Fair Margaret and Sweet William
Version 2
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad appears in Percy's Reliques (1765). It was a broadside or stall ballad from the late seventeenth century. Percy states that the ballad is much older than the broadside edition, because it was quoted in Knight of the Burning Pestle, dated 1611.

This ballad is Child Ballad #74.

Child has three variants of the ballad, on under the name Fair Margaret's Misfortune. The tune here is the variant twelve found by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian Mountains. The last two verses are clearly related to Barbara Allen. Another Sharp variant is at Fair Margaret and Sweet William (1).

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

Sweet William arose one May morning,
And dressed himself in blue,
Come and tell to me all about that love
Betwixt Lady Marg'ret and me.

No harm, no harm of Lady Marg'ret,
Nor she knows none by me,
But before tomorrow morning at eight o'clock,
Lady Marg'ret and you.

O I know nothing of Lady Marg'ret's love
And she knows nothing of me
But in the morning at half-past eight
Lady Marg'ret my bride shall see.

Lady Marg'ret was sitting in her bower room
A-combing back her hair,
When who should she spy but Sweet William
      and his bride,
As to church they did draw nigh.

Then she threw down herivory comb
In silk bound up her hair.
And out of the room that fair lady ran,
and was never any more seen there.

The day passed away and the night coming on
And most of the men asleep,
Sweet William espied Lady Marg'ret's ghost
A-standing at his bed feet.

O how do you like your bed? said she,
And how do you like your sheets
And how do you like that fair young bride
A-laying in your arms at sleep?

Full well do I like my bed,
Full well do I like my sheet;
But better do I like the fair young maid
A-standing at my bed feet.

The night passed away and the day coming on
And most of the men awake.
Sweet William said: I am troubled in my head
By the dreams that I dreamed last night.

Such dreams, such dreams as these,
I know they mean no good,
Last night I dreamed that my room was full of swine
And my bride was floating in blood.

He called his servants unto him,
By one, by two, by three,
And the last he called was his new made bride
That he Lady Marg'ret I might see.

O what will you do with Lady Marg'ret's love,
And what will you do with me?
He said: I'll go Lady Marg'ret see,
And then I'll return to thee.

He rode up to Lady Marg'ret's door,
And jingled at the ring;
And none was so ready as her seventh born brother
To arise and let him in.

O is she in her kitchen room?
Or is she in her hall?
Or is she in her bower room
Among her merry maids all?

She is neither in her kitchen room,
She is neither in her hall;
But she is in her cold coffin,
With her pale face toward the wall.

Pulld own, pull down those winding-sheets
A-made of satin so fine.
Ten thousand times thou hast kissed my lips,
And now, love, I'll kiss thine.

Three times he kissed her snowy white breast,
Three times he kissed her chin;
but when he kissed her cold clay lipse
His heart it broke within.

Lady Marg'ret was buried in the old church yard
Sweet William was buried close beside her;
And out of her grew a red, red, rose,
And ou of him a brier.

They grew so tall and they grew so high,
They scarce could grow no higher;
And there they twined in a true lover's knot,
The red rose and the brier.
These words are from one of Sharp's Appalachian variants which is on Custer LaRue's The True Lover's Farewell: Appalachian Folk Ballads. Her ballads are done in the "old tradition." It's beautiful music.
From English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.