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Watercresses

[ Roud 1653 ; Ballad Index Peac320 ; VWML GG/1/7/402 ; Bodleian Roud 1653 ; Mudcat 144110 ; trad.]

George Gardiner collected The Bunch of Watercresses from George Lovett of Winchester, Hampshire, in August 1906. [ VWML GG/1/7/402 ] . Frank Purslow printed this version in his 1968 book The Wanton Seed.

Osian Ellis sang Watercresses in 1959 on the Jupiter/Folkways anthology album The Jupiter Book of Ballads.

O.J. Abbott from Hull, Quebec, sang The Bunch of Water Cresses in a field recording made by Edith Fowke that was included in 1961 on his Folkways album Irish and British Songs from the Ottawa Valley. Edith Fowke noted:

Although this is another of the songs Mr. Abbott learned from Mrs. O' Malley, is seems to be English rather than Irish in origin. “Belvishere” bears no close resemblance to any English shire, but “Camberwell” is a borough of Metropolitan London. I have found no printed form of this song in either British or American collections. The phrase, “She left me with a bunch of water cresses”, was popularised by Josh White in a song he recorded, but apart from the use of water cresses as a symbol of unrequited love, his song is quite different.

Joe Estey sang The Bunch of Watercresses to Lee Haggerty and Henry Felt in August 1963. This recording was included in 2000 on the Folk-Legacy anthology Ballads and Songs of Tradition.

Will Noble sang Watercresses on his 2017 Veteran CD It's Gritstone for Me. Brian Peters and John Howson commented in the album's liner notes:

Written and popularised by the Music Hall entertainer Harry Clifton. Watercresses may have taken its tune from that other song of a man outwitted, The Basket of Oysters. The song was sufficiently popular to have been carried to Canada, and was also in Arthur Howard's repertoire.

Lyrics

O.J. Abbott sings The Bunch of Water Cresses

Oh, I am a dairy farmer, from Belvishire I came
To see some friends and relations, and Morgan is my name.
If you will sit and listen, I'll tell you without delay
Of a pretty little damsel my attention stole away.
She promised she would marry me upon the first of May
And she left me with a bunch of water cresses.

It was on the first of April when I arrived in town,
And being quite a stranger I rambled up and down
Till I lost myself entirely, I cannot tell you where,
'Twas a very quiet place near the corner of the square,
When a neatly dressed young woman came walking up that way,
As long as I remember I shall ne'er forget that day.
She promised she would marry me upon the first of May
And she left me with a bunch of water cresses.

Politely I addressed her and this to her did say:
“I want to go to Camberwell, can you direct the way?”
“Oh, yes, sir, oh, yes, sir,” she modestly replied,
“Take the turn up to the left and then go down the other side.”
Her voice it was the sweetest that I ever did hear;
Her hands were like the lily and so very white and clean;
She had some early onions and half a pint of beer,
Some pickles and a bunch of water cresses.

I bowed to her, I thanked her, I passed by her side,
I thought how neatly she would look as a dairy farmer' s bride,
So I gathered resolution, half in earnest, half in joke,
I hinted matrimony, these are the very words I spoke:
“I' ve a farm and forty acres stocked with horses, cows, and geese,
Besides I have a dairy house of butter, milk, and cheese,
Kind maiden, would you marry me and be mistress of all these,
And we'll spend our days in loving water cresses?”

“Oh, yes, sir, oh, yes, sir, oh dear, if you choose,
You are so very generous I cannot well refuse.
I've a wedding dress to buy and some little bills to pay.”
I handed her a sovereign her expenses to defray;
She promised she would marry me upon the first of May
And she left me with a hunch of water cresses.

Next day a letter I received, I read it with surprise:
“Kind sir, for disappointing you, I must apologise,
But the next time you ask a stranger to partnership for life,
Be sure that she's a maiden or a widow, not a wife.
I've a husband of my own; his name is Willie Gray,
And when I can afford it, your sovereign I will pay,
But to think that I would marry you upon the first of May
You must have been as green as water cresses.”

Will Noble sings Watercresses

I am a jolly farmer and from Bedfordshire I came,
To see some friends in Camberwell, and Morgau is my name;
At a dairy farm, near Dunstable, I live when I'm at home,
And if I do get back again, I never more will roam.
But if you'll give attention. I will tell without delay,
How a buxom little damsel my attention led astray,
And promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

'Twas on the first of April when I arrived in town,
And being quite a stranger there, I wandered up and down,
'Till I lost myself entirely, I cannot tell you where.
But in a very quiet street, the corner of a square,
A neatly dressed young woman came walking down the way,
As long as I remember, I shall ne'er forget the day.
For she promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

Politely I addressed her and unto her did say:
“I wish to go to Camberwell, can you direct the way?”
“Oh. yes, sir! oh, yes, sir!” she speedily replied,
“Take the turning on the left and then go down the other side.”
Her voice it was the sweetest I ever yet did hear,
In her hands, just like the lily, that were so white and clear.
She'd a bunch of early onions, and half a pint of beer,
Some pickles, and a bunch of watercresses.

I gathered resolution, half in business, half in joke,
I hinted matrimony and these very words I spoke.
I bowed and I thanked her, I walked by her side,
I thought how well she'd look as a dairy farmer's bride.
“I've a farm of forty acres. I've horses, cows and geese,
Besides I have a dairy filled with butter, milk and cheese;
Will you marry me, and mistress be, fair maiden, of all these?
And we'll pass our days in love and watercresses.”

She replied with a smile (or a leer, if you choose),
“You are so very generous I cannot well refuse,
So give me your directions, and I will without delay
Prepare for matrimony, to love, honour, and obey;
I've a wedding dress to buy, and some little bills to pay.”
I handed her a sovereign, expenses to defray,
And she promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of watercresses.

Next day a letter I received, and read there with surprise
“Dear sir, for disappointing you I do apologise;
But when next you choose a stranger into partnership for life,
Be sure she is a maiden, or a widow, not a wife.
I've a husband of my own, and his name is Willie Grey,
And if I can afford it the sovereign I'll repay.
But to think that I should marry you upon the first of May,
Why, you must be as green as watercresses.