> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Fair and Tender Ladies

Fair and Tender Ladies / Little Sparrow

[ Roud 451 ; Ballad Index R073 ; Mudcat 19342 ; trad.]

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

Jean Ritchie sang The Little Sparrow in 1954 on her Elektra album Kentucky Mountain Songs and, as Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies, in 1965 on her Warner album A Time for Singing. She noted on the first album:

The Little Sparrow or, Fair and Tender Ladies, as it is sometimes called, is to me one of the incomparable love songs of all time. It is widely known throughout our part of the Appalachians, and even within our own family is sung in two or three different tunes and which vayring sets of words. This particular way of singing it, which I prefer, comes from Uncle Jason.

Peggy Seeger sang the Appalachian love song Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens in 1957 on her 10" Topic LP Eleven American Ballads and Songs, reissued in 1996 on the Fellside CD Classic Peggy Seeger. Alan Lomax commented in the album's sleeve notes:

This classic Appalachian love song takes the view, which is unusual in American love songs, that love is both sorrowful and dangerous.

A year later, Pete Seeger sang this song with the more usual title Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies on his Topic EP Pete and Five Strings. Karl Dallas commented in the sleeve notes:

Sharp printed 18 versions of this beautiful song [in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians], including a version from one of his best sources, Mrs. Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, North Carolina. Compare Pete's very free interpretation with sister Peggy's more rhythmic performance.

Hedy West sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 1964 on her Vanguard album Hedy West Volume 2.

Stella Kimble and Pearl Richardson sang Come All Your Fair and Tender Ladies to Mike Yates at Stella's home in Laurel Forks, Carroll County, Virginia, on 14 August 1979. This recording was included in 2002 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Songs, tunes and stories from Mike Yates' Appalachian collections, Far in the Mountains Volume 2. Mike Yates noted:

Once a popular Appalachian song (Cecil Sharp alone collected eighteen sets), it contains a number of verses that are found in various English songs. Fred Jordan, for example, includes the final two lines in his version of The Dark Eyed Sailor. Martha Hall sings a fragmentary set on the double CD Mountain Music of Kentucky (Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40077).

Maggie Holland sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 1983 on The English Country Blues Band's last album, Home and Deranged. This track was also included on their anthology Unruly. Ian Anderson sang it on his 2017 album Deathfolk Blues Revisited.

Peter Bellamy sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 1985 on his EFDSS album Second Wind. He noted:

Another love which still holds me in thrall is the white folk music of Southern Appalachia. Kentucky's splendid Jean Ritchie was the physical medium through whom I first contacted that particular Summer Country and it is she I must thank for both Fair and Tender Ladies and Maria's Gone. I learned early on the inadvisability of trying to ape accents but elements of the thrilling mountain vocal style are hard to escape. Anyway, who wants to?

Hamish Bayne and Martin Cole sang Fair and Tender Maidens in 1991 on their Fellside album Making Music.

Scalene (Sandra and Nancy Kerr and James Fagan) sang Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies in 1999 on their Fellside album Scalene. They noted:

Sandra remembers hearing this in her youth, on a recording by Peggy Seeger. The sleeve note pointed out that love is both sorrowful and dangerous. No change there, then. Cecil Sharp gives several variants of this in his English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, from which we collated this text and chose the lovely 3/2 tune.

Bram Taylor sang Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies in 2004 on his Fellside album The Night Is Young.

Elizabeth LaPrelle sang Come All Your Fair and Tender Ladies on her 2004 album Rain and Snow. She noted:

I learned this old song from my mother who thinks she learned it from “some folksong record”. My parents looked through their old LPs and found a similar version by Leon Bibb. I altered the melody a little to adapt it to my own voice.

Jim Moray sang this song as Fair and Tender Lovers in 2004 on his CD single Sprig of Thyme and two years later on his eponymous CD Jim Moray.

