> Martyn Wyndham-Read > Songs > The Constant Lovers
> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > The Forsaken Mermaid
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Two Constant Lovers

The Constant Lovers / The Drowned Lovers / The Forsaken Mermaid

[ Roud 466 ; Laws K17 ; G/D 6:1244 ; Ballad Index LK17 ; Bodleian Roud 466 ; Wiltshire Roud 466 ; trad.]

This beautiful lament from Sussex is printed with the title The Forsaken Mermaid in the Copper Family Song Book. Bob Copper sang it with the title My Love Has Gone on their 1971 Leader 4-LP box A Song for Every Season.

Peggy Seeger sang The Lady of Carlisle on her 1957 Topic album Eleven American Ballads and Songs, which was reissued in 1996 as part of her Fellside CD Classic Peggy Seeger, Alan Lomax commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Peggy here sings a charming Carter family adaption of a much older American (possibly British) lyric song. In text and tune, the song is a sort of distant relative of the Little Mohee. Like most American lyric songs, it pictures love as tragedy and a sorrow and in one verse it strikes a rich and ancient poetic vein…

The shells in the Ocean shall be my deathbed,
The fish in deep water swim over my head.

Constant Lovers also seems to be a the signature song of Ron Spicer (1929-1996; son of George Spicer) as nearly everybody mentioned below refers to him. He sang it on the 1995 Veteran anthology When the May Is All in Bloom.

Gordon Hall sang The Constant Lovers on his 2001 Country Branch CD Good Things Enough. The liner notes commented:

The touching and romantic version one might expect under this title but with an alternative ending, written by Gordon Hall. This version known as ‘the other one’.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang it as The Constant Lovers in a recording on August 15, 1991 in Workington by Paul Adams on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the liner notes:

A favourite with Broadside printers in England, Ireland and Scotland. Frank Purslow maintains that it is probably Irish in origin. Despite being often collected in England and North America it is rarely to be found in the repertoire of revival singers. The tune is a little intricate, but Martyn is more than a match for it and tackles it with great relish. Martyn is one of the great lyrical singers of his generation with a lot of emotional intensity in his singing. He learned this from Gordon Hall, a singer from Horsham in Sussex.

A year later, Martyn Wyndham-Read recorded The Constant Lovers again for his Fellside CD Beyond the Red Horizon. He commented in his liner notes:

Constant Lovers, or The Drowned Lovers, is a song from my native Sussex, and I learned this version from the great singer, Gordon Hall of Horsham. Gordon tells me that the events that happened in this song may have occurred at Fairlight Cove near Hastings on the Sussex coast, where there is a “Lover's Leap”. My mother used to take my sister and myself on holiday there when we were young, and in my childish innocence I never saw any lovers leaping—at least not in that direction. The great, late Sussex singer, Ron Spicer, used to sing this song as well.

[To confuse the matters and the last comment a bit, there is also an unrelated balled called The Drowned Lovers a.k.a. Clyde's Water as sung by e.g. Martin Carthy or Nic Jones.]

Waterson:Carthy with Eliza Carthy in lead sang this song with the Copper Family's title The Forsaken Mermaid in 1999 on their third album Broken Ground. Martin Carthy commented in the album sleeve notes:

Liza first heard the late lamented Ron Spicer sing his lovely The Forsaken Mermaid in Sussex which was his stamping ground, and both she and her Mam always nursed it close to their hearts. Him too.

This song is also the title song of Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman's album Constant Lovers. This track was included in 2001 on the Fellside anthology Voices in Harmony: English Traditional Songs.

Magpie Lane sang The Constant Lovers in 2002 on their CD Six for Gold. Their singer Andy Turner sang it with the title My Love Is Gone as the September 27, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. Their album notes commented:

From the singing of the Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex. A tragic tale of suicide, unless you choose to believe the Copper's title The Forsaken Mermaid in which case it's not suicide as the protagonist will swim as soon as she hits the water. A likely story. Incidentally, we think this is the only tragic love song in the English tradition to feature shrimps!

Steve Tilston sang The Constant Lovers in 2003 om his album Such & Such. This track was also included in 2007 on his Free Reed 4 CD anthology Reaching Back.

Barry Dransfield also learned The Constant Lovers from the singing of Ron Spicer, and sang it in 2005 on his CD Unruly. He commented:

I would like to dedicate this one to Ron Spicer who was a lovely, subtle man and a class act. It was his singing of it that made me learn it. I reckon this is a professionally written piece, probably from an early 19th century London show which made its way back to country people and the oral tradition.

Kevin Dempsey sang Two Constant Lovers in 2006 on Swarb's Lazarus' live CD Live and Kicking.

James Keelaghan sang The Constant Lovers in 2006 on his Fellside CD A Few Simple Verses.

Steeleye Span recorded Two Constant Lovers in 2009 for their CD Cogs Wheels and Lovers. A live recording from their spring tour 2011 was released in the same year on their album Now We Are Six Again.

Bob Lewis sang The Drowned Lovers at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2009. This recording was released a year later on the festival CD There's Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Vol. 6).

Jon Boden sang The Constant Lovers as the October 9, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Corncrow sang The Constant Lovers in 2010 on their EP Sweet Nightingale.

