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Famous Flower of Serving Men

  • Laurence Price / ad. Martin Carthy

    My mother did me deadly spite, for she sent thieves in the dark of the night
    Put my servants all to flight, they robbed my bower, they slew my knight

    They couldn't do to me no harm so they slew my baby in my arm
    Left me nought to wrap him in but the bloody sheet that he lay in

    They left me nought to dig his grave but the bloody sword that slew my babe
    All alone the grave I made, and all alone the tears I shed

    And all alone the bell I rang, and all alone the psalm I sang
    I leaned my head all against the block and there I cut my lovely locks

    I cut my locks and I changed my name from Fair Eleanor to Sweet William
    Went to court to serve my king as the famous flower of serving men

    So well I served my lord the king that he made me his chamberlain
    He loved me as his son, the famous flower of serving men

    Oft time he'd look at me and smile, so swift his heart I did beguile
    And he blessed the day that I became the famous flower of serving men

    But all alone in my bed at e'en, there I dream a dreadful dream
    I saw my bed swim with blood and I saw the thieves all around my head

    Our king has to the hunting gone, he's ta'en no lords nor gentlemen
    He's left me there to guard his home, the famous flower of serving men

    Our king he rode the wood all around, he stayed all day but nothing found
    And as he rode himself alone, it's there he saw the milk-white hind

    The hind she broke, the hind she flew, the hind she trampled the brambles through
    First she'd melt, then she'd sound, sometimes before, sometimes behind

    Oh what is this, how can it be, such a hind as this I ne'er did see
    Such a hind as this was never born, I fear she'll do me deadly harm

    And long, long did the great horse turn for to save his lord from branch and thorn
    But long ere the day was o'er they tangled all in his yellow hair

    All in a glade the hind drew nigh, the sun shone bright all in her eye
    He sprang down, sword drew, she vanished there all from his view

    And all around the grass was green and all around where a grave was seen
    And he sat himself all on the stone, great weariness it seized him on

    Great silence hung from tree to sky, the woods grew still, the sun hung fire
    As through the wood the dove he came, as through the wood he made his moan

    Oh the dove he sat down on a stone, so sweet he looked, so soft he sang
    Alas the day my love became the famous flower of serving men

    The bloody tears they fell as rain as still he sat and still he sang
    Alas the day my love became the famous flower of serving men

    Our king cried out and he wept full sore, so loud unto the dove he did call
    Oh pretty bird, come sing it plain

    Oh it was her mother's deadly spite, for she sent thieves in the dark of the night
    They come to rob, they come to slay, they made their sport, they went their way

    And don't you think that her heart was sore as she laid the mould on his yellow hair
    And don't you think her heart was woe as she turned her back away to go

    And how she wept as she changed her name from Fair Eleanor to Sweet William
    Went to court to serve her king as the famous flower of serving men

    The bloody tears they lay all around, he's mounted up and away he's gone
    And one thought filled his mind, the thought of her that was a man

    And as he's rode himself alone a dreadful oath he there has sworn
    That he would hunt her mother down as he would hunt the wildwood swine

    For there's four and twenty ladies all, and they're all playing at the ball
    But fairer than all of them is the famous flower of serving men

    Oh he's rode in, into his hall, and he's rode in among them all
    He's lifted her to his saddle brim and there he's kissed her cheek and chin

    The nobles stood and they stretched their eyes, the ladies took to their fans and smiled
    For such a strange homecoming no gentleman had ever seen

    And he has sent his nobles all, and to her mother they have gone
    Ta'en her that did such wrong, they've lain her down in prison strong

    And he's brought men up from the corn, and he's sent men down to the thorn
    All for to build a bonfire high, all for to set her mother by

    Bonny sang the morning thrush all where he sat in yonder bush
    But louder did her mother cry in the bonfire where she burned close by

    For there she stood all among the thorn and there she sang her deadly song
    Alas the day that she became the famous flower of serving men

    For the fire took first all on her cheek, and there it took all on her chin
    It spat and rang in her yellow hair and soon there was no life left in

    (as sung by Martin Carthy)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1980:] Another version [is] The Lament of the Border Widow (James Reed in Cowan 26)

  • [1980:] Unusually, it is possible to give a precise date and authorship to this ballad. It was written by the prolific balladeer, Laurence Price, and published in July 1656, under the title The famous Flower of Serving-Men. Or, The Lady turn'd Serving-Man. It lasted in the mouths of ordinary people for three hundred years: what a tribute to the work of any writer, leave alone the obscure Laurence Price. Oral tradition, however, has made changes. The original has twenty-eight verses and a fairy-tale ending: "And then for fear of further strife/He took Sweet William to be his wife/The like before was never seen/A serving-man to be a queen". (Palmer, Ballads 187)

  • [1986:] The three examples of this ballad quoted by Child are from broadside sources and sorry specimens they are! The oral tradition has failed to produce improved varieties of The Famous Flower and most of the recently collected versions known to us are either weak hybrids or stunted shoots bearing one or two imperfect blooms. (MacColl/Seeger, Doomsday 173)

  • more:
    Martin Carthy (official homepage)
    or try http://hum2mac1.murdoch.edu.au/watersons/carthy.html

    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=25126

    See also Women's Song Circle II

Quelle: England

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