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Lady Maisry

from Jewels by Chris Foster

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I found the main guts of the text and tune for the ballad 'Lady Maisry (Child ballad number 65) in the Hammond manuscripts at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London. That was back in the days when you had to painstakingly scroll through rolls of microfilm. Now you can find far more at the click of a mouse on the EFDSS 'Full English' digital archive. Henry Hammond collected the song in 1906 from Sam Gregory at Beaminster, a small Dorset town that I often hitch hiked through on the way to the seaside at West Bay in my youth. I filled out the Sam Gregory text with verses from versions in the Child collection in order to complete the story.


O the young men of the North Country
Have all a wooing gone
To win the love of Lady Maisry
But of them she would have none

"O hold your tongues young men said she
And think no more on me
For I've given my love to an English lord
Who promised to marry me"

Then word has to her father gone
As he put on his shoe
That Lady Maisry goes with a child
Unto some English lord

Then in there come her bold father dear
Stepping on the floor
He says "they tell to me my daughter Maisry
That you are become a whore"

"O a whore father a whore father
That is what I'll never never be
Though I've given my love to an English lord
Who promised to marry me"

"But couldn't you have gotten a duke or a lord
From your own country
But now you have gone with this English lord
To bring this shame on me"

"Now where are all my merry young men
Whom I give meat and fee
To pull the thistle and the thorn
To burn her vile body"

Then her father's to the green wood gone
Her brother has to the broome
All for to kindle a bold bonfire
To burn her body in

Then in there come an old woman
Lady Maisry's nurse was she
But before she could speak one single word
A salt tear blinded her eye

"O your father has to the green wood gone
Your brother has to the broome
All for to kindle a bold bonfire
To burn your body in"

And her father he was the first man
Who tied her to a stake
And her brother he was the second man
Who did the fire make

And her mother was the first woman
Who did the fire fetch
And her sister she was the second woman
Who lighted it with a match

They blew the fire and they kindled the fire
'Til it reach her knee
"O mother mother quench the fire
For the smoke it'll smother me"

"O had I but a little footboy
My errand he could run
He would run unto gay London town
And bid my lord come home"

"O nurse go and fetch to me my little footboy
Who is called my sister's son
So that he may go and tell to my own true love
That I am sick at home"

Well the first two miles that little boy walked
The second two he run
And he run until he come unto some broad waterside
And then he's fell upon his breast and he swum
Until he come to some dry land again
Then he took to his heels and he run
And he run until he come to some high park gate
Where lords were sitting at their meat

"O if you did but know what news I have brought
Not a bite more would you eat"
"O is my park gates overthrown
Or is my walls falling down"

"O your high park gates they are all overthrown
Your high park walls they are all a falling down
And your Lady Maisry lies sick at home
And shall die before you can come"

"O mother go and fetch to me my milk white steed
And saddle it with speed
So that I may go and kiss her cherry cheeks
Before they are turned to clay"

"Now where are all my merry young men
By one by two and three"
Then he's mounted up on his milk white steed
To go to his Lady Maisry

They blew the fire and they kindled the fire
'Til it did reach her head
"O mother mother quench the fire
For I am nearly dead"

Then she's turned her head on her right shoulder
She saw her lord come riding home
"O mother mother quench the fire
For I am nearly gone"

Then he's mounted off of his milk white steed
And he's leapt into the fire
He was thinking to save his Lady Maisry
But he had stayed too long

And the Lady she was buried in a cold church yard
The lord was buried in the choir
And out of her heart there sprung a sweet rose
And out of his mouth a sweet briar

And they growed so high unto the church wall
Until they could not grow any higher
And there they did twang in a true lover's knot
For all true lovers to admire

© traditional arranged Chris Foster


from Jewels, track released February 1, 2017
Chris Foster vocal


all rights reserved



Chris Foster Reykjavik, Iceland

Chris Foster grew up in the south west of England. A master of his trade, he was recently described as “one of the finest singers and most inventive guitar accompanists of English folk songs, meriting legend status.” Over the past 40 years, he has toured throughout the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. He has recorded six solo albums as well as working on many collaborative projects. ... more

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