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The Gypsy's Warning

[ Roud 1764 ; Ballad Index R743 ; VWML COL/2/30 , FK/13/116/2 ; trad.]

George Townshend sang the melodramatic song The Gypsy's Warning to Brian Matthews in between 1960 and 1964. This recording was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass.

Bob Hart sang The Gipsy's Warning at home in Snape, Suffolk, in September 1973 to Tony Engle. This recording was published in 1974 on the Topic anthology Flash Company. Mike Yates commented in the sleeve notes:

Although The Gipsy's Warning is a relatively recent song which turns up in the repertoire of many traditional singers, we know little about its origin. It appears to have been first printed in America in 1864, the music “arranged by Henry A. Goard”, although by 1892 the copyright has passed to one D.S. Holmes. In 1896 the song was sufficiently well known to form the basis of a Broadway melodrama of the same name. In a way The Gipsy's Warning has already carved its own niche in history, as in 1978 it became the first song to be transmitted over the telephone, Thomas Augustus Watson singing it at a demonstration organised by the pioneer Alexander Graham Bell.

An earlier recording of Bob Hart, made by Rod and Danny Stradling in Snape on July 8, 1969 was included in 1998 on his Musical Traditions anthology A Broadside. Rod Stradling commented in the latter's booklet:

A surprisingly well-known song, with 57 Roud entries, though only 14 of these are from outside the US, so one may be fairly sure it's an American composition. Since 36 of them are books and songsters, but only one gives the information “written by Henry A. Goard”, this may be debatable. The earliest reference I can find is to a music sheet printed by Holmes of New York in 1864. There was a Vernon Dalhart recording made in 1927.

Fourteen sound recordings exist, all but two being from North America. Fred Jordan is the only other British singer to record the song, though Alice Messenger in Blaxhall knew it, as did, unsurprisingly, Henry Burstow in Sussex.

Fred Jordan sang The Gypsy's Warning, recorded by Ian Russell, on his 1991 VWML cassette In Course of Time. This track was also included in 2003 on his Veteran anthology, A Shropshire Lad.

Andy Turner learned The Gipsy's Warning from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent, and sang it as the September 29, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Bob Hart sings The Gypsy's Warning

Do not trust him, gentle lady, though his voice be low and sweet,
Heed not him who kneels before you, gently pleading at thy feet.
Now thy life is in its morning, blight not this, thy happy lot,
Listen to the gypsy's warning, gentle lady trust him not,
Listen to the gypsy's warning, gentle lady trust him not.

Do not turn so coldly from me, I would only guard thy youth,
From his stern and withering powers, I would only tell the truth.
I would shield thee from all danger, shield thee from the tempter's care,
Lady, shun that dark eyed stranger, I have warned thee, now beware,
Lady, shun that dark eyed stranger, I have warned thee, now beware.

Lady, once there lived a maiden, pure and fresh and, like thee, fair,
And he wooed, and wooed and won her, filled her gentle heart with care.
Then he heeded not her weeping, nor cared he her life to save,
So she perished, now she's sleeping in a cold and silent grave,
So she perished, now she's sleeping in a cold and silent grave.

Keep your gold, I do not wish it. lady, I have prayed for this;
For the hour when I might foil him, rob him of expected bliss.
Gentle lady, do not wonder at my words so cold and wild,
In that graveyard over yonder lies the gypsy's only child,
In that graveyard over yonder lies the gypsy's only child.

Fred Jordan sings The Gypsy's Warning

Do not trust him, gentle lady, though his voice be low and sweet,
Heed not him who kneels before thee, gently pleading at your feet.
Now your life is in the morning; spare thou this thy happy lot,
Do not trust him, gentle lady, gentle lady, trust him not,
Do not trust him, gentle lady, gentle lady, trust him not.

Do not turn so coldly from me, I would only guard thy youth,
From his proud and withering scorn, lass, I would only tell the truth.
I would shield thee from all evil, save thee from the tempter's snare,
Lady shun the dark-eyed stranger, gentle lady, him beware,
Lady shun the dark-eyed stranger, gentle lady, him beware.

Once there lived a maiden good, lass, pure and sweet, and like thee, fair,
First he wooed thee, wooed and won her, filled her gentle heart with care.
Then he heeded not her pleading, cared he not her life to save,
Soon she perished, now she's sleeping in the cold and silent grave,
Soon she perished, now she's sleeping in the cold and silent grave.

Keep thy gold, I do not wish it. Many years I have prayed for this,
To foil him of his ambition, rob him of expected bliss.
You may think and you may wonder what makes me so stern and wild,
Lady, in that graveyard yonder lies the gypsy's only child,
Lady, in the graveyard yonder lies the gypsy's only child.