There came an Earl a riding by,
A gipsy maid espyed he;
O nut-brown maid, from green wood glade,
O prithee come along with me."
"I am so blythe, as bird so gay.
In thy castle tall, in bower and hall,
I fear for grief I'd pine away."
"Thou shalt no more be set in stocks,
And tramp about from town to town,
But thou shalt ride in pomp and pride
In velvet red and broidered gown."
"My brothers three no more I'd see,
If that I went with thee, I trow.
They sing me to sleep, with songs so sweet,
They sing as on our way we go."
"Thou shalt not be torn by thistle and thorn,
With thy bare feet all in the dew.
But shoes shall wear of Spanish leather
And silken stockings all of blue."
"I will not go to thy castle high,
For thou wilt weary soon, I know,
Of the gipsy maid, from the green-wood glade,
And drive her forth in rain and snow."
"Al night you lie neath the starry sky
In rain and snow you trudge all day,
But thy brown head, in a feather bed,
When left the gipsies, thou shalt lay."
"I love to lie 'neath the starry sky,
I do not heed the snow and rain,
But fickle as wind, I fear to find
The man who now my heart would gain."
"I will thee wed, sweet maid," he said,
"I will wed with a golden ring,
Thy days shall be spent in merriment;
For us the marriage bells shall swing."
The dog did howl, and screeched the owl,
The raven croaked, the night-wind sighed;
The wedding bell from the steeple fell,
As home the Earl did bear his bride.
Songs of the West by S. Baring-Gould.
The melody of the first part from James Parsons, that of the second from John Woodrich. Robert Browning composed his poem 'The Flight of the Duchess' on this theme, having heard a beggar woman singing the ballad.
The Scottish version of the ballad is that of 'Johnny Faa' in Alan Ramsay's 'Tea Table Miscellany,' 1724, from which it passed into all collections of Scottish songs. The Scots tend to take an old ballad, give it a local name and claim it as purely Scottish. For a full account of the 'Johnny Faa' ballad, see Child's 'English and Scottish ballads,' No 200. Child is of the opinion that the English ballad is taken from the Scottish, I think the reverse is the case. Parsons sang right through without the division into parts. I have made that division, so as to allow the use of the both airs, but actually the second is a modern corruption of the first, and is interesting as showing how completely a melody may undergo transformation.
Mr Sharp has given a Somersetshire version of the ballad in his 'Folk Songs from Somerset,' No 9.
(Search Roud index at VWML)
The Gipsy Countess (Part2)