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William and Nancy's Parting / Lisbon

[ Roud 551 ; Laws N8 ; G/D 1:63 ; Henry H561 ; Ballad Index LN08 ; Bodleian Roud 551 ; Wiltshire Roud 551 ; trad.]

Cecil Sharp collected Lisbon in 1904 from Mrs Lock of Muchelney Ham, Somerset. Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd included this version in 1959 in their book The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Percy Grainger collected Lisbon on September 5, 1905 from Mr Deen at Brigg Union Workhouse; see below in John Roberts and Tony Barrand's sleeve notes for more details.

The Broadside from Grimsby recorded Lisbon in 1973 for their Topic album The Moon Shone Bright: Songs and Ballads collected in Lincolnshire.

Nic Jones recorded this ballad as William and Nancy's Parting in 1971 for his eponymous second album, Nic Jones. He commented in the album notes:

The words of this are from a Manchester broadside. It follows a typical state of events when Nancy wants to go to the wars with William and he, for numerous reasons, some stated, some possibly unstated, wishes her to stay at home and wait for him to return. It closes with an optimistic prayer. As there was no tune given to the words, I adapted part of the tune called The Blackbird.

John Wesley Harding also sang William and Nancy's Parting in 1999 on his Nic Jones tribute album, Trad Arr Jones.

June Tabor sang Lisbon in 1977 on her Topic album Ashes and Diamonds. This track was also included in 1993 on her Music Club anthology called Anthology.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Lisbon in 1998 on their CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger. They commented in their liner notes:

Lisbon Bay (Sailor's Song) opens the Lincolnshire Posy suite. Grainger had it from Mr. Deene, at Brigg Union Workhouse. Mr. Deene had a weak heart, and became so emotional remembering the old song that the workhouse matron would not let him complete it. Grainger returned a year later with the phonograph, and, though Mr. Deene had been injured in a fall and claimed he was too weak to sing, started to play him some of his recordings of other singers. At that he proclaimed that he would sing, and did so with much pleasure. As Grainger puts it in his notes to Lincolnshire Posy, “I thought he might as well die singing it as die without singing it.”

Lyrics

Nic Jones sings William and Nancy's Parting

Come all you pretty maidens that have a mind to go,
All along with your lover for to face the daring foe;
I've a mind to venture where the cannonballs do fly
All along with my love I'll go.

He says, “My lovely Nancy, I hope you'll not repine
For I must go on board our noble fleet to join.
Our orders are to sea, my dear, and now we must obey
And behind me you must stay.”

She says, “My lovely William, oh don't you leave me here;
I'll dress me as a seaman and along with you I'll steer.
Oh let me go along with you, your messmate for to be
And I'll fight so manfully.”

He says, “My lovely Nancy, great danger is at sea;
Perhaps we may be shipwrecked or else be cast away.
And in the line of battle perhaps you may be slain;
So behind me you must remain.”

“Your pretty little fingers they are so long and small,
You'll think it but hard usage our cable ropes to haul.
When the winds they do blow high and the billows loudly roar
At home you must be on shore.”

So now my love has gone abroad as I do tell you plain;
Kind heaven shall protect him while he's ploughing on the main,
Protect him from all danger where the cannonballs do fly
And send my William home again.

June Tabor sings Lisbon

And it was on one Whitsun Wednesday, the fourteenth day of May,
That we untied our anchor, and so we sailed away,
Where the sun do shine most glorious, to Lisbon we were bound,
Where the hills and fields are daintied with pretty maidens around.

I wrote a letter to Nancy, that she might understand
That I was going to leave her unto some foreign land.
She said: “My dearest William, these words will break my heart;
Oh, let us married be tonight before that you do start.

“For ten long weeks and better, love, I've been with child by thee,
So stay at home, dear William, be kind and marry me.”
“Our captain has commanded us and I shall have to go.
For the Queen's in want of men, my love, I cannot not answer, No.”

"Oh, I'll cut off my yellow hair, men's clothing I'll put on,
And I will go along with you and be your waiting man,
And when it is your watch on deck, your duty I will do.
I'll brave the field of battle, love, so I could go with you.”

“Your pretty little fingers they are both long and small,
Your waist it is too slender, love, to face the cannon-ball.
For the cannons they do rattle and the blazing bullets fly
And the silver trumpets they do sound to drown the mournful cry.”

”Pray do not talk of danger, for love is my desire,
And I will go along with you and with you spend my time;
And I will travel through France and Spain all for to be your bride
And it's on the field of battle I will lay down by your side.”

(repeat first verse)

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sing Lisbon

'Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May,
Our ship she weighed her anchor, all for to sail away;
The wind did from the southwest blow, for Lisbon we were bound,
The hills and dales were covered with pretty young girls around.

I wrote a letter to Nancy, for her to understand
That I should have to leave her, unto some foreign land,
She said, “My dearest William, these words will break my heart,
Oh, let us married be tonight, sweet Willie, before you start.

“For ten long weeks and better I've been with child by thee,
So stay at home, dear William, be kind and marry me.”
“Our captain has commanded us, and I shall have to go,
The Queen's in want of men, my love, I'd never dare answer, No.”

“I'll cut my long yellow hair off, your clothing I'll put on,
And I will go with you, love, and be your waiting-man,
And when it is your watch on deck, your duty I will do,
I'd face the field of battle, love, in order to be with you.”

“Your pretty little fingers, they are both long and small,
Your waist it is too slender to face the cannonball,
For loud the cannons rattle, love, and blazing bullets fly,
And silver trumpets sound, my love, to cover the dismal cry.”

“Pray do not talk of danger, for love is my desire,
To see you in the battle, and with you spend my time,
And I will go through France and Spain, all for to be your bride,
And I will lay me down upon the battlefield at your side.”

(repeat first verse)

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: William and Nancy's Parting.