> Joseph Taylor > Songs > Worcester City
> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Worcester City
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Oxford City / Worcester City / Newport Street / The Cup of Poison

[ Roud 218 ; Laws P30 ; G/D 2:210 ; Ballad Index LP30 ; Bodleian Roud 218 ; Wiltshire Roud 218 ; trad.]

This song of a woman poisoned by her jealous lover was printed as Oxford City in Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd's The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959) and in Steve Roud's The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012), and as The Poisoned Cup (from Chris Marsom, Bedfordshire) in Fred Hamer's EFDS book Garners Gay.

Joseph Taylor sang Worcester City in 1908 to Percy Grainger. This wax cylinder recording was published in 1972 on the LP Unto Brigg Fair. It was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology O'er His Grave the Grass Grew Green (The Voice of the People Volume 3). The original album's sleeve notes commented:

This song is most commonly known by the alternative titles, Oxford City - The Cup of Poison or Jealousy though it appears on many broadsides under the title of In — Town, a device to allow for localisation. For other variants see HGG, SLM, VWLP, GNE, REC, GCSM and the following broadsides: P, C, H, F, Bi Fo, WM, HP, PB, JB etc. Sound recordings: BBC 18581 BBC 22738, C-le 1, FTA 102, TC 1163, 12T138, 12T195.

Mary Doran of Waterford, Co. Waterford, sang Oxford City on July 24, 1952 to Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle. This BBC archive recording 18581 was published on the anthology Fair Game and Foul (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 7; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

Emily Sparkes sang a fragment of The Jealous Lover to John Howson in Rattlesden in 1958/59. This recording was included in 1993 on the Veteran cassettes and in 2009 on the Veteran CD Many a Good Horseman.

George ‘Pop’ Maynard sang Oxford City at The Plough, Three Bridges on February 10, 1960. This recording made by Brian Matthews was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Down the Cherry Tree, and in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from Sussex country pubs in the 1960s, Just Another Saturday Night. The latter also contains a recording of Louie Saunders singing a version called Young Maria on May 27, 1960 at the Abergavenny Arms, Copthorne.

Queen Caroline Hughes sang The Jealous Lover to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1963 or 1966. This recording was included in 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology, Sheep-Crook and Black Dog. Celia Warren sang this as Jealousy Thoughts to Peter Kennedy in Caroline Hughes' caravan near Blandford, Dorset, on April 19, 1968. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of songs by Southern English gypsy traditional singers, I'm a Romany Rai (The Voice of the People Volume 22).

Jack Smith sang Jealousy on November 5, 1969 at the King's Head folk club. This recording was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions club anthology, King's Head Folk Club.

Freda Palmer from Leafield, near Whitney in Oxfordshire, sang Oxford City in 1973 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 1975 on the Topic album of countryside songs from Southern England, When Sheepshearing's Done, and in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from the Mike Yates collection, Up in the North and Down in the South.

Peta Webb sang Oxford City in 1973 on her Topic album I Have Wandered in Exile. She and Ken Hall also sang it as Poison in a Glass of Wine on their 2000 Fellside CD, As Close As Can Be. Reg Hall or A.L. Lloyd commented in the Topic album's sleeve notes:

A best-seller from the early nineteenth century broadside house of James Catnach, subsequently widely copied by their London and provincial rivals. The song, particularly favoured in the English southern counties, came to enjoy lively currency in Scotland as far as Aberdeen, and through the length and breadth of Ireland. All versions of this melodrama agree closely as to plot, though singers have variously described the jealous lover as a sailor, a ploughboy, a serving man. American versions say he poisoned his sweetheart with ‘burglar’s wine’. The tune is best known as a vehicle for the ballad of Lord Bateman.

Harry Upton sang Poison in a Glass of Wine to Mike Yates in 1972-1975. Thus recording was published in 1975 on the Topic anthology of traditional songs from Sussex, Sussex Harvest.

Chris Foster sang Worcester City in 1977 on his Topic album Layers.

Danny Brazil sang Poison in a Glass of Wine to Gwilym Davies in Staverton, Glos., on April 14, 1995. This recording was included in 2007 on the Musical Traditions anthology of the Brazil Family, Down By the Old Riverside.

