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Fair Annie

[ Roud 42 ; Child 62 ; G/D 6:1161 ; Ballad Index C062 ; trad.]

Fair Annie was told by Marie de France in the Lai del Freisne about 1200, and has migrated across Europe, “not appearing in the Scottish record until the second half of the 18th century,” according to a note in Bronson. It is the title track of Peter Bellamy's privately issued cassette of 1983, Fair Annie, and was also included in 1999 on his anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. Peter Bellamy compiled it from versions in Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads.

Frankie Armstrong sang Fair Annie in 1980 on the LP My Song Is My Own and in 2008 on her CD Encouragement.

Maggie Boyle sang Fair Annie in 1996 on Steve Tilston's and her Flying Fish CD All Under the Sun.

Martin Simpson sang Fair Annie in 2001 on his Topic CD The Bramble Briar. He commented in his album notes:

Fair Annie was given to me on a cassette of a show that Peter [Bellamy] did at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. My friend Josh Michaell thought that I might like the song and, indeed, he was right. I looked for other versions, but found nothing so succinct, or with such a sting in the tail. I wonder to what extent Peter altered the lyrics.

He recorded a longer version in 2013 for his Topic CD Vagrant Stanzas, where he noted:

On the Topic recording The Bramble Briar I included a version of the ballad Fair Annie which I performed that year at the Beverley Folk Festival. The audience included Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, both of whom were very gratifyingly complimentary about the performance. Martin then pointed out the existence of a number of extra verses… as he does! He was quite right in suggesting that they illuminated the emotional content of the song, and I have sung them ever since, and am delighted to re-record the ballad here. I learned the song from Peter Bellamy, and had nor heard it from any other source so I was very pleased to hear Hedy West and Jock Manual sing an American and a Scots version on the unreleased Topic Matching Ballads recording.

Sylvia Barnes sang Fair Annie on her 2007 Greentrax album The Colour of Amber. She commented in her liner notes:

I first heard this ballad from the late Peter Bellamy. […] It has always been a favourite of mine, and one of the few in my repertoire which have a happy ending!

Debra Cowan sang Fair Annie in 2015 on John Roberts' and her CD Ballads Long & Short. Their liner notes commented:

This version of Fair Annie comes from the late Peter Bellamy but it turns out that many others have recorded it as well. We were given a bit of background from our good friend Nigel Schofield (who knows everything about everything) that surprised us: the original version of the story is a Lai by Marie de France, probably written around 1194. She was known in the court of Henry II, where the Lai de Fresne, which mirrors the Fair Annie story, was recited. She may have even been Henry II's illegitimate half sister, exiled to France as a baby with her mother, in which case the original Lai has extreme irony. Who knew?

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Fair Annie Martin Simpson sings Fair Annie

“Comb back your hair, Fair Annie,” he said,
“Comb it back into your crown.
For you must live a maiden's life
When I bring my new bride home.”

“Comb back your hair, Fair Annie,” he cries,
“Comb it back into your crown.
For you must live a maiden's life
When I bring my new bride home.”

“Oh, how can I look maiden-like
When maiden I am none?
For six fair sons have I had by you
And a seventh coming on?”

“But how can I look maiden-like
When maiden I am none?
For it's six bonny boys have I had by you
And a seventh coming on?”

“Oh, you will bake my bread,” he said,
“And you will keep my home.
And you will welcome my lady gay
When I bring my bridal home.”

“Now you will bake my bread,” he says,
“And you will keep my rooms.
And you will welcome my lady gay
When I bring my new bride home.”

And on the door he's hung a silken towel,
Pinned by a silver pin,
That Fair Annie she might wipe her eyes
As she went out and in.

And on the door he's hung a silken towel,
Pinned with a silver pin,
That Fair Annie she might wipe her eyes
As she goes out and in.

Now, six months gone and nine comin' on
she thought the time o'er-long.
So she's taken a spyglass all in her hand
And up to the tower she has run.

And six months gone and nine comin' on
She has thought the time o'er-long.
And she's taken her spyglass all into her hand
And up the high tower she has run.

