When First Into this Country
DESCRIPTION: The stranger arrives and finds no one cares about him. He is accused of crimes, but the only crime he admits is involvement with three girls. Forced into a harsh apprenticeship, he at last earns his freedom and marries his love
EARLIEST DATE: 1847 (Journal of William Histed of the Cortes)
KEYWORDS: love courting work abuse freedom marriage apprentice
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,South),Scotland(Aber),Wales) US
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Huntington-SongsTheWhalemenSang, pp. 195-197, "When First Into this Country" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 4, "American Stranger" (2 texts)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 259, "I'm a Stranger In This Country" (1 text)
OShaughnessy-YellowbellyBalladsPart1 1, "The American Stranger" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #59, p. 1, "The American Stranger" (1 text); #61, p. 2, ("I hae travelled this country") (1 text)
Greig/Duncan7 1469, "The American Stranger" (12 texts, 9 tunes)
Ord-BothySongsAndBallads, pp. 127-128, "The American Stranger" (1 text, a somewhat confused version in which the singer seems to shift from having one girl to three back to one)
Stokoe/Reay-SongsAndBalladsOfNorthernEngland, pp. 170-171, "The American Stranger" (1 text, 1 tune, similar to but shorter than Ord's text)
Chris Willett, "The American Stranger" (on Voice11)
Bodleian, 2806 c.17(4) View 2 of 2, "American Strander [sic]" ("I am a stranger in this country"), G. Thompson (Liverpool), 1789-1820; also 2806 c.17(3) View 2 of 2,, "America [sic] Stranger"; Harding B 11(48), Firth b.25(273), Harding B 15(3a), Harding B 25(46), Harding B 20(237), Harding B 11(3053A), Harding B 11(3056), 2806 b.11(29), Harding B 11(49), Harding B 16(6a), Harding B 28(159), "American Stranger[!]"; Harding B 25(1845) [illegible lines], "The Stranger"; 2806 b.11(215), "Sporting Youth" ("I'm a stranger in this country from Ireland I came")
Murray, Mu23-y2:013, "The Sporting Youth," Poet's Box (Glasgow), 1856
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.178.A.2(019), "The American Stranger," McIntosh (Glasgow), 1849
cf. "When First To This Country (I)" ("When First Unto This Country" lyrics) and references there
The Irish Stranger
The Plains of America
NOTES [318 words]: This shares a first line or two with "When First To This Country," but the similarity ends by the end of the second stanza. The first few verses probably did transfer (I suspect from this song to that, since "When First To This Country" barely survived in tradition), but the two songs are clearly separate.
To add to the confusion, the song seems to exist in two forms. Huntington's gives full details of the youth's troubles. Ord-BothySongsAndBallads's and Stokoe's, both known by the title "The American Stranger," gloss over it, and end with the singer emigrating but saying something like the lovers are "In a plentiful country, (they are/and) God bless the King." - RBW
Chris Willett's version on Voice11 takes lines found on broadside Harding B 11(48), among others, ("But to prove myself loyal, You shall come along with me, And I'll take you to America, My darling for to be.") and turns them into a chorus ("Just to prove myself royal, if you're go along with me, I will take you to America my own darling to see"); it also has a verse from Johnson Ballads 458, among others, ("The moon shall be in darkness, And the stars shall give no light If ever I prove false to my hearts delight," "In the middle of the ocean There shall grow a myrtle [or plum, or willow] tree") that float in other songs.
Greig re #61 [Greig/Duncan7 1469L] as compared to "The American Stranger": "It would seem that the two songs have some connection. One verse is the same in both, and there are other minor points of resemblance."
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 4A shares lines in its last verse with "The Indian Lass": "Now our ship it is ready 'Tis ready to sail ... And when we gets over to our own Countree We'll drink the good health to the Indian Lass." Polly and Betty were in the song earlier but this is the first appearance of an "Indian Lass." This was recorded in Stafford Common, Swansea, Wales in 1907. - BS
Last updated in version 3.0
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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.