> Bellowhead > Songs > Widow’s Curse

Widow’s Curse

[ Roud V41142 ; Bodleian 647 ; Mudcat 135918 ; trad. / Pete Flood arr. Pete Flood]

Bellowhead sang Widow’s Curse in 2008 on their Navigator CD Matachin. They noted:

The tune is Pete’s. The text is based on a broadside which is headed:

A new Ballad, Intituled, a warning to youth, Shewing the lewd life of a Merchants son of London and the misery that at the last he sustained by his riotousness. The tune is, The Lady Darcy.

As well as the words, the sheet features an engraving of a scene of Bacchanalian depravity. Dated 1658-1664, it resides safely out of the way in the Bodleian Library’s enormous ballad collection.

This YouTube video shows Bellowhead singing Widow’s Curse at Buxton Opera House in 2008:

Jon Boden sang Widow’s Curse unaccompanied as the 23 February 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day, where he commented:

A truly horrible song—only really useful if you get in to a “who can sing the most gruesome song” contest (it happens). Pete Flood discovered this in a broadside and set it for the Bellowhead version. The tune he wrote is great for Bellowhead but doesn’t work unaccompanied so I’m using Rounding the Horn.


Bellowhead sing Widow’s Curse

In London dwelt a merchant man who left unto his son
A thousand pounds in land each year to spend when he was gone.
No sooner was his father dead and buried in his grave
Than this his wild and wanton son his mind to lewdness gave.

Within the seas of fleshly love his heart was drowned so deep,
At night he could not quietly without strange women sleep.

So he kept women secretly to feed his heart’s desire
And he dressed them all as gallant boys in pages’ trim attire.
But then one day upon his round he spied a lovely dame
Who was a widow’s daughter dear of good report and fame.

Her beauty like the purple rose so glittered in his eye,
That ravished by the same he sought her secret company.

Then like a lustful lecher he found such convenient time
That he enforced her to drink till she was drunk with wine.
And being over-charged with wine, a maiden’s head is weak,
He ravished her and when that she could no reluctance make.

And mark I pray what then befell unto this modest dame
When she recovered her lost sense and found of her defame.

Her womb began to swell; in time the babe received life
Though she was neither widow nor maid nor yet a married wife.
Said she, “The babe within my womb shall never yet be born
Not called a bastard by such wives who hold my fate in scorn.

“For I a strumpet in disgrace though one against my will
Before that I would shame my friends my own life’s blood I’ll spill.
And as with wine I was deceived and made a vicious dame
So I will wash away with wine my scarlet spots of shame.”

Then drinking down hot burning wine she yielded up her breath
By which the same the unborn babe was scalded unto death.

Upon her knees her mother fell; to heaven did cry and call,
“If ever widow’s curse,” quoth she, “on mortal man did fall,
Then say Amen to mine, oh Lord, that he may never thrive
Who was the cause of this sad fate but rot away alive.”

His nails from out his fingers fell, his eyes from out his head,
His toes they rotted from his feet before that he was dead.
His tongue that had false sworn so oft to compass his desire
Within his mouth did swell and burn like coals of sparkling fire.
And thus in torment for his sins the wicked villain died
Whose hateful carcass after death could not in earth abide.

But in the maws of carrion crows the ravens made their tomb
And then in Hell he screamed and writhed in everlasting doom!