Sheila Stewart sang this ballad as The Oxford Tragedy in a recording made by Doc Rowe in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, on October 15, 1998. It was included in 2000 on her Topic CD From the Heart of the Tradition. The liner notes commented:

A song from Sheila's father's sister, Bella Higgins of Blairgowrie; although her version (which is held in the School of Scottish Studies) began: “In Belfast City”. In broadside form the song was widespread and is known variously as The Poisoned Cup, Poison in a Glass of Wine, Oxford Town and Jealousy. The Jealous Lover was the title given to the song by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger when they recorded it from Sheila in the 1970's. Gavin Greig collected numerous versions and although the text remains reasonably uniform in all versions, the actual jealous lover varies. He may be a sailor, a ploughman or a servant who falls in love with the daughter of the household. Many versions end with a specific gender warning “beware of jealous men”.

Eliza Carthy learned Worcester City from the singing of Joseph Taylor and recorded it for her 2002 CD Anglicana. She commented in her album sleeve notes:

I first heard Joseph Taylor when my Dad played me Creeping Jane, another of his songs. He was the first traditional singer to have a commercial release after Percy Grainger recorded him and put out Brigg Fair on a wax cylinder. I always loved his voice and style, singing to me from 1908; don't ever let anyone tell you that traditional singers know nothing about music or performance! In the story I think that if I was her I'd have clocked him and tried to get back to his house and the antidote, rather than giving him the satisfaction of dying in his arms… might not have been as good a story, but Steven Spielberg might have been with me.

The website of the Australian TV series, The Pure Drop, has a short video of Eliza singing the first two verses of Worcester City.

Eliza Carthy's band-mate Tim van Eyken recorded Worcester City in 2006 for his solo CD Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves.

Jon Boden, who accompanied Eliza on melodeon on her recording of Worcester City, sang this song as the March 4, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He reminisced in the blog:

Probably one of the most exciting phone calls I've ever had was from John Spiers saying that Eliza Carthy had been in touch and was asking if we'd like to play on her new album. This was one of three tracks we played on, and we ended up playing it quite a lot after joining her band, although we actually knew it already from Graham Metcalfe's rather magnificent pub version.

This video shows Eliza Carthy singing Worcester City at Spiers & Boden's 10th Birthday Party on May 11, 2011:

Nic Jones sang another version of this song called Newport Street on his 1978 album From the Devil to a Stranger. He gives the Journals of the Folk Song Society as his source.

Jim Causley sang Oxford City in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Lost Love Found. He commented in his liner notes:

I learnt this song from the singing of Freda Palmer from Leafield, near Whitney in Oxfordshire. More commonly known as Worcester City or the plot-giveaway title Poison in a Glass of Wine. This song is an early precursor to warning posters in nightclubs for drink-spiking. I think if I’d chosen the title I would have gone for Don't Go Out With a Psycho!

Hazel Askew sang Down in Fleet Street in 2009 on the Askew Sisters' and Craig; Morgan; Robson's album of traditional English songs collected by George Gardiner in 1907 from five woman singers in Axford, Hampshire, The Axford Five. This song was originally sung by Marty Munday.

Andy Turner learned Worcester City from Unto Brigg Fair. and sang it as the October 7, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Dovetail Trio sang Poison in a Glass of Wine in 2015 on their CD Wing of Evening. Rosie Hood commented in their liner notes:

Collected by Alfred Williams from Mrs Williams of Crudwell, Wiltshire, in 1916 as Around the Grove As I Was Waking. I found this version through the Wiltshire Community History Folk Song website. A particularly unlucky girl finds herself the centre of the obsession of a jealous young man; the title says it all really.

This video shows the Dovetail Trio at Wath Festival in May 2014:

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor sings Worcester City Eliza Carthy sings Worcester City

In Worcester City there lived a damsel
Now the truth to you I'll tell;
She by her servantman was courted,
Who ofttimes told her he loved her well.

