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The Bold Dragoon / Only a Soldier

[ Roud 321 ; Laws M27 ; Ballad Index LM27 ; Bodleian Roud 321 ; Wiltshire Roud 321 ; trad.]

The Bold Dragoon is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Bob Copper sang it in a BBC recording (BBC 21547) made by Peter Kennedy at the Central Club, Peacehaven, on February 2, 1955. He also collected it from Enos White of Axford, Hampshire, in July 1955, and published in in 1973 in his book Songs and Southern Breezes. He recorded it in 1977 on his Topic LP Sweet Rose in June. John Copper and Jon Dudley sang it in 1998 on the family's CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues.

Heather Wood sang The Bold Dragoon in 1967 on The Young Tradition's second album, So Cheerfully Round. She commented in the album liner notes:

The Bold Dragoon was collected by Bob Copper from Enos White of Axford, Hants. It has connections with Earl Brand (Child 7) but this version is far nearer to popular taste than the morbid saga which the longer ballad relates, in which the Earl, after killing off his father and seven men (brothers in some versions) dies, and is followed rapidly to the grave by his beloved. Standard ballad ending about red roses and briars. Enos White started work on the farm when he was seven; he drove a two horse plough at the age of eight, For most of his life he was a carter. When this song was collected in 1955 he was working as a gardener.

Rosemary Bisset sang The Bold Dragoon at The Ship Inn, Blaxhall, on November 16, 1973. This recording was released a year later on the Transatlantic album The Larks They Sang Melodious: Sing-Song in a Suffolk Pub.

Grania King sang The Bold Dragoon in 1972 on the Living Folk (of Cambridge, Mass.) album Pleasant and Delightful Vol. 2.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang The Lady and the Soldier in 1974 on their Topic album The Rose of Britain's Isle. They commented in their sleeve notes:

An Appalachian version of a ballad once so admired in England that a seventeenth century set of it was printed as The Master-piece of Love Songs. The London broadside printing firm of Henry Such did good business with it during the nineteenth century, and it was a favourite of one of the great old singers, Henry Hills, of Lodsworth, Sussex, who said: “just take up a stone and rattle it on the handle of the plough and sing … and the horses would go along as pretty and as well as possible.” For some reason, it has rarely been found in England during the twentieth century, but American versions, only slightly different from the Such broadside, abound.

Harry Brazil sang Bold Keeper to Mike Yates in Gloucester probably on February 18, 1978. This recording was included in 1979 on the Topic album of songs, stories and tunes from English gypsies, Travellers, in 1998 on the Topic anthology To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight (The Voice of the People Volume 18), and in 2006 on Yates book and CD of songs of English and Scottish travellers and gypsies, Traveller's Joy. Two other versions of this song, sung by Harry and Danny Brazil to Gwilym Davies in Gloucester in February and March 1978 were included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Tradition anthology Down By the Old Riverside. The latter's booklet commented:

Lemmie [Brazil] also used to sing this song, which is usually known as The Dragoon and the Lady, or a similar title with the word ‘dragoon’ in it. None of Roud's 166 entries have the word ‘keeper’ in the title, except those from the Brazil Family. This is another song which is found far more frequently in the USA, and there are only 41 English instances. Most versions I've heard have a far fuller text, but this one still gets the essence of the story.

John Kirkpatrick sang The Bold Keeper in 2001 on his Fledg'ling CD Mazurka Berserker, accompanied by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. He commented:

This wonderfully blunt story has existed in numerous folk song variants for centuries. The Brazil family of gypsies, now based in Gloucester, sing the song which forms the basis of this version. I've added a few lines here and there to punch the points home.

Debra Cowan sang The Poor Soldier in 2005 on her CD of songs from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection, Dad's Dinner Pail.

Jeff Warner sang Only a Soldier on his 2005 album Jolly Tinker. He commented in his liner notes:

Versions of this song have been collected widely, including one English broadside ballad dating back to 1679. Anne and Frank Warner learned this version from traditional singer Lena Bourne Fish (1873-1945) in Jaffrey, New Hampshire in 1941.

Chris and Siobhan Nelson sang The Bold Dragoon in 2006 on their CD Day Has Dawned.

