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The Bloody Gardener

[ Roud 1700 ; Ballad Index Pea668 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Bloody Gardener in ca. 1956 on his Riverside LP English Street Songs. Like all tracks from this album, this was reissued in 2008 on the A.L. Lloyd compilation CD Ten Thousand Miles Away. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Whether or not this describes a real crime, its dark and lurid subject made it a favourite broadside ballad issued by many stall-publishers during the 18th century. Perhaps it was the contrast between the gardener's gentle profession and his murderous nature that gave the ballad such a firm hold on the popular imagination. A commentator has remarked that this ballad is a complete one-act operetta in itself.

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick recorded The Bloody Gardener in 1967 for their album Byker Hill. It was reissued on their compilation albums Selections and on Martin Carthy: A Collection. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A.L. Lloyd first “discovered” The Bloody Gardener in a Vauxhall Gardens songbook of c. 1770, but it did appear in several broadsides in a form very close to the one sung here. It is curious that the ballad has not attracted more attention among scholars, for the story contains very old folkloric notions. Curious too that such a primitive-fantasy song should have been sufficiently popular in 18th century pleasure gardens to have earned a place in the annual printed songbook.

Maggie Boyle sang The Bloody Gardener in 1998 on her Pure Records CD Gweebarra.

Caroline Dijkman sang sang The Bloody Gardener in 2008 on the CD by the Dutch band Vooks, When the Fish They Fly…. They also produced a nice video of this song:

Jon Boden sang The Bloody Gardener as the July 18, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Eddy O'Dwyer sang The Bloody Gardener in 2012 on his CD Go and 'List for a Sailor. He commented in his liner notes:

I learnt this at the BACCApipes Folk Club in Keighley, hands down, my absolute favourite place to sing. A man with a long (possibly ginger) ponytail sang it. His name still evades me, but I give him thanks nonetheless.

Rachel Newton sang The Bloody Gardener in 2016 on her CD Here's My Heart Come Take It. Her verses are the same as A.L. Lloyd's.

N.B.: There are nice ones too. For a proper sort of gardener, see Maggie Holland's song A Proper Sort of Gardener.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Bloody Gardener

It's of a lady fair and a shepherd's daughter dear,
She was courted by her own true heart's delight.
But his mother laid a snare and false letters did prepare,
Saying, “Meet me in the garden, dear, this night.”

So this young maid arose and into the garden goes
Expecting there to meet her heart's delight,
She searched the garden round but no true love she found
And at length the bloody gardener came in sight.

He said, “My pretty maid, what's brought you here this way,
And have you come to rob me of my flowers so gay?”
She cried, “No thief I am, I'm in search of some young man
Who promised that he'd meet me here this day.”

Then he took out his knife, cut the single thread of life
And he laid her virtuous body in the ground;
And with flowers fine and gay this maid did overlay
In a way her body never should be found.

Her true love lay asleep on a mossy bank so sweet
And a milk-white dove come fluttering round his face;
And with battering wings so sweet all around this young man's feet,
And when he rose this dove she flew away.

This dove, she flew away and perched on a myrtle tree
And the young man followed full of grieve and pain.
Down from the tree so tall right on her grave did fall
The fresh blood from her breast like crimson rain.

Oh, this young man in anger rose and unto to his home did go
Saying, “Mother dear, you've lost me my delight,
You've robbed me of my joy, my jewel and my toy,
And now with my darling I'll take flight.”

Martin Carthy sings The Bloody Gardener

It's of a girl so fair and a shepherd's daughter dear,
She was courted by her own dear heart's delight.
But his mother laid a snare and false letters did prepare,
Saying, “Meet me in the garden here this night.”

So this young girl arose and into the garden goes
Expecting there to meet her heart's delight,
Oh she searched the garden around but no true love could be found
Till at length the bloody gardener came in sight.

Said he, “My pretty maid and what brings you this way,
Oh have you come to rob my flowers so gay?”
She cries, “No thief I am but I am in search of some young man
Who promised that he'd meet me here today.”

But he took out his knife and cut her tender thread of life
And he laid her virtuous body to bleed on the ground;
And with those flowers fine and gay this girl he did overlay
In a way her body never would be found.

Then her true love arose and into the garden goes
And a milk-white dove come fluttering where she lay;
And with battering wings so sweet all around this young man's feet,
But when he rose this dove she flew away.

Oh the dove, she flew away and into some myrtle tree
And the young man followed after full of pain.
And it's from this tree so tall down on her grave did fall
The fresh blood from off her breast like crimson rain.

The young man in anger rose and back to his home he goes
Crying, “Cursed be my mother here this day!
Oh you've robbed me of my joy, my jewel and my toy,
And I rue the life you ever gave to me.”

Links and Acknowledgements

Transcribed fro the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Bloody Gardener (from Martin Carthy).