Jon describes this as “Another truly horrible song, but with a very cheerful tune courtesy of Martin Carthy – in fact the traditional tune From Night ‘Til Morn with a bit missing.”
This is Child ballad #21 and a rather odd tale that once again involves a curse. It seems in part to be based on the meeting between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, at least according to the notes on Mainly Norfolk. It’s worth a delve into this Mudcat thread too, as it adds something to the story of the song, making links with blues and all sorts. Although it’s a little oblique, there is the suggestion of dark deeds on the part of the maid and either incest or murder or both, hence her fate. Wiki here notes that there are some versions that cross with The Cruel Mother (Child #20) and a palmer in this case is a pilgrim.
You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores: