A Maiden Sat A-Weeping / As Sylvie Was Walking / I Once Had a True Love / Once I Had a True Love
Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd noted in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959) on As Sylvie Was Walking:
This song was sent to W. P. Merrick from Australia. The singer, an 80-year-old woman born near Coleford, Gloucestershire, had been living in the Antipodes since 1855. She had learned the song from her uncle, also from Gloucestershire. The text has been amplified from versions sung to H.E.D. Hammond in 1906 by two Dorset women, Mrs. Hann of Stoke Abbot and Mrs. Russell of Upwey. A version from Lew Down, Devon, appears in Songs of the West (Baring-Gould and others, 1905) under the title of A Maiden Sat A-Weeping.
Isla Cameron sang this song as I Once Had a True Love in 1960 on her and Ewan MacColl's Topic album Still I Love Him.
Paddy Tunney sang I Once Had a True Love in 1965 on his Topic album A Wild Bee's Nest.
Pentangle sang Once I Had a Sweetheart in 1969 on their third Transatlantic album, Basket of Light.
Phoebe Smith sang Once I Had a True Love as the title track of her 1970 Topic album, Once I Had a True Love. Another version, collected by Mike Yates from her in 1975, was printed in Yates' book Traveller's Joy: Songs of English and Scottish Travellers and Gypsies 1965-2005 (London: EFDSS, 2006).
Bob Davenport sang I Once Had a True Love on his 1976 Topic album Postcards Home.
Shirley Collins sang Poor Sally Sits A-Weeping, accompanied by her sister Dolly, in 1980 in London. This recording was included in 2002 on her Fledg'ling anthology Within Sound.
Jo Freya sang this song as As Sylvie Was Walking in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England. The liner notes commented:
Based on the version sung by Mrs. Aston who was born in Coleford, Gloucestershire and who was living in Moonee Ponds, Victoria, Australia when the song was noted down in 1911. She had learned it from her uncle also from Gloucestershire.
John Kirkpatrick sang A Maiden Sat A-Weeping in 2001 on Brass Monkey's fourth album, Going and Staying. The album's sleeve notes commented:
This little gem was one of a whole mass of songs collected by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould from James Parsons on Dartmoor in the 1880s. He was the man described as “The Singing Machine”—hard to start and hard to stop.
Shan Cowan used to sing this song as The Forsaken Maiden at the Golden Fleece in Stroud in the early 2000s. This recording made in Rod and Danny Stradling's kitchen was included in 2005 on the Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:
Collected by Sabine Baring-Gould in October 1888 from James Parsons of Lewdown. The song can be found in the Personal Copy MS (K1 p.94 no.39). Baring-Gould published it in Songs of the West and attributed the tune to the 16th century. A version of As Sally Sat A-Weeping was collected by HED Hammond in 1906 and published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 3 (1907) pp. 91-9. It is closely related to As Sylvie was Walking which appears in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.
Andy Turner sang As Sylvie Was Walking as the November 25, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week, referring in his blog to John Kirkpatrick's Brass Monkey version and to Steeleye Span's song Sails of Silver.
You Are Wolf sang As Sylvie Was Walking on her 2018 album Keld. She noted:
A song from Gloucestershire, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. I like the empowering last verse—is Sylvie sailing off to commit suicide, to forget the lover that jilted her, or for revenge?
Jo Freya sings As Sylvie Was Walking
As Sylvie was a-walking down by the riverside,
As Sylvie was a-walking down by the riverside
And looking so sadly, and looking so sadly,
And looking so sadly upon its swift tide.
She thought on the lover that left her in pride,
She thought on the lover that left her in pride,
On the banks of the meadow, the banks of the meadow,
On the banks of the meadow she sat down and cried.
As she sat a-weeping, a young man came by,
As she sat a-weeping, a young man came by.
“What ails you, my jewel? What ails you, my jewel?
What ails you, my jewel and makes you to cry?”
“I once had a sweetheart and now I have none,
I once had a sweetheart and now I have none.
He's gone and he's leaved me, he's gone and he's deceived me,
He's gone and he's leaved me in sorrow to mourn.”
“One night in sweet slumber, I dreamed I did see,
One night in sweet slumber, I dreamed I did see,
My own dearest true love, my own dearest true love,
My own dearest true love come smiling to me.”
“But when I awoke and I found it not so,
But when I awoke and I found it not so,
Mine eyes were like fountains, mine eyes were like fountains,
Mine eyes were like fountains where the water doth flow.”
“I'll spread sail of silver and I'll steer towards the sun,
I'll spread sail of silver and I'll steer towards the sun.
And my false love will weep, and my false love will weep,
And my false love will weep for me after I'm gone.”
Brass Monkey sing A Maiden Sat A-Weeping
A maiden sat a-weeping down by the sad sea-shore,
“What ails my pretty mistress? What makes thy heart so sore?
What makes thy heart so sore?”
“Oh because I am weary, a-weary in my mind,
No pleasure, no comfort in this country I find,
In this country I find.”
“I'll spread my sails of silver, I'll loose my robe of silk,
My mast is of the Cypress tree, my path is white as milk,
My path is white as milk.”
“I'll spread my sails of silver, I'll steer towards the sun,
My false love will weep for me, for me when I am gone,
For me when I am gone,
For me when I am gone.”