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Encyclopedia > Mallard Song

The Mallard Song is a notorious tradition of All Souls College, Oxford. It is sung once a century in a ceremony in which the Fellows parade around the College with flaming torches, led by a "Lord Mallard" who is carried in a chair, in search of a giant mallard that supposedly flew out of the foundations of the college when it was being built in 1437. The procession is led by an individual carrying a duck - originally dead, now just wooden - tied to the end of a vertical pole. The ceremony was last held in 2001.

The song

The words of the song are as follows:

The Griffine, Bustard, Turkey & Capon
Lett other hungry Mortalls gape on
And on theire bones with Stomacks fall hard,
But lett All Souls' Men have ye Mallard.
Hough the bloud of King Edward,
By ye bloud of King Edward,
It was a swapping, swapping mallard!
Some storys strange are told I trow
By Baker, Holinshead & Stow
Of Cocks & Bulls, & other queire things
That happen'd in ye Reignes of theire Kings.
The Romans once admir'd a gander
More than they did theire best Commander,
Because hee saved, if some don't foolle us,
The place named from ye Scull of Tolus.
The Poets fain'd Jove turn'd a Swan,
But lett them prove it if they can.
To mak't appeare it's not att all hard:
Hee was a swapping, swapping mallard.
Hee was swapping all from bill to eye,
Hee was swapping all from wing to thigh;
His swapping tool of generation
Oute swapped all ye wingged Nation.
Then lett us drink and dance a Galliard
in ye Remembrance of ye Mallard,
And as ye Mallard doth in Poole,
Lett's dabble, dive & duck in Boule.


The word "swapping", repeatedly used in the chorus, is a now-obsolete use from Middle English meaning "striking" (as in "what a remarkably big duck that is!").

The identity of King Edward in the song is not known; there have been four English monarchs of that name.

The reference to "Jove turn'd a Swan" refers to the mythical incident in which the Roman god Jupiter transformed himself into a swan to seduce Queen Leda.

Not surprisingly, the Victorians disapproved of the reference to the mallard's "swapping tool of generation", mightier than any other in "ye wingged Nation" (of birds). They dropped this verse from the song but to the delight of traditionalists, it was restored in the 2001 ceremony.

The last two lines are an invitation to the singers to retire to a convenient watering-hole. They could be paraphrased as saying "in much the same way as the Mallard dives into a pond, let us dive into a drinking bowl."

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Mallard Song - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (418 words)
The Mallard Song is a notorious tradition of All Souls College, Oxford.
The identity of King Edward in the song is not known; it could refer to any of the five English monarchs of that name (three numbered, and two earlier monarchs) up to the time the song was created.
They dropped this verse from the song, but to the delight of traditionalists, it was restored in the 2001 ceremony.
Special EventsÂ…The Mallard Society (821 words)
The earliest reference to the Mallard in connection with the College comes from January 1632, when three young "Mallardyzers" were disciplined for bringing strangers in and causing disturbance and damage during the night.
He describes a torchlit procession round the College and on the roofs, in which a mallard was carried on a pole; there was a "Lord of the Mallard", attended by six officers who carried white staves and wore medals on which the ceremony was depicted.
He quotes a bogus document purporting to be a fifteenth-century account of the discovery of the mallard in the drain, as foretold to Chichele in a dream.
  More results at FactBites »



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