One of the epics and even Jon admits “I hadn’t quite realised how long this was until I tried to record it – which is some testament to Martin Carthy’s delivery from whence I came by it. I love the fact that she claims to have loved him for ‘long and many’s the day’ rather than year – no pretence that this isn’t just simple infatuation and I think all the more believable because of it.”
Many will know this as Matty Groves, but Jon follows Carthy’s version as titled above here. This is #81 in the Child collection and it’s interesting to note from this Wiki entry that the first recording are all American. Indeed the first is on John Jacob Niles Sings American Folk Songs with Jean Ritchie following up with the perhaps more accurate British Traditional Ballads In The Southern Mountains. It seems to have been in broadside print in the early C17th and the version that Child collected can be dated to the middle of that century. There is every chance of course that it’s somewhat older, but with all the variations of the names, I suspect trying to nail this to any real event will prove impossible. Still, check Mainly Norfolk for the words to Martin Carthy and Jon’s versions with all 29 verses. You may also want to compare it to the somewhat shorter Matty Groves as well. If that hasn’t satisfied you I’d recommend this thorough investigation of the ballad and all of its variations. It’s a little hard on the eyes after a while, but it’s still fairly entertaining and worth the effort. There are one or two variations of the ending, which may well appeal to the singers amongst you, perhaps for getting one-up on the audience.