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Watercresses

[ Roud 1653 ; Ballad Index Peac320 ; VWML GG/1/7/402 ; Bodleian Roud 1653 ; trad.]

George Gardiner collected The Bunch of Watercresses from George Lovett of Winchester, Hampshire, in August 1906. [VWML GG/1/7/402] . Frank Purslow printed this version in his 1968 book The Wanton Seed.

Joe Estey sang The Bunch of Watercresses to Lee Haggerty and Henry Felt in August 1963. This recording was included in 2000 on the Folk-Legacy anthology Ballads and Songs of Tradition.

Will Noble sang Watercresses on his 2017 Veteran CD It's Gritstone for Me. Brian Peters and John Howson commented in the album's liner notes:

Written and popularised by the Music Hall entertainer Harry Clifton. Watercresses may have taken its tune from that other song of a man outwitted, The Basket of Oysters. The song was sufficiently popular to have been carried to Canada, and was also in Arthur Howard's repertoire.

Lyrics

Will Noble sings Watercresses

I am a jolly farmer and from Bedfordshire I came,
To see some friends in Camberwell, and Morgau is my name;
At a dairy farm, near Dunstable, I live when I'm at home,
And if I do get back again, I never more will roam.
But if you'll give attention. I will tell without delay,
How a buxom little damsel my attention led astray,
And promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

'Twas on the first of April when I arrived in town,
And being quite a stranger there, I wandered up and down,
'Till I lost myself entirely, I cannot tell you where.
But in a very quiet street, the corner of a square,
A neatly dressed young woman came walking down the way,
As long as I remember, I shall ne'er forget the day.
For she promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

Politely I addressed her and unto her did say:
“I wish to go to Camberwell, can you direct the way?”
“Oh. yes, sir! oh, yes, sir!” she speedily replied,
“Take the turning on the left and then go down the other side.”
Her voice it was the sweetest I ever yet did hear,
In her hands, just like the lily, that were so white and clear.
She'd a bunch of early onions, and half a pint of beer,
Some pickles, and a bunch of watercresses.

I gathered resolution, half in business, half in joke,
I hinted matrimony and these very words I spoke.
I bowed and I thanked her, I walked by her side,
I thought how well she'd look as a dairy farmer's bride.
“I've a farm of forty acres. I've horses, cows and geese,
Besides I have a dairy filled with butter, milk and cheese;
Will you marry me, and mistress be, fair maiden, of all these?
And we'll pass our days in love and watercresses.”

She replied with a smile (or a leer, if you choose),
“You are so very generous I cannot well refuse,
So give me your directions, and I will without delay
Prepare for matrimony, to love, honour, and obey;
I've a wedding dress to buy, and some little bills to pay.”
I handed her a sovereign, expenses to defray,
And she promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

Next day a letter I received, and read there with surprise
“Dear sir, for disappointing you I do apologise;
But when next you choose a stranger into partnership for life,
Be sure she is a maiden, or a widow, not a wife.
I've a husband of my own, and his name is Willie Grey,
And if I can afford it the sovereign I'll repay.
But to think that I should marry you upon the first of May,
Why, you must be as green as watercresses.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Tune Req: Water Cresses.