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Lovely Joan

[ Roud 592 ; Ballad Index ShH57 ; trad.]

Ralph Vaughan Williams collected Lovely Joan in 1908 from Christopher Jay, Acle, Norfolk, and later published it in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. A.L. Lloyd recorded it in 1960 for A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Like all tracks from this LP it was reissued in 2003 on the CD England & Her Traditional Songs. Lloyd wrote in the album's sleeve notes:

The words of this skittish song have hitherto been published only in modified form. It's easy to scoff at the bowdlerising habits of early collectors, but it must be remembered that, half a century ago, folk song was generally considered to be of doubtful value, and collectors were under pressure to compromise, if they were going to get the tunes heard at all. The rather intricate moral issues suggested by Lovely Joan delighted country audiences, as they amuse us now; but may powerful folk to whom the collectors looked for support would have found the authentic text deeply shocking. Several tunes go to Lovely Joan, none of them duds. This one was sung to Vaughan Williams in a Norfolk pub by a labourer named Christopher Jay. Later, the composer wove the tune into his well-known Fantasia on Greensleeves.

Martin Carthy recorded Lovely Joan twice, in 1965 on his eponymous first record, Martin Carthy, and in 1979, with John Kirkpatrick playing accordion and Howard Evans playing trumpet, on Because It's There. The latter recording was also included on the Topic sampler The Good Old Way and on two Martin Carthy anthologies, The Collection and Rigs of the Time. A previously unreleased recording—live at Folk City NY on October 27, 1983—was included on The Carthy Chronicles. He also sang it live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros.

Martin Carthy commented his first album's notes:

The heroine of Lovely Joan may not have had quite the same resources at her disposal [as the girl in The Broomfield Hill] but succeeds no less in thwarting the young man's designs by swift action rather than chicanery. Found in southern England, East Anglia and elsewhere.

and Steve Winick in the The Collection sleeve notes:

Lovely Joan has been collected in Southern England, East Anglia and elsewhere. Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd wrote of it: “Many of our amatory folk songs show a double sentiment of gaiety and irony that comes as a surprise to those expecting merely yokel quaintness. The young lady may show herself at a loss over the conduct of a false lover, but, confronted with importunity, she remains as a rule unruffled, completely mistress of herself. And if the subterfuges she adopts are of doubtful honesty, the implied judgement is that she is a smart girl and it serves that young fellow right.” In other words, never underestimate anyone on account of social class or gender. If you do, you'll deserve what you get.

Shirley Collins sang Lovely Joan in 1967 on her album The Power of the True Love Knot. She commented in the album notes:

Etched in sunlight on a bright green field, Joan, with her resource and agility (not to mention her faithfulness to her true-lover) is immortal. The air is well-known: Vaughan Williams used it as an interlude in his Greensleeves Fantasia. Dolly's completely radical yet simple arrangement seems to underline the young man's caddish advances.

Peter Bellamy sang Lovely Joan unaccompanied in 1968 on his first solo album, Mainly Norfolk.

Derek Sarjeant and Hazel King sang Lovely Joan in 1976 on their album Hills & Dales.

Rhiannon sang Lovely Joan in 1985 on their Fellside album The Birds of Rhiannon.

Bob Lewis of Patcham, Sussex, sang Lovely Joan to Mike Yates in 1989. This recording was included in the same year on the Veteran cassette Sweet Country Life (VT120), and in 2005 on the Veteran CD It Was on a Market Day. Mike Yates commented in the album notes:

A man on a horse sees a girl working in the hayfields. He offers her his gold ring in exchange for her maidenhead, but the girl tricks him and rides off with his ring and horse, leaving him to fume alone in the meadow. There are quite a number of similar folksongs where the girl surrenders to the young man's charms and then finds herself pregnant and jilted. But, in one or two of the earlier ballads, such as The Broomfield Hill (Roud 34, Child 43) or Blow Away the Morning Dew (Roud 11, Child 112), we find a more resourceful girl, one able to outwit her would-be seducer. And this is the background for the song Lovely Joan. It's a song that was published by at least sixteen 19th century broadside printers and several Edwardian collectors noted versions. Ralph Vaughan Williams was so taken by the tune that he used it as a counter-melody for his well-known arrangement of the tune Greensleeves. Bob had the song from his mother.

