Sweet William of Plymouth
DESCRIPTION: William, a sailor, courts poor Susan. She rejects her parent's plan to marry her to a wealthy squire and is sent away. William returns from sea, and they -- not knowing he is now rich -- tell him she is dead. William and Susan meet and marry.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1813 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 4(91))
LONG DESCRIPTION: William, a seaman, courts Susan, "but a fisherman's daughter ... "[but] the most beautiful creature on earth." "The day was appointed the knot should be tied" but Susan becomes sick, and cannot be cured by "famous Physicians"; the wedding had to be postponed. William is called to go to sea, leaving her behind. He promises to marry when he returns "if thou by good fortune alive dost remain." She promises to remain true. He leaves. She recovers. She rejects a "wealthy young farmer" who courts her, and a squire as well. The squire appeals to her father and mother who, "being ambitious of honour and fame, Did strive to persuade her, but all in vain." She rejects their attempt.
They send her to Holland, planning to tell William, on his return, that Susan has died; if William marries another then Susan would be free to marry the squire. William, gone two years, returns "laden with riches." Susan's parents tell him she has died. He leaves his money with his own parents and decides "to travel again, Perhaps it will wear off my anguish and pain." At sea again, a storm wrecks his ship on the Dutch shore. He goes to the Hague, to repair his ship, and meets Susan. She tells him of her parent's plot. They go to Plymouth where they plan their wedding. He invites Susan's parents, saying that he has decided to marry another since Susan is dead. They agree, and "fetch home our daughter to marry the squire." She was dressed so finely that "her father and mother her face did not know." Susan reveals herself to her mother, and her parents give her their blessing, not yet knowing about his riches. He hints at his wealth and "with music and dancing they finish'd the day."
KEYWORDS: courting rejection disguise wreck
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (2 citations):
GreigDuncan5 1078, "The Fisherman's Daughter" (1 fragment)
ADDITIONAL: Julia H.L. De Vaynes, The Kentish Garland (Hertford, 1882 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol II, pp. 669-674, "Sweet William of Plymouth"
Bodleian, Harding B 4(91), "Sweet William of Plymouth" ("A seaman of Dover, sweet William by name"), J. Evans (London), 1780-1812; also Harding B 4(96), "Sweet William of Plymouth"; Harding B 4(96), "Sweet William of Plymouth"
LOCSinging, as10407a, "The Fortunate Lovers" or "Sweet William of Plymouth" ("A Seaman of Plymouth, sweet William by name"), unknown, no date
cf. "Johnny the Sailor (Green Beds)" [Laws K36] (theme: poor sailor returning wealthy, is rejected by sweetheart's parents who think him still poor)
NOTES: The GreigDuncan5 fragment -- "And she was not courted by none of the worst, A young squire came to court her at last; He called her his jewel, his true love, his dear ... 'I cannot, I daur not, you must be denied.'" -- corresponds to lines 37-39, 45 and 48 (of 200) of the Vaynes (i.e., Roxburghe Collection III.332) text with some changes, viz., "So that she was counted [sic] by none of the worst; A wealthy young farmer came to her the first, And call'd her the jewel and joy of his life.... Then came a squire, who call'd her his dear .... "I must not, I cannot, you must be deny'd." Helpfully, the GreigDuncan5 title was "The Fisherman's Daughter" which is not hinted at in the GreigDuncan5 text or notes.
I have gone into great detail in the LONG DESCRIPTION because "Sweet William of Plymouth" has sometimes been considered a version of "A Rich Irish Lady (The Fair Damsel from London; Sally and Billy; The Sailor from Dover; Pretty Sally; etc.)" [Laws P9]. That is clearly not the case and may be caused by confusion with the broadsides for "The Sailor from Dover" which follow the standard story line for Laws P9. - BS
Last updated in version 2.5
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.