Jack Crawford sang The Bold Dragoon in 2008 on his WildGoose CD Pride of the Season. He commented:

The Bold Dragoon is based on the song collected by Bob Copper in July 1955 from Enos White of Axford, Hampshire, and published in Songs and Southern Breezes (1973). To complete a partial stanza in Mr White’s text, I adapted lines from several nineteenth century broadside versions that I found in the ballad collections at the Bodleian Library.

I’ve also slipped in a stanza from a version that Dr George Gardiner collected from Moses Blake of Emery Down, Hampshire, in May 1906. The tune has evolved too, but it still owes a lot to the singing of Heather Wood in the days of The Young Tradition, long ago.

Pilgrims' Way sang the related song Only a Soldier in 2011 on their CD Wayside Courtesies. They commented in their sleeve notes:

This song comes from the repertoire of New Hampshire singer Jeff Warner, whose parents, Frank and Anne, collected it from Lena Bourne (or “Grammy”) Fish during the 1940s. Also recorded by Paul Brady, one of Lucy [Wright]'s all-time favourite singers. Only a Soldier is a rollicking tale of old-fashioned chivalry and serves as a warning to all loving parents not to interfere too much in the romantic lives of their children, especially those who regularly carry a broadsword and pistol!

Gavin Davenport sang Bold Dragoon in 2013 on his CD The Bone Orchard.

Lyrics

Enos White sings The Bold Dragoon

“My father is a lawyer, a lord of high renown,
If I should wed a soldier, it would pull my honour down,
Then your part and my part we never shall agree,
So you'll take this as a warning, bold dragoon,” said she.

“No warning, no warning, no warning will I take,
I will either fight or die in the arm all for thy sweet sake.”
Then hearing of those words made the lady's heart to bleed
And away they went to church and got married with speed.

And when they had 'a been to church and turning home again,
The lady met her father and seven armed men,
“I'm afraid,” said the lady, “we both shall be slain.”
“My fear is not at all,” said the jolly dragoon.

So the dragoon drew his sword, cut flesh and made the bones to rattle
And the lady held his horse while the dragoon fought the battle.

“O, hold your hand, bold dragoon, bold dragoon, hold your hand
And you shall have my daughter, ten thousand pounds in hand.”
“I'm afraid,” said the lady, “my portion is but small.”
“So hold your hand, bold dragoon and you shall have it all.”

The Copper Family sings The Bold Dragoon

“My father is a captain of very high renown
And if I marry a soldier 'twill pull his honour down.
It's your birth and my birth they never will agree
So take it as a warning, oh bold dragoon,” said she.

“No warning, no warning I never mean to take,
I'll either wed or die, my love, all for your sweet sake.”
And when the lady heard these words it caused her heart to bleed
So to the church they both went and were married with speed.

But when they were married and returning home again,
The lady spied her father with seven armed men.
“I'm afraid,” said the lady, “we both shall be slain soon.”
“O, I fear nothing at all,” said the jolly, bold dragoon.

“There is no time to prittle, there is no time to prattle,
There are seven armed men just fitting for the battle,
For I will draw my broadsword and make their bones to rattle.”
The lady held the horse while the dragoon fought the battle.

“O, hold your hand, dear dragoon! Dear dragoon hold your hand,
And you shall have my daughter and ten thousand pounds in hand.
“Fight on,” says the lady, my portion is but small.”
“O, hold your hand, dear dragoon, and you shall have it all.”

So all you young ladies that have got gold in store
Never despise a soldier although he is so poor,
Although he is so poor he will fight for the crown—
Here's health to King George and his jolly bold dragoons.

The Young Tradition sing The Bold Dragoon

“My father is a lawyer, a lord of high renown,
If I should wed a soldier, it will pull my honour down,
Then your birth and my birth it never will agree,
So you'll take this as a warning, bold dragoon,” said she.

“No warning, no warning, no warning will I take,
I would either fight or die, my love, all for thy sweet sake.”
Then hearing of those words made the lady's heart to bleed
And away they went to church and got married with speed.

And when they had a-been to church and turning home again,
The lady met her father and seven armed men.
“I'm afraid,” says the lady, “we both shall be slain.”
“My fear is not at all,” said the jolly dragoon.

So the dragoon drew his sword, cut flesh and made the bones to rattle
And the lady held his horse while the dragoon fought the battle.

