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Lyr Req: When First unto This Country (Lee Valley

21 Jul 02 - 10:20 PM (#752207)
Subject: When First I came into this Country
From: dulcimer

What information does anyone have on this song, done by the Lee Valley String Band on vol1 of Bringing It All Back Home? CD notes imply it is Old Timey and say it is trad. arr.

21 Jul 02 - 11:14 PM (#752224)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: masato sakurai

"When First into This Country" by Lee Valley String Band is on Bringing It All Back Home, vol. 1 (with sound clip). The lyrics for "When First To This Country" is in the DT (CLICK HERE), as well as WHEN FIRST INTO THIS COUNTRY. Info on the song is here: The Traditional Ballad Index: When First To This Country.


22 Jul 02 - 01:11 AM (#752249)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: dulcimer

Thanks. I put the title in a couple of different times and different ways into the Discussion and Lyrics searches and got nothing. Guess a word was wrong. Thanks again.

22 Jul 02 - 03:08 AM (#752262)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: Stewie

The note to the song in Cohen/Seeger/Wood 'Old-Time String Band Songbook' [previously 'The New Lost City Ramblers Songbook'] is that the Ramblers version [the one in the DT] is from the 'Gant Family, Library of Congress 1934, recorded by John and Alan Lomax. [AAFS 65A2]'. The note goes on: 'The Gant Family of Austin, Texas, sang a great many unusual songs for the Lomaxes. The words in this version come directly from the L of C recording and are somewhat different from the Lomax publication of this same song (which was the source of the NLCR version)'.

That latter part of the note is a bit ambiguous for me - I am not quite sure what it means in terms of their source. The source reference given in the insert to the LP 'NLCR Vol II' [FA 2397], wherein the song appears, is as follows: '"Our Singing Country", JA and A Lomax & RC Seeger, Acc on guitar and sung by Foy Gant and Mrs Gant, Austin, Texas 1935'.

The discrepancy in recording dates seems to muddy the waters further. Can someone shed some light on this? Is there a printed version in 'Our Singing Country' that is 'somewhat different' from the Gant Recording? The Ballad Index entry to which Masato linked does not seem to be of any help in this regard.


22 Jul 02 - 09:54 AM (#752365)
From: Stewie

Coincidentally, a question about this song was raised today with the old-time music newsgroup. Lyle Lofgren posted a short article he had written on the song and his transcription of the Gant recording which differs in minor respects with version in the NLCR songbook. The following is a copy-and-paste of this interesting article:


Lyle Lofgren

If you've recently been following my half of the Old Songs articles, you'll remember about the 1934 treasure John and Alan Lomax discovered in Austin, Texas: the Gant Family and their collection of unusual songs. I imagine the Lomaxes were not very impressed when they recorded this song by Foy and Mrs. Maggie Gant and an unidentified guitarist (Library of Congress Archives of American Folk Song # 65A2).

As a performance, it's a mess. They had never tried a guitar with it before, so the instrument and voices could not come close to agreement on the timing. The Gants, originally from Tennessee, were strangers in Texas, and the song itself is a stranger. It's not related to any of the classical British ballads, but it's not a popular nor vaudeville nor cowboy song, either. It has a frontier feeling, as well as a recently-composed aura, yet has gone through at least one generation of the folk process: the two singers precisely agree on the weird timing and the muddled words.

I believe it would have languished unnoticed, except Peggy (and later Mike) Seeger heard this recording while growing up, and both have performed it. If you hear anyone sing this song, they probably learned it from one of those sources. Several of the words the Seegers sing are different from those I hear (reproduced below) on the original recording. The song seems malleable enough that the different hearings, though they produce some variances in the meaning, are all authentic. The timing given in the sheet music is approximately based on the Seegers' regularization of the song for guitar accompaniment. Throughout the balance of the song, the rests occur regularly after each of the first two lines (except when you don't feel like resting), and I've indicated which vowel(s) in the 3rd line should be held by using an underline symbol after it (them). Still, to fit it all in, you have to hold some syllables, and compress others. Use your own judgment: there isn't space to notate the whole song. I think the D-series chords go well with the song. If the key is wrong for your voice, buy a capo.

