> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The Young Tradition: Betsy the Serving Maid
> June Tabor > Songs > The Grazier's Daughter

Betsy the Servant/Serving Maid / The Grazier's Daughter

[ Roud 156 ; Laws M20 ; G/D 6:1094 ; Ballad Index LM20 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang Betsy the Servant Maid in a recording made by Mervyn Plunkett in September 1958. This was published on his Topic anthology The Bonny Labouring Boy. Paul Marsh commented in the liner notes:

When Harry sang this for Charles Parker in 1963 he said: “That's my old grandfather's song. Yes, that been sung about here, well, that's over two hundred years ago… There's a lot of people ain't heard that. Unless people have got it from me or round about, I bet you won't find one in a day's march will know it… Where he got it from God above know! My grandfather he knew hundreds of songs, he did; he knew a lot. Where they came from, God above know where they came from. That's how that came into the family.”

and Steve Roud commented in the liner notes:

One of Harry's favourite songs, with a strong narrative line on the perennial theme of parental opposition to young lovers' choices (see also Bonny Labouring Boy). The song has been collected a few times in Britain, but more commonly in North America, and a handful of known broadside printings suggest an early 19th century provenance. Nevertheless, two 17th century broadsides in the Pepys collection, entitled Love Overthrown: The Young Man's Misery and the Maids Ruine tell the same story, occasionally in the same words, and it seems likely that the later song stems directly from a re-written version of the older broadside.

Peter Bellamy sang Betsy the Serving Maid on the Young Tradition's eponymous first album in 1966, The Young Tradition. The album sleeve notes commented:

A fine ballad, almost certainly of broadside origin, and therefore very widespread, versions differing very little from that used here having been collected in East Anglia, Dorset, Hampshire and as far afield as Massachusetts. The tune used here is derived from that sung by Harry Cox from whom Peter learned the song, but 'derived' is the word as he seems to have altered it a lot, not altogether intentionally. Harry's tune is thought by Lloyd to be a poor relation of that collected in Suffolk by Moeran to The Isle of Cloy. Harry claims that Betsy has been sung in his family for at least two hundred years.

Isabel Sutherland sang this song as The Betrayed Daughter in 1966 on her Topic album Vagrant Songs of Scotland. She commented in her sleeve notes:

This song I learned from the singing of Ewan MacColl who had it from his mother Betsy Miller of Auchterarder. A young girl comes to the north to take domestic work and earns her mistress's disfavour by falling in love with her son.

June Tabor sang this ballad as The Grazier's Daughter in 1988 on her CD Aqaba. Martin Simpson, who played on June's album too, recorded Betsy the Serving Maid in 2001 for his Topic CD The Bramble Briar. The album sleeve notes commented:

Peter Bellamy has been a great influence on me over the years, and I learned three of these songs from his performances. Betsy the Serving Maid, which Peter learned from Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, appeared as a solo rendition on a Young Tradition record. The timing variations insisted upon by the lyrics made arranging this for guitar a real joy. The song pre-dates the nasty business with the loss of American colonies, after which England was forced to invent Australia.

Faustus sang this song as The Betrayed Maiden in 2008 on their eponymous CD Faustus.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings Betsy the Servant Maid Peter Bellamy sing Betsy the Serving Maid

A thresher's daughter living near
When shocking news you soon shall hear
When up to London she did go
To seek for service as you shall know.

A thresher's daughter living near
A dreadful story you soon will hear
All off to London she made away
For she was bound a serving maid to be.

She went till she came to a squire's hall,
And there she did both knock and call,
“I hear you want a servant,” she said,
“And I am Betsy the servant maid.”

So she went till she came to some squire's hall,
Right loudly then did knock and call,
“I hear you want a servant,” she said,
“And I am Betsy, a serving maid.”

The squire having one only son,
And Betsy's heart so soon he won;
And Betsy being so blithe and fair,
Soon drew his poor heart into a snare.

Now the squire had one only son,
And very soon Betsy's heart he won;
And Betsy being so blithe and fair,
This poor boy's heart she did ensnare.

