Saturday, November 29, 2008
Ballad: The Wagoner's Lad
I suppose it was seeing a cardinal and blue jay chasing each other across the ridge this evening that called this little ballad to mind.
This is the version I know; as with almost all ballads, there are many variations of the lyrics and the melody.
The Wagoner’s Lad
I am a poor maiden, my fortune’s my own
For long I’ve been courted by a wagoner’s lad
He’s courted me duly by night and by day
And now he’s for leavin’ and going away
Go put up your horses and feed them some hay
Come site down beside me for as long as you stay
My horses ain’t hungry they won’t eat your hay
So it’s goodbye little Nancy I’ll be on my way
Your wagon needs greasing your bill is to pay
Come sit down beside me for as long as you stay
My wagon is greasy my whip’s in my hand
So it’s goodbye little Nancy my horses won’t stand
Your parents don’t like me they say I am poor
They say I’m not worthy of entering your door
I work for my living my money’s my own
And if they don’t like me they can leave me alone
So early one morning this poor boy did ride
Across the deep water with a tear in his eye
I’ll build me a cabin on a mountain so high
Where the bluebirds and the cardinals can hear my sad cry
DigiTrad has a different version of the lyrics, and links to the tune.
A YouTube performance of the song has the tune slightly different than the way I know it, but I like this one too.
Of course, the Folk Index offers various spellings and a long list of recordings of this tune--proof, I think ,of its lasting attraction. But then, songs of parting lovers are popular in all genres of music. (You'll need to scroll down the page to find the title listed alphabetically on the index.)
Sheet music is available online here and here. The first is from the UK, the second from North Carolina.
Cecil Sharp, the British songcatcher who visited the Appalachian mountains in the early 1900's, included Wagoner's Lad in his collection English Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians.
Like many other ballads, the Wagoner's Lad was sung by many of the folk musicians of the 60's including Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Joan Baez and others. I prefer the older versions sung by mountain balladsingers myself. I learned the song from the Smithsonian Folkways recording of Mr. and Mrs. John Sams on Mountain Music of Kentucky--Mrs. Sams sang while her husband played the banjo, and the first time I heard it I knew I had to learn the song.