Everything about this adaptation was a gamble, and I’m still not entirely sure the end result works. So many of the earlier broadsides are really very long, and so one of the first decisions in adapting them is usually which verses to cut. But when I stumbled on ‘The New Way To Make Love’ I realised that I wanted to do one, just one, in its entirety. All 39 insane verses of it.
I mentioned this to a friend who said “Wow! That’s a great idea. I mean... I won’t listen to it... but...” Which was very good honest advice, because I realised that I probably wouldn’t either if someone else had done it. So I knew I had to make it as concise as possible, and keep it under 7 minutes if possible.
Which I achieved, and then spoilt by adding a version of ‘Cuckolds All In A Row’ afterwards. This was apparently a favourite tune of King Charles II; unsurprisingly, as it would usually be playing in the background as he spent time on dance floors trying to seduce other men’s wives. (I felt I had to add this tune, as I realised that for an album called ‘Joy & Jealousy’ it was a little light on the jealousy.)
I wrote the ‘New Way To Make Love’ tune(s) myself, which is sort of cheating I suppose. But for this one I didn’t want to spend forever finding something that fitted, and the eventual tune is basically a mash-up of various traditional tunes anyway.
Young lovers, for love I'd not have you despair,
But unto my frolicsome song lend an ear,
At Oxford there lived two lords of great fame,
One had a fair daughter, sweet Susan by name
The other lord he had a steward we hear,
Was deeply in love with this lady fair,
But yet for to court her he darest not pretend,
For fear of the anger of her noble friends
So great was his love he could not take rest
For love and fear struggling both in his breast :
At last in distraction a letter he writes,
And defiantly sends it to his lady bright.
Saying “Pardon fair lady, I humbly pray,
But pity a lover that long-wishing lay,
I am a lord's steward, so mean in degree,
I die for thy sake, charming creature," said he
The lady returned this scornful reply,
"You impudent fellow; I do not think that I,
Who am a lady, my father's own heir,
Would wed a lord's steward, I pray now forbear."
As soon as the steward her answer received,
His heart was oppressed, and his spirits were grieved,
So pensive he grew, that within a short time
His place to another was forced to resign
He being invited one day to a feast
A frolicsome doctor was one of the guests
He quickly perceived the steward was in love,
So he called him aside, and went to a grove.
“Kind sir,” says the doctor, “take it not amiss,
For I perceive your distemper is this,
That you are in love with a young lady fair,
I'd have you discover it now if you are.
I have a medicine will quickly cure that disease,”
The steward smiled and seemed very well pleased,
Saying “That's my distemper, if you can me cure,
I fifty bright guineas for you will procure.”
“But she is so much, sir, beyond my degree,
For such a noble lord's daughter is she.”
“Never heed,” says the doctor, “my wife does her know,
If you'll be ruled by me we'll order it so.”
“I know of a chambermaid she is need,
She sent to my wife to help her with speed :
You shall dress yourself in female attire,
My wife for a chambermaid soon shall you hire,”
“But what must I do, sir,” the steward he said,
“I don't understand, sir, the work of a maid.”
“Your work will be little”, the doctor did say,
“It's only to dress this young lady gay.”
“My wife shall not know but you are a maid,
So you shall be dressed e'er she sees you,” he said.
He liked of the frolic, all things did prepare.
And he did appear like a female so fair,
The doctor he goes to his wife, then he said,
“My dear, such a lady asked you for a maid ;
Where I dined today, a brisk maid I did see
Take her to your lady, my dear, instantly.”
“Come, I will go with you,” the woman did say,
“The lady will like you, because you are gay.”
The steward did strut with an air and a grace,
And goes with the woman to see his new place.
The lady the chambermaid liked I declare,
So she gave her earnest, and hired she were;
“I love a neat maid,” the lady did cry,
“For I with my chambermaid always do lie.”
