William and Mary
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
According to Barrett, the first, second and last verses were from Bedfordshire and were popular in children "employed in straw-plaiting." The first verse and tune came from Cheshire. The song was printed on a broadside by J. Evans, Smithfield, in 1794.* It was printed on numerous broadsides including Catnach, Such and Pitts. It was also found in Canada; in Quebec and in Newfoundland seaports.**

In American Balladry from English Broadsides Malcolm Laws lists variants as Willie and Mary, Mary and Willie and The Sailor's Bride. It was known in Vermont as The Single Sailor. The ballad was found in songbooks from Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and Tennessee. It was also found in Canada, in Quebec and in Newfoundland seaports.***

As William and Mary walked by the sea-side,
Their last farewell to take,
Should you never return, young William, she said,
My poor heart will surely break.

Be not thus dismayed, young William he said,
As he pressed the dear maid to his side,
Nor my absence don't mourn, for when I return,
I will make little Mary my bride.

Three years passed away without news, when at last,
As she sat at her own cottage door,
An old beggar came by with a patch on his eye,
Quite lame, and pity did implore;

If you're charity you'll bestow, said he,
I will tell you your fortune beside,
The lad that you mourn will never return
To make little Mary his bride.

Mary started and trembled, O tell me, she cried,
All the money I've got I will give,
To what I ask you, if you will tell me true,
Only say, my dear William live?

In poverty he lives, said he,
And shipwreck'd he has been beside,
And return will no more, because he is poor,
To make little Mary his bride

That he lives, Heaven knows the great joy that I feel,
Yet still his misfortunes I mourn,
For he'd been welcome to me in poverty,
In his blue jacket tattered and torn.

For I love him so dear, so true and sincere,
That no other I swear beside,
If in riches he roll'd, and was clothed in gold,
Should make little Mary his bride.

The patch from his eye the beggar then threw,
His old coat and his crutch too beside,
With cheeks like a rose, and in jacket so blue,
'Twas William stood by Mary's side.

Forgive me, dear maid, then William he said,
Your love it was only I tried,
To church let's away, for ere the sun sets,
I'll make little Mary my bride.

*From English Folk-Songs
***American Balladry from English Broadsides
See Bibliography for full information.
**Steve Roud's Folksong Ballad Index