Mug Your Gate

I wrote this song to promote an idea that my friend Aneleda Falconbridge started on Facebook. It was first performed publicly at Pennsic 42 in the summer of 2013, and was featured in the “Heather Dale and Friends” concert. This was my first attempt at “contrafactum”, a common medieval practice of setting an existing song (in this case, the 1590’s Elizabethan broadside “Watkins Ale”) to new lyrics.

Mug Your Gate 

© 2013 lyrics by Eric Schrager
(Tune of “Watkins Ale”, Elizabethan broadside, ca. 1595)

Good gentles, do you, of an eve,
Wish that you had a slight reprieve
From all the doldrums in your camp,
Without the risk of walking cramp?

    Would you like merriment
    That doesn’t cost a cent?
    So that you can prevent
    Loud complainers?

    Now, friends, there is indeed
    A way to call, with speed,
    “Quick! To our camp! We need

        On your mug some ribbon tie
        (Or some cloth–no need to buy!)
        Hang this mug upon your gate,
        Then, good friends, you’ve but to wait.

This practice comes from Calontir,
Now it is spreading far and near.
Performers soon will spy your sign,
And say “An audience! How divine!”

    Singers will wander through,
    Bards with tales old and new,
    All will endeavor to
    Lift your spirit!

    A steady trickle of
    Antics ridiculous,
    You’ll feel a tickle of
    Joy to hear it!

        Hang that mug before your fire,
        Take it down when you retire.
        Mug your gate, that’s all you do.
        Mug your gate, we’ll come to you!

Some who are pleased will offer food,
That’s at your whim, and per your mood.
Water or drink is kind, dear friend,
And a good signal we should end.

    Wish you a different song?
    Have we come on too strong?
    Are we just running long?
    Pray, do tell us!

    We know a proper set
    Is a few minutes, yet
    Once in a while, we get

        Mug your gate, and we’ll come play.
        Fill our mugs, we’re on our way.
        Mugs with ribbons on your doors,
        Mirth and stories will be yours!

        Mug your gate, and we’ll regale,
        Half an hour, or just one tale.
        Gifts we’ll bring you from the Muse…
        Mug your gate, it’s yours to choose!



While I’m pleased with the song and it has been well-received in the SCA, I will acknowledge some flaws in my adapting of the “Watkins Ale” tune. The lyrics I wrote, and the tune I originally sang, were not a perfect match–this was a rush job (I wrote it in 2 days, since I wanted to share this with the bardic community and have it ready for Pennsic), and I had just started learning “Watkins Ale” and hadn’t memorized the tune perfectly. While I have adjusted my performance to better fit the original tune, there’s still an extra syllable in lines 1 and 3 of each verse’s final stanza (as well as my additional ending stanza), and the tune I sang at Heather’s concert is better but still not quite right.

The recorded version above, however, is sung with the correct tune.


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