Betsy, Betsy From London Fair (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: Betsy Bay (MacEdward Leach)

Betsy, Betsy from London fair,
A rich merchant's daughter I do declare;
A rich merchant's daughter of high degree,
A servant maid she was forced to be.

Her mistress had but one only son,
And Betsy's beauty his heart had won;
For Betsy's beauty did shine so fair,
It threw this young man's heart into a snare.

One morning he arose, put on his clothes,
And into Betsy's bed-chamber goes,
Saying, "Betsy, Betsy, my heart's delight,
I do intend making you my wife."

His mother in the next room lay,
Could not help hearing what her son did say;
That dreary night she kept in her mind,
To balk them both in their heart's incline.

Early next morning this woman arose,
And into Betsy's bed-chamber goes,
Saying, "Arise up, Betsy, and come with me
Into the country for a day or three."

Betsy arose and put on her clothes,
And into the country with her mistress goes;
There was a ship lay in the town,
And Betsy's poor heart to a slaver she bound.

It was on his mother's returning home,
This young man saw she was alone;
"You are welcome, mother," her son he said,
"But where is Betsy your servant maid?"

"Now, dear son, you can plainly see,
Your Betsy's not along with me;
You'll love no more for it's all in vain,
Your true love Betsy's gone plowing the main."

Her son took sick, took very bad,
There was none but Betsy could make him glad;
She sent for doctors both far and near,
But none but Betsy could his spirits cheer.

When she heard that her son was dead,
She wrung hands and tore her head,
Saying, "If I had my son back again,
I would send for Betsy far over the main."

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Betsy Is A Beauty Fair (Johnny And Betsey; The Lancaster Maid) [Laws M20] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of The Betrayed Maiden published by J Pitts (London) sometime between 1819 and 1844, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmarks: Harding B 16(23a) and Firth C 18(122) ....####

Collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs J Mahoney of Stock Cove, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.666-667, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that the reference to 'slaver' in verse six is mysterious. It could either mean an African slave ship or refer to Betsy's status as a 'slavey' or kitchen girl. Peacock also noted that a variant from Vermont has the mother sending Betsy to Virginia, so the ballad may very well date back to early colonial times when girls were 'recruited' to work on the plantations.

A variant was also sung in 1915 by John (Jack) Knight [1883-1975] of Shoe Cove, NL, and published as Betsy Bay in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Another variant was collected in 1975 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Lillian Pittman of Placentia, NL, and published as #7, Betsy Beauty, in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.13-14, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted that Lillian Pittman learned this song from family tradition. It was popular with the women in Merasheen, NL, who would get together at wedding and garden parties and sing it in unison. Lehr also noted that there would usually be one lead singer to establish the key.

See more Lehr and Best songs.


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