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The Turtle Dove

Roud 422

Text A 

The Two Constant Lovers; Or,
The Prentice obtain'd his Master's Daughter
By True Love and Loyalty

The father thought to separate his Prentice from his Daughter;
But their affections was too great, then listen what comes after.

To the tune of, As I walkt forth to take the Ayr, &c.

The Prentice
Come listen to me, my true Love,
  since that I have great cause to weep,
For thinking of my own true Love,
  I neither night nor day can sleep.
Neither night nor day can sleep, dear heart
  but constantly do sigh and grieve;
Had I the World, with it I'de part,
  since I had rather dye than live.
But what if I was dead, Sweet-heart,
  and far enough from thee was gone;
It might make you sigh, lament and grieve
  or I'm sure you could not hear my moan.
The Maids Answer to the Prentice.
Away from me, fond Prentice Boy,
  and do not now stand prating here;
You know I am your Masters joy,
  your time's not out by above two year.
The Prentice's Reply
Thou art my only joy, dear heart,
  and one that I do love so dear,
My love to thee shall ne'r depart,
  if I was yet to serve full seven year.
If I had seven Year to serve, my Jo,
  and thou wert at New-Castle upon Tine;
Upon my bare feet would I go,
  to see the true lover of mine.
The Maids Answer
If that my Father did but know
  the love that you do bear to me;
Of a certain he will be your Foe,
  and that might sure your ruine be.
But the old Man over-heard them both,
  as it was his chance for to come by;
Saying you must be parted, yet I'm loath,
  to hear my Daughter sigh and cry.
To London the Old man sent the Maid,
  and there a while for to remain:
And the Prentice at home must be staid,
  till the Daughter did return again.
The Prentices Letter to his Sweet-heart at London        
Now thou from me art gone, dear heart;
  I never can enjoy no ease;
Yet my love from thee shall not depart,
  and I will strive our friends to please.
But I fear our friends will not be pleas'd,
  but will cast a disliking eye;
Yet my love to thee shall never cease,
  till all the brackish Seas be dry.
Till all the Seas be dry, dear heart,
  and Stones do melt against the Sun;
My love from thee shall ne'r depart,
  till these things are perform'd and done.
The white Swan shall turn black, I say,
  the Mountains all remov'd shall be;
If my love from thee shall go astray,
  so long as life remains in me.
The Maids Letter from London to the Prentice
Now I am gone away from thee,
  yet I'll stay but a little while;
And I will come again to thee,
  if that it was five hundred Mile.
If it was five hundred Miles, my Dear,
  which I think it is too far for thee,
But if it was ten times as far,
  still I would do as much for thee.
Dear heart, just like the Turtle-Dove
  which is sitting upon yonders Tree,
And waiting for her own true Love,
  just even so do I for thee.
O then this Young-man tore his hair,
  and bitterly he did lament:
'Cause he could not enjoy his Dear,
  her absence caus'd his discontent.
Her Father understanding then
  that Letters past between them both:
Sent for his Daughter home agen,
  and was resolv'd to know the truth.
Now welcome home, my Daughter dear,
  thrice welcome home art thee:
Then bespoke the Prentice with good cheer
  ten thousand times welcome to me.
Her Father hearing him say so,
  straightways he gave them his consent:
And then they to the Church did go,
  and marry'd was to their content.
And now let this a Pattern be,
  unto all young Men and Maids:
Then hereafter you shall not see
  so many go to the Elizium Shades.
Printed for J. Blare. At the Looking-Glass, on London Bridge.

We should be careful not to confuse text A with the similarly titled The Two Constant Lovers; Or, A Pattern of True Love found at Bagford Ballads, Part 3, p.475, which eventually evolved into Young Barnwell (Roud 955) in oral tradition.

As one would expect the tune As I walkt forth to take the ayr occurs as the first line in several contemporary ballads, although the favourite must be True Love rewarded with Loyalty; Or, Joy after Sorrow and Sadness found at Roxburghe Ballads (Ballad Society) Vol 6, Pt 2, p.260 which was entered in the Stationers' Register for 1675.  I claim this as the most likely source of the tune as its subject matter is the same, there are ideas in common and both also contain some of that imagery we refer to as 'impossibilities'.  (See stanzas 11 to 13 in text A) This ballad is set 'To a new West-country tune called, O hark, my love; or Flora, Farewel' which has not survived, unless one of The Turtle Dove tunes was the original, which is quite possible.

