Maids When You're Young Never Wed an Old Man

DESCRIPTION: Examples of why young women should not marry old men. A girl married at sixteen, and has lived an unsatisfactory life. Details are given of the old man's various performance problems. The girl notes that she eventually found solace with a young man
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1791 (Herd)
KEYWORDS: age marriage
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North,South,Lond),Scotland(Aber)) Ireland US(Ro) Canada(Ont)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 207, "Never Wed a' Auld Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney-PloughboysGlory, p. 32, "An old man he courted me" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kidson-TraditionalTunes, p. 92, "An Auld Man He Courted Me" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #100, "Hey Down Derry" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-FolkSongsCollectedBy-Ralph-VaughanWilliams, #121, "I Courted an Old Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #50, "An Old Man Once Courted Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan-PenguinBookOfCanadianFolkSongs 60, "An Old Man He Courted Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-TraditionalSingersAndSongsFromOntario 10, "An Old Man He Courted Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #79, "Never Wed an Old Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 156, "Maids When You're Young, Never Wed An Old Man" (1 text)
Behan-IrelandSings, #48, "Maid When You're Young" (1 text, 1 tune, modified)
Gilbert-LostChords, p. 72, "Don't Wed an Old Man" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: David Herd, editor, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (facsimile of (Edinburgh,1776) with an "Appendix ... containing the pieces substituted in the 1791 reprint for those omitted of the 1776 edition, &c.") ("Digitized by Google")), Vol II, Appendix pp. 63-64 [2-313], "Scant of Love, Want of Love" (1 text)

ST K207 (Full)
Roud #210
O.J. Abbott, "An Old Man He Courted Me" (on ONEFowke01)
Sam Larner, "Maids When You're Young Never Wed an Old Man" (on SLarner02)
Jeannie Robertson, "Maids When You're Young [Never Wed a Auld Man]" (on FSB02, FSB2CD); "An Old Man Came a Courting Me" (on Voice01); "Never Wed a' Auld Man" (on FSBFTX19)

cf. "An Old Man Came Over the Moor (Old Gum Boots and Leggings)"
cf. "I Wouldn't Marry an Old Man"
cf. "I Wouldn't Have an Old Man"
cf. "No Balls at All"
cf. "My Husband's Got No Courage In Him"
cf. "A Bird in a Gilded Cage"
cf. "The Whirly Whorl"
cf. "The Old Bachelor (I)"
cf. "The Burnt-Out Old Fellow [An Seanduine Doighte]"
cf. "Le Mari de Quatre-Vingt-Dix Ans (The Ninety Year Old Husband)"
cf. "Roll Me From the Wall" (theme)
Scant of Love, Want of Love
NOTES [443 words]: In their notes to Sam Larner's recording, MacColl & Seeger cite a version from the appendix to the 1791 edition of Herd's "Scottish Songs," which they call a "remarkably close parallel to Mr. Larner's." Without seeing it, I'm hesitant to assign "EARLIEST DATE," but that has the ring of certainty about it rather than careless lumping. - PJS
I'm assured by others that they're the same, and have adjusted the Earliest Date accordingly (the more so as every other version is rather recent). But I'm leaving the comment here because, well, I still haven't seen it.
The problem of this song, incidentally, was common enough to apparently produce some special vocabulary. Grose/Partridge, p. 99, defines COURT OF ASSISTANTS as "A court often applied to by young women who marry old men."
The title, or variants on it, are also fairly old. Around 1505, Wynkyn de Worde published a translation, by his assistant Robert Copland, "The Complaynte of Them That Ben To Late Maryed" ("The Complaint of them that were too late married"). The translation is of a French original by Ouerre Grungore, "La complainte de trop tard marie." It is likely, although not quite certain, that Robert Copland's successor William Copland (probably Robert's son, but possibly his brother) republished this piece in 1563/1564 under the title "the lamentation of an olde man for maryinge of a younge mayde" (see Mary Carpenter Erler, editor, Robert Copland: Poems, 1993 (I use the 2015 University of Toronto Press paperback), pp. 46-47).
The subject certainly was the subject of discussion as early as the fourteenth century; although many rich men managed to marry young (second) wives, there were plenty of warnings of what happened when a pretty girl married a senex aman; both Chaucer's "Miller's Tale" and "Merchant's Tale" skewer the tired old man, the former in fun and the latter in bitterness, and at about the same time, Langland wrote in Piers Plowman,
It is an oncomely couple, bi cryst, as me þinketh,
To ȝyuen a ȝonge wenche to an olde feble.
(so Donaldson, p. 42. note 2, who gives it as book IX, lines 160-161 in Skeat's version of the B text; Langland/Schmidt, p. 138, makes it lines 162-163 and notes two variations in the text: the manuscripts of group α read Ihesus, "Jesus," for cryst, "Christ," and Schmidt proposes to read "any" for "an." ) This should be understood as
It is an uncomely [unfit, unbecoming] coupl(ing) [match], by Christ, as I think,
To give a young wench to an old feeble (husband).
or, as rendered in prose by Langland/Goodridge, pp. 109-110, "I think there is nothing more unseemly, than to give a young girl to a doddering old man." - RBW
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File: K207

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