> Folk Music > Songs > No, My Love, Not I

No, My Love, Not I

[ Roud 1403 ; Master title: No, My Love, Not I ; Ballad Index DTmarryn ; VWML CJS2/10/195 , CJS2/10/343 ; Bodleian Roud 1403 ; DT MARRYNO ; Mudcat 114410 ; trad.]

Alan Helsdon: Vaughan Williams in Norfolk Volume 2 Alison McMorland: Up Yon Wide and Lonely Glen Frank Purslow: The Foggy Dew James Reeves: The Idiom of the People

Ian Robb sang Oh, No, Not I in 1976 on his and Margaret Christl’s Folk-Legacy album The Barley Grain for Me. He noted:

Source: Mr. Everett Bennett, St. Paul’s, Newfoundland. Collected by Kenneth Peacock.

Peacock believes this song to be of English origin, but is not aware of other variants. The only thing familiar to me is part of the fifth verse, which seems to have been adapted from the A-Begging I Will Go family of songs, very popular in England and Scotland:

For when a beggar’s tired
He can sit him down and rest,
And a-begging I will go, will go,
A-begging I will go.

Stan Rogers learned Oh No, Not I from the singing of Ian Robb and sang it in 1978 on his Fogarty’s Cove album Turnaround.

Jim Eldon sang No, My Love, Not I in 1997 on his and Lynette Eldon’s eponymous album Jim & Lynette Eldon.

Elizabeth Stewart sang The Foreign Sailor on her 2004 Elphinstone Institute album Binnorie. Thomas A. McKean noted:

Elizabeth recalled these verses from [her aunt] Lucy’s singing, but as she could not recall a tune, she composed her own in late 2003. Social status often enters into songs of chance encounter, some ending tragically, as here, others happily, e.g. The Laird o Drum (Child 236; G-D 835; Roud 247), or The Dainty Doonby (track 2.11). A version, set in Newfoundland, appears in Kenneth Peacock, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (National Museum of Canada: Ottowa), vol. 1, p. 304-05, where the editor notes that the song has probably not appeared in print before.

Mary Humphreys and Anahata sang When Fishes Fly (No My Love, Not I) in 2003 on their WildGoose album Sharp Practice and on their 2012 album A Baker’s Dozen. They noted on the first album:

The tune collected from Lucy White at Hambridge, Somerset, 13 April 1904 by Cecil Sharp [VWML CJS2/10/195] . Text compiled from hers and others sung by Mrs Overd, Langport, Somerset [VWML CJS2/10/343] , and Everett Bennett, St Paul’s Newfoundland, collected by Kenneth Peacock 1958.

Kenneth Peacock remarked that it was the only occasion he had collected this song which appeared to him to be of 18th or early 19th century English origin. His variant is n the dorian mode but follows the same contours as Lucy White’s song. This extremely rarely-collected song gives a very unsentimental account of the harsh fate that awaited any young woman who stepped outside the socially accepted moral code of the day. The chorus is significant in the light of the subject of the song. Although primarily regarded as a symbol of regret, rue is also recognised as an abortifacient and was probably well-known as such by women of Lucy White’s generation.

Jack Crawford, accompanied by Mary Humphreys and Anahata, sang When Fishes Fly in 2008 on his WildGoose album Pride of the Season. He noted:

Mary brought this song to life by combining and adapting traditional material from various published sources. The tune is mostly as collected by Cecil Sharp from Lucy White at Hambridge, Somerset in April 1904. The text is a combination of Lucy White’s and versions from Emma Overd of Langport, Somerset (Cecil Sharp, August 1904) and Everett Bennett of St Paul’s, Newfoundland (Kenneth Peacock, August 1958). There are several earlier broadside versions in the Bodleian Library, mostly under the title No, My Love, Not I.

The Common Rue (Ruta graveolens), a symbol of regret in folklore, has herbal properties relating to abortion that would have been well known to country women of Lucy White’s generation.

It is a sign of a true friend that Mary has allowed me to make some slight modifications to her carefully crafted text in order to suit my interpretation of the song.

Jane and Amanda Threlfall sang No, My Love, Not I on their 2008 album Sweet Nighingale. They noted:

This is a cruel song of male chauvinism which beats our previous example, Gown of Green, into a cocked hat (can we say that?). The song even has the temerity to begin the opening male pursuit of female in the first person. Supporters of the injured party would be perfectly justified in sending round the heavies to have a word with this cavalier charlatan (don’t look at us—Roger [Edwards] wrote these notes). It used to be a shotgun, wielded by the girl’s father, that traditionally brought about a resolution, but perhaps he’s not around in this particular story.

The tune and chorus are taken from the version collected by Cecil Sharp from Lucy White, of Hambridge, Somerset, in April 1904, whilst the verses are a complete version in themselves, sung by Emma Overd, of Langport, Somerset, and collected the same year (see Roud 1403). Mrs Overd’s words can be found in James Reeve’s Idiom of the People (Heinemann, 1958).

