> Shirley Collins > Songs > Sweet England

Sweet England / Poor Stranger

[ Roud 272 ; G/D 4:831 ; Ballad Index R059 , R060 ; Bodleian Roud 272 ; trad.]

Sweet England is the title track of Shirley Collins' first LP, Sweet England. It comes from Cecil Sharp and Sabine Baring-Gould's English Folk Songs for Schools. Shirley plays the banjo and is accompanied by either Ralph Rinzler or Guy Carawan on guitar. This recording was also included in 2002 on her anthology Within Sound.

Jo Freya sang Sweet England in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England.

Jim Moray also sang Sweet England as the title track of his 2003 CD Sweet England.

Kate Fletcher sang Sweet England in 2007 on her CD Fruit. She commented in her liner notes:

Do the English have Hiraeth too? But would she recognise England if she saw it now?

Alice Jones sang Poor Strange Girl in 2016 as the title track of her CD Poor Strange Girl. She commented:

This is based on a song collected by Cecil Sharp in 1917 from Eliza Pace. Eliza was living in Hyden County, Kentucky and was the source of some really great songs. The collected version of this is recorded as Poor Stranger and I have adapted both the words and the tune considerably.

Damien O'Kane sang Poor Stranger on his 2017 CD Avenging & Bright. He noted:

This is another I got from The Songs of Ireland: Royal Edition book [1885]. I love the simplicity of this song. Even though it is a short one lyrically, it creates a beautiful story. I do also like a story with a happy ending.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Sweet England

As I was a-walking one morning in spring
To see the green fields, hear the colley bird sing,
I met a young lady a-making her mourn,
Oh, I am a stranger and a long way from home.

I came from sweet England with mother and dad;
We thought in America all might be had.
Of gold and silver and riches galore,
And never need hunger in poverty more.

But alas, for sweet England! my father is dead,
And mother can earn but a little for bread,
And I weep as I gaze o'er the far distant main
For a fine ship to take me to England again.

I've an aunt in the country, she lives all alone,
She'd welcome and love me as I were her own.
I'd nurse her in sickness and tend her in pain
And thank God I was back in sweet England again.

Kate Fletcher sings Sweet England

As I was a walking one morning in spring
To hear the larks whistle, the colley birds sing,
I heard a fair maiden a-making her moan,
Alas I'm a stranger away from my home.

Where is your country I gladly would know?
And what mean these tears that so freely do flow?
What makes you to wander so far from your home
And causes lament in a strange land alone?

I came from sweet England with mother and dad;
They thought in America all might be had.
Of gold and of silver and riches galore
And we'd never need humger in poverty more.

But alas, for sweet England! my father is dead,
My mother could earn but a dollar for bread.
And alack the white wings of the ships as they fly
Out across the blue sea and leave me here to die.

Now mother is dead, I am left all alone,
If I were in England no more would I roam.
I've an aunt who is grey and she loves me amain
So will not some ship take me homeward again?

She lives in a cottage, a rose by her door,
Her pans and her dishes I'd scrub, or the floor.
I'd kiss her white cheeks and I'd nurse her in pain
And thank God I was back in sweet England again.

Alice Jones sings Poor Strange Girl

One morning, one morning, one morning in May,
I met with a fair damsel as she went on her way.
I heard that fair lamenting as she roamed,
I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

William, oh William its for your sake alone,
I left my old father, my mother and my home.
I left my poor mother to weep and to moan,
And now I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

My parents objected, they said you were too poor.
They deemed you unworthy to enter in our door.
They said that you’d leave me in grief and all alone,
And now I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

Adieu to old Kentucky, no longer can I stay,
Since hard times and misfortunes have forced me to stray.
Hard times and misfortunes occasion me to roam,
Now I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

And it’s oft times, so fondly, that I cast my memory back,
To the promise that you made me whilst by my side you sat.
You said that you loved me, your heart lay on my breast,
And if we never married your heart could never rest.

Although your body’s absent my heart is always true.
There’s no one in this wide world I love as well as you.
No other should have me, make me for to moan,
Now I am a poor strange girl forever I shall roam.

Go and build me a cabin on yonder mountain high,
Where the wild geese can see me as they do pass me by.
Where the turtle dove can hear me, help me for to moan,
That I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

There’s a bottle of good whiskey and a bottle of good wine.
You drink to your true love and I’ll lament for mine.
You can drink with your true love whilst I’m left all alone,
Saying I am a poor strange girl and I’m so far from my home.

I’ll eat when I am hungry, I’ll drink when I am dry,
I couldn’t care less if I live or die.
I’ll love you ’till I’m lifeless, my body entombed.
And I’ll always be that strange girl so far from my home.