Text A is unique to the Pepys Collection, Vol 3, p.61, although it is mentioned in several places in the Roxburghe Ballads by Ebsworth.  The printer J Blare was trading from 1684 to 1702.

I have omitted half of the sixteen stanzas of text B as they are not related to our main theme.  Unlike text A the whole ballad is dialogue between the two lovers.  The reason for their parting is twofold, (1) her rich friends scorn him, and (2) her parents are opposed to their union.  In this ballad the youth declares that he is going off to a foreign land and she offers to follow him in habit of a page.  Bates was in business at this address from 1685 to 1689.

Text B

The Unkind Parents; Or,
The Languishing lamentation of Two Loyal Lovers

To an excellent new tune.  Licensed according to order.

Now fare thou well, my Dearest Dear, and fare thou well awhile,
Altho' I go, I'll come again, if I go ten thousand mile, Dear Love,
If I go ten thousand mile.
Ten thousand mile is far, dear Love, for you to come to me;
Yet I could full ten times more, to have thy company.
I cannot be unkind, my Dear, my heart is link'd to thee,
But while on Shore I tarry here, thy Friends does frown on me.
For they in Riches so abound, that I am held in scorn;
This gives my heart a fatal wound, which makes my life forlorn.
If thou dost cross the roaring Seas, into a Foreign Land,
My heart will never be at ease, destruction is at hand.
Altho' I may in Deserts range, my heart is linked fast;
Therefore my mind shall never change, so long as life does last.
Mountains and Rocks on wings shall fly, and roaring Billows burn,
Ere I will act Disloyally; then wait for my return.
And even as the Turtle dove sits cooing on a Tree,
For the return of her True Love, so will I wait for thee.

Printed for C. Bates, next the Crown Tavern, in West-Smithfield.

The music is printed on the ballad sheet (The Pepys Ballads, D. S. Brewer 1987, Vol 5, p.322) but my musical skills are not honed enough to compare the 17th century notation with more modern versions so I cannot yet determine if it is close to any of The Turtle Dove tunes.

Studying the mixed nature of later versions it is impossible to say with any certainty how the early versions evolved. Text B is possibly based on A, but more likely both are based on an even earlier text.

Text C

The True Lover's Farewell

Fare you well my own true love,
Tis fare you well for a while,
I shall be sure to return back again
If I go ten thousand miles, my dear.
Ten thousand miles, love that's a long way,
When from me you are gone,
You leave me here to lament and to sigh,
But you shall never hear me mourn, my dear.
To hear you mourn love I cannot bear,
Nor cure you of your disease,
I will be sure to return back again
When all your friends are pleas'd my dear.
Suppose my friends should ne'er be pleas'd,
They are grown so lofty and high,
I never will prove false to the girl I love,
Till the stars fall from the sky my dear.
If the stars should never fall from the sky,
Nor the rocks ever melt with the sun,
I never will prove false to the girl I love,
Till all those things be done my dear.
If those things should never come to pass
So long as you and I do live,
I never will prove false to the girl I love,
Till we both go to one grave my dear.
Do not you see yon little turtle dove
That sits upon yonder tree,
Tis making its moan for the loss of its love,
As I shall do for thee my dear.

As can be clearly seen this seminal version from which most, but not all, oral versions are derived appears to be partly derived from both texts A and B.  The first two stanzas of text C are obviously much closer to the first two stanzas of text B than their equivalents in text A, i.e., stanzas 14 and 15; but stanzas 3, 4 and 5 of text C are much closer to stanzas 10, 11 and 12 of text A than their equivalents, stanzas 4, 5 and 14 of text B.  Stanza 6 of text C appears to be new to the general stock of stanzas, and stanza 7 is equally close to text A stanza 16 and text B stanza 16.

