John - Anglo Concertina
This song has always fascinated me - and not just
because of the story, which I find riveting. Exactly
who is this woman that affects George so
profoundly? It is related to two Child Ballads:
No.42, "Clerk Colville," and No.85, "Lady Alice."
My version comes as an amalgam from many
sources around Hampshire and was once collected
in the village next to where I was born.
George Collins walked out one May morning
When May was all in bloom
And there he beheld a fair pretty maid
Washing her marble stone.
She whooped she holloed she highered her voice
Held up her lily white hand.
Come hither to me George Collins she said
Or your life won't last you long.
George Collins stepped up to the fair waterside
And over the river sped he
He clasped his arms round her middle so small
And sinned with her fair body.
George Collins went home to his own father gate
And so loudly he did ring.
And who should come down but his own father dear
To let George Collins in.
Arise my dear father and let me in
Arise mother make me my bed,
Arise my dear sister and fetch me a napkin
A napkin to bind round my head.
If I should chance to die this night
As I suppose I shall
Bury me under the marble stone
That lies against fair Helen's wall.
Fair Helen she sits in her room so fine
Working the silken twine.
She saw the finest corpse a coming
That ever the sun shone on.
She said unto her Irish maid
Whose corpse is this so fine,
It is George Collins corpse a coming
O once a true lover of thine.
Then go up stairs and fetch me the sheet
That's spun with the silver twine.
And hang all over George Collins' corpse
Tomorrow it'll hang over mine.
Come put him down my six pretty lads
And open his coffin so fine.
That I may kiss his lilywhite lips
For ten thousand times he has kissed mine.
The news was carried to fair London town
And wrote on fair London gate.
And six pretty fair maids died all of one night
All for George Collins' sake.