It was on a cold and winter's night
When it first came down to snow;
I took my innocent babe all in my arms,
Not knowing where to go.
How cruel was my father
When he turned the door on me;
And how cruel was my false-hearted mother
When she knowd how things would be.
Come hush-a-bye, my darling son,
Don't you begin to cry,
. . .
. . .
O, but did your daddy know
These things you're suffering from:
He'd roll you in his arms this night
And wrap you in flannel warm.
We both jogged on together
Till we came to the union door,
. . .
. . .
So, come all you trusting young women,
Take warning now I say:
Don't trust yourself to no young man
Till your heart he steals away.
They will kiss, they'll coax and cuddle you,
And they'll call you to be their bride;
Then they'll leave you like my first love left me
In sorrow, grief and pain.
O, as we feld tirred and sleepy
We set ourselves down to rest;
And we closed out eyes to the heavens above
And we both laid there and died.
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Source: MacColl and Seeger, Traveller's Songs from England and Scotland, Routledge And Kegan Paul, 1977
Sung by Caroline Hughes.
MaColl and Seeger wrote:
Peacock refers to this rather meolodramic piece as 'a tearjerker, a sort of half-baked hymn' and finds it merciful that the song is rare. This type of piece, however, which is designed to wring tears and pity from the audience and thankfulness that they are not in the shoes of the poor unfortunate is common in the folk repertory. Unlike the traditional ballads, these pieces are highly subjective and, at every turn, they moralise and (hopefully) instruct the young. The song, attributed to one John Embleton, was circulated widely as a broadside but never achieved to popularity of 'Mary of the the Wild Moor' (Laws P21), which has an even more melancholy theme.
Mrs Hughes song differs from other versions in that the young mother dies at the workhouse door instead of in some un-named place. The singer's use of the first person plural in stanzas 5 and 8, to indicate mother and child presumably, is most unusual.
Roud: 175 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Laws: P 20
Related Songs: The Wild Moor (thematic)