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Bold Keeper

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Performer: Brazil, Harry
Place Collected: Gloucester
Date collected: 1978 (18 Feb)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 321

This really is an old song and a notable survival in the repertoire of the Brazil family. It was printed in the late 17th century as “The Master-piece of Love Songs” in 16 verses with the following introduction:

“A dialogue betwixt a bold Keeper and a Lady gay
He woo’d his Lord’s Daughter, and carried the Day;
But soon after Marriage was forced for to fight
With his Lord and six gentlemen, for his own Right;
He cut them and Hew’d them, and paid them with Blows
And made them his Friends that before were his Foes.

            To the Tune of A Week before Easter, etc

 Thereafter, many versions appeared where the keeper had become a bold dragoon and with many elements of the story lost. In this version, it took hold the USA and Canada where many versions came to light. The fact that the Brazil version is nearer to the 17th century broadside and is the only oral version to mention a keeper rather than a dragoon is remarkable. Gwilym Davies recorded substantially the same text from Harry’s brother Danny, and their sister Lementina also knew the song.

Peter Shepheard noted 3 extra verses from Danny, viz:

(after verse 1):

“Now then, bold keeper, don’t you fancy me?
I’m a match for some Lord that’s higher than thee;
For your wealth and my wealth they never could agree,
So take that as an answer bold keeper.”

“That answer, fair lady, I never could take,
For the likes of that answer calls my heart to ache;
My life I would rather lay down to a stake, [lay down to a stake: give my life
Before I’d lose the goodwill of that lady.”

“Your life you would rather lay down to a stake,
My parents would say there’s no in to a cloud.” [no in to a cloud: no chance in a lifetime
“A cloud, dearest Polly, I’ll frownd and I’ll stoar, [I’ll frown and I’ll swear
That my father’s a nobleman, gentleman born.”
“If thou art willing, to the church we will ride,
And there we’ll get married brave lady.”

Notes by Gwilym Davies 29 May 2015