The grazier's daughter living near,
A fair young damsel as you shall hear,
Then up to London she did go,
To seek for service as you shall know.
Her master having but one son,
Oh! she being fair, his heart she won,
Oh! Betsy being so very fair,
She drawed his heart into a snare.
One Sunday evening he stole her thyme,
Unto young Betsy he told his mind,
"By all the swearing powers above,
'Tis you, fair Betsy, 'tis you I love."
His mother then being standing nigh,
Hearing these words that her son did say,
Next morning by the break of day,
Unto fair Betsy she took her way.
Saying, "Rise up, rise up, my fair Betsy,
And dress yourself most gallantly,
For in the country you must go,
Along with me for one day or two."
As they were a-crossing over the plain,
They saw some ships sailing over the main,
No wit, no wit could this poor woman have,
But to sell poor Betsy to be a slave.
In a few days after the mother returned,
"Oh! welcome, mother," replied the son,
"Come, tell me, tell me true, I pray,
Where is young Betsy? Behind you say?"
"Oh! son, oh! son, I plainly see,
What love you bear to poor Betsy;
Your sobbing and sighing are all in vain,
For Betsy's a-sailing across the main."
In a few days after her son lie sick,
No sort of music his heart could take,
But he often did sigh and often cry,
"Oh! Betsy, Betsy, I shall die."
In a few days after her son lie dead,
Mother wrung her hands and she tore her head,
Saying, "If I could fetch but my son again,
I'd send for Betsy far over the main."
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Purslow, F, (1968), The Wanton Seed, EDFS, London
Frank Purslow's notes follow:
Hammond D 251. Text and tune from Robert Barratt, Puddletown, one of the Hammonds' finest singers who sang them over 50 songs, nearly all of them complete. This song has become almost a classic of the folk song world due to the fine version which Harry Cox sings and which has been in his family over two hundred years - see the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, 1958, pp 150-1. In this journal Miss Sara Jackson records that two versions of the text were printed in the Journal of American Folklore, Decemeber 1899; these had been in oral circulation in Massachusetts around 1800. The ballad was a great favourite with the broadside presses and it had wide dissemination: Gavin Grieg found the song in circulation in the North East of Scotland in the early years of this [20th] century. The tune is a variant of one of the closely related group of tunes which, like the other group mentioned under Bedlam, are usually in the ABBA form, but in the Mixolydian or Ionian modes. The Croppy Boy is an example of the type (see "Marrowbones", p21). Barratt's tune has overtones of The Croppy Boy in fact, and so does Harry Cox's, although his is a different type of tune.
Laws M20, under the title of "Betsy Is a Beauty Fair (Johnny and Betsy; The Lancaster Maid)." There's a Pitts edition at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads.
Printer: Pitts, J. (London)
Date: between 1819 and 1844
Imprint: Pitts, printer, Toy and Marble Warehouse, 6, Great st Andrew street 7 Dials
Harding B 16(23a)
Ballads: 1. The betrayed maiden ("Of a brazier's daughter who lived near ...")
Subject: Servants; Indentured servants; Social status; Lovers parted; Virginia
Texts of "Love Overthrown. The Young Man's Misery; And the Maids Ruine"; "Constancy Lamented: Or, a Warning for Unkind Parents"; and "The Betrayed Maiden" (the version above) are at Bruce Olson's More Scarce Songs page (Click here).
Roud: 156 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six