Bessy Bell and Mary Gray (II)

DESCRIPTION: The singer loved Bessy yesterday but couldn't get her; now Mary's sly glance has his fancy. Bessy's beauty enthralls him as does Mary's wit and grace. The law allows him to have only one so he'll draw lots "and be with ane contented"
AUTHOR: Allan Ramsay (1686-1758)
EARLIEST DATE: 1720 (Ramsay, according to Opie-Oxford2, p. 38); 1724 (Ramsay, _The Tea-Table Miscellany_)
KEYWORDS: courting beauty dancing derivative nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (8 citations):
GreigDuncan6 1256Ab, 1256B, "Bessie Bell I Lued Yestreen" (2 fragments plus a single verse on p. 588, 1 tune)
Bronson 201, "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray" (2 versions: Bronson's #3-4)
BronsonSinging 201, "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray" (2 versions, of which #4 is this)
Whitelaw-Song, p. 362, "Bessie Bell and Mary Gray" (1 text)
DT BESSBEL3
ADDITIONAL: Allan Ramsay, The Tea-Table Miscellany (London, 1724 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 104-105, "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray" ("O Bessy Bell and Mary Gray") (1 text)
Robert Chambers, The Scottish Songs (Edinburgh, 1829 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol I, pp. 235-236, "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray" (1 text)

Roud #237
BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 45(14), "The Scottish lasses Bessy Bell and Mary Gray" ("O Bessy Bell and Mary Gray"), J. Smyth (Belfast), 1813-1850
NLScotland, Ry.III.a.10(114), "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray," unknown, after 1720

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Green Grow the Rashes, O" (tune, per GreigDuncan6)
cf. "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray (I)" [Child 201] (source) and references there
NOTES: The NLScotland broadside consists solely of an ode to the two pretty young women, and is likely a rewrite; it is credited in the notes on the site (though not on the broadside itself that I can see) to Allan Ramsay (1686-1758). - RBW
Ramsay's version is considered by Child a separate song of Ramsay's own. Chambers writes, "Ramsay has here converted into a very pretty and sprightly song, what was originally a very rude but pathetic little ballad." On the other hand, Scott writes, "There is to a Scottish ear so much tenderness and simplicity in these verses [see the entry for Child 201], as must induce us to regret that the rest should have been superseded by a pedantic modern song, turning upon the most unpoetic part of the legend, the hesitation, namely, of the lover, which of the ladies to prefer."
Among the Scottish collections not listed above, Whitelaw The Book of Scottish Song , Herd Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, St Cecilia or The British Songster, Pinkerton Select Scotish Ballads, Phillips A Collection of Old Ballads and Gilchrist A Collection of Ancient and Modern Scottish Ballads, Tales and Songs print Ramsay's text as representative of "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray." On the other hand, of the Scottish anthologies of songs and ballads I use most frequently, only Aytoun The Ballads of Scotland prints Child's text.- BS
For more on the complex history of these pieces (which seems to have three recensions: the original "Bessy Bell," a nursery rhyme version, and Ramsey's rewrite), see the notes to "Bessy Bell and Mary Gray (I)" [Child 201]. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C201Rams

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 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.