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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleShepherd and the maiden
Alternative Title
WordsWilliams, Alfred
Collected FromHarvey, Henry [Wassail]
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 366
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 22nd January, 1916, p 2, Part 15, No. 4: Williams, A: Folk songs of the upper Thames, 1923, 170, 171
The Play

Once I was made a shepherd on the plains,
Courting my shepherdess among the swains;
But now my courting life I'll bid adieu,
And a more melancholy way pursue.

The shade my coverlet, the bank my bed,
Where on the flowery pillows I lay my head;
My mates the fruits that grow about the field,
My drink the tears my eyes in sorrow yield.

But ah! Who comes! What shining beauty's this,
Disturbs my solitude and shady bliss?


I am one that is lost in a wilderness of care,
Where I find nothing to prevent despair;
I am a harmless damsel wandering on the plain,
I'm lost and fear I never shall be found again.

Look here, look here, there's nothing to b seen,
But woods and groves and meadows all in green;
I am so thirsty I scarce can speak.


Must she grieve thus and not my heart strings break?
She sees me not; then I'll accost her first.
"Pray! Take this bottle and so quench your thirst."


It's good indeed, but you much better be,
For being so courteous as to give it to me.


Had I a more worthy gift, to call it mine,
Proud would I be, dear maid, to name it thine.


Thou art more worthy than all gifts beside;
Ask what thou wilt, it shall not be denied.


Then speak I will, by such fair promise led,
What I shall ask is for thyself to wed.


Since that I was about the woody ground,
Receive me here, and keep what thou hast found;
Come! Lead me forward to my father's court,
And we'll grace our nuptials with some friendly sport.
Print Play Verse
Note 1

Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS / FSUT: 'This is a crude rustic play, rather than a song. It was acted at 'Bark Harvest', the summer festival of the tan yard workers at Cricklade and at Christmas time by the players at the farmhouses. There was probably other dialogue not in rhyme, but I cannot speak of it with certainty. Obtained of Wassail Harvey, late of Cricklade.'

Note 2

In WGS and FSUT the initial stanzas are in single blocks of text, not split as in the Ms.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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