Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics:
When I Was a Lady

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When I Was a Lady

When I Was a Lady

     When I was a lady,
     A lady, a lady--
     When I was a lady,
     Oh! then, oh! then, oh! then,
     It was hey oh! this way,
     This way, this way;
     It was hey oh! this way,
     Oh! then, oh! then, oh! then.

     When I got married,
     Got married, got married--[etc.]

     When I got a baby,
     A baby, a baby--[etc.]

     When my baby cried,
     Cried, cried--[etc.]

     When my baby died,
     Died, died--[etc.]

     When I had a bustle,
     A bustle, a bustle--[etc.]

     When my bustle fell,
     Fell, fell--[etc.]
     Nicholson Golspie (1897), 164; tune, 204, a version of
     There's Nae Luck About the House.  At "hey oh! this way"
     the girls introduced some action (e.g. rocking a baby)
     suggested by the earlier part of the stanza.  N. quotes
     comparable material from Jackson & Burne, Shropshire
     Folk-lore (p. 514), and M. H. Mason, Nursery Rhymes and
     Country Songs, 42, which latter "may be the original of
     all", but certainly suggests that the Golspie lady is a
     corruption of maiden: "When I was a maiden, O, then, and
     O, then" etc.  Several English versions in Gomme Trad.
     Games II (1898), 362 ff. ("When I was a Young Girl"),
     with note on pantomimic games; Gomme & Sharp II (1909),
     10.  Cf. also Colin Brown in The Thistle, xxix, who
     refers to "the graceful movements of rows of little
     girls marching and counter-marching to the sweet melody
     . . .  When I am a lady, a lady, a lady, When I am a
     lady, a lady am I."
     Opies Singing Game (1985), 294, has a Cumnock version
from 1961, with differs: 4 a lady was I. 5-6 'Twas this was
and that way, and this way and that way, 7-8 [as 3-4].  The
other stanzas feature "a gentleman", "a baker", "a teacher".
Similarly in Fraser (1975), 23, from Aucherarder, with a
version from Dunfermline, "Did you ever see a lassie, a
lassie, a lassie,/ Did you ever see a lassie do this way and
that?"--done in a ring; the one in the middle does some
action (hop, fancy step, etc.), imitated by the rest.
The Opies' tune (from Dumfries, 1960) is the same as that of
"Jack-a-needle", i.e. La Guaracha.  See also their
comparative notes (296-7) from many countries.  Cf. "I
Married a Wife", which is a more sophisticated
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III