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> June Tabor > Songs > Ten Thousand Miles

The Turtle Dove / Ten Thousand Miles

[ Roud 422 ; Ballad Index Wa097 , R793 ; MusTrad DB20 ; VWML CJS2/9/568 , CJS2/10/707 , HAM/3/20/20 ; trad.]

This parting song is known as The Turtle Dove, Ten Thousand Miles, and with a lot of other names. It is not easy separating the versions because they share many floating verses.

A.L. Lloyd sang Turtle Dove unaccompanied in 1956 on his Tradition album The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs. He commented in the liner notes:

Around 1770, leaflets bearing the words of this song were being hawked about the fairgrounds of England and Scotland. Milkmaids and horse-handlers would paste such leaflets on the walls of dairy and stable to learn the songs as they worked. Now and then, the place would get a new coat of whitewash and a fresh layer of song sheets. Robert Burns obtained one of the Turtle Dove leaflets (it still exists, with his name scrawled on it in a boyish hand). Years later, he remade the song into his famous lyric, My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose. Beautiful as Burns' song is, it is no better than the present version, evolved by country singers in Dorset.

Peter Bellamy sang The Turtle Dove unaccompanied on his first solo LP, Mainly Norfolk (1968). He commented in the album's liner notes:

The songs which complete each side of the record are both “foreign” [i.e. not collected in Norfolk] — the reason for including them being that I like them too much not to. Both were collected by Cecil Sharp and published in his Folk Songs from Somerset: The Turtle Dove from Mrs Glover of Huish Episcopi [VWML CJS2/9/568] and The Saucy Sailor from Mr Thomas Hendy of Ilminster.

Sweeney's Men sang My Dearest Dear in 1968 on their eponymous Transatlantic album, Sweeney's Men. They also sang it in June 2012 at Andy Irvine's 70th Birthday Concert. Andy Irvine noted:

Terry [Woods] found these lyrics in a songbook in the early 60's. Liking the words and being influenced by The Carter Family, he put his own tune to it. The words are very similar to songs collected in the Appalachian Maountains, either called The Blackest Crow or The Time Draws Near. Bruce Molsky has a version he learned from the great banjo and fiddle player from Mount Airy NC, Tommy Jarrell.

Cyril Tawney sang The Turtle Dove on his 1973 Argo album of traditional love songs from South West England, I Will Give My Love. His version is from Somerset.

Three versions of Turtle Dove are also on the 1986 LP An Hour with Cecil Sharp and Ashley Hutchings, a cylinder recording of Mr Pendfold, landlord of the “Plough Inn”, Rusper, Sussex, by Ralph Vaughan Williams; a version sung by Martin Carthy; and a guitar-only version played by Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson and Dave Whetstone.

Nic Jones learned Ten Thousand Miles from A.L. Lloyd and sang it in 1977 on his third album, The Noah's Ark Trap, which sadly is unavailable now.

This is Nic Jones singing Ten Thousand Miles on 28 May 2011 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall:

Eliza Carthy took Ten Thousand Miles from Nic Jones and recorded it in 1996 for her CD Heat Light & Sound, together with the Morris jig Bacca Pipes. This track was also included in the Mrs Casey Records anthology Evolving Tradition 2. Eliza commented in her original album's sleeve notes:

A.L. Lloyd sent a version of this to Nic Jones and he recorded it, and since then not many people have done it. So here it is, with Bacca Pipes which is a Morris jig (thanks Bampton). There are lots of versions of 10.000 Miles in the Journal of the Folk Song Society.

Eliza Carthy recorded this song for a second time with six additional verses for her album Red. On this recording she was accompanied by Sam Thomas, drums, percussion; Barnaby Stradling, electric bass; Martin Green, piano accordion; Oliver Knight, electric guitar; Ed Boyd, acoustic guitar; and Lucy Adams, vocals. It was later included in the Topic Records anthology The Acoustic Folk Box. Finally, Eliza recorded this song for a third time in 2004 with the Oysterband at The Big Session Vol. 1, where it is followed by the Hungarian March.

