Posted by: David Harley | December 29, 2019

Demo: They hang the man and flog the woman

The Inclosure Acts enabled the passing into private hands land that had previously been designated as either ‘common’ or ‘waste’. This process preceded by several centuries the formal Inclosure Acts (which began with an Act if 1604) and continued into the 20th century, resulting in the enclosure of nearly seven million acres. While enclosure facilitated more efficient agricultural methods, that same increased efficiency and loss of communal land was a factor in the move of so many agricultural labourers into towns. There are a number of variations of this poem, which is usually assumed to date from the 1750s or ’60s, when enclosure legislation started to accelerate dramatically. The tune here is mine, recorded for the album ‘Cold Iron‘. :)

There’s a relevant thread on Mudcat here. There is also an article I found more recently on Mainly Norfolk that links to a nice video version by the Askew Sisters (their tune, not mine!)

That Mudcat thread suggests ‘See Amid The Winter’s Snow’ – a nice carol tune, but doesn’t quite right to me. 

I also wrote a more contemporary version of the lyric: The Goose And The Commons. I’m not sure I’ll do a sung version of that, though. 

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common’
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

Words by Anonymous, tune by David Harley


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