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Marrow Bones: English Folk Songs from the Hammond and Gardiner Manuscripts

Don't Let Me Die an Old Maid: The Wooing Maid

'This is another of Martin Parker's ballads, of which so many are now to be found only in the Roxburghe Collection. No other copy of the following seems to be traceable elsewhere. The facility and the rhythmical flow of Martin Parker's metres made him the most popular ballad-writer of his time, and perhaps of his century.'

[Roxb. Coll. I. 452, 453.] Wooing maid: woodcut 1. Man and woman, C17 formal dress

The Wooing Maid


A faire maid neglected,
Forlorne and rejected,
That would be respected;
Which to have effected,
This general summon
She sendeth in common;
Come tinker, come broomman;
She will refuse no man.

TO THE TUNE OF If 'be the dad on't.

I am a faire maid, if my glasse doe not flatter,
Yet, by the effects, I can find no such matter;
For every one else can have suters great plenty;
Most marry at fourteene, but I am past twenty.
Come gentle, come simple, come foolish, come witty,
Oh! if you lack a maid, take me for pitty.

I see by experience—which makes me to wonder—
That many have sweethearts at fifteene, and under,
And if they passe sixteen, they think their time wasted;
O what will become of me? I am out-casted:
Come gentle, come simple, come foolish, come witty,
Oh! if you lack a maid, take me for pitty.

I use all the motives my sex will permit me,
To put men in mind, that they may not forget me:
Nay, sometimes I set my commission o' th' tenters,
Yet let me doe what I will, never a man venters.
Come gentle, &c.

When I goe to weddings, or such merry meetings,
I see other maids how they toy with their sweetings,
But I sit alone, like an abject forsaken;
Woe's me! for a husband what course can be taken?
Come gentle, &c.

When others to dancing are courteously chosen,
I am the last taken among the halfe dozen,
And yet among twenty not one can excell me:
What shall I do in this case? some good man tell me.
Come gentle, &c.

Wooing maid: woodcut 2. Man and woman, C17 formal dress

The second part


'Tis said that one wedding produceth another—
This I have heard told by my father and mother—
Before one shall scape me, Ile go without bidding;
O that I could find out some fortunate wedding!
Come gentle, come simple, come foolish, come witty,
Oh! if you lack a maid, take me for pitty.

Sure I am unfortunate, of all my kindred,
Else could not my happinesse be so long hindred:
My mother at eighteene had two sons and a daughter,
And I'm one and twenty, not worth looking after.
Come gentle, &c.

My sister, that's nothing so handsome as I am,
Had sixe or seven suters, and she did deny them;
Yet she before sixteene was luckily marry'd:
O Fates! why are things so unequally carry'd?
Come gentle, &c.

My kinswoman Sisly, in all parts mis-shapen,
Yet she on a husband by fortune did happen
Befeore she was nineteene years old, at the furthest;
Among all my linage am I the unworthiest?
Come gentle, &c.

There are almost forty, both poorer and yonger,
Within few yeares marry'd, yet I must stay longer,
Within foure miles compasse—O is't not a wonder?
Scant none above twenty, some sixteene, some under.
Come gentle, &c.

I hold my selfe equall with most in the parish
For feature, for parts, and what chiefly doth cherish
The fire of affection, which is store of money;
And yet there is no man will set love upon me.
Come gentle, &c.

Who ever he be that will ease my affliction,
And cast upon me an auspicious affection,
Shall find me [so] tractable still to content him,
That he of his bargaine shall never repent him.
Come gentle, &c.

Ile neither be given to scold nor be jealous,
He nere shall want money to drink with good fellows:
While he spends abroad, I at home will be saving,
Now judge, am I not a lasse well worth the having?
Come gentle, &c.

Let none be offended, nor say I'm uncivill,
For I needs must have one, be he good or evill:
Nay, rather than faile, Ile have a tinker or broomman,
A pedlar, an inkman, a matman, or some man.
Come gentle, come simple, come foolish, come witty,
Oh! if you lack a maid, take me for pitty.

FINIS.           M.P.

Printed at London for Thomas Lambert, at the signe of the Hors-shoo in Smithfield.

From William Chappell, Roxburghe Ballads. Hertford: Ballad Society, III, 1875, 52.