Even if we could agree on the correct words, I'm attracted to some other mysteries here. Whether it's a dray horse or a gray horse, why does the narrator steal it, since he's already riding one? Is it a desperate attempt to impress Nancy? The transformation of dried beef from inedible to comestible came long after the infamous "Bully Beef" the WWI soldiers got for their meals. The last verse includes some interesting clothing themes. My father, a farmer born towards the end of the 19th century, advised never to hire a farm worker who arrives with his hands in his pockets: an obvious sign of indolence rather than boldness. He would never have hired the narrator. And the bible story has Joseph with a coat of many colors, not Jacob. Yet, Jacob gave it to Joseph, and the brothers' return of the coat is proof that the favored son no longer exists. It now belongs to Jacob again, and Joseph is in bondage. Is the transformation in the song a mishearing or a sophisticated interpretation of the bible story? No way to tell - to me it could be both, which is why it's one of the songs I sing while driving around town. That eccentric guy next to you at the stop light, singing his heart out to no-one in particular - I have to confess it's me.

When first to this country
A stranger I came,
I cou_rted a fair maid
And Nancy was her name

I courted her for love,
Her love I didn't obtain;
Do you thi_nk I've any reason
Or right to complain?

I rode to see my Nancy,
The pride of my life,
I cou_rted dearest Nancy,
My own heart's true delight.

I rode to see my Nancy,
I rode both day and night,
'Til I sto_le a fine dray horse
From Captain William White.

The Sheriff's guards, they followed,
And overtaken me.
They ca_rted me away
To the penitentiary.

They opened the door
And welcomed me in;
They clea_red off my head
Instead of my chin.

They beat me and they banged me,
They fed me on dried beef,
'Til I wi_shed to my own soul
I'd never been a thief.

With my hands in my pockets,
I felt that I'se so bold,
With my coa_t of many colors
Like Jacob's of old.

It seems those few changes are what is meant by the comment 'somewhat different' in the note in the NLCR songbook. From what Lofgren writes, there is only one version and variation resulting from different listeners.


22 Jul 02 - 10:33 AM (#752388)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: allanwill

My favourite versions of this song are by Dave Burland on his "Songs and Buttered Haycocks" album and Fairport on their "Gottle o' Gear" album. If memory serves me correctly, Dave sings the first line "When fi-irst to this country ...." and Fairport "When a-first into ...". I have seen the song in print titled "When first UNTO this country...".


22 Jul 02 - 10:44 AM (#752389)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: George Seto -

There is a song with a similar title which I will have to look up. It seems to me, that it was a song about going back to a European country by a fellow from the US of A.

05 Aug 02 - 05:18 PM (#760248)
From: George Seto -

Well I found it. It's called Green Mossy Banks of the Lea. There is a similar song in the DT from the MacKenzie book

Green Mossy Banks of he Lea


#77 Songs and Ballads From Nova Scotia - Helen Creighton
Dover Publications - 0-486-21703-5
Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 66-26823

When first to this country a stranger
Curiosity caused me to roam,
Over Europe an exile I wandered,
Far away from my 'Merican home.
Till at length I arrived in sweet Erin,
The land which I long wished to see,
And my footsteps seemed guided by fairies
On the green mossy banks of the lea
One morning of late as I rambled
Where the sweet winds from heaven did blow
'Twas down by a clear crystal river
Where the sweet running waters did flow,
It was there I espied a fair damsel,
Most modest appearing to me,
As she rose from her seat near the water
On the green mossy banks of the lea
I stepped up to bid her good morning,
Her fair cheeks they blushed like the rose,
I said then, "Those meadows are charming,
Your escort I'll be if you chose.
She said, "Sir, I never need any escort,
Kind sir, you're a stranger to me,
But yonder my father is coming
On the green mossy banks of the lea.
I waited till up came her father,
I picked up my courage once more,
I said the, "If this be your daughter
She is truly the girl I adore,
Ten thousand a year is my fortune,
A lady your daughter shall be,
She shall ride in a coach of six horses
On the green mossy banks of the lea.
They welcomed me down to their cottage,
Soon after in wedlock were joined,
'Twas there that I rented the cottage
In splendour and grandeur divine
So now the American stranger
Right pleasure and pastime to see,
With his adorable, gentle Matilda
On the green mossy banks of the lea
Come, all pretty maidens, take warning
No matter how poor you may be,
There's many a poor girl that's handsome
As those that has large property.
By flattery let no man deceive you
No matter how poor you may be
Be like adorable, gentle Matilda
On the green mossy banks of the lea

See MacKenziie, No. 47; Journal, 11, 150, and compare Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow. Cf. also Hannaghan, The Book of Irish Gaels, The Old Bridge at Toor.

