> Eliza Carthy > Songs > In London So Fair

In London So Fair

[ Roud 2989 ; G/D 1:178 ; Henry H203 ; Ballad Index HHH203 ; trad.]

Mary Ann Carolan sang In London So Fair in her home in Hill o' Rath, Co. Louth in 1978. This recording by Roly Brown was released in 1982 on her Topic album Songs from the Irish Tradition, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean (The Voice of the People Series Volume 2).

Alison McMorland and Peta Webb sang In London So Fair in 1980 on their Topic album Alison McMorland & Peta Webb.

Eliza Carthy sang In London So Fair accompanying herself on piano in 2002 on her record Anglicana. She commented in her sleeve notes:

I couldn't keep up the old exclusivity for long! This song comes from the singing of the wonderful Mary Ann Carolan, one of the greatest Irish singers of all time. My Mum goes gooey at the repeated line, where all is right with the world again. Big thanks to Russell Hunter and Sylvia Rae for the use of their old Steinway and their living room and beautiful view of the sea.

Lyrics

In London so fair a lady she lived there,
A lady of great beauty and great might,
And unto this lady fair I became a servant there,
And in me she took a great delight.

Now this lady had a son of wealth and beauty born,
And he became a sailor on the sea,
And he courted that fair maid till he had her heart betrayed,
And then he was bound for the sea.

It happened one day in the bedroom where they lay,
And the tears from her eyes they down did flow,
Saying, “Young man you are going away so far from me to stray,
And to leave me on the shores for to mourn.”

“Oh no, no”, says he, “such things can never be,
For as long as I'm a sailor on the sea,
The ship that I command she will never reach dry land,
On the day that I prove false, love, unto thee.”

She cut off her yellow hair that hung down her back so fair,
For fear that anybody would her know,
Then in a sailor's dress, that very night she went,
And straight to the captain she did go.

She being neat and trim complete in every limb,
And the clothes fitted tightly to her knee,
While the crew unto her gazed the captain to her says,
“Young man now were you ever on the sea?”

“Oh no, no”, says she, “I was never on the sea,
But ship me as a young sailor bold,
For I now do choose to go where the stormy winds do blow,
To purchase some silver and some gold.”

It happened one day in the cabin where he lay,
And the tears from his eyes they down did flow,
Saying, “You're like a lover of mine that I think on many's the time,
That I left on the shores for to mourn.”

“Oh no, no”, says she, “such things can never be,
For as long as I'm a sailor on the sea,
The ship that I command it'll never reach dry land,
On the day that I prove false, love, unto thee.”

His own words he knew she spoke beneath the crew,
So into her arms flew like a dove,
Saying, “Do not shed a tear you have followed me my dear,
And it's married, it's married we will be.”

They sent for clerk, they sent for a mate,
They sent for a clergyman likewise,
Now this couple they are wed and together they do bed,
And now they're living happy on the sea.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Kira White. Thank you!