Through Moorfields / The Fair Maid in Bedlam
Ewan MacColl sang Through Moorfields on his 1965 Topic album The Manchester Angel. He commented in his sleeve notes:
Bishop Percy, in his preface to The Reliques of English Poetry, expresses surprise that “the English should have more songs and ballads on the subject of madness than any of their neighbours”. And indeed it is true that Bedlamite songs were fashionable in England for almost two centuries. For most of that period the mentally sick were looked upon as monstrous freaks and a visit to the madhouse was regarded as a legitimate form of recreation and entertainment, not so very different from a visit to the zoo in our own times. The nationwide pre-occupation with madness is reflected in the works of popular songwriters and dramatists from Elizabethan times onwards, and stories similar to the plot of Through Moorfields were stock favourites with novelists like Defoe and Smollett. The old Bethlem Hospital moved from Bishopsgate to Moorfields in 1675.
Sandra Kerr sang Through Moorfields in 1966 on the Critics Group's first Argo album, A Merry Progress to London.
Ewan MacColl sings Through Moorfields
It was through Moorfields I wandered by myself all alone;
I heard a maid in Bedlam a-making a sad moan.
She was wringing of her tender hands, and tearing of her hair,
Crying, “Oh! cruel parents! you have proved to me severe!
“You have taken my own true love and to sea made him go,
Pressed all on a man-of-war which caused my overthrow.
It made me sorely to lament and tarned my poor brain.”
Crying, “Oh! Shall I ever see my own true love again?”
It was early the next morning this young sailor came on shore,
He walked and he talked down alongside by Bedlam door.
And be gave unto the porter a broad piece of gold,
Saying, “Bring that young girl to me, she's the joy of my soul.”
Then he took her from her straw bed and set her on his knee,
Saying, “I'm that same young man that your parents pressed to sea.
But now my cares are gone and all my sorrows they are fled
Then adieu unto these chains and this cold straw bed.”
Through Moofields and to Bedlam I went;
I heard a young damsel to sigh and lament;
She was wring-ing of her hands and tearing of her hair,
Crying, “Oh cruel parents! you have been too severe.
“You’ve banished my truelove o’er the seas away,
Which causes me in Bedlam to sigh, and to say
That your cruel, base actions cause me to complain,
For the loss of my dear has distracted my brain.”
When the silk-mercer first came on shore,
As he was passing by Bedlam’s door,
He head his truelove lamenting full sore,
Saying, “Oh! I shall never see him any more!”
The mercer, hearing that, he was struck with surprise,
When he saw through the window her beautiful eye;
He ran to the porter the truth for to tell,
Saying, “Show me the way to the joy of my soul!”
And when that his darling jewel he did see
He took her, and sat her all on his knee,
Say she, “Are you the young man my father sent to sea,
My own dearest jewel, for loving of me?”
“Oh yes! I’m the man that your father sent to sea,
Your own dearest jewel, for loving of thee!”
“Then adieu to my sorrows, for they are now all fled,
Adieu to these chains, and likewise this straw bed!”
They sent for her parents, who came then with speed;
They went to the church, and were married indeed.
So all you wealthy parents, do a warning take,
And never strive true lovers their promises to break.