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The Crystal Spring

[ Roud 1391 ; Master title: The Crystal Spring ; Ballad Index ShH32 ; VWML CJS2/9/485 ; trad.]

One Hundred English Folk Songs The Ploughboy’s Glory

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sang Crystal Spring in 2002 on Waterson:Carthy’s fourth album A Dark Light. Martin Carthy commented in the sleeve notes:

Liza learned May Morning from the Cecil Sharp collection, also Crystal Spring, where she played with a rhythm of the tune, changing it from a straight three-four time to a kind of twelve-eight, filled with shifting accents. People sometimes get nervous about country idylls. The exist a-plenty in England, and, superficially I suppose, such reluctance can be seen as understandable. But, going even the teeniest bit deeper, isn’t it surely true that people have always dreamed about having it better? And why not? When one lives a life as hard and unrelenting as the people who made these songs then dreamworlds such as The Big Rock Candy Mountain or, indeed, The Land of Cockaigny (as the European variants are known) can be seen in a clearer light and with a proper perspective.

James Findlay sang Crystal Spring in 2012 on his Fellside CD Another Day Another Story. He noted:

The age-old story of a sailor trying to woo his sweetheart by the riverside. Collected from William King who was a farmer in the Somerset village of East Harptree [VWML CJS2/9/485] . The song appears in Folk Songs of Somerset compiled by Cecil Sharp and Revd Charles Marson, alongside five other songs collected from King. Sharp arranged for King to sing in a competition at the Mid-Somerset Musical Festival in Frome in 1904 where he won first prize.


Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sing Crystal Spring

Down by a crystal spring where the nightingale sing,
Most pleasant it is in season to hear the groves ring.
Down by a riverside a young captain I espied
Entreating of his true love for to be his bride.

“Dear Phyllis,” says he, “Can you fancy me?
All in your soft bowers a crown it shall be.
And you shall take no pain, I will you maintain.
My ship she’s a-loaded, just come in from Spain.”

Wherever you dine there you shall dream of mine
And so sweetly in the season when you will be mine.
I do lay thee so well, I’ll maintain you so fair,
As no lady in the Navy with you can compare.

If ever I prove false to my soft little girl,
May the oceans turn desert and the elements move.
For wherever I shall be I’ll be constant to thee;
My heart is all over if I rove through the sea.

(Repeat first verse)


Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke with help by Ivan Coates. Thank you!