The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #131251   Message #2969805
Posted By: GUEST,DPB
20-Aug-10 - 11:05 PM
Thread Name: Shepherd of the Downs (Copper Family)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
Another outstanding version of this ballad is by Heather Wood and Royston Wood on their album [No Relation] (Transatlantic TRA 342), recorded in 1977. Heather Wood has kindly replied to a query that the harmonization on this recording was made by double-tracking both their voices. Below is a transcription of their version with slight variants, checked against the one on Reinhard Zierke's site (which also has the track listing and notes). Heather Wood confirms that they learned it from the Copper Family:

A Shepherd of the Downs

A shepherd of the Downs, being weary of his port,
He retired to the hills where he used to resort.
In want of refreshment, he laid himself down.
He wanted no riches nor wealth from the Crown.

He drank of the cold brook, he ate of the tree.
Himself he did enjoy, from all sorrow was free.
He valued no girl, be she ever so fair,
No pride nor ambition, he valued no care.   

As he was a-walking one evening so clear,
A heavenly sweet voice sounded soft in his ear.
He stood like a post, not one step could he move.
He knew not what ailed him, but thought it was love.

He beheld a young damsel, a fair modest maid.   
She had something amiss and disguised in her face.
Disguised in her face, she unto him did say,
"How now, Master Shepherd, how come you this way?"

The shepherd, he replied and modestly said,   
"I never was surpris├Ęd before at a maid.   
When first you beheld me, from sorrow I was free,
But now you have stolen my poor heart away."

Then he took her by the hand and this he did say,
"We will be married, pretty Betsy, today."
So to church they did go and were married, we hear,
And now he'll enjoy pretty Betsy, his dear.

The final line of each verse is repeated. Note the accent of surpris├Ęd in the fifth verse. Was the word in the first line originally "fort" instead of "port" or "sport?" According to the OED, fort could signify "[1b] A strong position, stronghold" and, more interestingly, "[2] The place of security (of a wild animal)," giving these examples: "A... roe-buck which was come out of his Fort" and "If a Boar intends to abide in his den, couch, or Fort." But apart from its general meaning, could "port" have been a specific dialect word for a shepherd's habitation?