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Once I loved a maiden fair;
But she did deceive me;
She with Venus might compare,
If you will believe me.
She was young,
And among
All our maids the sweetest,
Now I say,
Ah! well a day!
Brightest hopes are fleetest.

I the wedding ring had got,
Wedding clothes provided,
Sure the church would bind a knot,
Ne'er to be divided,
Married we
Straight must be
She her vows had plighted,
Vows alas,
As frail as glass!
All my hopes are blighted.

Maidens wav'ring and untrue,
Many a heart have broken;
Sweetest lips the world e'er knew
Falsest words have spoken.
Fare thee well,
Faithless girl,
I'll not sorrow for thee;
Once I held thee dear as pearl
Now I do abhor thee.

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Source: Sabine Baring Gould, 1895, Old English Songs from English Minstrelsie

This is taken from the selection of the eight volume work by Baring Gould of the same name, reprinted by Llanerch Publishers.

Notes are not given in the selection, but are in the full eight volume work to which I do not have access. Therefore I can give very little information about the origins of this song.

Again, this is better known as a dance tune from Playford's "English Dancing Master" of 1651 than as a song. In the introduction, Baring Gould says "I have marked with an asterisk those country dances of which the ballad words remain. There are several others to which later words have been set, that have displaced the original words." 'Once I loved a maiden fair' has an asterisk, so the words are - in Baring Gould's view - the original.


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