Jon reminisces, “I got this from an Appalachian source recording on vinyl in Cecil Sharp House. I spent a couple of quite magical days in the listening room aged 21 or so, in the days before internet music.” Aaaah! The joys of the black stuff. There are several variations on this theme and at least one alternate title of Fair And Tender Maidens, where the message seems to be the unfaithfulness of men in general, from the perspective of an obviously wronged young lady. A cautionary tale then. It’s famously been adapted and recorded by Dolly Parton amongst others and this Mudat links to her version, simply called Little Sparrow. I picked up elsewhere an American collection of songs called Folk- Songs Of The South, which has a couple of variants pointing to this being from the USA. The text, however, at the top of this link also draws similarities to O Waly Waly (Child ballad #92), which would link us back to Water Is Wide on 13th of September. In all cases it seems to be infidelity at the root, which manifests itself in various ways in folk song and is a common enough theme down the ages, but I’m quite taken with the bird eavesdropping on the perfidious lover. Parton’s version also brings out the fragility of the bird, whilst Jon’s victim is more straightforwardly succumbing to melancholic depond.