Dear Balladeer

by Forest Mountain Hymnal

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The Moodys and the Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles

Please visit : dearballadeer.com

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released January 1, 2015

Songs from the Ballad Book used by permission of the Niles Family estate with whom all rights remain vested.

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Forest Mountain Hymnal Nashville, Tennessee

Forest Mountain Hymnal (Jonathan and Rebecca Moody) is the result of our passion for folk music, fables, and the natural world in which we grew up, both in Nashville, Tennessee and Sewanee, Tennessee at the University of the South. We hope, with our music, to celebrate love, nature, peace, and community. ... more

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Track Name: The Riddle Song
The Riddle Song (Niles No. 1 B)- Collected 1933 from Wilma Creech of Pine Mountain, KY

“I gave my love a cherry that hath no stone,
I gave my love a chicken that hath no bone,
I have my love a thimble that hath no end,
I gave my love a baby that’s no cryin’.”

“How could there be a cherry that hath no stone?
How could there be a chicken that hath no bone?
How could there be a thimble that hath no end?
How could there be a baby that’s no cryin’?”

“A cherry when it’s a-bloomin’, it hath no stone.
A chicken when it’s a pippin, it hath no bone.
A thimble when it’s a-rollin’, it hath no end.
And a baby when it’s a-sleepin’, there’s no cryin’.”
Track Name: The Smart Schoolboy
The Smart Schoolboy (Niles No. 3) – Collected Spring 1935 from Preston Wolford, a farmer and dance caller of Dot, Virginia

“Oh, where be ye going?”
Said the knight on the road.
“I be going to school,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“I be going to school,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, what do ye there?”
Said the knight on the road.
“I read from my book,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“I read from my book,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, what have ye got?”
Said the knight on the road.
“‘Tis a bait of bread and cheese,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“‘Tis a bait of bread and cheese,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, pray give me some,”
Said the knight on the road.
“Oh no, not a crumb,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“Oh no, not a crumb,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“I hear your school bell,”
Said the knight on the road.
“Hit’s a-ringing you to hell,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“Hit’s a-ringing you to hell,”
Said the boy as he stood.
Track Name: King William's Son
King William's Son (Niles No. 4B) - Collected Summer 1936 from an elderly woman who wished to be unnamed, western North Carolina

Of all the sons King William had,
Prince Jamie was the worst,
And what made the sorrow even more,
Prince Jamie was the first.

He sang his song to Isabel,
A song like none did sing,
And she did follow him away,
A very silly thing.

They wandered over hill and dale,
They came upon the sea,
"Light down, light down, fair Isabel,
And give your clothes to me."

"Hit's turn, oh turn your head away,
And look at yonder sea.
I do not wish to have it said
I let you see my bare body.

"Oh turn, oh turn your head away,
Behold the yon seaside,
And do not look this way a bit
Or you'll see me in my hide."*

And as he stood a-waiting
And a-looking o'er the lea,
She grabbed him by his slender hips
And pitched him in the sea.

"Oh save me, save me from this death,
And when the King is dead,
I will be King Jamie
And you'll be queen instead."

"If you could lie to nine young maids,
You'll lie as quick to me,
But soon the fish will eat your meat
Instead of eating me."

She mounted quick the dapple gray,
And then she led the black
Across the fields and pastures,
A-homing she rode back.

"Where have you been and what have you done,
Your horse is all a-sweat?
Your father looked the castle o'er
And hasn't found you yet."

"If you would only hold your tongue,
You'll never have to lie.
My father ne'er must ever know
How near I come to die.

"No talk, no talk, my pretty poll,
It be the break of day."
"The cat was at my cage's door,
And you shooed her away."

"Well said, my parrot bird, well said,
No cat shall bother thee,
And thy cage shall be made of beaten gold
Instead of the willow tree."

*In describing the elderly woman who sang him this ballad, Niles mentions that "In spite of all her troubles, she had a great sense of humor and was ready to laugh at almost everything, including herself... She used the word 'hide' in "King William's Son" -- possibly for the sake of rhyme, but more probably, I think, for humor's sake" (Ballad Book, pg. 28) I love watching the singers' personalities sneak into the ballad!
Track Name: William and Ellen
William and Ellen (Niles No. 5) – Collected July 4, 1916 from Red Jules Napier, Black Jules Napier, and Chester Staffer, Hazard KY

Lord William fetched up his bride,
He fetched up his horse.
Said, “If we fail at the watery ford,
We’ll suffer then a loss.”

His horse’s name was Pointed Star,
And then he quickly said,
“If you don’t call me by my name,
We’ll leave them all cold dead.”

“Oh Ellen, Ellen, tell me true,
Tis now you must decide.
It’s go back to your mother, dear,
Or stay and die my bride.”

There was no wedding on that day,
No wedding on that night,
For they were dead and laid to rest
With chant and candle light.

His mother died account of grief,
Of sorrow died his bride,
And there they laid the three to rest,
In churchyard side by side.

Come all young men and ladies
Who yearn for love’s delight.
Remember how Lord William’s rose
Hugged Ellen’s briar so tight.
Track Name: The Sinful Maiden
The Sinful Maiden (Niles No. 6) – Collected July 5, 1932 from Solomon Holcom in Whitesburg, KY

As she walked by the jailhouse,
She heard a fellow say,
“It’s getting awful lonesome here,
I’d like to get away.”

Then as she was a silly one,
And in her nonage too,
She stole a key and let him out,
A thing she’d often rue.

“Oh Mother, and oh father,
He said I’d be his wife,
He said he’d love and cherish me
As long as I had life.

“But now I’m coming home to you,
And I hope you’ll let me in,
And soon forget the day that I
Committed all this sin.”
Track Name: The Little Drownded Girl
The Little Drownded Girl (Niles No. 7) – Collected July 16, 1932 from Patterson Whetmore in Pikeville, KY

Derry derry down and around the old piney tree,
I know a lord who lived by the Northern Sea,
He had daughters by one and by two, three,
Derry derry down and around the old piney tree.

Derry derry down and around the old piney tree,
“Sister, fish me out of the raging sea,
You may have my own true lover-ee.”
Derry derry down and around the old piney tree,

She did swim around so heartily,
Until she sank and she did drowndery.

She was stripped to her bare body,
For her gold and her watches and her fee.

They hanged the sister and the miller-ee,
On a scaffold ‘side of the deep blue sea.
Track Name: Tiranti, My Love
Tiranti, My Love (Niles No. 9) – Collected May 15, 1934 from Mrs. Molly Ratliff in Madison County, KY

“Oh, where have you been, Tiranti, my love,
And why are you home so soon?”
“It’s I’ve been a-courting, oh Mother dear,
And I’m dying to lie down.”

“What did you eat, Tiranti, my love,
What did you eat, my son?”
“Some pizened eels, oh Mother dear,
But I ate only one.”

“One eel is enough, my little son,
Yes, one will surely do.
But two would be too many eels
For one bonny boy like you.”

“Oh what will you give the great lady
Who was to you untrue?”
“A strong piece of rope for hanging, for hanging,
And that will hardly do.”