On Sunday evenings he took his time
Unto sweet Betsy he told his mind,
He swore by oaths and powers above,
“It is you, sweet Betsy, it is you I love.”

So one Sunday evening he took his time
And unto Betsy he told his mind,
He swore by oaths and by stars above,
“'Tis you, fair Betsy, 'tis you I love.”

Now the old woman hearing her son say so,
It filled her mind with grief and woe.
“We must contrive send her away
For to be a slave in Amerikee.”

But the old woman hearing him say so,
It filled her heart with both grief and woe.
“We must contrive to send her away
To be a slave in Amerikee.”

On Monday morning madam arose,
“Betsy, Betsy, pack up your clothes;
For I am going some friends to see
And no one but Betsy shall go with me.”

So next Monday morning the old woman arose,
Crying, “Betsy, go gather up your clothes;
For I am going some friends to see
And only you, Betsy, can go with me.”

They went till they came to a seaport town,
Where ships were a-sailing up and down;
A boat was hailed and in she went
And the poor girl sailed with a discontent.

So they went till they came to some seaport town,
Where ships were sailing both up and down;
A ship was hailed soon and in she went
Poor Betsy sailed then in discontent.

A few days the woman returned,
“Oh you're welcome home, mother,” cried her son,
“You're welcome home, mother, on every side,
But where is Betsy the servant maid?”

And a few days the old woman come home,
“It's welcome home, mother,” cried her son,
“It's welcome home, mother, on every side,
But where is Betsy the serving maid?”

“Oh son, oh son, on son,” said she,
Your chief delight is on the sea.
I would rather see my son lay dead
Than you should wed with the servant maid.”

“Oh son, oh son, on son,” said she,
Your chief delight is all on the sea.
I'd sooner see my son lying dead
Than to see him married to a serving maid.”

A few days later the son fell sick,
So sick in bed, so sad was he.
Nothing would cure him that could be tried,
He called for Betsy and then he died.

But a few days later this boy fell sick,
So very sick and so sad was he.
They could not cure him though all they tried,
He called on Betsy and then he died.

Now the old woman seeing her son laid dead,
She wrang her hands and tore her head,
“If I could see my son rise again,
I would send for Betsy across the main.”

And when she see her son all lying dead,
She wrung her hands and she tore her head,
“If I could see my son rise again,
I'd send for Betsy across the main.”

So you cruel parents listen to me,
Don't try to change lovers' destiny;
Or else you rue what you have done
As this old woman now has killed her son.

June Tabor sings The Grazier's Daughter  

Oh the grazier's daughter living near
—A fair young damsel as you shall hear—
It's up to London she did go
To seek for service as you shall know.

Her master having but one son,
Oh she bein' fair, his heart she won.
Young Betsy bein' so very fair,
She brought his heart into a snare.

One Sunday evening he stole her thyme
And unto Betsy told his mind,
He swore by oaths and powers above,
“By all the swearing powers above,
'Tis you fair Betsy, 'tis you I love.”

His mother then bein' standing nigh
Hearing these words that her son did say,
Next morning by the break of day
Unto fair Betsy she took away.

Sayin',“Rise up, rise up, my fair Betsy
And dress yourself most gallantly.
For 'tis to the country you must go
All along with me for one day or two.”

And as they were crossing o'er the plain
They spied some ships sailing on the main.
No wit, no wit did this poor woman have
But to sell poor Betsy to be a slave.

Then a few days after the mother returned
And it's, “welcome mother,” replies the son,
“But tell me, tell me true I pray
Oh where is Betsy behind you, say.”

“Oh son, oh son, I plainly see
The love you bear for poor Betsy.
But your sobbin' and sighin' are all in vain
Young Betsy's sailing across the main.”

In a few days after the son lies sick
No sort of music his heart would take.
But he often sighs and he often cries,
“Oh Betsy, Betsy, I shall die.”

And in a few days after the son lies dead;
Mother wrings her hands and she tears her hair.
“If I could bring back my son again
I'd send for Betsy across the main.”

Oh the grazier's daughter living near
—A fair young damsel as you shall hear—
It's up to London she did go
To seek for service as you shall know.