The American King stole my true love away,
And I in old England no longer can stay.
I will swim the wide ocean all on my bare breast,
For to find out my true love, the one I love best.
And when I have found out my true heart's delight
I will be as true to her as the stars of the night.
I will be as true to her as a true turtle dove,
And I never will at no time prove false to my love.
In the middle of the ocean there grows a myrtle tree,
And if ever I proves false to the girl that loves me,
The green leaves shall wither, and the branches decay,
And the beauty of a fair maid will soon fade away.
And when I have got her so safe and sound,
We will have all sort of music as ever can be found,
The bells they shall ring and the guns make a noise,
For to welcome my true love with ten thousands of joys.
For the meeting is a pleasure, the partings a grief,
And an unconstant lover is worse than a thief,
For a thief will but rob you, and take all you have,
And an inconstant lover will bring you to the grave.
The Grave it will rot you, and bring you to dust,
And there is not one in twenty young men girls can trust,
They will kiss you, they will court you and sware to be true,
And the very next moment they will bid you adieu.
The Ploughboy's Glory. Edited from the Butterworth manuscripts by Michael Dawney
References to the volumes of Butterworth's manuscripts. IV,205; VIa, 2; VIIa, 4. original pitch: words and music of the opening stanza fitted together by the editor. A final stanza more properly belongs to 'The Cuckoo' as in Folk songs from Sussex,
The cuckoo is a merry bird, she sings as she flies,
She brings us good tidings and never tells us lies,
She sucks little birdies's eggs to make her sing clear,
And never do sing cuckoo till the spring of the year.
In this song the tune for the cuckoo is quite different to that of 'The American King'
Sharp (1974) under 'The Americans have stolen my True Love Away' has a similar last stanza.
Dr Karpeles notes that although several stanzas from 'The Cuckoo' are introduced, it appears to be a separate song.
In Broadwood (1908) A similar song, 'Some rival has stolen my true heart away'
In Williams (1923) 'The Rifles'--'Oh, the rifles have stolen my dear jewel away'
Dr Karpeles suggests that 'The Americans' is a corruption of 'The Merry Kings'
Miss Broadwood suggests that the merry king may have been Edward IV.
(Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six