Brian Peters learned Lovely Joan from the singing of Bob Lewis and recorded it in 1992 for his Harbourtown CD The Seeds of Tim.

Jo Freya sang Lovely Joan in 1992 on her Saydisc CD Traditional Songs of England.

Louis Killen learned Lovely Joan from Brian Ballinger and sang it on his 1993 CD A Bonny Bunch. He laconically comments:

Lovely Joan gives us justice served as lechery gets its comeuppance.

Coope Boyes & Simpson's sang Lovely Joan in 2005 on their album Triple Echo: Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Percy Grainger.

Ray Driscoll sang Lovely Joan to Gwilym Davies in between 1993 and 2002. This recording was released in 2008 on his CD Wild, Wild Berry. Davies commented in the album notes:

I was delighted to record this from Ray and asked where he had learnt it. He looked surprised and said “I learnt the tune from the Vaughan Williams sea symphony and then heard a folk group in Shrewsbury sing it in a pub, so I got the words off them.” So not passed on through oral tradition, then, but a good rendition nonetheless.

The Askew Sisters sang Sweet Lovely Joan in 2009 on the WildGoose CD The Axford Five. This version was collected by George Gardiner in 1907 from the then 71 years old Charlotte Hall of Axford, Hampshire. They commented:

Lovely Joan became very well known after Vaughan Williams collected a version in Norfolk in 1908 and used the tune for his Fantasia on Greensleaves, as well as publishing it in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. However, there were in fact a variety of other versions sung all over the UK, including this beautiful one from Charlotte Hall.

Roger Wilson sang Sweet Lovely Joan in 2009 on his WildGoose CD Past and Present. He commented in his liner notes:

‘Scamping young blade on milk-white steed attempts to seduce country lass in haystack and is outwitted by her,’ or, in this case, ‘Jack-the-lad in flashy motor attempts to seduce hitch-hiker in lay-by … and is outwitted by her.’

Niamh Boadle sang Lovely Joan in 2010 on her CD Wild Rose.

Bellowhead sang Lovely Joan on the bonus CD of the “deluxe” edition of their 2014 CD Revival.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Lovely JoanMartin Carthy sings Lovely Joan

A fine young man it was indeed,
He was mounted on his milk-white steed.
He rode, he rode, himself all alone
Until he came to lovely Joan.

A fine young man it was indeed,
Mounted on his milk-white steed.
He rode, he rode, and he rode all alone
Until he came to lovely Joan.

“Good morning to you, pretty maid.”
And “Twice good morning, sir,” she said.
He gave her a wink, and she rolled her eye.
Says he to himself, “I'll be there by and by.”

“Good morning to you, my pretty maid.”
And “Twice good morning, sir,” she said.
He tipped her the wink, and she rolled her dark eye.
Says he to himself, “I'll be there by and by.”

“Oh, don't you think these pooks of hay
A pretty place for us to play?
So come with me like a sweet young thing,
And I'll give you my golden ring.”

“Oh, don't you think these pooks of hay
A pretty place for us to play?
So come with me, me sweet young thing,
And I'll give you my golden ring.”

Then he pulled off his ring of gold,
“My pretty little miss, do this behold,
I'd freely give it for your maidenhead.”
And her cheeks they blushed like the roses red.

So he took off his ring of gold,
Says, “Me pretty fair miss, do this behold.
Freely I'll give it for your maidenhead.”
And her cheeks they blushed like the roses red.

“Give me that ring into my hand
And I would neither stay nor stand.
For this would do more good to me
Than twenty maidenheads,” said she.

“Come give that ring into my hand
And I will neither stay nor stand.
For your ring is worth much more to me
Than twenty maidenheads,” said she.