June Tabor sang Ten Thousand Miles on her 1992 album Angel Tiger. This recording was also included in her 4CD anthology Always.

James Fagan and Nancy Kerr sang Turtle Dove in 1997 on their Fellside CD Starry Gazy Pie. They commented in their liner notes:

A song made up of tags from other ballads, collected in Kentucky from “Singing Willie” Nolan. The words are more or less as E.K. Wells printed in The Ballad Tree, but Nancy altered the melody and time signature, and added a final verse.

In 1998, Martin Carthy recorded Turtle Dove again for the trio CD Wood—Wilson—Carthy. It was also recorded by Coope Boyes & Simpson in 2005 for their album Triple Echo: Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Percy Grainger.

Finest Kind sang Blackest Crow on their 2003 album Silks & Spices. They noted:

Tommy Jarrell, the venerable North Carolina fiddler, sang and played a definitive waltz version of this plaintive song, under the title The Time Draws Near. Ann [Downey] fell for it via a lovely modal banjo version by Toronto old-time musicians Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole on their 1997 CD, 5 Strings Attached With No Backing. They had adapted it from a recording by Brad Leftwich, a new-time (also venerable) old-time player, and a relative of Tommy Jarrell’s.

Mary Humphreys and Anahata sang The Turtle Dove in 2004 on their WildGoose album Floating Verses Mary Humphreys noted:

The song was collected from Mrs Hann of Stoke Abbot, Dorset in 1906 by H.E.D.Hammond [VWML HAM/3/20/20] and published in JFSS 3:11 1907 pp.86. The words that Hammond published in Folk Songs from Dorset are a composite. The only verses noted from Mrs Hann are verses 3 and 4 in the version sung here. Hammond notes that this is the only major version of the song he has collected. The others were all modal tunes, and heart-rendingly beautiful too.

A broadside printed c. 1690 called the Unkind Parents is thought to be one of the origins of the text. Some verses of the song crop up in all the English-speaking areas of the British Isles and even form the basis of Burns' My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.

Tim Laycock sang The Turtle Dove on his 2010 CD of folk songs and tunes from Dorset, Sea Strands. He noted:

This lovely song was included by Frank Purslow in Marrow Bones, his first selection from the folk song manuscripts of the Hammond Brothers that did so much to popularise the Dorset repertoire in folk clubs all over the world. Frank collated three versions of the song from different Dorset singers; one of them, Mr Bridle, lived in Stratton, just across the river Frome from where I now live.

Lynne Heraud and Pat Turner sang The Little Turtle Dove in 2007 on their WildGoose CD September Days. They noted:

A beautiful song that we got from the singing of the late John Langstaff. It was collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp [VWML CJS2/10/707] .

Brian Peters sang Ten Thousand Miles in 2010 on his CD Gritstone Serenade. He commented in his liner notes:

Also known as The Turtle Dove, this song seems to have originated as as 17th-century broadside, but thereafter its history becomes very tangled, involving traditional North American love songs like The Blackest Crow and A-Roving on a Winter's Night as well as Robert Burns' My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose, all of which borrow verses from the original. The tune I use was notated by George Gardiner from George Blake in Sd. Denis, Southampton, in 1906 but, since Mr Blake remembered only one verse, I cherry-picked from several other sources to put together this version.

The Askew Sisters sang The Turtle Dove in 2010 on their CD Through Lonesome Woods. They commented in their liner notes:

We begin this piece with a short rendition of Valentine from the Ascot-under-Wychwood morris tradition, although we used to dance to it in the Fieldtown style. Coincidentally, the title of this tune fits very well with the song that follows it, a beautiful version of the Turtle Dove sung by Edith Sartin (a distant relative of well known folkie Paul Sartin) in Corscombe, Dorset in 1906 (although we have slightly altered the tune). It was collected by brothers Henry and Robert Hammond and can be found in the reissued Marrow Bones book.

