The Young Servant Man
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This ballad is also known as The Two Affectionate Lovers. This version was collected by Lucy Broadwood in Sussex in 1901. She likens it to a tune named A Sailor wooed a Farmer's Daughter, in Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland (1840), which was given by Petrie. This tune was included in the volume Songs of Old Ireland by Sir C. V. Stanford, though he considered the tune English. Similar ballads were printed on broadsides by Catnach and others under the title The Cruel Father and Affectionate Lover. It's of a damsel both fair and handsome,
These lines are true, as I've been told.
Near the banks of Shannon, in a lofty mansion,
Her father garnered great stores of gold.
Her hair was black as raven's feather,
Her form and features oh! describe who can?
But still, it's a folly belongs to Nature:
She fell in love with a servant-man.

As those two lovers were fondly talking,
Her father heard them, and near them drew;
In anger home her father flew;
To build a dungeon was his intention,
To part true love he contrived a plan,
He swore an oath by all his mansion
He'd part that fair one from her servant-man.

So he built a dungeon with bricks and mortar,
With a flight of steps, for it was underground;
The food he gave her was bread and water,
The only comfort for her was found.
Three times a day he cruelly beat her,
Unto her father she thus began:
If I've transgressed, my own dear father,
I will lie and die for my servant-man.

Young Edwin found her habitation,
It was secured by an iron door.
He vowed, in spite of all the nation
He would gain her freedom, or rest no more.
So, at his leisure, he toiled with pleasure
To gain the freedom of Mary Ann;
And when he had found out his treasure
She cried, My faithful young servant-man!

Said Edwin, Now I've found my treasure
I will be true to you likewise,
And for your sake I will face your father;
To see me here it will him surprise.
When her father brought her bread and water
To call his daughter he then began,
Said Edwin, Enter, I've freed your daughter,
I will suffer - your servant-man!

When her father found that she was vanished,
Then like a lion he thus did roar,
Saying, From Ireland you shall be banished,
And with my sword I will spill your gore!
Agreed, said Edwin, I freed your daughter,
I freed your daughter, do all you can;
But forgive your treasure, I'll die with pleasure,
For the one fault is your servant-man.

When her father found him so tender-hearted,
Then down he fell on the dungeon floor,
Saying that love should never be parted,
Since love can enter an iron door.
So soon they're one, to be parted never,
And roll in riches this young couple can,
This fair young lady is blessed with pleasure,
Contented with her young servant-man.

From English Traditional Songs and Carols
See Bibliography for full information.