#01418
The Jolly Butchermen (Kenneth Peacock)

There was three jolly butchermen,
As I have heard them say,
They each took five hundred pounds
All on a market day.

And as they was a-riding
All fast as they could ride,
"Oh, stop, oh, stop," said Johnson,
"For I heard a woman cry."

"Oh, I won't stop," said Wilson.
"Oh, I won't stop," said Roy.
"I'll boldly stop," said Johnson,
"For I heard a woman cry."

He turned his horse around about
To search the woods around;
He saw a woman naked,
And her hair came to the ground.

And Johnson was a valiant man,
A man of courage bold;
He took the coat all from his back
To keep her from the cold.

He took her up behind him,
And as they rode along,
She clasped her fingers in her mouth
And made a dismal sound.

Oh, up stepped three jolly knaves
With weapons all in their hands,
Stepped boldly up to Johnson,
And bid him for to stand.

"Oh, I won't stand," said Wilson.
"Or I won't stand," said Roy.
"I'll boldly stand," said Johnson,
"For I heard a woman cry."

When he had ended three of them,
The woman he could not mind;
She took the knife all from his side
And runned him through behind.

"I fall, I fall," said Johnson,
"I fall all on the ground,
For this here treacherous woman,
She has give me my death wound."

And this poor treacherous woman
Was bound in chains so strong,
For killing so fine a butcherman
As ever lived in our town.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a 17th-century British broadside ballad, The Three Butchers [Laws L4] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, The Three Butchers, published by W Wright (Birmingham) sometime between 1820 and 1827, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 28(206) ....####

Collected in 1958 from James Decker [1909-1993] of Parson's Pond, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.817-818, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that variants of this ballad have appeared in collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes there are just two butchermen or even one, but always the moral of the story seems to be the same: gallantry does not pay. The earliest printed text is in the Roxburghe collection dated 1678, but some scholars think it is much older, possibly descended from Arthurian legend.


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