She has look-ed east, she has look-ed west,
She has looked all under the sun,
And who should she see but Lord Thomas
All a-bringin' of his bridal home.

And she has look-ed east, she has look-ed west,
She's looked all under the sun,
And what should she see but Lord Thomas's ship
And he's bringing of his new bride home.

So she has called for her seven sons
By one, by two, by three,
And she has said to her eldest son,
“Oh, come tell me what you see.”

So he's look-ed east, he has look-ed west,
He has looked all under the sun.
And who should he see but his father dear,
He was bringin' of his new bride home.

So it's, “Shall I dress in green?” she said,
“Or shall I dress in black?
Or shall I go down to the ragin' main
And send my soul to wrack?”

“And should I dress in green?” she says,
“Or should I dress in black?
Or should I go down to the ragin' main
And send my soul to wrack?”

“Oh, you need not dress in green,” he said,
“Nor you need not dress in black.
But throw you wide the great hall door
And welcome my father back.”

“You need not dress in green,” says her eldest son,
“Nor need you dress in black.
But throw you wide the great hall doors
And welcome my father back.”

So it's, “Welcome home, Lord Thomas,” she said,
“And you're welcome unto me.
And welcome, welcome, your merry men all
That you've brought across the sea.”

And she's serv-ed them with the best of the wine,
Yes, she's serv-ed them all 'round.
But she's drunk water from the well
For to keep her spirits down.

She has serv-ed them with the best of the wine,
She has serv-ed them all 'round.
But she drank water all from the well
For to keep her spirits down.

And she has served the long tables,
With the white bread and the brown,
But as she turned her round about,
So fast the tears fell down.

And he has turned him right and round about
And he's laughing amongst his men,
Saying, “Like you best the old lady
Or the new bride just come home?”

And she's wait-ed upon them all the livelong day,
And she thought the time o'er long.
Then she's taken her flute all in her hand
And up to her bower she has run.

And she has serv-ed them all the livelong day,
And she thought the time o'er long.
So she's taken her flute all into her hand
And up to her bower she has run.

She has fluted east, she has fluted west,
She has fluted loud and shrill.
She wished that her sons were seven greyhounds
And her a wolf on the hill.

And she has fluted east, she has fluted west,
She's blown both loud and shrill.
She says, “I wished that my sons were seven greyhounds
And I was a wolf on the hill.”

“And I wished that my sons were seven young rats
Running on yon castle wall,
And I myself was an old grey cat,
How soon I would worry them all!”

“And I wished that my sons were seven young hares
Running on yon lilly lee,
And I myself was an good greyhound,
How worried then they would be!”

Then, “Come downstairs,” the new bride said,
“Oh, come down the stairs to me.
And tell me the name of your father dear,
And I'll tell mine to thee.”

“Come downstairs,” the young bride says,
“Come down the stairs to me.
And pray tell me the name of your father dear,
And I'll tell mine to thee.”

“Well, King Douglas it was my father's name
And Queen Chatten was my mother;
And Sweet Mary, she was my sister dear
And Prince Henry was my brother.”

“Well, King Douglas it was my father's name
And Queen Chatten was my mother;
Sweet Mary, she was my sister dear
As Prince Henry was our brother.”

“If King Douglas it is your father's name
And Queen Chatten is your mother,
Then I'm sure that I'm your sister dear
As Prince Henry, he is your brother.”

“Well, if King Douglas it is your father's name
And Queen Chatten is your mother,
Then I'm sure that I am your sister dear
As Prince Henry, he is our brother.”

“And I have seven ships out on the sea
They are loaded to the brim.
And six of them will I give to you
And one more to carry me home.
Yes, six of them will I give to you
When we've had Lord Thomas burned!”

“And I have seven ships all out upon the sea
They are loaded to the brim.
And you shall have the six of them
And the seventh for to carry me home.
You shall have the six of them
When we've had Lord Thomas burned!”

(repeat first verse)

Acknowledgements

Peter Bellamy's verses are from the Mudcat Café thread Peter Bellamy recordings?.