And as he made for the pooks of hay,
She leapt on his horse and tore away.
He called, he called, but it was all in vain,
Young Joan she never looked back again.

And as he made for the pooks of hay,
She leapt on his horse and tore away.
He called, he called, but he called in vain,
For Joan she ne'er looked back again.

She didn't think herself quite safe
Not till she came to her true love's gate.
She'd robbed him of his horse and ring
And left him to rage in the meadows green.

Nor did she she think herself quite safe
Until she came to her true love's gate.
She'd robbed him of his horse and ring
And she left him to rage in the meadows green.

Shirley Collins sings Lovely JoanPeter Bellamy sings Lovely Joan

A fine young man it was indeed,
Mounted upon his milk-white steed.
He rode, he rode, himself all alone
Until he came to lovely Joan.

A fine young man it was indeed,
He come mounted on his milk-white steed.
He rode and he rode himself all alone
Until he come to lovely Joan.

“Good morning to you, my pretty little maid.”
“Twice good morning, sir,” she said.
He tipped her the wink, she rolled her eye.
Said he to himself, “I'll be there by and by.”

“Good morning to you, my pretty fair maid.”
“And it's twice good morning, sir,” she said.
He gave her the wink and she rolled her eye.
Said him to himself, “Well, I'll be there by and by.”

“Now, don't you think there pooks of hay
A pretty place for us to play?
So come with me like a sweet young thing,
And I'll give you my golden ring.”

“Well, don't you think that these pooks of hay
Are a pretty place for us to play?
So come with me, my pretty young thing,
And I'll give you this golden ring.”

Then he pulled off his ring of gold,
“My pretty little miss, do this behold,
I'd freely give it for your maidenhead.”
Her cheeks they blushed like roses red.

Then he pulled off his ring of gold,
Saying, “Pretty little miss, do this behold,
I'd freely give it for your maidenhead.”
And her cheeks they blushed like the roses red.

“Give me the ring into my hand
And I will neither stay nor stand.
For that would be more use to me
Than twenty maidenheads,” said she.

“It's give me that ring all into my hand
And I will neither stay nor stand.
For that golden ring it is worth to me
Much more than twenty maidenheads,” said she.

Then as he made for the pooks of hay,
She leapt on his horse and she tore away.
He called and called, but all in vain,
For Joan she never looked back again.

But as he made for the pooks of hay,
She jumped upon his horse and she tore away.
He cursed and he swore, but it was all in vain,
Young Joan she never looked back again.

Nor did she think herself quite safe
Not till she came to her true love's gate.
She's robbed the lord of his horse and ring
And left him to rage in the meadows green.

And she didn't think herself quite safe
Until she had come to her father's gate.
She's robbed him of his horse and his ring
And left him to rage in the meadows green.

Bob Lewis sings Lovely Joan

A noble knight it was indeed
Mounted on his milk white steed.
He rode he rode himself all alone
Until he came to lovely Joan.

“Good morning to you, pretty maid.”
“And twice good morning, sir,” she said.
“What, are you milking all alone?”
“Oh, yes,” replied sweet lovely Joan.

Then he pulled out a purse of gold.
He said, “Pretty maid, all this behold.
All this I’ll give for your maidenhead.”
Her cheeks they blushed like roses so red.

“Oh no, noble knight, I pray you forebear,
To lie with you I do not care.
For on tomorrow, I’ll be wed
Unto my own true love instead.”

Then he did make a solemn vow
He would have her whether or no.
And this he said to frighten Joan
As she sat milking all alone.

“Then give the gold into my hand
And I shall be at your command.
For the gold it is more use to me
Than twenty husbands, sir,” said she.

But as these very words she said
She mounted on his milk white steed.
She rode away and he called in vain
But Joan she ne’er looked back again.

Nor did she think herself quite safe
Not till she came to her true lover’s gate.
She’s robbed the lord of his steed and gold
And left him the empty purse to hold.

Now it pleased her true love to the heart
To think how well she played her part.
“Tomorrow morning we’ll be wed
And I shall be your knight instead.”

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Lovely Joan.