Versions of text C with little variation from the above appeared in a garland of 1792, Five Excellent New Songs, British Museum 11621 b 7 and on three single slips without imprint all c.1800: See Manchester Central Library BR f 821.04 Bal, Vol 5, p.317; Madden Collection, Cambridge University Library, slip songs O-Y (VWML microfilm 73) item no 1850 (reprinted here); and Bodleian Library Ballads website, Harding Collection, B25 (1952).  Burns is said to have derived his My love is like a red red rose from a version of text C in The Horn Fair Garland containing six excellent new songs, c.1770.

If Burns did derive his version from this it must have had a different text to the one given here in which stanza 4 concludes with 'Till the stars fall from the sky' whereas Burns' equivalent line is 'Till all the seas gang dry' which is the same as in some oral versions, though this stanza is relatively scarce in oral tradition.

Oral versions tend to be quite fragmentary, many of those published being collations of several versions. Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 1913, p.289 has a nine stanza Somerset version, its seventh stanza in the 'impossibilities' theme is possibly an echo of stanza 13 in text A:

The crow that flies so very high
Shall change his colour to white
If ever I prove false to my own heart's delight
Bright day shall turn to night, my dear, etc.
The final stanza in this Somerset version:
You may call to me when you see me not
And speak by me as you find
For I'm not like that weathercock
That changes with the wind, brave boys, etc.
is not in any of the broadsides although both of these stanzas do occur in other oral versions.

An interesting twelve stanza version c.1800 is given in George Deacon's John Clare and the Folk Tradition, Sinclair Browne 1983, p.84.  It derives from his parents' singing, but Clare has obviously added his own stanzas 9-11. It also has the 'crow' stanza.

Another long version is given in volume 8 of The Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection, Mercat Press 2002, p.78.  It has nine stanzas including three fresh ones common to Scottish versions, the 'crow' stanza and another stanza (2) which is the equivalent of stanza 7, text B, also found in other oral versions from southern England and in many American versions:

Ten thousand miles and more, my dear,
Thro' Flanders, France and Spain;
My heart will never be at ease
Till we twa meet again.
As is often the case with these lovers' lament songs, American versions have acquired a whole new range of stanzas and in some versions there remains only one stanza from the British text.  Stanzas 4 and 6 of text C don't appear in any of the American texts I've seen, although some of the extra stanzas found in the three longer British texts I mention above are quite common in American versions.

To underline the popularity of this song, in the mid-nineteenth century, like many other popular broadside ballads and folk songs, it was burlesqued, probably in America, into the popular The Yankee Girl's Song, or My Mary Ann.  It was published in Baltimore and London in 1856 and was in Sam Cowell's repertoire, said to have been written by Barney Williams.  Here is Cowell's version to conclude with.

Fare you well, my own Mary Anne!
Fare you well for a while;
For the ship it is ready, and the wind it is fair,        
And I am bound for the sea, Mary Anne,
And I am bound for the sea, Mary Anne.

Don't you see that turtle-dove,
A sitting on yonder pile,
Lamenting the loss of his own true love-
And so am I for mine, Mary Anne.

A lobster in a lobster-pot,
A blue-fish wriggling on a hook,
May suffer some, but oh! no not
What I do feel for my Mary Anne.

The pride of all the produce rare,
That in our kitching garding grow'd,
Was pumpkins-but they couldn't compare,
In angel form, with my Mary Anne.

The calf, when in its nussin' days,
Is gentle, innocent, and mild;
But oh! that tender crittur's ways
Ain't nothin' by the side of my Mary Anne's.

I seen a half-fledged carri'n crow
Get shot right into his mother's sight;
But even that aged bird didn't know
The loss I mourn in my Mary Anne.

I heern the experienced parent-bird
Caw - Don't go there! Oh, don't go there!'
And now that mother's breast is stirr'd
E'en a'most as much as mine for my Mary Anne.

Mortals is at best but weak;
The longest winded has to die;
But if I ain't spilin' I wouldn't speak,
And all for love of my Mary Anne.

The needle points upto the pole,
The pole points to the sky;
But pole nor needle points as true
As my love points to my Mary Anne.

The cuckoo is a loving bird,
More loving than the dove;
But the cuckoo nor the dove feel not
What I do feel for my Mary Anne.

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