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As I walked out one morn betime,
To view the fields in May, Sir,
There I espied a fair sweet maid,
Among the new-mown hay, Sir.
Among the new-mown hay.

I said: 'Good morning, pretty maid,
How come you here so soon, say?'
'To keep my father's sheep,' she said
'A thing that must be done, aye!
Among the new-mown hay.

'While they be feeding mid the dew,
To pass the time away, Sir!
I sit me down to knit and sew,
Among the new-mown hay, Sir!
Among the new-mown hay.'

I asked if she would wed with me,
All on that sunny day, Sir!
The answer that she gave to me
Was surely not a nay, Sir!
Among the new-mown hay.

Then to the church we sped with speed
And Hymen join'd our hands, Sir!
No more the ewes and lambs she'll feed
Since she did make her answer,
Among the new-mown hay.

A lord I be, a lady she,
To town we sped straightway, Sir!
To bless the day, we both agree,
We met among the hay, Sir!
Among the new-mown hay.

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Source: Source: Songs Of The West, S. Baring-Gould

Baring Gould notes:
Bell, in his "Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry," p.223, gives this song. He says that it is "a village version of an incident which occured in the Cecil family." Tennyson composed his "Lord of Burleigh" on the same topic. So did Moore, his song "You remember Helen, the hamlet's pride." But it may well be questioned whether either of these compositions come up to the grace of this little "village version" of the tale.

The ballad, however, is probably much earlier than the Cecil marriage, and refers to some other legendary mesalliance. Henry Cecil, afterwards Earl and still later first Marquis of Exeter, saw, loved and married a farmer's daugter named Sarah Hoggins, at Bolas Magna in Staffordshire in 1790, he under the assumed name of John Jones. She was then aged seventeen and he aged thirty-seven. Moreover, he was married at the time to Miss Vernon, a Worcestershire lady, to whom he had been united in 1776. In 1791, Henry Cecil obtained a divorce from his wife, Emma Vernon, and then was married in his proper name to Sarah Hoggins, at St Mildreds, Bread Street, in the City of London. Not fully six years later, the "Cottage Countess" died; and after three years,the widower espoused a divorcee, sometime wife of the eighth Duke of Hamilton. Happily no question as to the legitimacy of the children arose. Henry, the eldest, was not born till 1793. He died the same year; but his brother, Brownlow, born two years later, lived to succeed his father in 1804.

These plain facts take away most of the romance of the "Cottage Countess." moreover, Henry Cecil did not meet his Sarah amongst the new-mown hay. He arrived at Bolas in a chaise in a snow storm, late in November 1788 and was lodged for a few nights in the farm. There he saw Sarah, who with friends was dancing. She was then only fifteen and a half years old. Cecil left, but returned in eighteen months and married her, as has already been said, under an assumed name, and before he was quit of his first wife. The whole story has been told in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, part 60 (sixth series), December 1, 1902.

Melody taken down from James Dingle, Coryton.

Roud: 2941 (Search Roud index at VWML)

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