Jon Boden sang Turtle Dove as the 25 March 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

This is one of my favourite songs from James Fagan and Nancy Kerr's repertoire. James and Nancy were the first professional musicians I ever met and I was somewhat in awe of them. I still am, truth be told.

Alden Patterson and Dashwood sang Ten Thousand Miles on their 2018 CD By the Night. They noted:

A traditional English folk song which we learnt while on holiday in Western Ireland. This version was inspired by a recording by Nic Jones from 1977. We changed the melody and the lyrical arrangement.

Claire Hastings sang Ten Thousand Miles on her 2019 CD Those Who Roam. She noted:

Also known as Fare Thee Well, several lyrics in the song parallel those of Robert Burns' My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose.

A Different Thread sang The Blackest Crow on their 2020 EP Some Distant Shore.

Nick Dow sang The Turtle Dove on his 2020 album of love songs from the British Tradition, In a Garden Grove. He noted:

A hybrid version of this well known song, with a tune and a couple of verses from Somerset and the rest from various versions from Dorset. I particularly like the verse about the bonny swan. All of the versions collected in the West country seem to have derived from The True Lover's Farewell printed in 1800, but the song was probably old then. The swan verse is probably Irish in origin.

Compare to this song the related A-Roving on a Winter's Night and their Canadian cousin, Mary Ann.

Lyrics

Cyril Tawney sings The Turtle Dove

Farewell my joy and heart's delight
I must leave you for a while,
If I go away I'll come again
If I go ten thousand mile, my dear,
if I go ten thousand mile.

Ten thousand miles it is too far
To leave me here alone.
Whilst I may lie, lament and cry
Thou cannot hear my moan, my dear,
Thou cannot hear my moan.

Thy moan, my dear, I cannot hear.
Thyself I cannot ease.
If I go away I'll come again
When all they friends are pleased, my dear,
When all they friends are pleased.

Suppose my friends shall never get pleased
And look with an angry eye?
Then you and I will never never part
Until the seas run dry, my dear,
Until the seas run dry.

Suppose the seas should never run dry
Nor the rocks melt with the sun?
Then you and I will never never part
Until those things are done, my dear,
Until those things are done.

Suppose those things shall never come to pass
As long as we both shall live?
Then you and I will never never part
Till we both lie in our graves, my dear,
Till we both lie in our graves.

The crow that flies so very high
Shall change his colour to white,
If ever I prove false to my own heart's delight
Bright day shall turn to night, my dear,
Bright day shall turn to night.

Don't you see that little turtle dove,
How she sits on yonder spray?
How she laments for her true love
As I lament for thee, my dear,
As I lament for thee.

You may call me when you see me not
And speak by me as you find.
For I'm not like that weathercock
That changes with the wind, my dear,
That changes with the wind.

Peter Bellamy sings The Turtle DoveMartin Carthy sings Turtle Dove

Oh don't you see yon little turtle dove
Sitting under the mulberry tree
And a-making mourn for his own true love
As I shall mourn for thee, my dear,
As I shall mourn for thee.

So you must suffer grief and pain,
'Tis but for a little while.
And wherever I will go I will return,
Though I go ten thousand mile, my dear,
Though I go ten thousand mile.

Fare thee well, my dear, I must be gone
And leave you for a while.
If I go away, I'll come back again
Though I go ten thousand mile, my dear,
Though I go ten thousand mile.

Ten thousand mile it is too far
To leave me all alone,
While I must lie, lament and cry,
And you'll not hear my moan, my dear,
And you'll not hear my moan

Ten thousand mile it is a long way
To leave me here alone,
To leave me here to sigh and complain
Where you never will hear my moans, my dear,
Where you never will hear my moans.

Your moans, my dear, I shall never hear,
No likewise none of your crying.
If I go away, I'll come back again
When from your friends you're free, my dear,
When from your friends you're free.