The Albion Band sang Newfoundland Sailor on their 2011 album Fighting Room.

David Stacey sang The Tarry Sailor on his 2015 Musical Traditions anthology Good Luck to the Journeyman. He and Rod Stradling noted:

David: Another song I learned from Walter Jarvis, of Saffron Walden.

Despite Walter’s title, this is not actually a version of The Tarry Sailor, but in fact a song usually called No, My Love, Not I. It’s quite well-known, with 78 Roud entries, mainly from England, but with quite a few from North America. It was quite widely printed in broadsides, but the only sound recordings from these islands are from Scotland and Ireland.


Margaret Christl and Ian Robb sing Oh, No, Not I

A Newfoundland sailor was walking by the strand;
He spied a pretty fair young maid, and took her by the hand.
“Oh, will you go to Newfoundland, along with me?” he cried.
But the answer that she gave to him was, “Oh, no, not I.

“To think that I would marry you, on me ’twould lay the blame.
Your friends and relations would scorn me to shame.
If you was born of noble blood and me of a low degree,
Do you think that I would marry you? It’s, oh, no, not me.”

Then six months being over and seven coming nigh,
This pretty fair young maid she began to look so shy.
Her corsets would not touch and her apron wouldn’t tie.
Made her think on all the times she said, “Oh, no, not I.”

Then eight months being over and nine coming on,
This pretty fair young maiden she brought forth a son.
She wrote a letter to her love, to come most speedily,
But the answer that he gave to her was, “Oh, no, not me.”

He said, “My pretty fair maid, the best thing you can do
Is take your babe all on your back and a-begging you may go.
And when that you get tired, you can sit you down and cry,
And think on all the times you said, “Oh, no, not I.”

So, come all you pretty fair maids, a warning take by me:
Don’t ever put your trust in a green willow tree,
For the leaves they will wither and the roots they will die.
Don’t you see what you can come to by saying, “Oh, no, not I.”

Mary Humphreys and Anahata sing When Fishes Fly (No My Love, Not I)

As I roved out one morning it was in the month of May,
Oh there I spied a fair young maid a-gathering of sweet may.
I asked of her to bed with me—I’d marry her by and by
But the answer that she gave me was: “Oh no my love, not I!”

Chorus (after each verse):
When fishes fly and swallows die—young men will prove true;
There’s a herb in my father’s garden and some do call it rue.

So we walked and we talked together til at length we did agree
To sit down on a mossy bank beneath the shady trees.
The blackbirds and the sweet song thrush flew in and out the bush
And the song they sang in chorus was, “Oh no my love, not I.”

Now twenty weeks being over, she grew thick around the waist;
This poor girl she grew pale and wan, her stays they would not lace.
Her gown it would not pin, my boys, her apron strings won’t tie
and she rued the day she said to him, “No my love, not I.”

So she wrote a letter to her true love to come immediately,
The answer he that sent to her was, “No my love not I.
Supposing I should come to you, on me they’d put the blame;
My parents would be angry and friends would me disdain.

“And all the very best thing I can advise you for to do,
Go take your baby on your back—begging you should go,
and when that you grow weary you can sit you down and cry,
and think on the day you said to me: “No my love, not I.”

David Stacey sings The Tarry Sailor

Well I am a tarry sailor boy just lately home from sea
When a beautiful young damsel she winked her eye at me.
So boldlye steppèd up to her and I took her by the hand
“Oh,” I said, “My pretty fair maid will come to some foreign land?”

“What, come to some foreign land, kind sir, what would my parents say?
My friends and my relations would banish me straightway.
For you’re a tarry sailor boy and I’m a girl so high
You ask me for to go with you, oh no, kind sir, not I.”

But he gave to her a ribbon, he gave to her a ring
He gave to her a sweet kiss and a far better thing
Saying, “Lady, won’t you marry me, marry sweet as I?”
The answer that she gave to him was, “No, my love, not I.”

But six long months being over, and seven was making haste
This beautiful young damsel she thickened round the waist
No drawers they would not fit on her, nor apron strings would tie
She cursed the very day when she said, “No, my love, not I.”

Now nine long months being over, and ten was coming on,
This beautiful young damsel she proved to have a son.
She took it to young Willie, but he unto her did say,
“D’you think that I will marry you now? Oh no, my love, not I.

“And now your little baby’s born, I’ll tell you what we’ll do,
You take your baby on your back and a-begging you may go.
And when you are tired you may sit down and cry
And you can curse the very hour when you said, “No, my love, not I.”

So come all you pretty fair maids and a warning take by me:
Don’t you build a nest in the top of any tree.
For the green leaves they will wither and the roots they’ll all decay
And the beauty of a young girl soon … And fades away.