The steward a-curtsy he drop to the ground,
For joy of that word he was ready to swoon ;
Being hired, he back to the doctor did he
Overjoyed that he was with his lady to be
The doctor cried, “Steward how will you forbear,
Don't for fear that discovered you are ;
It is a temptation I needs must confess,
But you must forbear it, sir, nevertheless.”
The steward he goes to his place for to find,
The lady she liked of his service so well
He was her bedfellow, he knew all her mind,
Each night they would talk of their sweethearts kind.
“Here was a lord's steward,” the lady did say,
“Not long since he wrote a letter to me,
And really I liked his person,” said she,
“But only he is so mean in degree.”
One night as they both were laid down in their bed
The chambermaid unto the lady she said:
“Madam, this day I the steward did see
Of which you did speak t'other night unto me.”
“Well, how did you like him?” the lady did say
“Why madam, I think he is proper and gay;
His courteous behaviour, his carriage and mean,
His person I think it is fit for a queen.”
So then with a smile the young lady replied,
“I wish that he lying here was by my side ;
But unto the match you may very well think
My parents by any means will not consent.”
They talk of love stories till they fall asleep,
Then close to her side the steward did creep;
Her charms he admired, as by her he lay.
But remembered still what the doctor did say,
One day he to the young doctor did go,
Saying, “Doctor, I very impatient do grow,
Do strive to finish the frolic,” he said,
“Or else I discovered shall be I'm afraid.”
The doctor he gave him a medicine to take,
Saying, “This will lay you in a sound sleep;
T’will stop any motion,” the doctor he said,
“That all which do see you will think you are dead.”
“Then they'll soon discover that you are a man,
And when from sleep you recover again,
For fear that the lady exposed should be,
Her parents will instantly give her to thee.”
Then home to his lady he instantly goes,
And first took the medicine and fell in a doze,
The lady awakening in the dead of the night,
Began to be in a desperate fight.
She pulled him and hauled him, but thinking him dead
Like one in distraction she jumped out of bed
And unto her mother she runs in a fright,
Saying “Mother, the chambermaid's dead by my side.”
The servants they ran up the stairs with all speed
Some ran for the doctor the maid for to bleed
“It is but a folly to bleed her,” he said
“For really to tell you the truth she is dead.”
The lady sat down, and she bitterly wept
“I'm sure I am grieved that she died by my side,
She was a good servant,” the young lady said,
“I'm sure I am sorry poor Betty is dead.”
To lay out the corpse the maids did prepare,
Had you seen how they at one another did stare;
“If I am not mistaken,” then said pretty Nan,
“I think our chambermaid's turned to a man.”
“A man!” says the lady, “I'm sure you are all wild,
I hope that the rogue has not got me with child.”
“With child,” says the mother, “You impudent quean! [immoral woman / prostitute]
What is it by all this juggling you mean?”
“Dear mother, I hope you will not me blame,
I'm sure that I nothing did know of the same;
Twas the doctor's wife that brought him to me,
Therefore let us send for her hastily.”
When to the woman they had told their tale,
She cried, "In your judgement, girls, do you not fail"
She goes to the corpse and she pulls down the sheet
She cries, "He's a man! I plainly see it."
But as they were in the midst of their fright
He waked from his sleep, and started upright:
They took to their heels, and downstairs they did fly
The old lord he arose when he heard the outcry.
The steward he dressed himself, and down he did come
The old lord he said, "What is this you have done?
Come tell me the truth or I solemnly swear
I surely will punish you very severe."
He down'd on his knees, and the truth did relate,
The lord he did laugh till his sides they did ache,
He liked of the frolic so well, as we hear,
He willingly gave him his daughter so dear.
But is that the truth? I now declare,
I really believe that he did it for fear :
The lady his daughter by him was trepanned [i.e. tricked]
For it was plainly proved she had lain with a man.
from Joy & Jealousy,
released November 5, 2013
Traditional arranged by James Bell.
Tune written by James Bell.
I'm a musician based in Oxford, UK. I play guitar and sing. I've been writing and recording songs since 1988 and adapting English traditional music since 2006. I perform solo and with the band James Bell & The Half Moon All Stars.