Bryony Griffith sang The Constant Lovers in 2011 on her and Will Hampson's CD Lady Diamond. They learned it “from singarounds with additional lyrics from the singing of Martyn Wyndham-Read”.

Rosie Hood recorded Constant Lovers as a bonus track for the Kickstarter supporters of her 2017 RootBeat CD, The Beautiful & the Actual.

Lyrics

Ron Spicer sings Constant Lovers

As I was a-walking down by the sea shore
Where the wind and the waves and the billows do roar,
There I heard a strange voice make a terrible sound,
‘Twas the wind and the waves and the echoes all around,

Chorus (after each verse):
Crying, ”Oh-oh-oh, my love is gone,
He's the youth I adore,
He's gone and I never shall see him no more.”

She’s a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove
And the song that she sang it was all about love.
I asked her to marry me, marry me please
But the answer she gave, “My love’s drowned in the sea.”

I told her I’d gold and I’d silver beside,
In a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
“No, I never shall marry, nor yet make a wife.
Constant and true-hearted all the time I have life.”

So she threw out her arms and she gave a great leap
From the cliffs that were high to the billows so deep,
Crying, “Rocks of the ocean shall make me a bed
And the shrimps of the sea shall swim over my head.”

And now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it is shining and the sky it is clear,
These two constant lovers with all their young charms
Rolling over and over in each other’s arms.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings The Constant Lovers

Now as I was a-walking down by the sea shore
Where the wind it did whistle and the waves they did roar,
There I heard a fair maid make a terrible sound
Like the wind and the waves that did echo around.

Chorus (after each verse):
Crying, ”Oh-oh-oh, my love is gone, he's the youth I adore,
He's gone and I never shall see him no more.”

She'd a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove,
And the song that she sang it was all about love.
When I asked her to marry me, marry me please,
And the answer she gave: “My love's drowned in the seas.”

I said I had gold and I'd silver beside,
On a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
She said: “I'll not marry nor yet prove a wife,
I'll be constant and true all the days I have life.”

Then she flung her arms wide and she took a great leap
From the cliffs that were high to the billows so deep,
Crying, “The rocks of the ocean shall be my death bed
And the shrimps in the seas shall swim over my head.”

And now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it is shining and the stars they appear,
Both two constant lovers in each other's charms
Rolling over and over in each other's arms.

Waterson:Carthy sing The Forsaken Mermaid

As I was a walking down by the sea shore,
Where the wind and the waves and the billows did roar,
There I heard a strange voice make a sorrowful sound,
'Twas the wind and the waves and the echoes all round.

Chorus (after each verse):
Crying, “Oh, my lover's gone,
He's a youth I adore,
He's gone and I never shall see him no more.”

She'd a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove,
And the song that she sung it was all about love.
I asked her to marry me, marry me, please,
But the answer she gave, “My love's drowned in the sea.”

I told her I'd gold and I'd silver beside,
In a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
“No I never will marry nor yet make a wife,
I'll stay constant and true all the time I've got life,”

She threw out her arms and she took a great leap
From the cliffs that were high to the billows so deep,
Crying, “The rocks of the ocean shall make me a bed
And the shrimps of the sea shall swim over my head.”

And now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it is shining, the sky it is clear,
These two constant lovers with all their young charms,
Rolling over and over in each other's arms.

Barry Dransfield sings Constant Lovers

As I was a-walking down by the sea shore
Where the wind and the waves and the billows do roar,
There I heard a strange voice make a terrible sound
Was the wind and the waves and the echos all around.

Chorus (after each verse):
Crying, ”Oh-oh-oh, my love is gone, he's the youth I adore,
He's gone and I never shall see him no more.”

She'd a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove,
And the song that she sang it was all about love.
I asked her to marry me, marry me please,
The answer she gave me, “My love's drowned in the seas.”

I told her I'd gold and silver besides,
In a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
“I never will marry nor yet be a wife,
Constant and true-hearted as long as I have life.”

She threw out her arms and gave a great leap
From the cliffs that were high to the billows so deep,
Crying, “Rocks of the ocean shall make me a bed
And the shrimps of the sea shall swim over my head.”

And now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it shines bright and the sky it is clear,
Those two constant lovers with all of their charms,
Rolling over and over in each other's arms.

Bryony Griffith sings The Constant Lovers

As I was a-walking down by the sea shore
Where the wind it does whistle and the waves they do roar,
There I heard a fair maid make a terrible sound
Like the wind and the waves that echoed around.

Chorus (after each verse):
Crying, ”Oh-oh-oh, my love is gone, he is the youth I adore,
He is gone and I never shall see him no more.”

She'd a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove,
And the song that she sang it was all about love.
And when I asked her to marry me, marry me please
She said: “My own true love was drowned in the sea.”

Well I said I had gold and I'd silver beside,
In a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
But she said: “I'll ne'er marry nor yet prove a wife.
I'll be constant and true all the days I have life.”

Then she spread her arms wide and she took a great leap
From the cliffs so very up to the billows so deep,
Shouting, “The rocks of the ocean shall be my death bed
And the shrimps of the seas shall dance over my head.”

So now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it is bright and the stars they are clear,
Lay two constant lovers with each other's charms
Rolling over and over in each other's arms.