From the earworm deconstruction department

by , under earworm deconstruction, thinking

De ruiter en het meisje

Here’s a very long version. Mine is from Folkcorn, slightly distorted by singing it from memory uncountable times. Folkcorn says on their website that it was assembled by B.W.E. Deurman from fragments scattered across all of the Netherlands. Now that’s a folk process I like! (A search for this person’s name gives only the same link again, which is a pity because I’d like to see more of their compilations)

Er vrijde eens een ruitertje naar een meid
en ze vrijden allebeide.
Fiederommidommidom, fiederalala,
en ze vrijden allebeide.

A knight once made love to a maiden, and they both made love.
[Tiddly-dum stuff and repetition omitted though it does increase the earworminess]

I wrote about ‘ruiter’ in the context of another earworm. This one is definitely not a highwayman (after all, he has a servant) and I’m translating it as ‘knight’ though he’s probably just a cavalry officer. That he’s in the diminutive in the first line may mean that he’s young (plausible) or of low status, or it may just be for the rhythm.

En ze vrijden samen de hele nacht
van de avond tot de morgen.

And they made love together all night long, from evening until morning.

En toen het morgen geworden was
begon dat meisje te wenen.

And when the morning had come the maiden started to weep.

Poor thing, she knows what’s coming.

Ik zal jou geven een ruitersknecht
en daartoe honderd daalders.

I’ll give you a knight’s servant and a hundred daalders with it.

Daalders aren’t strictly dollars, though that’s the origin of the word. It’s a guilder and a half, and 150 seventeenth- or eighteenth-century guilders –that’s when I estimate the origin of the song– is a substantial sum. But she won’t be bought off:

De ruiter z’n knecht die begeer ik niet,
‘k heb liever het heertje zelve.

I don’t desire the knight’s servant, I’d rather have the lord(ling) himself.

Slightly dodgy, this: “het heertje zelve” could also refer to the knight’s, well, tiddly-um.

Het heertje zelve dat krijg je niet,
ga dan maar naar je moeder.

You won’t get the lord himself, go to your mother then.

As if her mother will able to do anything?

rembrandt etching

Rembrandt van Rijn: his wife Saskia

En toen zij bij haar moeder kwam
lag haar moeder uit het venster.

And when she came to her mother(‘s house) her mother was leaning out of the window.

Waar ben jij deze nacht geweest
van de avond tot de morgen?

Where have you been this night from evening until morning?

I can imagine the mother leaning from the (upstairs) window for hours, waiting for her wanton daughter to come home so she could scold her.

Ik ben vannacht bij de ruiter geweest
en daar heb ik bij geslapen.

I was with the knight tonight, and I slept with him.

Though according to the second verse, they didn’t get much actual sleep! I often sing “daar heb ik mee geslapen” which has only the sexual meaning, while “bij geslapen” can mean just sleeping in the same bed or even in someone’s house as a house-guest.

Maar toen het kind op de wereld kwam
werd het meisje naar het kerkhof gedragen.

But when the child came into the world the maiden was carried to the cemetery.

Wait! Roughly nine months glossed over! No “I think you go with child”, though the long version has three more verses with the mother assuming there will be a child and saying they’ll drown it, and the daughter wanting to send it to its father instead.

En de ruiter droomde op ene nacht
dat zijn liefste was gestorven.

And the knight dreamed one night that his loved one had died.

Now she’s his loved one? When he wanted to fob her off with his servant and a hundred daalders?

En toen hij bij de linde kwam
stond de dode nog boven aarde.

And when he came to the lime tree, the dead woman was still above the earth.

Cemeteries all seem to have lime trees. Some symbolism that I don’t know about, I suppose. (Image search finds beautiful pictures!)

Hij stak zijn sabel al in zijn zij
en hij stak zich daarmee neder.

He stabbed his sabre into his side and he stabbed himself to death with it.

No miraculous recovery of the maiden after the knight kills himself; that would be too much to ask from a song that’s already a tragedy. Instead, bathos:

Daar lag de ruiter, daar lag de meid,
daar lagen ze allebeide.
Fiederommidommidom, fiederalala,
daar lagen ze allebeide.

There the knight lay, there the maiden lay, there they both lay. Tiddly-dum.

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