Ballad [A faithless shepherd]

[Image: ‘The Hireling Shepherd’ by William Holman Hunt]

A faithless shepherd courted me,
He stole away my liberty.
When my poor heart was strange to men,
He came and smiled and stole it then.

When my apron would hang low,
Me he sought through frost and snow.
When it puckered up with shame,
And I sought him, he never came.

When summer brought no fears to fright,
He came to guard me every night.
When winter nights did darkly prove,
None came to guard me or to love.

I wish, I wish, but all in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
A maid again I cannot be,
O when will green grass cover me?
John Clare, Poems: Chiefly from Manuscript, ed. Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1920). Later collected by Percy Grainger (1908), but with all sorts of variation to the verses and words.

There is an interesting discussion in Mark Storey’s (ed.) Clare: The Critical Heritage, by Maurice Howlett (1921) mentioning this early poem, often marked in collections as ‘anon’ with other verses added.

In George Deacon’s John Clare and the Folk Tradition this song has two versions. The first with 11 verses and the second with 6 verses. Both appear in Clare’s Northampton manuscript, cited by Deacon, as ‘Old song from my mothers singing’. It seems that Clare, recalling his mother’s song, used it as the basis for additional verses… hence the 11 verses in Deacon’s collection.


Juegos de Ben 10 said...

Thats right , That song has two versions , I think both are great.

Leslie Lim said...

I would like to share it with all my friends and hope they will like it too.