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The Queen of Hearts

[ Roud 3195 ; Ballad Index FSWB153 ; trad.]

Martin Carthy sang The Queen of Hearts in 1965 on his first album, Martin Carthy. He returned to it in 2014 on his and his daughter Eliza's Topic CD The Moral of the Elephant. He commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

The Queen of Hearts appeared on broadsides and was collected by Baring-Gould [Songs of the West #114] from a man working on the Burrow Tor reservoir at Sheepstor near Plymouth. The tune has a definite 17th century flavour and has been dated by some to the reign of Charles II.

Liz Dyer sang Queen of Hearts in 1970 on her Argo album with Dave Goulder, January Man.

Cyril Tawney sang The Queen of Hearts in 1973 on his Argo LP I Will Give My Love. This track was also included in the same year on the Argo anthology The World of Folk Vol. 2.

Brian Osborne sang Queen of Hearts in 1976 on his Traditional Sound album Ae Fond Kiss.

Barry Dransfield sang Queen of Hearts in 1996 on his Rhiannon CD Wings of the Sphinx.

The Unthanks sang Queen of Hearts in 2011 on their CD Last and in 2012 on their CD with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, Diversions Vol. 2.

Josienne Clarke sang The Queen of Hearts in 2014 on her and Ben Walker's CD Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour.

Teresa Horgan sang Queen of Hearts in 2015 on her and Matt Griffin's CD Brightest Sky Blue. She commented in their liner notes:

We learned this song from the singing of Martin Carthy, another great English folk singer and guitarist. This song was popularised by Joan Baez in her 1972 compilation of folk material, called The Joan Baez Ballad Book.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Queen of Hearts on their 2015 CD Declaration. They noted:

Collected by Baring-Gould in 1894, this song carries the age-old theme of likening love to playing a game of cards. Martin Carthy, who recorded it in 1965, stated that the tune (which first attracted us to the song), has a distinctly 17th Century flavour. Baring-Gould also believed it dated back to c.1660. It’s one of those songs that with little variation can be related to over centuries, and the sentiment can still be recognised in a contemporary context. …to the queen of hearts, he’s the ace of sorrow.

Olivia Chaney sang The Queen of Hearts in 2017 as the title track of Offa Rex's CD The Queen of Hearts. She commented:

Martin Carthy's extraordinary body of work never ceases to amaze me. His eponymous debut, which includes an exquisite setting of The Queen of Hearts, remains as fresh and iconic, to my ears, as it must have sounded on its release back in 1965. The song, and his choice of text, which I chose to follow, is as timeless and moving a song as one can find. In Colin [Meloy]'s words, “It's about heartbreak in the face of unrequited love; to my ears it's as fresh today a it was when it was written, three hundred years ago. That's kind of the spirit of the record.”

[…] I asked Martin if he minded me reinterpreting this song, and he generously said it was mine to do what I wanted with—that folk music doesn't “belong” to anyone. I hope my harpsichord rewrite for Offa Rex fits Martin's message, and our rendition carries the folk-rock sentiment of this album.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings The Queen of Hearts

To the queen of hearts he's the ace of sorrow
He's here today but he's gone tomorrow
Young men are plenty but sweethearts few
If my love leave me what shall I do?

Had I the store in yonder mountain
Where gold and silver is had for counting
I would not count for the heart of thee
Mine eyes so full I could not see

My father left me both house and land
And servants many at my command
At my commandment they ne'er shall be
I'll forsake them all and go with thee

To the queen of hearts he's the ace of sorrow
He's here today and he's gone tomorrow
Young men are plenty but sweethearts few
If my love leave me what shall I do?