song. I wonder if my singer friend Mac from Hogeye Navvy knows it?
    Thank you too for the compliment on my name. My Aunt Medrith never cared for it but I’ve always been very glad of it.

    Like

  2. athene says:

    Be sure to note that in order to fit musically, there is some rather tortured pronunciation required:
    Ye have great-LEE moved my cour-AGE, being but one, if memory serves…;-)

    Like

  3. Kate says:

    It’s a song like no other, for the acrobatics it requires. But it’s so much fun!

    Like

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