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In Bristol Town, as I have heard tell,
 A rich merchant there did dwell.
He had a daughter beautiful and bright,
On her he fixed his own hearts delight

Courted she was by many in the town,
Courted she was by many a clever man,
Courted she was by many a clever man,
But none could this young lady's heart gain.

 Till a brisk young sailor he came from the seas,
He did the lady well please.
He was a brisk young man although a sailor poor,
And the lady did the sailor adore

And when her father came for to be told
She was courted by this jolly sailor bold,
"No! never, never, oh! while I do live,
Not any portion unto you I'll give!"

"As for your portion I do not care,
I'll wed the man whom I love so dear,
I'll wed the man that I do love so,
If along with him a-begging I go!"

Her father kept a valiant servant man,
Who wrote a letter out of hand;
This letter was the sailor to invite
To meet her in the valley by night.

Her father kept a valiant Irishman,
And fifty pounds he gave him out of hand,
And a brace of pocket pistols likewise,
He mounted, and away he did ride.

He mounted and away he did ride,
Till at length the jolly sailor he espied,
At length the jolly sailor he spied there,
A-waiting for his joy and his dear.

 He said "I am come to kill you indeed,
Away! back to some tavern with speed;
Cheer up your heart with bowls of good wine,
And soon I'll make you know my design

"I will go back to my master with speed,
Saying "Master, I have killed that man, indeed!
I have buried him all in his grave so low,
Where streams and fountains over him, do flow."

In course of time the rich merchant died,
Which filled the lady's heart full with pride;
Now she's married to that man, you know, so brave,
Who her father thought was dead, and in his grave.

abc | midi | pdf
Source: Broadwood, L, 1908, English Traditional Songs and Carols, London, Boosey

Lucy Broadwood wrote:

In the Douce Collection, Vol. iii. (Bodleian Library), there is a 17th century broadside, "The Bristol Bridegroom, or the Ship's Carpenter's Love to the Merchant's Daughter." This has 35 verses, the second of which is much the same as the first verse of the ballad here printed. (For a similar ballad see also A choice Collection of New Songs, Tewkesbury, circa 1790, Brit. Mus. 11,621, C. 1). The whole plot of this lengthy ballad is that of "The Valiant Lady, or the Brisk Young Lively Lad" in this collection (see p. 72), but the Douce ballad has stanzas in common with both songs, showing how strangely fluid old ballads have been for centuries. The tune here given with accompaniment, is as noted from Mr. Burstow's singing in 1893, by the editor on two occasions; and by Mr. J. A. Fuller Maitland on one occasion. In 1907, at the age of 82, Mr. Burstow sang the song into the phonograph, with very interesting variants which had established themselves during the interval of fourteen years. The words (printed in the Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. i., No. q, from the singer's own writing), had also undergone slight changes, some of which have been used here as improvements. The whole song is of such interest that it is here given full length, from the phonograph-record taken by Dr. R. Vaughan Williams, which he has kindly allowed me to transcribe. It will be observed that the cadence in verse 1 of the harmonised version, which was most persistently used in 1893, was not sung at all in 1907, unless perhaps at the end of the song, where the record is indistinct but suggests the possibility of its use. In 1893 the cadence used in verses 1 and 2 of the phonographed version was sung occasionally, and the cadence used most often in 1907 occurred so very seldom in 1893 as to seem an acci­dental "sport" at that time. Some of the variants in the latest version suggest that the old voice unconsciously, but artistically, had adapted the intervals to its powers. It is interesting to note that in the last verse the flat seventh was raised, and sung an almost pure C sharp, as if the tired singer found it less of an effort to sing a semitone than a whole tone at that point.


As usual at this site, I have NOT transcribed the whole music as it varies verse to verse and have merely transcribed the first verse.  However, as this was something that Lucy Broadwood thought particularly interesting for this song, I will add it at a later date. 

Roud: 1058 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six

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