Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence: The Raggle Taggle Gypsy

The Waterboys: The Raggle Taggle Gypsy


There is a common motif in folk songs, where a wealthy woman, often a noble, seduces or goes off with a man with no money. The husband discovers this, and goes after her or finds her in the act. From here, either the husband kills the lover and sometimes the wife as well, or you get something like what happens here. In The Raggle Taggle Gypsy, the husband reminds his noble wife of all that she is giving up, and begs her to return. She makes her choice, and leaves with the gypsy, and the husband lets her go. Why does he let her go so easily? Remember that she is a noblewoman, and that means that she is in an arranged marriage. These kinds of marriages were all about status, with love being an occasional happy accident. In this case, he does not seem to love her any more than she loves him. Her escape is a declaration of personal independence, although the actual declaration comes at a point earlier in the song, and most people miss it. The gypsy comes to her door, and she goes upstairs to change clothes. In The Waterboys’ version, the lady “put on her suit of leather-o”. Other versions make it even clearer, saying, “Then she pulled off her silk finished gown and put on hose of leather, O!” This isn’t simply a matter of practicality. The changing of clothes here is a ritual act that represents casting off her old life in favor of the new.

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