Some Rival Has Stolen My True Love Away (The Rifles, The Merry King)
DESCRIPTION: The singer complains that a rival has stolen his true love "so I in old England no longer can stay." He will "swim the wide ocean" to her and, when they meet he'll "welcome her kindly." A health to true lovers and confusion to rivals.
EARLIEST DATE: 1898 (Broadwood _English Traditional Songs and Carols_)
KEYWORDS: love exile separation derivative floatingverses nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,South))
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Reeves-Sharp 23B, "The Cuckoo" (1 text, a composite of two versions)
Reeves-Circle 122, "Some Rival Has Stolen" (2 texts)
Butterworth/Dawney, p. 5, "The American King" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Thames, p. 179, "The Rifles" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 348, "Rifles Have Stolen My True Love Away" with vocal rendition)
BroadwoodCarols, pp. 108-111, "Some Rival Has Stolen My True Love Away" (1 text, 1 tune)
DallasCruel, pp. 33-34, "The Rifles" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Lucy E. Broadwood, "Songs from the Collection of Lucy E. Broadwood" in Journal of the Folk-Lore Society, Vol. I, No. 4 (1902 (available online by JSTOR)), #37 p. 208, "The Americans that Stole My True Love Away" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lucy E. Broadwood, Percy Grainger, Cecil J. Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frank Kidson and J.A. Fuller-Maitland, "Songs Collected by Percy Grainger" in Journal of the Folk-Lore Society, Vol. III, No. 12 (May 1908 (available online by JSTOR)), #18 pp. 223-225, "The Merry King" ("It's a merry king of Old England that stole my love away") (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "Love's Fierce Desire and Hope's of Recovery" (source) and references there
The Americans Have Stolen My True Love Away
NOTES: The description is based on Broadwood English Traditional Songs and Carols (also found, with more restricted access, as Lucy E. Broadwood, "Songs from the Collection of Lucy E. Broadwood" in Journal of the Folk-Lore Society, Vol. I, No. 4 (1902 (available online by JSTOR)), #35 p. 205, "Some Rival Has Stolen My True Love Away" (1 text, 1 tune.). Reeves-Sharp includes the first two of Broadwood's three verses and adds three floating verses: "... meeting is pleasure ... the grave it will moulder you....," "...Don't settle your mind on your sycamore tree For the leaves they will but wither...," and "The cuckoo is a merry bird... she'll ever sing cuckoo till the summer draws near." Broadwood has an image missing in Reeves-Sharp but included in "Love's Fierce Desire": "... I'll be as constant as a true turtle dove... never... prove false...."
One of the Reeves-Sharp texts in the composite is all but the "meeting is pleasure" floater.
Reeves-Sharp begins, "The Americans have stolen...."
The story line makes less sense here than in the source, "Love's Fierce Desire and Hope's of Recovery." In "Rival," the exiled man would swim back to his sweetheart, ignoring his exile. In "Love's Fierce Desire" he is exiled but it is the woman who would swim to him, etc., so that, presumably, both would remain exiled.
The examples of Broadwood JFLS (1902) and Broadwood, et al., JFLS (1908) are similar to Broadwood English Traditional Songs and Carols in the following respect [see the discussion at "Love's Fierce Desire and Hope's of Recovery"]: they share seven or eight of the lines, and one similar line, with "Love's Fierce Desire"; all three adjust the exile so that the singer "in England no longer can stay." The two JFLS versions add floating verses from the same set as Reeves-Sharp has in his composite: "Meeting is pleasure ...", and "The grave it will rot you ..." are in both, and one has "... Never set your mind on a sycamore [maple] tree ..." while the other has "In the middle of the ocean There shall grow a myrtle tree ...."
Broadwood JFLS (1902): "... supplied the words as sung by his mother 'sixty years ago.'" - BS
The Butterworth version also included the cuckoo floating verse, although it was relegated to the notes by editor Dawney.
Broadwood suggests that the "Merry King" of some versions is Edward IV (reigned 1461-1470 and 1471-1483). This makes a certain amount of sense, in that Edward IV had an immense number of sexual liasons -- more than any king since at least John, and probably since Henry II or even Henry I, all of whom are too early to be subjects for ballads. And, other than Charles II, few kings since then have been so lusty. But even Edward IV is very early for a ballad subject, and he wasn't particularly jealous; he would not have driven a man out of the country because he lusted after his wife. Even if the original reference is indeed to the "Merry King" stealing the singer's love, I strongly suspect the reference is to something else -- perhaps a boy gone away to be a soldier. Which makes an eighteenth century date the most likely. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.