Fare thee well, my lovely Nancy

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Nancy, i'm off...

We recorded this on our little gizmo while on the edge of the highest hill in Hampshire. We could not find anywhere to camp on such a steep gradient, and were walking up and down a footpath trying to peer down the slope for flatlands.

And then we realized that the footpath on which we stood was flat, and wide enough, and a perfectly suitable place to kip. So we did.

We could smell the sea, and hear Skylarks when we woke. We were accompanied by Ayla and her mother Annette, for whom it was an intense pleasure to sing.

The fire you can hear in the background was not a forest confalgration, but a safe little cooking fire all lifted from the ground on damp logs. It’s ok.

Here are the lyrics:

Fare thee well, my lovely Nancy, for i must now leave you,

unto the salt seas i am bound for to go,

but let my long absence be no trouble to you,

for i will return in the spring as you know.

Like some pretty little sea-boy i will dress and go with you,

in the deepest of dangers i shall stand your friend,

in the cold stormy weather when the winds they are a-lowing,

my love i’ll be willing to wait on you then.

Your pretty little fingers cannot handle our rigging,

your pretty little feet to our top mast can’t go,

and the cold stormy weather, love, you never could endure,

therefore, lovely Nancy, to the sea do not go.

So fare thee well, my lovely Nancy, for i must now leave you,

unto the salt seas i am bound for to go,

but let my long absence be no trouble to you,

for i will return in the spring, as you know.

It is a beautiful song, to which we have given the monniker ‘trad Nancy’. For a while we considered naming our group by this same name – the trad nancies – till we thought better of it.

The song is said to go back to the late 17th century, and has appeared all over the world in various forms. Vaughn Williams recorded it from a Hampshire man, George Lovett, in the early 20th century, and we first heard it sung on a recording by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior.

Please enjoy, and sing it up.

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