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Miller’s Maggot (G)

The single jig “Miller’s Maggot” shows up in some tune collections as a slide – some tune collections don’t even have a separate single jig category.  As for the title, it is often repeated that the word “maggot” is from the Italian magioletta, a type of dance.  I have also seen the following, or something very near it, written many, many places: “The word “magioletta” in Italian literally means something small, a thing of little importance, a trifle or plaything.”  However, I can’t find the word in any of my Italian dictionaries, and could find no confirmation of these claims. There was a sixteenth century Italian country dance called a Spagnoletta (Spañ-o-letta), but haven’t found independent sources for a magioletta dance.  Oddly, in Italian “magio” means “priest” or “wise man,” as in the biblical magi, and the word “maggio” is just the month of May.  Further, “letta” is a suffix expressing rapidity, as a “quick look.”  So, if there is a maggioletta, I’m guessing it was some sprightly Italian Spring dance, but I’m still researching this.

Dancing in the Street

Dancing in the Street

Anyway, whatever the continental origin of this term, in English the derivative word “maggot” came to have a few meanings from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, referring not only to a dance or dance-tune, but also to anything whimsical or comical, including a perverse fancy or attachment to someone, as well as a small liquid measure (of alcohol) close to a dram – a “little pick-me-up” to get one back in good spirits (or get one in good with the spirits).  The maggot, as a dance and tune, would be bright and lively, but short, its own kind of “little pick-me-up.”  As a popular dance in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, it was a sixteenth century long-ways country dance (i.e., where a line of men face a line of women, as many as can).  It would be practiced for the occasion and celebrate the generosity of someone, or the host of the céilí, and so would be dedicated to the person (or person’s occupation) that appears in the title: “Aaron’s Maggot,” “Betsy’s Maggot,” “Jack’s Maggot,” “My Lord Byron’s Maggot,” “The Draper’s Maggot,” “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot,” “The Miller’s Maggot.” Thomas Augustine Arne (March 1710 – March 1778), the British theatre composer, writer of “Rule, Britannia!,” and one of a handful of candidates who are claimed to have written the de facto British national anthem “God Save the King/Queen” – the tune of which crossed the pond and was used by Samuel F. Smith (1808–95) for the setting of his poem “My Country ’Tis of Thee” (1832) – was also fond of composing short dance pieces, one of which he called “A Maggot” to be played con spirito.  In general, a maggot could involve any dance configuration as long as it was energetic and playful.

If you want the ABC click Miller’s Maggot

Miller’s Maggot, slow

Miller’s Maggot, med

Miller’s Maggot, the dots

Miller's Maggot

Miller’s Maggot





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