Balladry bleak—Note

From English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, collected by Cecil J. Sharp and edited by Maud Karpeles, 2 vols. (Cambridge U.P., 1932 [Putnam’s, 1917]



Old Lamkin was as good a mason
As ever laid a stone.
He built the finest castle,
And payment he had none.

Then at such an hour
The king rode from home,
Saying: Beware of old Lamkin,
He’ll be here at noon.

What care I for Lamkin,
Or any other man?
My doors are all locked
And my windows pinned down.

At twelve o’clock at night
Old Lamkin come,
And no one so ready
As the false nurse to let him in.

How could we get her downstairs
On such a dark night?
Why, we’ll stick her little baby
Full of needles and pins.

What a pity, what a pity,
Cried old Lamkin.
No pity, no pity,
Cried the false nurse to him.

Pretty Betsy coming downstairs
Not thinking any harm,
And there stood old Lamkin
To catch her in his arms.

O spare my life, Lamkin,
O spare it, I pray.
You shall have as much gay gold
As my horse can carry away.

What cares I for your gay gold,
Or any other thing?
I have got my desire,
That’s all I do crave.

O spare my life, Lamkin,
O spare it, I pray.
You shall have my daughter Betsy,
My own blooming flower.

Keep your daughter Betsy
To wade through the blood
And scour the silver basin
That catched your own heart’s blood.

I: 204-205 (sung and transcribed 1917)


The Three Butchers

Johnson said to Dicky
One cold winter’s day:
Let’s go ride the mountain
For to pass the time away.

They rode up on the mountain,
The mountain being high.
Dicky said to Johnson:
I heard a woman cry.

They looked off to the right
And then to the left;
Dicky seen a naked woman
All chained down by herself.

Dicky, being kind
To all the female kind,
He wropt a great coat round her
And took her on behind.

They rode on to a little place farther
To a certain point of the road.
She slapped three fingers over her eyes
And gave three screams and a cry.

Out stepped seven robbers
With weapons in their hands,
Took Dicky by the bridle,
Said: Young man, your life is mine.

Johnson said to Dicky:
Let’s take wings and fly.
Dicky said to Johnson:
I’ll die before I fly.

And from that morning
Till the sun set that night,
Dicky killed all six of the robbers
And made the seventh take flight.

Dicky being tired,
He laid down to rest.
That woman stole his dagger
And stuck it in his breast.

Good woman, good woman,
Can you tell me the crime you have done?
You have killed the bravest soldier
That ever fought the gun.

I: 370-371 (sung and transcribed 1916)


The Miller’s Apprentice

I fell in love with a Knoxvlle girl,
Her name was Flora Dean.
Her rosy cheeks, her curly hair,
I really did admire.

Her father he persuaded me
To take Flora for a wife;
The devil he persuaded me
To take Flora’s life.

Up stepped her mother so bold and gay,
So boldly she did stand:
Johnny dear, go marry her
And take her off my hands.

I went into her father’s house
About nine o’clock at night,
Asking her to take a walk
To do some prively talk.

We had not got so very far
Till looking around and around,
I stooping down picked up a stick
And knocks little Flora down.

She fell upon her bended knees,
For mercy she did cry:
O Johnny dear, don’t murder me,
For I’m not fit to die.

I took her by her lily-white hands
A-slung her around and around;
I drug her off to the river-side,
And plunged her in to drown.

I returned back to my miller’s house
About nine o’clock at night,
But little did my miller know
What I had been about.

The miller turned around and about,
Said: Johnny, what blooded your clothes?
My being so apt to take a hint:
By bleeding at the nose.

About nine or ten days later,
Little Flora she was found,
A-floating down by her father’s house
Who lived in Knoxville town.

I: 407-408 (sung and transcribed 1917)


The Single Girl

When I was single, went dressed all so fine;
Now I am married, go ragged all the time.
I wish I was a single girl again,
O Lord, don’t I wish I was a single girl again.

When I was single, my shoes did screak;
Now I am married, my shoes they do leak.

Three little babes crying for bread,
With none to give them, I’d rather be dead.

One a-crying: Mamma, I want a piece of bread;
One a-crying: Mamma, I want to go to bed.

Wash them little feet and put them to bed,
Along comes a drunkard and wishes they were dead.

Wash their little feet and send them to school,
Along comes a drunkard and calls them a fool.

When he comes in, it’s a curse and a row,
Knocking down the children and pulling out my hair.

Dishes to wash, springs to go to;
When you are married, you’ve all to do.

Supper to get, the cows to milk,
Them blamed little children is all crying yet.

I: 32 (sung and transcribed 1916)