> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Fair and Tender Ladies

Fair and Tender Ladies

[ Roud 451 ; Ballad Index R073 ; trad.]

Peggy Seeger sang the Appalachian love song Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens in 1957 on her 10" Topic LP Eleven American Ballads and Songs, reissued in 1996 on the Fellside CD Classic Peggy Seeger. Alan Lomax commented in the album's sleeve notes:

This classic Appalachian love song takes the view, which is unusual in American love songs, that love is both sorrowful and dangerous.

A year later, Pete Seeger sang this song with the more usual title Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies on his Topic EP Pete and Five Strings. Karl Dallas commented in the sleeve notes:

Sharp printed 18 versions of this beautiful song [in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians], including a version from one of his best sources, Mrs. Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, North Carolina. Compare Pete's very free interpretation with sister Peggy's more rhythmic performance.

Maggie Holland sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 1983 on The English Country Blues Band's last album, Home and Deranged. This track was also included on their anthology Unruly.

Peter Bellamy sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 1985 on his EFDSS album Second Wind. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Another love which still holds me in thrall is the white folk music of Southern Appalachia. Kentucky's splendid Jean Ritchie was the physical medium through whom I first contacted that particular Summer Country and it is she I must thank for both Fair and Tender Ladies and Maria's Gone. I learned early on the inadvisability of trying to ape accents but elements of the thrilling mountain vocal style are hard to escape. Anyway, who wants to?

Hamish Bayne and Martin Cole sang Fair and Tender Maidens in 1991 on their Fellside album Making Music.

Scalene (Sandra and Nancy Kerr and James Fagan) sang Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies in 1999 on their Fellside album Scalene. The liner notes commented:

Sandra remembers hearing this in her youth, on a recording by Peggy Seeger. The sleeve note pointed out that love is both sorrowful and dangerous. No change there, then. Cecil Sharp gives several variants of this in his English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, from which we collated this text and chose the lovely 3/2 tune.

Bram Taylor sang Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies in 2004 on his Fellside album The Night Is Young.

Jim Moray sang this song as Fair and Tender Lovers in 2004 on his CD single Sprig of Thyme and two years later on his eponymous CD Jim Moray.

Jon Boden learnt this song “from an Appalachian source recording on vinyl in Cecil Sharp House. I spent a couple of quite magical days in the listening room aged 21 or so, in the days before internet music.” He sang it with the title Sparrow as the September 26, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

Peggy Seeger sings Come All Ye Fair and Tender MaidensPeter Bellamy sings Fair and Tender Ladies

Come all ye fair and tender maidens,
Take warning how you court your man,
They're like a star on a Summer's evening,
First appear and then they're gone.

Come all ye fair and tender ladies,
Take warning how you court young men.
They're like a bright star on a summer's morning,
They'll first appear and then they're gone.

They'll tell to you some loving story,
They'll swear to you their love is true.
Straightway they'll go and court another,
And that's the love they have for you.

They'll tell to you some lovin' story,
Declare to your their love is true.
Straightway they'll go and court some other
And that is the love that they have for you.

I wish I'd known before I courted,
I never would have courted none.
I'd locked my heart above a-courting
And fastened it up with a silver pin.

I wish I was a little sparrow,
And I had wings then I could fly.
I'd fly away to my false true lover
And when you spoke I would be by.

I wish I was a little sparrow
That I had wings and I could fly;
I'd fly away to my false true lover
And when he'd speak I would deny.

But I am no little sparrow,
I have no wings neither can I fly,
So I sit down here in grief and sorrow
And try to pass my troubles by.

But I am not no little sparrow,
I have no wings, neither can I fly.
I'll sit down here and weep in sorrow,
And pass my troubles by and by.

Do you remember our days of courting
When your head was upon my breasts?
You could make me believe that the sun in the morning
And the moon rose in the west.

Young girls, don't cast your mind on beauty,
For beauty will surely fade away.
It's many's the bright and the sunshiny morning
Turns out a dark and a most mutinous day.

Maggie Holland sings Fair and Tender LadiesJon Boden sings Sparrow

Come all you fair and tender ladies,
Be careful courting a young men.
He's like a star on a summer's morning,
First he'll appear and then begone.

I wish I was a little sparrow,
I had wings and I could fly.
I'd fly away to my own true lover
And when she courted I'd be by.

When he first comes to you a-courting
He laid his eye upon your breast
Then you'll believe with his pleasant talking
The sun could rise up in the west.

But I am no little sparrow,
I got no wings nor I can't fly.
So I'll sit right here in grief and sorrow,
So I'll sit right here until die.

He'll tell to you some simple story,
He'll swear to you his love is true.
Then straightway go and court another
That's all the love he'll have for you.

And I'll go down to some lonesome valley,
I'll spend my months, my weeks, my years.
And I'll eat nothing but green willow
And I'll drink nothing but my tears.

He'll leave you weeping like a willow,
He'll leave you mourn like a dove.
He'll leave you all alone to wander,
Why, you are careless with your love.

I wish I was some little sparrow,
I had wings and I could fly.
I'd fly away to my own true lover
And when she courted I'd be by.

(repeat first verse)

Links

The discussion at the Mudcat Café: Tune Req: Fair and Tender Ladies shows lots of other variants of this song.