William Grismond's Downfall

from by James Bell

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I stumbled on this one almost by accident. I was looking at another broadside song which said it was to the tune of ‘And for my offence I shall die’, and I thought that sounded pretty cool, and wondered if there were any words for it. After a bit of hunting, I found ‘William Grismond’s Downfall’.

I suspect this is also based on a real event, judging by the song’s brief preface:

"A Lamentable Murther by him committed at Lainterdine, in the country of Hereford, the 12 of March 1650. with his woeful Lamentation."

It took me a while to understand that ‘his gold he did not spare’ means that his father was actually trying to save him (as in ‘he didn’t spare any expense’). But it obviously didn’t work. I liked the fact that this song has echoes of ‘Robbing on the Highway’, but whereas the one robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, and was pardoned from death (winning the guilty admiration of the song’s author), the other killed a pregnant woman in cold blood, and ‘the gallows was his share’.

The tune given is ‘Where Is My Love’, which I took to be referring to the well-known traditional song ‘The Blacksmith’. The tune just about fitted, although it did need a little shoe-horning here and there.

The ‘bridge’ tune is ‘Childgrove’. (Via Ennio Morricone.)


O come you wilful young men,
     and hear what I shall tell,
My name is William Grismond,
     at Leintwardine did dwell;
O there I did a murder,
     as it is known full well;
And for my offence I shall die, I shall die.
And for my offence I shall die.

There was a neighbour’s daughter
     that lived me hard by,
Whom I had promised marriage,
     and with her I did lie
I did dissemble with her,
     my lust to satisfy;
And for my offence I shall die....

I had my pleasure on her,
     I had my lewd desire,
The using of her body
     was that I did require:
I was overcome and I was ensnared
     by Him that was a Liar;
And for my offence I shall die....

She claimed of me marriage,
     and said she was with child,
Saying “Marry me sweet William,
     now you have me defiled:
If you do now forsake me,
     I utterly am spoiled,
And for my offence I shall die....”

When she had used these speeches,
     my anger did arise,
And then to work her overthrow,
     I quickly did devise;
What though her words were honest,
     yet I did them despise;
And for my offence I shall die....

In flattering short I brought her,
     into the field of broom,
And when we both together
     into the field were come,
I had my pleasure with her,
     and then I was her doom;
And for my offence I shall die....

Then in the broom I killed her,
     with my accursed knife,
There hatefully I killed her,
     who loved me as her life;
I cut her throat, I killed her,
     who should have been my wife;
And for my offence I shall die....

But then my loving father,
     his gold he did not spare,
To save me from the gallows,
     he had of me great care;
But it would not be granted.
     the gallows was my share;
And for my offence I did die, I did die.
And for my offence I did die.


from Joy & Jealousy, released November 5, 2013
Traditional arranged by James Bell



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James Bell Oxford, UK

Recording artist. Singer. Guitarist. Songwriter. Producer. Performer of traditional English music. Not interested in being famous. Very interested in making good music. Prone to stubbornly ignore the advice of friends in the pursuit of a singular and unique artistic vision, only to admit in a couple of years that, yeah, okay, that particular thing didn’t really work. ... more

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