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REIGN OF CHARLES II.
These lines I have since found to form part of a ballad commencing, " I sowed the seeds of love," which is still in print among the ballad-venders in Seven Dials, and was published from one of their copies in 1846, in Songs and Ballads of the Peasantry of England, by Mr. J. H. Dixon.
I spoke of the air as one of the common ballad-tunes sung about the counties of Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Lancashire; and that in a burlesque at the Manchester Theatre, some years before, one of the fraternity of blind ballad-singers had been imitated, chanting rhymes to the tune, with pauses at the end of each phrase, as peculiarly characteristic of their manner. I have since learned that the late Mrs. Honey, having caught the air from another ballad-singer, had introduced the ballad on the London stage, in The Loan of a Lover ; and that the history of the words is given in Whittaker's History of the Parish of WhaOey (p. 318, 4to., 1801.)
Dr. Whittaker tells us that Mrs. Fleetwood Habergham, of Habergham Hall, Lancashire, " undone by the extravagance, and disgraced by the vices of her husband " (who squandered his large patrimony, till, in 1689, even the mansion-house and demesne were swallowed up by the foreclosure of a mortgage), " soothed her sorrows by some stanzas, yet remembered among the old people of the neighbourhood, of which the following allusions to the triumphs of her early days, and the successive offers she had rejected, under the emblem of flowers, are simple and not inelegant:"—
" The gardener standing by, In June the red rose sprung,
Proffered to chnse for me But was no flower for me ;
The pink, the primrose, and the rose, I pluck'd it up, lo ! by the stalk,
But I ref'ns'd the three. And planted the willow tree.
The primrose I forsook The willow 1 now must wear,
Because it came too soon, • With sorrows twin'd among,
The violet I overlookt That all the world may know
And vow'd to wait till Jnne. I falsehood lov'd too long."
Dr. Whittaker says, " A sentimental fine lady of the present day would have thrown her story into the shape of a novel: the good old gentlewoman's ballad is at least the more tolerable of the two."
From the circumstances under which they were written, the words may be dated as not long after 1689, and in all probability were written to the tune of Come, open the door, sweet Betty (ante p. 505), which was then in the height of its popularity. Although the traditional version consists of but one strain, and is in common time, such metamorphose is by no means unusual in airs preserved solely by tradition. The resemblance is still clearly traceable. Another traditional version will be found in Albyn's Anthology, i. 40, fol., 1816, or Wood's Songs of Scotland, iii. 85, 8vo., 1850.
Mr. Alexander Campbell, the editor of Albyn's Anthology, gives the following account:—" This sweetly rural and plaintive air, like many of the ancient Border Melodies " (he did not know how far south of the border it might be traced) "has but one part, or rather one measure. It was taken down by the editor from the singing of Mr. Hogg" (the Ettrick Shepherd) " and his friend, Mr. Pringle, author of the pathetic verses to which it is united;" commencing, " I'll bid my heAt be still."