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The time is come, I must be going,
The burning tempest I have to cross,
All over the mountains I've rode with pleasure
This very night I'll be with my lass.

I came unto my true love's window,
I knelt down gently upon a stone.
'Twas through a pane that I whispered slowly,
Saying, "My dear girl, are you alone?"

She rose her head from her soft down pillow,
Snowy was her milk-white breast,
Crying, "Who is there outside my window,
That have deprived me of my night's rest?"

"It's your true love, do not discover,
I pray, love, rise and let me in,
I am fatigued after my long journey,
Besides I'm wet unto the skin."

My love she rose with greatest pleasure,
Opening the door for to let me in,
We kissed, shook hands, embraced each other,
Till that long night were at an end.

When that long night were gone and over,
The cocks they did begin to crow.
We kissed, shook hands, in sorrow parted,
I took my leave and away did go.

My love has skin as the snow in winter,
Her cheeks as red as the rose in June,
Her black sparkling eye like a blazing star,
In a winter's night and it freezes too.

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Source: Purslow, F, (1968), The Wanton Seed, EDFS, London

Frank Purlow's extensive (!) notes follow:
Tune and text from Gardiner H 1014 - Willam Stockley, Locksheath, Titchfield, an almost verbatum recital of the broadside text which, however, is too superior to be the work of a printer's hack. General opinion seems to be that it is a version of the ballad of The Grey Cock - no 248 in Child. The relationship between the versions printed by Child (entitled Saw you my Father?) on the one hand, and the broadside text above and a version printed in "The Penguin Book of English Folk Song" (which seems to be an earlier version of the broadside text from which the supernatural element has not entirely disappeared) on the other, is not at all clear. William Chappell insisted that the version of Saw you my Father? which he printed in his "Popular Music" - and which he says was printed in songsters and on broadsides in the 1770's - pre-dated the Scottish version published by Herd in 1769, which admittedly does sound almost like a burlesque of the much more elegant English version, of which Chappell opines that James Hook wrote the air if not the words. In any case neither in the English or the Scottish version is the slightest supernatural element apparent, in fact in both versions the lover is only too obviously flesh and blood. Child does mention that A. P. Graves in his 3rd edition of his "Irish Songs and Ballads" cites a verse of Saw you my Father? as belonging to a ballad "descriptive of the visit of a lover's ghost to his betrothed." Certainly two verses concerning the cock are common to both Saw you my Father? and The Night Visit Song - but that is all! It seems much more probable to me that the song Graves was referring to was an Irish version of The Night Visit Song. It is significant the Mrs Costello, whose version is printed in the Penguin book, was of Irish descent. Is it not much more likely that the English broadside text, (of which the above is a version), is a reprint of an Irish ballad sheet with the supernatural element omitted, either by the printer or by the singer from which it was probably taken down from dictation; and that Saw you my Father? is an 18th century minor art song (quite probably by Hook) which somehow managed to incorporate two verses from a traditional song - a common enough occurance in those days; and that Mrs Costello had a version of the original Irish song, probably from tradition? To confuse matters still further, reference should be made to The Light of the Moon in "Marrowbones" which also involves a cock's inconsiderate behaviour, but which has nothing to do with Saw you my Father? and only superficially with The Night Visit Song. The idea of the cock's crowing interrupting prematurely a (ghostly?) lover's visit to his sweetheart is wide-spread and is probably very ancient. The Night Visit Song and The Light of the Moon are traditional songs (propagated by broadsides) based on this idea and having no connection with each other. Saw you my Father?, whether of English or Scottish origin, is right outside the canon and has no connection with either apart from the self-concious use of two verses from The Night Visit Song, added to what seem like reshapings of verses from Sweet Willium's Ghost (Child 77)! This precious mongrel was then sung around the 18th century pleasure gardens as "a new song", appropriated by Herd who added some verses of his own composition, and passed off as Scottish. In the circumstances and without being really unkind - Stephen Sedley's collation - in "The Seeds of Love" - of verses from Saw you my Father? with verses from The Light of the Moon is a new confusion we could have done without!

Malcolm Douglas then explored this further:

In the light of further examination, most particularly by Hugh Shields, Purslow's comments on Cecilia Costello's Grey Cock can be seen to be back-to-front; the supernatural elements in her version were added from a quite different song, the 19th century Anglo-Irish broadside ballad Willy O, based in its turn on the earlier (Scottish) Sweet William's Ghost (Child 77, Roud 50). No conclusions, then, can be drawn from Mrs Costello's set as to the age or provenance of the song we have here; though it looks increasingly likely that it is the forms that have no supernatural element which are the earlier, not the other way around.

There has been interplay between Saw You My Father/Grey Cock and the supernatural in other cases; Willie's Fatal Visit (Child 255) incorporates almost all of it as a preamble to the meat of the narrative, in which the luckless Willie is torn to pieces by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend. This seems to have been an editorial collation (Child certainly thought so), and in the rare traditional versions found the preamble has been dropped.

The verse cited by A. P. Graves came from Patrick Weston Joyce, who said that he had learned it in Limerick in the 1840s. Joyce later published text and melody in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, 1909, p.219, as The Lover's Ghost. It is reproduced in Bronson, 248 (12). Graves was actually talking about the verse promising a reward to the cock; his song The Song of the Ghost (Irish Songs and Ballads, repr. in The Irish Song Book, 1897), which incorporates it, is otherwise based upon Sweet William rather than a night-visiting song.

Roud: 179 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six

Related Songs:  The Grey Cock (thematic)

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