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O Once I Courted a Fair Young Maid

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Alternative title: The Lover's Lament

Place Collected: Tewkesbury
Date collected: 1908 (10 Apr)
Collector: Sharp, Cecil
Roud Number: 405

The Loyal Lover is the title that the collector gave to the song, but it rejoices in many titles, including “Charming Beauty Bright”, “A Lover’s Lament”, “Once I courted a Damsel” and “The Distracted Lover in Bedlam”. The story is the familiar theme of parental opposition to their daughter’s suitor. In this song, they lock their daughter away, whereupon the lover goes away to the army. Returning seven years later, he finds that she has died of grief, which drives him to madness.

The song seems to date from the early 19th century and despite its sad tale has proved popular among traditional singers, particularly in the USA, in many forms.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 25 June 2015