Jon Boden learnt this song “from an Appalachian source recording on vinyl in Cecil Sharp House. I spent a couple of quite magical days in the listening room aged 21 or so, in the days before internet music.” He sang it with the title Sparrow as the 26 September 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

This video shows Hunter's Law (Gillian Frame, Bella Hardy, Siobhan Miller with James Lindsay and Mike Vass) perform Fair and Tender Lovers in January 2015:

Georgia Lewis sang Fair and Tender Ladies in 2015 on her eponymous EP Georgia Lewis.

Lucy Ward sang Fair and Tender Ladies on her 2018 album Pretty Warnings.

Lyrics

Peggy Seeger sings Come All Ye Fair and Tender MaidensPeter Bellamy sings Fair and Tender Ladies

Come all ye fair and tender maidens,
Take warning how you court your man,
They're like a star on a Summer's evening,
First appear and then they're gone.

Come all ye fair and tender ladies,
Take warning how you court young men.
They're like a bright star on a summer's morning,
They'll first appear and then they're gone.

They'll tell to you some loving story,
They'll swear to you their love is true.
Straightway they'll go and court another,
And that's the love they have for you.

They'll tell to you some lovin' story,
Declare to your their love is true.
Straightway they'll go and court some other
And that is the love that they have for you.

I wish I'd known before I courted,
I never would have courted none.
I'd locked my heart above a-courting
And fastened it up with a silver pin.

I wish I was a little sparrow,
And I had wings then I could fly.
I'd fly away to my false true lover
And when you spoke I would be by.

I wish I was a little sparrow
That I had wings and I could fly;
I'd fly away to my false true lover
And when he'd speak I would deny.

But I am no little sparrow,
I have no wings neither can I fly,
So I sit down here in grief and sorrow
And try to pass my troubles by.

But I am not no little sparrow,
I have no wings, neither can I fly.
I'll sit down here and weep in sorrow,
And pass my troubles by and by.

Do you remember our days of courting
When your head was upon my breasts?
You could make me believe that the sun in the morning
And the moon rose in the west.

Young girls, don't cast your mind on beauty,
For beauty will surely fade away.
It's many's the bright and the sunshiny morning
Turns out a dark and a most mutinous day.

Maggie Holland sings Fair and Tender LadiesJon Boden sings Sparrow

Come all you fair and tender ladies,
Be careful courting a young men.
He's like a star on a summer's morning,
First he'll appear and then begone.

I wish I was a little sparrow,
I had wings and I could fly.
I'd fly away to my own true lover
And when she courted I'd be by.

When he first comes to you a-courting
He laid his eye upon your breast
Then you'll believe with his pleasant talking
The sun could rise up in the west.

But I am no little sparrow,
I got no wings nor I can't fly.
So I'll sit right here in grief and sorrow,
So I'll sit right here until die.

He'll tell to you some simple story,
He'll swear to you his love is true.
Then straightway go and court another
That's all the love he'll have for you.

And I'll go down to some lonesome valley,
I'll spend my months, my weeks, my years.
And I'll eat nothing but green willow
And I'll drink nothing but my tears.

He'll leave you weeping like a willow,
He'll leave you mourn like a dove.
He'll leave you all alone to wander,
Why, you are careless with your love.

I wish I was some little sparrow,
I had wings and I could fly.
I'd fly away to my own true lover
And when she courted I'd be by.

(repeat first verse)

Stella Kimble and Pearl Richardson sing Come All Your Fair and Tender Ladies

Come all you fair and tender ladies,
Take warning how you love young men.
They are like a bright star in a summer morning,
They will appear and then they're gone.

They'll laugh and talk and tell you stories,
Declare to you that they'll prove true.
Straightway they'll go and court another,
That is the love they have for you.

I myself once had a lover,
Indeed I thought he was my own.
Straightway he went and married another,
Then left me here in storms to mourn.

I wish I'd have known before I courted,
How hard a thing love is to win.
I'd lock my heart in a chest of golden,
And seal it up with a silver key.

But since I'm filled with grief and sorrow,
I'll sit and sing my life away.
There's many a dark and stormy morning,
Turns out to be a bright and pleasant day.

Spoken: Thank goodness I got that again!