The Deserter (Kenneth Peacock)

You tender-hearted parents,
wherever that you be,
I hope you'll pay attention
and listen unto me;
It's of an aged couple
who had one only son,
He was shot as a deserter
when the battle it was won.

He was both tall and handsome,
his complexion it was fair,
His eyes were of the deepest blue,
and dark brown was his hair;
And as he gazed upon the crowd,
he gave one heavy sigh,
"If it was not for my father,
I would not care to die."

About a-three weeks after,
as I stood in the field,
A letter came into my hand,
and deep black was the seal;
I quickly tore it open,
those words did meet my eye,
"Come home, come home, dear Willie,
once more before I die."

Oh, who could slight a dying wish
from such a mother dear?
Before the dawning of the day,
my mother I stood near;
She pressed me to her sobbing heart,
those words she said with joy,
"You're welcome home, dear Willie,
my own, my soldier-boy."

I scarce had time to press her lips
when a heavy foot drew near,
I turned myself around,
and an officer appeared;
He said, "You cowardly rascal
who from the field did run,
You will be shot as a deserter
when the battle it is won."

I pointed to the bed-side,
"Be careful what you say,
My mother she is dying
and on her death-bed do lay;
I don't care if you shoot me,
I from her will not go,
Until she do recover
or to her grave do go."

He sent his men around me
and took me right away,
Before I could defend myself
or have one word to say;
They sent me to the guard-house
where many had gone before,
And my poor dying mother
I never saw no more.

The officer that brought me here
he swore away my life,
He thinks he will gain Mary,
she's going to be my wife;
He thinks he will gain Mary,
that girl whom I adore,
But to her true-love soldier
she proved faithfuller than before.

About a-two days after,
an officer appeared,
"Come shoot this cowardly rascal,
no more of this I'll hear."
He fired and shot young Willie,
a bullet pierced his heart,
And from his true-love, Mary,
on earth they had to part.

The officer a-courting
unto Mary he did go,
Which proved his sad misfortune
and earthly overthrow;
She said, "You shot my Willie
and death shall be your bride."
She fired and shot the officer,
he fell dead at her side.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a British broadside ballad, Young Jimmy And The Officer [Laws J23] American Balladry From British Broadsides, p.139 (G Malcolm Laws, 1957) ....####
Collected by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs Thomas (Annie) Walters [1896-1986] of Rocky Harbour, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp 994-995, by The National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was collected in 1951 from Mrs Michael R (Alice) Devereaux [1890-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was also collected from John Brown in Pictou County, NS, as When The Battle It Was Won by William Roy Mackenzie [1883-1957], Ballads And Songs From Nova Scotia (1928), reprinted by Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA (1963).


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