In Worcester City there lived a damsel
And now the truth to you I'll tell;
She by her servantman was courted,
Who often told her he loved her well.

She loved him too, but at a distance;
He did not seem to be very fond.
“Now for your fondness and unconstant fairness
I soon will end your sweet tender life.”

She loved him true, but at a distance;
He did not think to be very fond.
“Now for your convicts and inconstant lovers
I pray you'll end your sweet tender love.”

Then a short time after, this fair young damsel,
Was invited to a ball you know.
This wicked young man he followed after
And soon prepared for her overthrow.

By a young master, this fair young damsel
Was invited to a ball, you know.
This wicked young man he followed after
And soon prepared for her overthrow.

As she was dancing all with another
Jealousy it filled his mind;
Then to destroy his own true lover
This wicked young man he was inclined.

As she was dancing all with another
Jealousy it filled his mind;
Then to destroy his own true lover
This wicked young man he was inclined.

Then quickly he prepared some poison,
And mixed it with a glass of wine,
And gave it to his own true lover -
She drank it with a most fearful mind.

Oh, quickly he prepared some poison,
He mixed it with a glass of wine,
And gave it to his own true lover;
She drank it with a most fearful mind.

A little after this fair young damsel,
“Now take me home, my dear,” said she
“For the liquor that you have lately gave me
It makes me very ill indeed.”

A little after this fair young damsel,
“Now take me home, my dear,” said she
“For the liquor that you have lately gave me
Has made me very ill indeed.”

As they was walking along together,
He then unto her did say,
“I gave you poison in your liquor,
All for to take your sweet life away.

As they was walking along together,
He then unto her did say,
“I gave you poison all in your liquor,
All for to take your sweet life away.”

“And I have drunk of the same, my jewel,
I soon shall die as well as thee.”
So in each other's arms they di-ed;
Young men beware of jealousy.

“And I have drunk of the same, my jewel,
I hope to die as well as thee.”
So in each other's arms they died;
And young men, beware of jealousy.

Nic Jones sing Newport Street The Dovetail Trio sing Poison in a Glass of Wine

In Newport Street it was reported:
A comely woman there did dwell,
And by a serving man was courted
Who loved this lady exceeding well.

Around the grove as I was walking,
And in the fields, where all was green,
'Twas there I spied two damsels talking,
Which made the small birds whistle and sing.

He says, “My dear, let us get married!
Oh dearest love, don't you dislike me;
I'll work for you both late and early
If you my wedded wife will be.”

He said, “My dear, shall I enjoin you?
And for ever I will prove true.
I hope a raging will destroy me,
If ever I should prove false to you.”

She says, “Kind sir, let us consider,
We are both yet too young to wed.
When we are married we're bound together;
Let us live single for another year.”

“Although my name it is Maria,
I am a girl of high degree;
He courted me both late and early,
Until he had his will of me.”

Although this fair and lovely creature,
She was invited to a ball,
Her jealous young man soon came after,
It was to prove her overthrow.

But then he saw her dancing with some other,
A jealous thought ran into his mind.
For to destroy his own true lover
He gave her poison in a glass of wine.

He caught her dancing with another,
When jealousy fulfilled his mind;
And to destroy his own true lover,
This jealous young man he felt inclined.

A dose of poison he provided,
Mixed it all with a glass of wine;
He gave it to his own true lover,
She drank it up with a cheerful mind.

She drank the wine and then she halted,
“Oh dearest love, oh and pray take me.
That glass of wine you just now gave me
Makes me as sick as I can be.”

And when she had no sooner drunk it,
“Pray take me home, my dear,” said she;
“The glass of liquor you just gave to me,
Has made me ill as ill can be.”

As they were walking home together
These very words he told to her:
“That glass of wine I just now gave you
It will soon take your sweet life away.”

As they were walking home together
This wicked young man unto her did say;
“I gave you poison all in your liquor
To take your tender life away.”

“But I have drunk the same, my dearest,
I am as ill, as ill as thee.”
All in each other's arms they died,
Young girls be aware of jealousy.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Eliza Carthy by Reinhard Zierke based on Joseph Taylor's version as transcribed by Garry Gillard.