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The Spanish Lady
(Roud 542)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded in singer's home, summer 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Martin Howley

As I was walking, Galway City just at the hour of ten at night,
Who would I meet but a Spanish lady combing her hair with the candlelight.
‘Lady I came here a-courting your kind favour for to gain,
And if you kindly entertain me I’ll be sure to call again.’

‘You came here a-courting, my kind favour for to gain,
And you would give me the greatest pleasure if you ne’er would call again.’
‘Lady you seem damn contrary, lady you seem hard to please.
The very first night that you g’out walking, you may ne’er come back till you get a squeeze.’

‘What would I do if I went walking, walking out in the morning dew?
What would my mamma say if she saw me walking along with a streel like you?’
‘Lady I have gold and silver, lady I have house and land,
Lady I have ships in the ocean, they’ll be all at your command.’

‘I don’t want your gold and silver, I don’t want your house and land,
I don’t want your ships in the ocean, all I want is a nice young man.
A nice young man I do require, a nice young man I do request,
A nice young man I do require, being poor or being undressed.’


“This title usually brings to mind the Spanish Lady ‘washing her feet by candle light’. Martin’s version is a reminder that it was more than just the simple ‘encounter and rejection’ song made popular by groups like the Dubliners, but more complicated and widespread. In fact it runs the whole gamut, from children’s skipping rhymes to outright bawdy (and usually expurgated for publication) songs.
This is the form in which it is usually found outside Ireland:

On yonder hill there stands a creature
Who she is I do not know;
I'll go and court her for her beauty,
She must answer yes or no.
Chorus (after each verse):

Oh, no, John, no John, no, John, no!
On her bosom are bunches of posies,
On her breast where flowers grow.
If I should chance to touch that posy
She must answer yes or no.

Madam, I am come for to court you
If your favour I can gain.
Come and sat yourself down alongside me
I fear I should never see you again.

My husband he was a Spanish captain,
Went to sea a month ago.
The very last time that we kissed and parted
Bid me always answer “No!”

Madam, in your face is beauty,
In your bosom flowers grow,
In your bedroom there is pleasure,
Shall I view it? Yes or no.

Madam, shall I tie your garter,
Tie it a little above your knee?
If my hand should slip a little farther,
Would you think it amiss of me?

My love and I went to bed together,
There we lay till the cocks did crow;
Unclose your arms, my dearest jewel,
Unclose your arms and let me go.

It was very common in one form or another; a look at the alternative titles Sam Henry gave for it gives some idea as to many guises it took:
‘Madam I am Come to Court You’, ‘Twenty, Eighteen’, ‘All of Her Answers’, ‘My Man (Oh No,) John’, ‘Oh Dear Oh!, ‘If I Had a Sailor’, ‘On the Mountain Stands a Lady’, ‘Sailor's Return’, ‘Ripest Apples’, ‘All You Boys Who Go A-Courting’, The Courting Case’, ‘I Went to See My Suzie’, ‘(The Spanish Lady in) Dublin (Galway) City’, ‘The Keys of Canterbury (of Heaven)’, ‘Oh, Miss, I Have a Very Fine Farm’, ‘Paper of Pins’, ‘The Quaker's Courtship’, ‘Wheel of Fortune’, ‘The Yankee Boys’, ‘You Go to Old Harry’, ‘Come My Little Roving Sailor’…”
Jim Carroll


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