Matty Groves (Little Musgrave) - Chords, Lyrics and Origins


The version of Matty Groves by Alela Diane and Alina Hardin that features in the YouTube video on this page is chordally simpler than some, but no less appealing for that.  In this version of Matty Groves there are only three chords, but the lyrics shine through.  Matty Groves is Child ballad number 81.  That is to say that it is one of the songs collected and published in the nineteenth century by Francis James Child.  It goes by a variety of names (Nic Jones recorded a wonderful version called 'Little Musgrave' for example), and the anti-hero lord who features in it is sometimes Lord Arlen, sometimes Lord Donald, and sometimes Lord Arnold, amongst a variety of other names.  However, despite these and other minor differences, the story is always that of a a poor man killed for bedding his master's wife.  The song certainly existed in the seventeenth century, and probably prior to that.  There's an excellent account of the origins of Matty Groves, and of many of the better known recordings of it (including famous renditions by Fairport Convention, Joan Baez, Doc Watson and others) here.

song - Matty Groves (Little Musgrave) - on iTunes

Click here to download Matty Groves (Little Musgrave) from the iTunes Store.


Capo at 2nd Fret


A holiday, a holiday,

And the first one of the year.

Lord Arlen's wife came into the church

The Gospel for to hear


And when the meeting it was done

She cast her eyes about

And there she saw little Matty Groves

Walking in the crowd


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

And when the meeting it was done
She cast her eyes about,
And there she saw little Matty Groves
Walking in the crowd.

"Come home with me, little Matty Groves,
Come home with me tonight.
Come home with me, little Matty Groves,
And sleep with me 'til light"

"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 my master's wife."

"What if I am Lord Arlen's wife,
Lord Arlen's not at home.
He is out in the far cornfields,
Bringing the yearlings home."

A servant who was standing by
And hearing what was said,
He swore Lord Arlen he would know
Before the sun would set.

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

Matty 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?
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 wife
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
That I skew a naked man."

"Oh I can'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 but a pocket knife."

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

"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 Matty struck the very first blow
And he hurt Lord Arlen sore.
Lord Arlen struck the very next blow
And Matty struck no more.

And then Lord Arlen he took his wife
And he sat her upon his knee,
Saying, "Who do you like the best of us,
Matty Groves or me?"

And then up spoke his own dear wife,
Never heard to speak so free:
"I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips
Than you or your finery."

Lord Arlen he jumped up
And loudly he did bawl;
He struck 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 -
She was of noble kin."