Jon took this originally from the book Marrowbones first published in 1965 and reprinted by the EFDSS with additional annotation (follow this link.) Jon says, “Here’s another pretty gruesome girlfriend murdering song, more or less the same as The Cruel Knife, but with a bit more graphic violence. It’s pretty horrible really – fun to sing though.” Bellamy, Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick are notables who have recorded this and there’s also a version from Harry Cox that you’ll find on The Bonny Labouring Boy CD, which adds to the Norfolk provenance. Mainly Norfolk, appropriately therefore, has a good summary of the various versions and differences in the lyrics and alternate titles. You can read the various sleeve notes too, which make the point that this must be one of the commonest plotlines in folk song. The subtext of unwanted pregnancy is more explicit in some variants, so I guess there’s some cautionary morality to explain the frequency of the story line in an age before successful birth control was common place. Still it’s a rather drastic solution to the problem and a grim outcome all round.
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