William and Nancy (I) (Lisbon; Men's Clothing I'll Put On I) [Laws N8]
DESCRIPTION: (William) has been ordered to war. His sweetheart (Nancy) offers to dress in men's clothes and accompany him. William says that Nancy is not strong enough; she assures him she will be. At last he agrees; they are married and go off together
EARLIEST DATE: 1863 (Journal of the John Dawson)
KEYWORDS: separation cross-dressing marriage war
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,SE,So) Britain(England(Lond,South,West),Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (23 citations):
Laws N8, "William and Nancy (I) (Lisbon; Men's Clothing I'll Put On I)"
Belden, pp. 177-180, "Lisbon" (3 texts, but the third is "The Girl Volunteer")
Randolph 42, "Men's Clothing I'll Put On" (Of Randolph's six texts, Laws puts only "B," "D," and "E" -- the last with melody -- with this song. In fact any of these versions -- especially "B" and "E" -- might be part of "The Banks of the Nile." "A" definitely goes with that piece, and "C" and "F" go with "Jack Monroe")
Chappell-FSRA 67, "Johnnie and Nancy" (1 text)
FSCatskills 29, "It Was Early One Monday Morning" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering 61, "Williams and Nancy" (1 text plus mention of 1 more, though the second text has the title "The Banks of the Nile")
Stout 32, p. 47, "William and Nancy" (1 fragment, possibly of this since it mentions Lisbon)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 156-158, "William and Nancy" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Creighton-Maritime, p. 66, "It Was On One Monday Morning" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 202-205, "Jimmy and Nancy on the Sea" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Fowke/MacMillan 72, "Banks of the Nile" (1 text, 1 tune, considered by Fowke to be an abbreviated, localized version of "William and Nancy (I)" [Laws N8], but it could just as easily be a version of "The Banks of the Nile" [Laws N9])
Mackenzie 35A, "William and Nancy" (1 text)
SharpAp 121, "William and Polly" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 34, "William and Polly (Lisbon)" (1 text, 1 tune, "slightly shortened")
Fuson, pp. 67-68, "Sweet William" (1 text, a compound of the cross-dressing lover songs but more like this than any of the others)
GreigDuncan1 63, "The Sailor and Nancy" (1 text)
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 58-59, "Lisbon" (1 text, 1 tune)
OShaughnessy-Grainger 13, "Lisbon" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cologne/Morrison, pp. 42-44, "42-43, "Lisbon" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H561, p. 458, "Lovely Annie (I)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-Gam, pp. 181-182, "Sweet William (William and Nancy)" (1 text, 2 tunes)
BBI, ZN1749, "Margaret my sweetest, Margaret I must go" (listed as Laws N4 though the description sounds more like this piece)
DT 442, BANKNIL4 (BANKNIL2*?) BANKNIL3*
Jim Dalton, "Jimmy and Nancy on the Sea" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Jim Molloy, "Lovely Nancy" (on NFMLeach)
Cyril O'Brien, "Nancy Lovely Nancy" (on MUNFLA-Leach)
Lee Monroe Presnell, "I Went to See My Molly" (on USWarnerColl01 -- a short text, probably this although it has an American Civil War setting)
Bodleian, Firth c.12(165), "William and Margaret" ("'Twas on a Monday, all in the month of May"), unknown, n.d.
Murray, Mu23-y1:039, "William and Margaret," James Lindsay Jr. (Glasgow), 19C
cf. "Jack Monroe" [Laws N7]
cf. "The Banks of the Nile (Men's Clothing I'll Put On II)" [Laws N9]
cf. "High Germany (I)"
cf. "The Girl Volunteer (The Cruel War Is Raging)" [Laws O33]
NOTES [375 words]: The Sacred Harp has a tune "Lisbon" which, like many versions of this song, is in triple time. But based on the versions I've checked, they do not appear to be the same melody. - RBW
In at least some versions Nancy must assure William that she will accept his affairs with other women.
In OShaughnessy-Grainger, "If I should meet with a lady that's proper tall and gay / If I should fancy her, love, what would you have to say? / Would you not be offended thyen? O no my lover true / I'd stand aside sweet William whenever she pleasur'd you."
Mackenzie has "But if I was to meet some other in sweeter charms than thee / And she was to please my fancy what would my Nancy say? / What would I say dear Willie and I would love her too / And I would gently step aside while she would be talking to you." Here, but not in OShaunessy-Grainger, Willie says, "Dear Nancy all these words are enough to break my heart / Pray let us then be married before that we depart."
SharpAp A is equivocal: "O if I was to meet some pretty girl / All on the highway / And was to take a like unto her / What would my Polly say / My Polly she'd be angry / Although I love her too / I'd step aside Sweet William / That she might comfort you."
Peacock A has a stronger rejection: "Besides there are pretty girls over there both bonny brisk and gay / If I should go a-courting what would my Nancy say? / Sure I would say dear Jimmy I am in love with you / So stay at home dear Jimmy when they are pressing you."
Other similar versions include Belden A, Chappell-FSRA, Creighton/Senior, FSCatskills, Gardner/Chickering, GreigDuncan1, Peacock B, SHenry, and Vaughan Williams/Lloyd.
Versions with no such complication include Creighton-Maritime, Fowke/MacMillan, Randolph, SharpAp B and C, Sharp-Karpeles-80E and the broadsides Bodleian Firth c.12(65) and Murray Mu23-y1:039. - BS
Cologne/Morrison are "99% certain that this song dates from the reign of Queen Anne," pointing in particular to Admiral Rook's 1704 expedition which took 12,000 troops from Lisbon to Spain. But I would point out that not every version refers to Lisbon, that there British troops in Portugal in the Napoleonic Wars, and that in any case not every song that sounds historical is actually historical. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
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 2019 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.