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The Maid of Australia

[ Roud 1872 ; Ballad Index FaE044 ; Full English SBG/1/3/228 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang The Maid of Australia on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and in another recording by Leslie Shephard in Catfield, Norfolk, on October 9, 1965. That one was included in 1996 on the Topic anthology Hidden English: A Celebration of English Traditional Music, and in 2000 on his Topic CD box, The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud commented in the latter's sleeve notes:

This song of male wish-fulfilment has only rarely been reported in Britain—perhaps its risque subject-matter kept it out of collector's notebooks, but it is pretty mild by modern standards. The fact that all three known English versions are from East Anglian singers—Walter Pardon and Sam Larner being the other two—is most probably a coincidence. It is reported only once from Canada, but several times in the USA (see Guy Logsdon, The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing, 1989).

Peter Bellamy recorded The Maid of Australia during the sessions for his 1979 Topic LP, Both Sides Then, but it was left out and didn't find its way onto it before the CD reissue in 1992. The recording was included, however, on his 1983 cassette Fair Annie: English, Irish, Australian and American Traditional Songs, on the 1986 Fellside anthology Flash Company, and in 1999 on Free Reed's Peter Bellamy anthology, Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Martin Carthy sang The Maid of Australia on Brass Monkey's fifth album Flame of Fire; this track was reissued on the anthology Evolving Tradition 4. He commented in the former record's sleeve notes:

I think of Maid of Australia as a sweet piece of Pre-Raphaelite fantasy and I think that it's true to say that it has only ever been found in Norfolk. What's sung here is a mixture of versions of Harry Cox and Walter Pardon, and according to the latter, the song was forbidden in certain pubs. The late and much lamented Peter Bellamy was the first person I heard actually singing it so there is a very large dollop of him to be found here. And thank him very much.

According to the Mudcat Café, this was sung by A.L. Lloyd and by Martyn Wyndham-Read too, but it isn't on any record of them that I have.

Jon Boden sang Maid of Australia as the July 28, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

This video shows Jon Loomes singing Maid of Australia in January 2015:

Andy Turner learned Maid of Australia from the singing of Harry Cox and from Peter Kennedy's book Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland. He sang it as the November 1, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings The Maid of Australia

As I walked out by the Oxborough Banks
Where the maids of Australia do play their wild pranks,
Underneath a green shady bower I sat myself down,
Where the birds sang so gaily enchanted all round
In the native, the plains of Australia,
In the forests, the native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

I sat on the bank there for hours two or three,
A fair damsel came out from behind a green tree.
To cover her body it was her intent,
She slipped past the bushes, made straight for the bank
In the native, the plains of Australia,
In the native, the plains of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Now she dived in the water without fear or dread,
Her beautiful limbs she exceedingly spread,
Her hair hung in wrinkles, her colour was black,
“Sir,” said she, “you will see how I float on my back
In the stream of the native Australia,
On the stream of my native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

Now being exhausted, she swam to the bank,
“Assistance, kind sir, or I surely shall sink.”
As quick as the lightning I took hold of her hand,
My foot slipped and we fell on the sand,
In the native, the plains of Australia,
In the native, the plains of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

We frolicked together in the highest of glee,
In the finest Australia you ever did see,
The sun it went down and the clouds did resign,
And I left this fair maid of Australia,
I left this fair maid of Australia,
Then I left this fair maid of Australia,
Just when the sun went down.

Now six months being over and nine being come,
This pretty fair damsel brought forth a fine son.
Oh, where was his father? He could not be found,
And she cursed the hour that she lay on the ground
In the native, the plains of Australia,
In the native, the plains of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Peter Bellamy sings The Maid of Australia

Oh as I walked down by the Oxborough Banks
Where the maids of Australia do play their wild pranks,
By a shady green bower I sat myself down,
Where the birds sang so gaily, enchanting all round
In the forest of happy Australia,
In the forest of happy Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Well I had not been long in that beautiful scene
Where all the fields are delightful, the trees evergreen,
When a pretty fair damsel to me did appear.
To the banks of the river she quickly drew near,
She's a native of happy Australia,
She's a native of happy Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Well she took off her clothes and before me she stood
Just as naked as Venus what come from the flood.
She looked me in my face and smiling said she,
“Oh this is the robe that nature gave me
On the day I was born in Australia,
On the day I was born in Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

And she jumped in the water without fear or dread,
And her beautiful limbs she exceedingly spread,
And her hair hung in ringlets, and her colour it was black,
She cried, “Sir, you can see how I swim on my back
In the streams of my native Australia,
In the streams of my native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

But being tired of swimming she came to the brink,
“Oh assist, kind sir, for I'm sure I shall sink.”
So like lightning I flew, took her fast by the hand,
But my foot it did slip, we both fell to the sand
And I entered the bush of Australia,
And I entered the bush of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

So we sported together in the highest of glee,
In the finest Australia you ever did see.
Till my head to her beautiful breast was inclined
And the sun in the west all its glories resigned
And I left this fair maid of Australia,
Then I left this fair maid of Australia,
Just as the moon did shine.

Martin Carthy sings The Maid of Australia

As I walked down by the Oxborough Banks
Where the maids of Australia do play their wild pranks,
By a shady green bower I sat myself down,
Where the birds sang so gaily, enchanting all round
In the forest of native Australia,
In the forest of native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh I had not been long at that beautiful scene
Where the fields are delightful, the trees evergreen,
When a lovely young damsel to me did appear.
From the banks of the river she quickly drew near,
She's a native of happy Australia,
She's a native of happy Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

She tore off her clothes and before me she stood
As naked as Venus just come from the flood.
She looked me in the face and smiling said she,
“This is the robe that nature gave me
On the day I was born in Australia,
On the day I was born in Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

She leapt in the water without fear or dread,
Her beautiful limbs she quickly outspread,
Her hair hung in ringlets, her colour was black,
“Kind sir, you can see how I swim on my back
In the stream of my native Australia,
In the stream of my native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

Being tired of swimming she came to the bank,
“Assistance, kind sir, or I surely shall sink.”
Like lightning I flew, took her out by the hand,
My footing I lost and we fell on the sand.
She took me to the bush of Australia,
She took me to the bush of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh we sported together in the highest of glee,
In the fairest Australia you ever did see.
My hair to her beautiful breast was inclined
Till the sun in the west all its glories resigned
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Acknowledgements

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Add: The Maid of Australia.