The Bailiff’s Daughter of Islington

Bob Lewis: On Autumn Harvest ah09: Bob Lewis: Drive Sorrows Away. Recorded at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2009.

One of the classic narrative ballads in Francis J Child's Collection that has often been printed and is still widely known and one that Bob got from his mother. A young man falls in love with the bailiff's of Islington's daughter but is sent away as an apprentice. After seven years she dresses in men's clothing and goes in search of him. One day she spies him riding by and asks to ride with him. He asks where she comes from and when she says it is from Islington he asks after the bailiff's daughter. When she reports that the maid died long ago, he declares he will go to a foreign land. She reveals herself, says she is ready to be his bride and he declares his happiness (Child 105; GD 1.168; Roud 483).

1: There was a youth and a well bred youth,
He was a squire’s son;
And he fell in love with the bailiff’s daughter dear,
That lived in Islington.

2: But she was coy and never would
On him her heart bestow;
Till he was sent up to London town,
Because he loved her so.

3: It’s when his parents came for to know,
His fond and foolish mind;
They sent him away up to London town,
An apprentice there to bind.

4: And when he had served his seven long years,
And ne’er his love could see;
“Oh a many tears have I shed for her sake,
And she's little thought of me.”

5: Then all the maids of Islington,
Went forth to sport and play;
All but that bailiff’s daughter dear:
She secretly stole away.

6: She pullèd off her gown of green,
And put on mean attire;
And straight to London she did go,
Her true love to enquire.

7: And as she went along the road,
The weather being fine and dry;
She sat her down on a mossy bank,
And her true love came a-riding by.
8: Shed steppèd up to his horse’s head,
Took hold of the bridle rein;
And she said, “Kind sir would you let me ride a mile,
For to ease my weary pain?”

9: He says, “Fair maid whence came you from,
Or where were you bred and born?”
“In fair Islington, kind sir,” said she,
“Where I’ve had manys the scorn.”

10: “I prithee sweetheart tell to me,
Oh tell me whether you know;
The bailiff’s daughter of that place?”
“She died, sir, long ago.”

11: “If she be dead then take my horse,
My saddle and bridle also;
And I will away to some foreign land,
Where no man shall me know.”

12: “Oh no, kind sir, do not do so,
For she is by your side;
She is here alive, she is not dead,
And ready to be thy bride.”

13: “Oh farewell to father and farewell to mother,
Farewell to friend and foe;
For now I’ll enjoy my own true love,
Whom I thought was dead so long ago.”

c p 2010 Autumn Harvest :