Poor Stranger, The (Two Strangers in the Mountains Alone)
DESCRIPTION: The singer wanders out alone and meets a girl, also alone. Each asks why the other is there. Both have had trouble with lovers at home and so ran away. They settle down to a happy life together
EARLIEST DATE: before 1814 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads 365)
KEYWORDS: courting rambling
FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE,So) Ireland Britain(England(South),Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Greig #32, p. 2, ("The lads of sweet Ury are roving young blades") (1 fragment)
GreigDuncan4 831, "I Am a Poor Stranger" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Belden, p. 487, "Poor Stranger a Thousand Miles from Home" (1 text, a short item which seems to combine "The Poor Stranger," "Farewell, Sweet Mary," and perhaps some floating items)
Randolph 59, "Two Strangers in the Mountains Alone" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 107, "A Poor Stranger Far from Home" (1 text)
BrownII 138, "The Happy Stranger" (1 fragment)
SharpAp 157, "The Rebel Soldier, or The Poor Stranger" (7 texts, 7 tunes, but only "A" and probably "F" are this song; the rest are "The Rebel Soldier")
Owens-2ed, pp. 106-107, "It Was a Young Man" (1 text fragment, 1 tune)
Manny/Wilson 95, "A Stranger Far From Home" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: W. Christie, editor, Traditional Ballad Airs (Edinburgh, 1876 (downloadable pdf by University of Edinburgh, 2007)), Vol II, pp. 220-221, "The Poor Stranger" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cecil Sharp MSS, Folk Words p.3238 / Folk Tunes p.4648, Ellen Webb, "The Poor Stranger" at http://www.vwml.org/#, accessed 8 Sep 2014.
ST R059 (Partial)
Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 365, "The Happy Stranger" ("As I was walking one morning in spring"), T. Evans (London), 1790-1813; also Firth c.26(56), Johnson Ballads 2505, "The Happy Stranger"
cf. "The Lost Girl"
cf. "The Rebel Soldier" (meter, floating lyrics)
cf. "She Has My Heart Enclosed" (tune, per GreigDuncan4)
The Lads o' Sweet Newry
NOTES [578 words]: A common verse in this song is "The young men of Manory/Ury/Newry/..., they're all roving blades, They take great delight in courting fair maids; They'll hug them and kiss them and call them their own, And perhaps their own darling is moaning at home." Starting with Greig's fragment -- which is only that verse -- Steve Gardham made the connection for me to "The Poor Stranger" as well as to Christie and the broadside ballads. He goes on to note that "17thc contributors include 'The Wandering Maiden' in Pepys, and 'Shrowsbury for me' in Roxburghe and Pepys." In later notes he pointed out that Shrowsbury does not have that verse but is an ancestor of "Boys of Kilkenny," etc.
From what I've seen, "Shrowsbury For Me" does not belong here though it includes the verse "The young men of Shrowsbury are jovial blades, When they are in company with pretty maids. They court them completely with complements free, Then every man to his mind, Shrowsbury for me." I have added an entry to the Index for that song.
"The Wandring Maiden" seems a contributor to the theme and some lines, but not to .".. call you his own ... waiting at home." See Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, editor, The Bagford Ballads: Illustrating the Last Years of the Stuarts (Hertford, 1878 ("Digitized by Google")), Second Division, pp. 572-575, "The Wandring Maiden" or "True Love at Length United," dated "certainly, before 1670.."
Digital Tradition, in a thread on "The Cuckoo and The Fourth Day of July" has a version of "The Cuckoo" with the lines "He'll hug you and kiss you, And call you his own, Perhaps his other darlin' Is a-waitin' at home." Tim Jenkins writes that "Lomax's The Folk Songs of North America has the identical verse for The Cuckoo 'as sung by Jean Ritchie..'"
For another [connection] between "The Cuckoo" and the cluster of songs including "The Poor Stranger," "The Wandring Maiden," etc. see "The Young Man's Lamentation" and follow Steve Gardham's discussion pointed to there.
It is very easy for the happy ending to be lost. After the man asks her to marry, the woman asks "where is your country... what's the misfortune you do undergo That cause you to wander so far from your home And made us meet strangers in this desert alone?" He says he is from Newry -- or some place name that sounds like Newry -- and she says she knows all about the roving blades from that infamous place and she goes into the rant of our first note for this song about his having another sweetheart at home. He pleads innocent -- "I never was married" -- and she agrees to marry him. Sometimes his reply is lost, there is no happy ending, and she complains of lovers' misfortune in being misled as usual. For example, the Owens-2ed fragment follows "perhaps his old sweetheart was living at home" with the "Wagoner's Lad" floater, "hard is the fortune of all womankind...." See the Ellen Webb text for another example.
Fred McCormick answered my query about the possible source of the Owens fragment and pointed me to "The Poor Stranger" with his own fragment from "the Boys of Cockaigny, which was popular on the English side of the pond some years ago":
The boys of Cockaigny are stout roving blades,
No doubt they'll go roving with some other young maids.
They will kiss them and caress them and call them their own
While perhaps their true sweethearts lie weeping alone
Not to be confused with Norma Waterson's "The Chaps of Cockaigny," which is a version of "The Boys of Kilkenny." - BS
Last updated in version 3.5
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 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.