Streams of Lovely Nancy, The
DESCRIPTION: The singer (a sailor?) describes the "streams of lovely Nancy", a mountain with a castle, his beloved (who lives in the castle), a river, and a ship. He ends by addressing all "streamers"; he will write to his love, "For her rosy lips entice me..."
EARLIEST DATE: before 1825 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 28(29))
LONG DESCRIPTION: In this extremely confused song, the singer (probably a sailor) describes the "streams of lovely Nancy", a mountain with a castle, his beloved (who lives in the castle), a river, and a ship from the Indies. He ends by addressing all "streamers" (tin-miners washing ore?), saying he will write to his love, "For her rosy lips entice me, with her tongue she tells me 'No'/And a angel might direct us right, and where shall we go?"
KEYWORDS: love rejection lyric nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West)) Ireland US(MW,SE) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (15 citations):
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, p. 98, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Copper-SongsAndSouthernBreezes, pp. 294-295, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 126, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (2 texts; the "B" and "C" texts are this, while "A" is "Nellie (I)")
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 139, "Te Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 714, "Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text)
Gundry-CanowKernow-SongsDancesFromCornwall, p. 23, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cologne/Morrison-WiltshireFolkSongs, pp. 40-41, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 149, "The Streams of lovely Nancy" (1 text)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 26, "Green Mountain" (1 text)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, pp. 120-121, "Green Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune, probably this although its four verses never mention Lovely Nancy)
Karpeles-FolkSongsFromNewfoundland 64, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H520, p. 259, "The Strands of Magilligan" (1 text, 1 tune)
Graham-Joe-Holmes-SongsMusicTraditionsOfAnUlsterman 72, "The Strands og Magilligan" (1 text, 1 tune); p. 280, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (a reprint of a W. Armstrong broadside)
Forget-Me-Not-Songster, pp. 80-81, "Green Mountain" (1 text)
DT, LOVNANCY* (erroneously titled "The Steams of Lovely Nancy")
Turp Brown, "The Streams of Lovely Nancy" (on Voice02)
Bodleian, Harding B 28(29), "The Streams of Lovely Nancy," W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Harding B 11(3678), Firth b.34(282), Harding B 11(3677), Harding B 11(3678A), Harding B 11(825), Firth c.13(24), Harding B 11(3679)[some words illegible], 2806 c.17(410), 2806 c.17(409)[some words illegible], Harding B 15(320a), Harding B 11(1519), Firth b.26(542)[some words illegible], "[The] Streams of Lovely Nancy"
cf. "Cursor Mundi" (14th century religious poem, sharing images)
cf. "The Ploughboy (I)" (lyrics)
cf. "If I Were a Fisher" (floating verses)
cf. "Farewell, Sweet Mary" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Nellie (I)" (lyrics)
The Streams of Nantsian
The Dreams of Lovely Nancy
NOTES [196 words]: All versions of this song seem to be equally mysterious. Lloyd quotes A.G. Gilchrist as speculating, with evidence, that this song is actually a relic of a hymn to Mary. -PJS
Cologne/Morrison-WiltshireFolkSongs also suggest that it is a "half-remembered version of a mediaeval mystic or religious poem, possibly to the Virgin Mary," and note that Wiltshire is very anti-Catholic -- which perhaps hints that the confusion in the song might be due to bowdlerization. That doesn't strike me as very likely, however.
Margaret Dean-Smith offers the speculation that "streams/streamers" refer not to flowing waters but to "streamers," who worked in tin mines. If that helps. It seems to be a popular hypothesis; Tony Deane and Tony Shaw The Folklore of Cornwall, B. T. Batsford, 1975, pp. 68-69, say that the line "Come all you little streamers" is "an obvious reference to early tin mining." Anne Gilchrist went beyond that, suggesting that the descriptions of the castle in the song describe St. Michael's Mount, and that "Nancy/Nantsian" might be a corruption of "Marazion," a town near the mount. The former is possible but not compelling; the latter strikes me as a stretch. - RBW
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