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Greenwood Laddie

[ Roud 2123 ; Ballad Index K130 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins recorded Greenwood Laddie in 1967 for her album The Power of the True Love Knot; this was reissued on her anthology The Classic Collection. She commented in the original album's liner notes:

Perhaps a boy as beautiful as this one can only exist in the tender imagination of a young girl. The beauty of the song is real enough. Bram Martin negotiates the time changes (from 3/4 to 4/4 and even 5/4) with noble ease. Collected by Jean Ritchie from Sean Boyle.

A demo recording made in London in 1966 was published in 2006 on the CD Snapshots; and a 1978 Dublin live recording from Shirley and Dolly Collins can be found on Harking Back.

Eliza Carthy sang and played Greenwood Laddie, followed by Mrs Capron's Reel and an anonymous tune, in 1998 on her album Red. This track was also included in 2003 on Eliza's anthology The Definitive Collection. She also sang Greenwood Laddie in an Andy Kershaw radio session on 3 March 1996 that was included in 2020 on her CD Live to Air.

Hen Party sang Greenwood Laddie in 2002 on their WildGoose album The Heart Gallery. They commented in their liner notes:

This song seems to have originated in County Antrim. It has been attributed to Robert Cinnamond of Glenavy and to Charles Boyle of Belfast who learnt it from his mother; she recalled it having been sung in the mills and factories of that city. Peter Kennedy recorded the song in 1952. It has been said that there are distant echoes of the traditional Gaelic love song in its melody and verses. There may well be a deeper significance to the term ‘Greenwood’ suggesting that this song expresses at attachment that crosses the sectarian divide.

Wendy Arrowsmith sang Greenwood Laddie in 2011 on her CD Life, Love and Chocolate.

Marc Block sang Greenwood Laddie in 2014 on his CD The Hawthorn Spring.

Sarah Hayes sang Greenwood Laddie in 2015 on her CD Woven.

Edgelarks sang Greenwood Laddie on their 2020 CD Henry Martin. They noted:

The majority of our songs, including this one, were gleaned from Peter Kennedy's seminal collection Folksongs of Britain and Ireland. With this beautiful Irish ballad, Phil[lip Henry]'s funk electric guitar and trance harmonica had us dancing around the studio.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Greenwood Laddie Eliza Carthy sings Greenwood Laddie

Did you see my dearest, with his eyes of the clearest,
His cheeks like red blood that's new dropped on snow?
For he was tall, dark and slender, his arms warm and tender,
He'll be my greenwood laddie wherever he may be.

If you'd seen my dearest, whose eyes they shine the clearest,
His cheeks like the red blood, new dropped in snow.
He is neat, tall and tender, his hands soft and slender,
He'll be my greenwood laddie wherever he goes.

My parents, my darling, they slight you with scorn,
Because you have no riches wrapped up in store.
But the more that they slight you, the more I invite you
To be my greenwood laddie whom I'd always adore.

For if I had the wealth of the East or West Indies,
Or if I had the gold of the African shore,
Or if I could gain thousands, I'd nest on your bosom
And you'd be my greenwood laddie and the boy I adore.

It was down in those bowers where I spend many happy hours,
A-plugging the flowers in his company.
And it was his stolen kisses gave me my heart's wishes,
He'll be my greenwood laddie till time is no more.

It's down by yonder bower I spend many's the long hour
A-pulling the flowers by yon clear winding shore.
It was his stolen kisses caused my fondest wishing, as
You know he'll be my greenwood laddie and the boy … (the boy …)

(repeat first verse)

Edgelarks sing Greenwood Laddie

If you had seen my dearest, and his eyes they shine the clearest
His cheeks like the red blood that's new dropped in snow
He is neat, tall and slender, and his hands soft and tender
He'll be my greenwood laddie wherever he go

My parents, my darling, they slight you with scorn
Because you have no riches wrapped up in store
But the more that they slight you, the more I'll invite you
To be my greenwood laddie, till time is no more

For if I had the wealth of the East or West Indies
Or if I had the gold of the African shore
Or if I could gain thousands, I'd lie on your bosom
You'd be my greenwood laddie whom I'll always adore

It's down yonder bower I've spent many the long hour
A-pulling the flowers by yon clear winding shore
It was his stolen kisses caused my fondest wishes
He'll be my greenwood laddie, and the boy I adore

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from Eliza Carthy's singing by Kira White.