> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > I Wish My Love (The Pitman's Love Song)

What a Voice / I Wish My Love / The Pitman's Love Song

[ Roud 495 ; G/D 6:1189 ; Ballad Index McST055 ; trad.]

Jeannie Robertson sang What a Voice, in a recording made in 1955, on her 1957 Riverside album Songs of a Scots Tinker Lady. Another recording, made by Bill Leader in 1959, was released on her eponymous Topic album Jeannie Robertson. An earlier recording, made by Alan Lomax in London in November 1953, was included in 1998 as When My Apron Hung Low on her Rounder CD The Queen Among the Heather. Hamish Henderson commented in both the Riverside and the Topic album's sleeve notes:

The lament of the forsaken sweetheart whose baby is not yet born is found in various songs throughout the British Isles and America. The Scottish collector Gavin Greig called this song I Wish, I Wish, from the opening line of one of the verses which usually appears in it. The version current in Scotland seems to be descended from The Marchioness of Douglas’ Lament, otherwise known as O, Waly, Waly. Many of the lines are also commonly found in the Appalachian pregnancy ballad Careless Love.

Lizzie Higgins sang What a Voice, What a Voice as the title track of her 1985 Lismor album What a Voice. Another version, recorded by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert in 1977, was included on her Musical Traditions anthology of 2006, In Memory of Lizzie Higgins. Rod Stradling commented in the booklet:

A song found mostly in England, where it is generally known as I Wish, I Wish. Only Lizzie and her mother Jeannie have been recorded singing it in Scotland, and only they begin the song with the words “What a voice …” This was the first time Lizzie sang this—her mother's song—in public.

Cecilia Costello sang I Wish, I Wish on November 30, 1951 in Birmingham for a BBC recording made by Maria Slocombe and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw. It was released in 1975 on her eponymous Leader album Cecilia Costello.

A.L. Lloyd sang I Wish My Love unaccompanied in 1966 on his Topic album First Person. The track was reissued in 1994 as I Wish, I Wish on the CD Classic A.L. Lloyd. A.L. Lloyd commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

A lost song re-found. It resides among the manuscript papers of eccentric old John Bell of Newcastle, a great pioneer collector of the folk songs of the English North-east, unjustly neglected. Many of his songs found their way, unacknowledged, into the celebrated Northumbrian Minstrelsy, but this one was not among them. The song is something of a masterpiece, but it seems to have dropped right out of tradition after Bell noted it, apparently in the opening years of the nineteenth century. In Bell's manuscript the piece is entitled A Pitman's Love Song. There's nothing in the text of the song that attaches to the miner's calling. Bell gives no tune for it, so I have fitted one. There's another verse to this piece, passionate and scatological. Rather to my own surprise I find myself too prudish to sing it, though I'm impressed by its intensity.

George Dunn sang a fragment I Wish, I Wish to Roy Palmer on September 21, 1971. This recording was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker.

Walter Pardon sang I Wish, I Wish on June 25, 1978 at his home in Knapton, Norfolk, to Mike Yates. This recording was released in 1982 on his Topic album A Country Life and was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology As Me and My Love Sat Courting (The Voice of the People Volume 15). Mike Yates noted:

Most commentators appear to have linked I Wish, I Wish with the song Died for Love or else have noted that it simply comprises a number of so-called ‘floating’ verses. I would suggest, however, that this is partly incorrect. At least two other English singers had almost identical texts to Walter’s, so that it seems to me that there may, at one time, have been a printed broadside version of the song, which is the indirect source of not only Walter’s song but also of the similar versions sung by Ben Baxter of Norfolk (BBC recording) and Cecilia Costello of Birmingham (BBC recording).

Similar texts have also been recorded in North America and Dillard Chandler of North Carolina sings a particularly fine version on the record High Atmosphere. One possible contender could be based on the song The Effects of Love—A New Song which was issued by an anonymous broadside printer in the 18th century.

Emily Smith sang What a Voice in 2011 on her CD Traiveller's Joy.

Lyrics

Jeannie Robertson sings What a Voice

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear,
For it's like the voice of my Willy dear.
But if I had wings like that swallow fly
For I would clasp in the dear arms of my Billy boy.

When my apron it hung low
My true love followed through frost and snow.
But now my apron it is tae my chin
And he passes me by and he oh ne'er spiers in.

It was up and doon yon white hoose brae
That he called a strange girlie to his knee
And he telled her a tale which he once told me.

O, I wish I wish, o, I wish in vain,
O, I wish I was a maid again.
But a maid again I will never be
Till an apple grows on an orange tree.

O, I wish I wish that my babe was born
And smiling on some nurse's knee.
But for myself to be dead and gone
And the long green grass growing over me.

For there is a blackbird sits on yon tree,
Some says it is blind and it cannae see.
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
And so is my true love tae me.

Lizzie Higgins sings What a Voice

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear,
It's like the voice of my Willie dear.
An if I had wings like that swallow high
I would clasp in the arms of my Billy boy.

When my apron it hung low
My true love followed through frost and snow.
But now my apron is tae ma chin;
He passes me by and he'll ne'er speir in.

It's up and doon yon white hoose brae,
He's called a strange girlie to his knee
An he's telt her a tale that he's once told me.

There is a blackbird sits on yon tree,
Some says it is blind and it cannae see.
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
And that's what my true love's tae me.

Oh I wish, I wish, oh I wish in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
But a maid again I will never be
'Til a apple it grows on a orange tree.

I wish, I wish my babe was born
An smiling on some nurse's knee.
An for myself to be dead and gone
An the long green grass growing over me.

A.L. Lloyd sings I Wish My Love

I wish my love she was a cherry
A-growing on yon cherry tree
And I myself a bonnie blackbird
How I would peck that sweet cherry

I wish my love she was a red rose
A-growing on yon garden wall
And I myself a drop of dew
How on that red rose I would fall

I wish my love was in a little box
And I myself to carry the key
I'd go in to her whenever I'd a mind
And I'd bear my love good company

I wish my love she was a grey ewe
A-grazing by yonder riverside
And I myself a fine black ram
Oh on that ewe how I would ride

My love she's bonnie, my love she's canny
And she's well favoured for to see
And the more I think on her my heart is set upon her
And under her apron I fain would be

I wish my love she was a bee-skip
And I myself a bumble-bee
That I might be a lodger within her
For she's sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb tea

(The verse A.L. Lloyd left out:)

I wish my love was a ripe turd
And smoking down in yon dykeside
And I myself was a shitten flea
I'd suck her up before she dried

George Dunn sings I Wish I Wish

I wish, I wish, but it's all in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
A maid again I never shall be
Till apples grow on an orange tree.

I grieve, I grieve, I'll tell you why,
Because she's got more gold than I;
But her gold will melt …

Walter Pardon sings I Wish I Wish

I wish, I wish, but ‘tis in vain.
I wish I were a maid again.
A maid again I’ll never be
‘Till the apple grow on the orange tree.

Oh when my apron strings tied low
He’d follow me through frost and snow.
But now my apron’s to my chin
He passes by and says nothing.

Oh grief, oh grief, I’ll tell you why,
That girl has got more gold than I.
More gold than I and wealth and fame
But she’ll become like me again.

I wish, I wish, my child were born,
And seated on her father’s knee;
And I was in the churchyard laid
With a green, green grass growing over me.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins).