A combing’ his milk white horse ;
Then up stepped Lady Nancy Bell
A wishing her lover good speed,
A wishing her lover good speed.
“ O where are you going,” said she.
“ I am going over the sea, Lady Nancy Bell,
Strange countries for to see,
Strange countries for to see.”
“ O, when will you be back ? ” said she.
“In a year or two or three at the most
I ’ll return to my fair Nancy,
I ’ll return to my fair Nancy.”
Strange countries for to see,
When serious thoughts came o’er his mind,
That he must return to his fair Nancy,
That he must return to his fair Nancy.
’Till he came to London Town ;
And there he heard St. Patrick’s bell,
And the people all mourning round,
And the people all mourning round.
“ Oh, what is the matter ? ” said he.
“ The Lord’s lady is dead,” the people replied,
“ Some called her the Lady Nancy,
Some called her the Lady Nancy.”
Her shroud to be taken down,
And there he kissed her cold clay lips,
’Till the tears came trickling down,
’Till the tears came trickling down.
Lord Lover, he died to-morrow,
Lady Nancy Bell was laid in St. Patrick’s
Lord Lover was laid in the choir,
Lord Lover was laid in the choir.
And out of his a briar,
They grew and grew, to the church steeple top,
They could not grow no higher,
And there they formed a true lovers’ knot,
For all true lovers to admire,
For all true lovers to admire.
In Child’s version this familiar ballad of Lord Lovell ends with,
Lord Lovell for deep sorray.
“A Lover of Ballads,” writing to the Evening Post last July, gives part of a ballad called Lady Hounciebelle, which shows a close relationship to Lord Lovell.
The fragment quoted by a “Lover of Ballads” ends,
Lord Lovell was buried by her,
And out of her bosom there grew a red rose,
And out of Lord Lovell’s a briar ;
They grew and grew to the church steeple top,
They gvew till they could grow no higher,
And there they twined a true lovers’ knot
Which all true lovers do admire, ire, ire,
Which all true lovers do admire.
This, together with other versions noted by other correspondents of the Post, shows the popular nature of ballad poetry and its wide diffusion; but the version I have set down has, I think, a special interest and significance.
The first line of the poor buckra’s song gives evidence of the English broad a, in the transformation of castle to “carstel; ” instead of steed, the substitution of horse is a surprise, as it loses the rhyme which it would seem should naturally catch the ear. The true lovers’ knot, tied when rose and briar could not “grow no higher,” seems a solace for the early death of unhappy lovers, and has been grafted on to the original verses of Lord Lover by the romantically inclined poor buckra as well as by more educated ballad-mongers. Jesting aside, it all seems to go to prove that the English bondservants who escaped from their masters on the coast were the progenitors of the poor whites of the hill regions of the South.
It is a question if anywhere else in the United States can be found less mixed strains, a purer Anglo-Saxon stock, than are these poor buckra, the grandchildren of the “Prisoners of Hope.”