A version of this article was published in English Dance and Song volume 67, part 2
Published here by permission of the current editor, Derek Schofield

The Young-man's Lamentation

In this column I have been trying to show how broadside ballads, even those from the earliest days of printing, relate to what today we call folk song.  In many cases the folk songs have definitely originated as broadside ballads and in others the printers have merely published what was already popular in oral tradition or what was popular on the stage.  In some cases it can be clearly established that there was a regular interaction between print and the oral tradition over several centuries.  It is also interesting to find early broadside ballads that contain fragments of more recent folk songs as is the case with this issue's song.  (I hesitate to use the word 'ballad' as it does not tell a story.)

A very common category of modern-day folk song is the lover's lament - Died for Love, Down in the Meadows, The False True Lover, The Brisk Young Sailor, etc.  Tracing the evolution of these largely lyrical songs is made much more difficult by the fact that over a long period of time singers and broadside hacks alike have borrowed stanzas from one to the other.  This has happened so much in some cases, and the borrowed stanzas have been so frequently used, that we refer to these as 'commonplaces' or 'floating verses'.  Some of these commonplaces can be found in early broadside ballads as is the case with this issue's song.

A few of the ballads in the Bodleian Collection appear to be unique to that collection, although this cannot be asserted definitely as some may be in private collections.  However, The Young-man's Lamentation appears to be unique to the Bodleian.  Not only that but when I first came across the broadside on the website at least half of it appeared to be badly obliterated, and of course, being seventeenth century, was printed in 'black letter', the old Gothic ornate printing type which was then in use, which made it even more difficult to decipher.  Luckily the first and last two stanzas were decipherable and it just so happened that these were related to modern-day folk songs.  Having spent hours trying to decipher as much as possible from the website image with limited success I decided to contact Mike Heaney, the man we have to thank for placing this unique resource at our fingertips, and he very kindly examined the original and managed to decipher the whole song as presented here.

It was printed by Busby, Deacon, Blare and Back who were printing as a company from 1690 to 1696.  The first stanza of course is famously found in the modern-day folk song The Cuckoo (Roud 413), but it is also a commonplace found in other 'lover's laments', particularly in America.  Also the first half of stanza 11 is found only in American versions of The Cuckoo.

The earliest recognizable forms of The Cuckoo itself are found on broadsides or garlands c.1800, as The Cuckoo in London and The Forsaken Nymph in Glasgow, but our first stanza also appears in The Manks (Manx) Boy on broadsides of the same period.

Following this article's appearance in English Dance and Song, Summer 2005, Stephen Reynolds of Oregon wrote in to say that the second half of stanza 3 is found in some versions of The Streams of Lovely Nancy, (Roud 688) and the first halves of stanzas 5 and 9 are found in the closely related The Green Mountain/Come all you little streamers (Roud 18820).

Stanzas 10 and 11 finish with a line found in a related lover's lament with the gender changed to Farewell He (Roud 803), which also gave rise to the popular song, Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry and various American versions.  Again there is much admixture with other similar songs.  All this now means that parts of six of the eleven stanzas in the 17th century ballad have now turned up in recent oral tradition.

The tune Over Hills and High Mountains comes from a ballad in the Pepys Collection Vol.1, p.165 titled The Wandring Maiden; or, True Love at Length United, a fragment of which, with tune, survived in oral tradition until the early twentieth century.  See Journal of the Folk Song Society Vol III, part 1 (1907) p.45 (Roud 1362).  The broadside was printed by Deacon, c.1684 to 1695, before he joined the others in business.

As an interesting addendum curiously the two songs, The Cuckoo and Farewell He have re-united in an American song.  See A Forsaken Lover at p.425 of Cox's Folk Songs of the South.

If anyone recognizes any other stray bits of the song please send the information in to us.  Some of it is pretty poor stuff though and I'm not surprised that most of it did not survive in oral tradition.
The Young-man's Lamentation
His Passionate Complaint of his Unconstant Lover;
Together with his Resolution to leave her who scornfully slighted him.

To an Excellent New Tune, or, Over Hills and High Mountains
Licensed according to Order.

Meeting's a pleasure,
But parting's a grief,
An Unconstant Lover
Is worse than a Thief;
A Thief he can Rob me,
And take what I have,
But an Unconstant Lover
Will bring me to the Grave.

When fancy is grounded
And rooted beside,
The lover is wounded
As soon as deny'd.
Many torments are bleeding
To encrease his pain,
And the lover lies bleeding
By the darts of disdain.

This is my condition,
I needs must confess,
With humble submission
I have made my address;
In her charms I delighted
More than gold I declare,
Yet am scornfully slighted
For the love which I bear.

I value not treasure
The rich Golden Ore,
There's joy, love and pleasure
Which I dearly adore;
But alas! That sweet blesing
I may not enjoy,
I all sorrows possessing
Which my life will destroy.

Like a ship on the Ocean,
I am tost too and fro,
From the heighth of promotion,
To the depth of sad woe,
While the Billows are roaring
In a tempest of grief,
I the Fates am imploring
But can find no relief.

Of a false-hearted lover
I must needs complain
To my grief I discovered
That my sighs are in vain;
Having mov'd her to pity,
With tears in my eyes,
While that sorrowful dity
She would scorn and despise.

To think that my Jewel
  should torture me so,
In loves flaming fuel
  with a Feavour I glow,
She's more than ungrateful,
  unconstant, unkind,
To her dear loyal lover
Like the wavering wind.

In her Cheeks blushing Roses
  with lillies appear,
Where Cupid reposes
  as her Charms I draw near;
I account it my duty
  her perfection to prize,
She's a Phoenix for beauty,
Was she constant likewise.

If her heart was not ranging,
  she should soon be my Bride,
But alas she is Changing
  and turns with the Tide,
Having ruined many
  by her false-heart alone,
She's not constant to any
But can love more than one.

Since I find out her folly,
  I'll no longer repine,
But will strive to be jolly
  with a Glass of Rich Wine,
No longer about her
  will I troubled be,
I can now live without her
Let her go, farewell she.

Tho' I am forsaken,
  yet she is forsworn,
Yet she is mistaken
  if she think that I'll mourn,
I'll set as slightly by her,
  as e'er she did me,
And for ever will deny her,
Let her go, farewell she.
Printed for P. Busby, J. Deacon, J. Blare and J. Back.

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