Well the tide it shall seize to beat the shore
And stars shall fall from the sky,
Yet I will love thee more and more,
Until the day i die, my dear,
Until the day i die

Oh, these of my friends, they never should have been
They were growing so lofty and high
And I never will prove false to the one that I love
Till the stars fall from the sky, my dear,
Till the stars fall from the sky.

Then let the seas run dry, my dear,
And rocks all melt in the sun,
Yet here I'll stay and never from thee part,
Till all these things be done, my dear,
Till all these things be done

Oh, the stars will never fall down from the sky
Nor the rocks never melt with the sun
And I never will prove false to the one that I love
Till all these things be done, my love,
Till all these things be done.

Oh don't you see yon little turtle dove
Sitting under the mulberry tree
A-making mourn for his own true love
As I shall mourn for thee, my dear,
As I shall mourn for thee.

Oh, yonder do sit, yon little turtle dove,
He do sit on yonder high tree.
He's a making a moan for the loss of his love
As I will do for thee, my dear,
As I will do for thee.

Nic Jones sings Ten Thousand Miles Eliza Carthy sings Ten Thousand Miles
on Heat Light & Sound

Fare you well, my own true love,
Farewell for a while;
I'm going away, but I'll be back
If I go ten thousand miles.

Fare you well, my own true love,
Farewell for a while;
I'm going away, but I'll be back
If I go ten thousand miles.

Ten thousand miles, my own true love,
Ten thousand miles or more.
And the rocks may melt and the seas may burn
If I no more return.

Ten thousand miles, it is a long way,
Ten thousand miles or more.
And the rocks may melt and the seas may burn
If I no more return.

Oh don't you see yon lonesome dove
Sitting on yon ivy tree:
She's weeping for her own true love
As I shall weep for mine.

Oh don't you see yon lonesome dove
Sitting on yon ivy tree:
She's making her moan for the loss of her own
As I shall do for mine.

Oh come back, my own true love,
And stay a while with me;
For if I had a friend all on this earth
You've been a friend to me.

Oh come back, my own true love,
And stay a while with me;
For if I knew a friend all on this earth
You've been a friend to me.

(repeat first verse)
 

James Fagan & Nancy Kerr sing Turtle Dove Eliza Carthy's additional verses on Red
(continued from above)

As I walked out one winter's night
A-drinking of sweet wine,
Conversing with a fair young maid
Who stole this heart of mine.

If I prove false to you, my love,
The earth may melt and burn;
The sea may freeze and the earth may burn
If I no more return.

Oh fare you well my own true love
And fare well for a while,
For I must go but I’ll be back
If I go ten thousand miles.

Ten thousand miles, my own true love,
Ten thousand miles or more;
The rocks may melt and the seas may burn
If I no more return.

But who will shoe my feet, my love?
And who will glove my hands?
And who will kiss my rosy cheeks
While you’re in foreign lands?

And who will shoe your pretty feet
Or who will glove your hand?
Or who will kiss your red rosy cheek
When I'm in the foreign land?

Oh your father will shoe your feet, my love,
And your mother will glove your hands.
Your sister will kiss your rosy cheeks
While I’m in foreign lands.

My father will shoe my pretty little feet,
My mother will glove my hand.
And you can kiss my red, rosy cheek
When you return again.

But don’t you see yon turtle dove
In yonder willow tree?
She’s weeping for her own true love
As I shall weep for thee.

O don't you see yon little turtle dove
A-skipping from vine to vine,
A-mourning the loss of her own true love
Just as I mourn for mine.

Oh hush, my love, don’t break my heart,
Don’t make me for to cry.
For the best of friends do have to part
I’m sure that’s you and I.

Don't you see yon pretty little girl
A-spinning on yonder wheel?
Ten thousand gay gold guineas would I give
To feel just like she feels.

Yes the best of friends do have to part
And sure that’s you and me.
But the sun shall rise up in the west
If I never return to thee.

(repeat first verse)

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Wolfgang Hell from the singing of Martin Carthy.