“O, hold your hand bold dragoon, bold dragoon hold your hand,
And you shall have my daughter, ten thousand pounds in hand.”
“Fight on,” said the lady, “My portion is too small,
Fight on, my dear dragoon, and you shall have it all.”

So all you young ladies that have got gold in store
Never despise a soldier although he is so poor,
Although he is poor he will fight for the crown.
Here's a health unto King George and to his jolly dragoon.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sing The Lady and the Soldier

Oh, there was a little soldier just lately come from war,
Who courted a rich lady who had money and great store.
Her riches was so great they scarcely could be told,
But yet she loved the soldier because he was so bold.

She says, “My little soldier, I will gladly be your wife,
But I fear my cruel old father will surely take your life.”
So he drew his sword, his pistol, and he hanged them by his side.
And he swore, “We would be married, and let what would be tied.”

So when they had been married and returning home again,
Out slipped the cruel old father with seven armed men,
Said, “Since you were determined to be the soldier's wife
Down in some lonesome valley I will shortly take his life.”

“Oh,” says the little soldier, “there is no time to tattle,
Why, I've just been married and I'm in the fix for battle.
He drew his sword, his pistol, and he caused them to rattle
And the lady held the horses while the soldier fought the battle.

First one that he came to, he tun him through the main,
The next one that he came to, he served him the same.
“Oh, let's run,” said the others, “or we shall all be slain.
For to fight the valiant soldier we see it's all in vain.”

Up stepped her cruel old father, a-speaking mighty bold.
“You can have my daughter and a thousand pound in gold.”
“Oh, fight on,” says the lady, “for the pile it is too small.”
“Oh, stop, stop,” says her father, “and you shall have it all.”

Danny or Harry Brazil sing Bold Keeper

It's of a bold keeper in the chase of his deer,
For the likes a bold keeper you seldom shall hear
He courted a nobleman's daughter so fair
And you seldom shall hear of such doings.

As they were riding through meadows so wide
With their large swords and buckles hung down by their side
There she met her father with twenty bright men
And their large glittering swords drawn ready in hand.

“Now then bold keeper, don't you stand to tattle.
I can see by the way that they means for a battle.”
They cut him they slain to the ground they stood on
And the lady held the horse while bold keeper fought on.

“Now then bold keeper, I pray hold your hand.
You shall have my daughter, ten thousand in hand.”
“Oh no, dearest father, that is too small a sum.”
“It's hold your tongue, daughter, this will shall be done.

If you are as willing to those church you'll ride
And there you'll get married, brave lady of mine.”

Pilgrims' Way sing Only a Soldier

I will tell you of a soldier who lately came from war,
He courted a lady who had riches in great store.
Her riches were so great that they scarcely could be told
And yet she loved her soldier for he was brave and bold.

She said, “My honoured soldier, I fain would be your wife,
But my old Tory father would surely take my life.”
He took his sword and pistols and he hung them by his side,
And swore that he would marry her, whatever did betide.

As they had been to church and were coming home again
They met her cruel father and seven well-armed men.
“Let us flee”, cried the lady, “for fear we shall be slain.”
“Fear nothing“, said the soldier to his charmer again.

But her father then addressed her and unto her did say,
“What is this behaviour, is this your wedding day?
Since you have been so foolish to be a soldier’s wife
All in this lonesome valley I will surely end your life.”

“Oh no”, cried the soldier, “you know not what you say,
I have not been defeated and shall not be today!”
He drew forth his broadsword and his pistol he did rattle
And the lady held the horses while the soldier fought the battle.

Now the first man he came to, he had him quickly slain,
And the second man he came to, he ran him through the same.
“Let us flee”, cried the others, “or else we shall be slain,
To fight a valiant soldier is surely all in vain!”

The father cried, “You butcher, you make my blood run cold,
But you shall have my daughter and a thousand pounds in gold.”
“Fight on”, cried the lady, “our portion is too small!”
“Stay your hand”, cried the father, “and you shall have it all.”

So he took the soldier home and he made him son and heir,
But not for love he bore him, but just from dread and fear,
There never was a soldier who would ever fire a gun,
Who would ever flinch a hair till the battle it was won.

So don’t despise a soldier because that he is poor,
He truly is a knight, as he was in days of yore,
He’s bold, brisk and jolly, both sociable and free,
He’d soon as fight for love as to fight for liberty.