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Lord Levett
(Child 75; Roud 48)
Nora Cleary
The Hand, near Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Lord Levett, he stood on his own stable door,
And he mounted his snow-white steed.
Lady Anne, sweet belle, stood by his side,
For to bid him his last God-speed.

'Ah, where are you going Lord Levett?' she said.
'Ah, where are you going from me?'
'I am going to a land beyond the sea;
Strange countries I’d like to see.'

'How long will you be, Lord Levett?' she said.
'How long will you be from me?'
'All for the sake of three long years,
Lady Anne sweet belle,' said he.

'Ah, that is too long for true lovers to part;
And that is too long for me;
And that is too long for true lovers to part
And never again to meet.'

As he was passing Saint Mary’s Church,
A thought ran into his mind.
He thought he had a true lover at home,
And indeed, he dreamt she was dead.

'If she is dead', the captain replied,
'It’s her you ne’er shall see.'
'But I’ll never sleep three nights of my life
Till I see her dead or alive.'

As he rode in to Saint Mary’s Church,
And from that, to Erin Square,
It was there he heard the ring of a bell,
And the people were mourning there.

'Oh what is this, this pretty fair maid?
Oh what is this?' he said.
'Is it any of your friends that’s going from home?
Or is it any that’s dead?'

'Oh yes, oh yes', the captain replied;
'The king’s daughter is dead,
And she died for the sake of a noble young man,
Lord Levett, she called his name.'

'If she is dead', Lord Levett, he cried;
'It’s her you ne’er shall see;
But I’ll never sleep three nights of my life,
Till I see her dead or alive.'

He was buried in Saint Mary’s Church,
And she in Erin Square.
One of them grew a red, red rose,
The other a bonny briar.

They grew, they grew to the church steeple top,
Till they could not grow any higher;
With a laugh and a tie in a true lover’s knot,
And the red rose covered the briar.

Despite having been described as ‘too, too insipid’ by scholar Bertrand H Bronson, this ballad has proved immensely popular among traditional singers, particularly in the United States where it was said by one writer to have been so prolific that ‘some collectors groan when they hear the name’. This popularity has been put down to the ballad’s simplicity of sentiment and Professor Child cited it as an example of why such compositions were intended to be sung rather than recited.
Dating back at least as far as the reign of Charles II, the ballad of ‘Lord Lovell’ surfaced in 19th century London as a tavern song and in the repertoires of several music-hall performers in Britain and America. It was used as a political parody by both sides during The American Civil War, the Confederate balladists having replaced Lord Lovell with Abe Lincoln, the Union side having Mansfield Lovell, the Confederate officer who lost New Orleans to the North.
Ref: ‘The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads’, Vol. 2, B H Bronson, Princeton Univ. Press, 1962
Other recordings: Walter Pardon; ‘Put a Bit of Powder on it Father’, Musical Traditions MTCD305-6'

The above commentary, lyrics and recording are taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.

See also
Lord Levett sung by Tom Lenihan


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