'Twas when I came to England, some pleasures for to find,
There I espied a damsel most pleasing to my mind;
Her rosy cheeks and shining eyes as arrows pierced my breast,
Her name was lovely Flora, the Lily of the West.
Her golden hair in ringlets hung, her dress was spangled o'er;
She'd rings on every finger, brought from a foreign shore;
'Twould ruin kings and princes, so richly was she dress'd,
She far excelleth Venus, this Lily of the West.
I courted her a fortnight, in hopes her love to gain,
But soon she turn'd against me, which caused all my pain.
She robb'd me of my freedom, she robb'd me of my rest,
I roam, forsook of Flora, the Lily of the West.
Alas! where'er I wander, however much I will,
The thought of that fair maiden abideth with me still;
For ever I am downcast, for ever sore oppress'd,
An outcast e'er from Flora, the Lily of the West.
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Source: Songs of the West by S. Baring-Gould.
Two melodies have been noted down to this ballad, one from Matthew Baker, the old cripple on Lew Down, the other from Samuel Fone. The first one is identical with one obtained in Yorkshire by Mr Kidson.
The words are on Broadsheets by Such, Fortey, Bar of Leeds, etc. In the original the lover betrayed by Flora stabs to the heart the "lord of high degree" who has supplanted him -"I walked up to my rival with a dagger in my hand,He is tried for murder, but "a flaw was in the indictment found," and he escapes the gallows. And the ballad winds up -
And seized him from my false love, and bid him boldly stand;
Then, mad with desperation, I swore I'd pierce his breast,
And I was betrayed by Flora, the Lily of the West.""Although she swore my life away, she still disturbs my rest.I have thought it well to cut out the murder and the trial.
I must ramble for my Flora, the Lily of the West"
The ballad has clearly an Irish origin, what air is used in Ireland I am unable to say. It has been generally accepted that the ending of a phrase on the same three notes is characteristic Irish music. It is not more so than English folk airs. "Flora, the Lily of the West" was wont to be sung annually at the Revel at St Breward's on the Bodmin Moors, and can be traced back there to 1839. There Henry Hawken, sexton at Mickalstow, hard by, acquired it, and from him the first melody was taken down as well as by the Rev. W.J. Wyon, vicar of St Issey, in 1889.
The tune given here is as collected from Matthew Baker. See Flora, The Lily Of The West(2) from "Related Songs" below for the tune collected from Samuel Fone.
Roud: 957 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: The Flora Lily of the West (2) (thematic)