05 Aug 02 - 08:38 PM (#760373)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: Malcolm Douglas

A lovely song, and found quite often in tradition in England, Canada, the USA and Ireland; roughly in that order (Roud Folk Song Index number 987, Laws O15). Completely unrelated to the subject of this thread, however. There are two sets in the DT and one in the Forum:

THE GREEN MOSSY BANKS OF THE LEA  from Mackenzie's Ballads and Sea Songs From Nova Scotia.

THE GREEN MOSSY BANKS OF THE LEA (2)  from O'Lochlainn's More Irish Street Ballads.

Looking for 'The banks of the Lee'  Text and abc of the set recorded by Nic Jones (source unspecified).

13 Oct 03 - 08:10 PM (#1034961)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: GUEST,lajaragirl

There is another, I heard it in the 70s sung by Jimmy Crowley.

When first I came unto this country
Twas the flowers of May that did greet me there
I then fell courting a pretty female
She had hair to me like the Queen mere

....It goes on at legnth, and over the years I have lost one or two verses. Is anyone familier with this song??

14 Oct 03 - 02:01 PM (#1035491)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: GUEST,Philippa

you're looking for a very different song, lajaragirl, despite the similarity of the first lines
The song you seek is in "Jimmy Crowley's Irish Song Book". I'll type it out tomorrow and give that song it's own thread (if somebody hasn't posted it already)

15 Oct 03 - 06:53 AM (#1035984)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: GUEST,Philippa

I have typed out the words of the song requested and added it to a thread which includes another version of the same song, O'Reilly from the County Cavan

It's a coincidence that the request which begins the thread you are presently reading is for a recording by an Irish band (which specialises in American Old-timey music). The O'Reilly song is very different. As for the American song, I believe I first learned it from a recording by Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker, though I also recall Mike Seeger singing it (with autoharp if I recall correctly). As a youngster, I learned many songs from a couple of anthology recordings of folk music, mainly American, issued by Vanguard Records and by Electra ("The Folk Box"). They were a good introduction to a wide spectrum of traditional music. If either of these collections have been re-issued on CD, I'd like to know.

15 Oct 03 - 08:56 AM (#1036066)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: GUEST,MMario

Philippa has sent me the tune for the words she has posted on another thread (see link above) and I will be posting the tune asap.

15 Oct 03 - 10:20 AM (#1036123)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE BANKS OF THE BANN (from Voice Squad)
From: Mr Happy

I have a recording of this from The Voice Squad


When first to this country a stranger I came,
I placed my affections on a maid that was young,
She being young and tender, her waist was small and slender,
Kind Nature had formed her for my overthrow.

On the banks of the Bann, where I first beheld her,
She appeared like fair Juno or a Grecian queen,
Her eyes shone like diamonds, her hair softly twining,
Her cheeks were like roses or blood drips in snow.

'Twas her cruel parents that first caused our variance,
All because I was poor of a low degree,
But I'll do my endeavour to gain my love's favour,
Although she is come from a rich family.

My name is Delaney, a name that won't shame me,
And if I had saved money, I'd have plenty in store,
But drinking and courting, night rambling and sporting,
Are the cause of my ruin and absence from home.

Had I all the money that's in the West Indies,
Or had I the gold of the African shore,
I would spend it on pearls and on you my brown girl,
For there's no other love on this earth I adore.

Now since I have gained her I'm contented for life,
I'll put rings on her fingers and gold in her ear.
We'll live on the banks of the lovely Bann river,
And in all sorts of splendour I'll style her my dear.

15 Oct 03 - 05:13 PM (#1036324)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: When First I came into this Country
From: GUEST,Philippa

oh dear, that's yet another song which doesn't bear much resemblance to the American song under discussion in this thread, apart from the first line. Mr Happy's song shares a tune with the hymn "Be Thou My Vision", and can be found elsewhere in this forum and also I think in the DT. I sing "I'll reside with my dear" where Mr Happy has "I'll style her my dear" at the end of the song. and other small difference
The "blood drips in snow" I suppose must be a typo for "blood drops in snow", still strange imagery!

and the song lajaragirl wants is now on another thread; I provided a link above and MMario has done an abc (thanks,MMario)