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'Twas of a lady fair, a shepherd's daughter dear,
She was courted by her own sweetheart's delight,
But false letters mother wrote: Meet me dear my heart's delight
For it's about some business I have to relate.

O this young maid arose and to the garden goes
In hopes to meet her own true heart's delight.
She searched the ground and no true love she found,
Till at length a bloody gardener appeared in view.

He says: My lady gay, what brought you here this way,
Or have you come to rob me of my garden gay?
She cries: No thief I am, but I'm in search of a young man,
Who promised that he'd meet me here this way.

Prepare, prepare, he cried, prepare to lose your life.
I'll lay your virtuous body to bleed in the ground,
And with flowers fine and gay your grave I'll overlay
In the way your body never will be found.

He took out his knife, cut the single thread of life,
And he laid her virtuous body to bleed in the ground,
And with flowers fine and gay her grave he overlaid
In the way her virtuous body never should be found.

This young man arose and into the garden goes
In hopes to meet his own true heart's delight.
He searched the garden round, but no true love he found
Till the groves and the valleys seemed with him to mourn.

O he sat down to rest on a mossy bank so sweet
Till a milk-white dove come perching round his face,
And with battering wings so sweet all around this young man's feet,
But when he arose this dove she flew away.

The dove she flew away and perched on a myrtle tree
And the young man called after her with speed.
This young man called after her with his heart filled with woe,
Until he came to where the dove she lay.

He said: My pretty dove, what makes you look so sad,
Or have you lost your love as I have mine?
When down from a tree so tall, down on her grave did fall,
She drooped her wings and shook her head and bled fresh from the breast.

O this young man arose and unto his home did go,
Saying: Mother dear, you have me undone;
You have robbed me of my dear, my joy and my delight,
So it's alone with my darling I'll soon take flight.

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Source: Folk Songs from Newfoundland, Maud Karpeles, 1971.

Sung by Mrs. May McCabe at North River, Conception Bay, Newfoundland: 16th. October 1929.

Miss Karpeles commented:

"A more sophisticated broadside version with twenty-seven stanzas is to be found in the Harvard University Library in a fourteen-volume collection of ballads printed by Catnach, Bebbington, Ryle, etc. An extract is quoted in Brand's Popular Antiquities, iii, p. 217 (1893 ed.). Another similar version, entitled The Bloody Gardener's Cruelty, or The Shepherd's Daughter Betrayed, is in a chapbook, printed at Tewkesbury at the beginning of the century by S. Harrow. A relative of his, an old lady of over ninety, used to sing the ballad (see J. Harvey Bloom's Folk Lore in Shakespeare Land), but it was not noted from her; the only other version with tune that has come to light so far is to be found in [Kenneth] Peacock, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, 1965, p. 668."

There are a number of broadside examples at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads. They don't differ greatly, but in some the dove speaks to the young man; in some he thinks it speaks; and in some that bit is skipped. The final line also varies. These examples represent the variant strands:

The bloody gardener's cruelty; or, The shepherd's daughter betrayed -Harding B 1(100). Printed between 1736 and 1763 by W. and C. Dicey, the Printing-Office in Bow-Church-Yard, London.

The bloody gardener's cruelty: or, The shepherd's daughter betrayed - Harding B 1(94) . Printed between 1821 and 1828 by J. and C. Evans, Long-lane, London.

The bloody gardener -Harding B 5(113). Printer and date unknown.

Compare this, The Bloody Garden and the broadside sets from which they derive; the instincts of "the folk" in paring down over-long narrative can be seen in operation, though these are, in all conscience, not especially successful examples of that process. They are, however, all we have.

A.L. Lloyd presented Martin Carthy with a set of this song, which he said he had found "in a Vauxhall Gardens songbook of c. 1770". Maybe he did; I don't believe for a moment, however, that he found it in the form in which he gave it to Martin. On the face of it, that set looks like a typical Lloyd re-write, set to (probably) the tune noted in Newfoundland by Maud Karpeles, modified to make it sound more interesting.

(Byker Hill: Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick. Fontana (Polygram, 1967); Topic TSCD 342, 1991).

Roud: 1700 (Search Roud index at VWML)

Related Songs:  The Bloody Garden (thematic)

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