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It's forty miles I've gone today,
I spied a cottage on my way,
Which I never had seen before,
Which I never had seen before.

I stepped up to that cottage door,
A pretty, fair maid tripped o'er the floor,
And she cried aloud, "Who's there?"
And she cried aloud, "Who's there?"

"My dear, it hails, it rains, it blows,
And I've got wet through all my clothes,
And I pray you, let me in,
And I pray you, let me in."

"Oh, no! kind sir, that never can be,
For there's no-one in the house but me,
And I dare not let you in,
And I dare not let you in."

I turned me round away to go,
When she did sweet compassion bestow,
And she called me back again,
And she called me back again.

We spent that night in sweet content,
And the very next morning to church we went,
And I made her my lawful bride,
And I made her my lawful bride.

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Source: Kidson F, 1891, Traditional Tunes, Oxford, Taphouse and Son

Kidson wrote:

This is a good song, and was very popular in Yorkshire in former years. [clip] Although it is by no means the same piece, the theme is that of the old Scottish song, "Let me in the ae Night." The tune, of course, bears no affinity to the Scotch one.

The [first] version following is as it was sung in Leeds and district as Mr Holgate and others remember it.

Many collectors have found this song, typically as Forty [long] Miles, and it has turned up in tradition as recently as the 1970s (Yorkshire) and '90s (Somerset). Listed examples are mainly English, but there are Scottish sets in the Greig-Duncan collection and it has been found occasionally in the USA and Canada.

The song as we know it seems not to have been issued on broadsides (the broadside Cottage Near a Wood is not related), but Roy Palmer (Everyman's Book of English Country Songs, Dent 1979, p.90) prints a version, The Charming Bride, noted by Percy Grainger in Lincolnshire, and comments:

"The earliest English version of this delightful piece is a street ballad issued in the reign of James II (1685-88) under the title of John's Earnest Request; Or, Betty's Compassionate Love extended to him in a time of distress." Two copies of this, printed for P. Brooksby between 1672 and 1696, can be seen at ? Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

John's earnest request: or, Betty's compassionate love extended to him in a time of distress

Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1859, II, pp.504-5) and Simpson (The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music, 1966, pp.124-5) both discuss Come, Open the Door, Sweet Betty and print the tune.

Roud: 608 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six

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