Editor's note:

The following was sent in by T. Farmer, a retired history teacher living in Columbia, MO. He inherited his grandmother's 1911 yearbook from West Plains High School, where Goldy Hamilton taught, and where this protege of H.M. Belden encouraged students in collecting local folklore. MFS thanks Lisa Phelan for editorial assistance.

Click here for an article on Goldy Hamilton, one of the founders of the society, including her article on "The Play-Party in Northeast Missouri," reproduced by permission of the Journal of American Folklore.

The Cambric Shirt
Barbara Allen
Kate and Her Horns
Love in a Tub
The Merchant's Daughter
Young Charlotte
Young Charlotte
Mary of the Wild Moor
The Whale Song
Martha Dexter

 This new branch of balladry which has risen in the English department of a few Missouri schools has somewhat of a peculiar beginning.  The arousing of interest in it was due to the English Club of the State University of Missouri.  In one of its meetings in the year 1903 a reading was given by one of its members into which she introduced a character who sang a ballad.  At once others asserted that they too had heard and knew a few songs of the same sort.  Enthusiastic over such a prospect, Dr. Belden, of the University, requested the members to make a copy of all the ballads they could find the following summer.  A number of loyal supporters came to his aid among whom was our English teacher, Miss Hamilton, who still retains her enthusiasm in this field of work and is one of the Vice Presidents of the State Society.  It is chiefly due to her influence that ballad collection has become an active interest in the Senior year of our High School.  Upon the summer’s collection Dr. Belden laid the basis of his paper on “Folk Lore in Missouri.” which he read before the Modern Language Society in his efforts to establish a permanent system by which ballad collecting might be carried on successfully throughout the United States.  Failing in his effort he turned to W. W. Newell, founder of the Folk Lore Society of America.  Later, at Mr. Newell’s suggestion, a similar society was founded in this state in the year 1906.  The following year Miss Alicia Owen, of St. Louis, was elected president and has continued to hold that office ever since.  The society annually holds meetings in which are read interesting and scholarly papers on the different phases of ballads collected in Missouri and their relation to the work.

 This new field of thought and study, springing as if by magic from an unexpected source, has steadily grown until it has become an important factor in courses in literature.  Not until the last few years have students of High Schools had a chance to become acquainted with the ballad as regards its origin and the similarity of the various versions.  These variations were the inevitable result caused by the migration from the different parts of the old world into several sections of the United States.  But this was not the only cause of the many differences.  The fact that ballads were seldom written down but mostly learned by ear, possibly a few words or lines jotted down to prevent forgetting them, also caused the many versions to get into circulation.  There is hardly a ballad for which there does not exist, somewhere, one corresponding in some particular.  It is because of these wide diversities and obvious similarities in ballads that Folk Lore Societies have been formed in order that all these productions, picturing the very actions, thoughts and emotions of primitive people, which would otherwise have been destroyed a few years hence, may be preserved.  For this reason literary men have urged the founding of their work.  The organization of the society came none too early.  Had they come into existence a few years later, those ballads thus saved would have vanished from us forever.  Already many have disappeared, only fragments remaining in manuscript copies and a few complete versions in the minds of the older people.

 The purposes of the societies are multifold – to collect and put into permanent literature the songs of the Civil War, those in negro dialect and all other pieces containing ballad characteristics, to obtain old manuscripts of these and the air if possible, either by having them written down or reproduced on phonograph records, thus saving the old ballad tunes permanently.  New ways and means are furnished by which ballads may be collected most successfully.  And as the work is becoming more general ballads can be obtained from anyone who might have them, for the asking.  In a short time people will be saving them for the fascinated school children or others who may happen to take an active part in this work.

 As members of the West Plains High School we are justly proud that our school is recognized by the State society in connection with this work and that we received several highly appreciative letters from the secretary.  The interest has reached its climax in bringing to light many old manuscripts from the closets and shelves of the forgotten past.  Also numerous airs were obtained and learned by the Seniors.  However our success was mainly due to the greater encouragement given us from outside.  Many of those we visited would sit and sing the different ballads they knew over and over, then go from fragment to fragment, only in the end to say they had hardly realized their value before; that at one time they knew many more but had forgotten them.

 It is our desire, as well as that of the class of ’10 to make the ballad department a permanent part of the ZIZZER.  We hope the classes which follow will do their utmost to surpass us in the extent of their collection, as we have the class of ’10; that more important contributions will be made for the benefit of our High School, the Folk Lore Society of Missouri and that of America.
 The following are a few of the most typical ballads of the old, medium and modern type gathered by the class of ’11.  A concise introduction as to its origin and history, for which we are indebted to Dr. Belden, accompanies each ballad.


Can you make me a cambric shirt
Fluma, Luma, lakey slomy,
Without any seam or fine needlework?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey, slomy.

Can you wash it in a well,
Fluma, Luma, lakey slomy,
Where water never run nor water never fell?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.

Can you dry it on a thorn,
Fluma, Luma, lakey slomy,
That never was seen since Adam was born?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.

Can you buy me an acre of land
Fluma, Luma, lakey slomy,
Between the salt and the sea land?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.

Can you plow it with a hog’s horn
Fluma, luma, lakey, slomy.
And seed it all down with one peppercorn?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.

Can you put it in a horn
That never was seen since Adam was born?
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.

When the fool has done his work
Fluma, Luma, lakey slomy,
He may come to me and have his shirt,
From a teaslum, tasalum, templum,
Fluma, luma, lakey slomy.


Oh don’t you remember the month of May,
When those green buds were swelling?
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his servants to the town,
To the town where she was dwelling,
Saying, “Master is sick and sent for you,
If your name is Barbara Allen.”

Slowly, slowly she rose up,
And slowly she went to him.
She turned the cover from off his face,
And said, “I think you’re dying.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sick and I’m very sick,
And death is in my dwelling.
And I will die before the sun goes down,
For you’ll not get Barbara Allen.”

Oh, don’t you remember the other night,
While sitting in the tavern,
You drank your wine with the ladies all,
And you slighted Barbara Allen?”

“Oh, yes, I remember the other night
While sitting in the tavern,
I drank my wine with the ladies all,
And I passed to Barbara Allen.”

He turned his pale face to the wall
And bursted out a crying,
Saying, “Adieu, adieu to the ladies all,
And adieu to Barbara Allen.”

And slowly she went from him.
Slowly, slowly she rose up,
She had not gone but about three miles
Till she heard the death bell tolling.

She looked to the east and she looked to the west,
And saw the hearse a-coming
“Oh, mother,” she cried, “go fix my bed, go fix it neat and narrow,
Sweet William died for me today, and I’ll die for him tomorrow.”

Sweet William died on Saturday
And Barbara died on Sunday;
And the good old mother, who died for both,
She died on Easter Monday.

And Barbara was buried close to him;
Sweet William was born buried in the new church yard,
And out of his grave there sprang a red rose,
And out of hers a brier.

They grew in length and grew in strength,
Until they could grow no longer.
They wound around in a true lover’s knot,
The rose twined around the brier.


 The following ballad has many versions, three of which are now in the British Museum.  One of these, “Crafty Kate of Colchester,” printed probably in the latter part of the 18th century, corresponds to this one, though it is fuller, -- twenty-two stanzas.  Another is a London print called “The Politick Maid of Suffolk,” or “The Lawyer Outwitted.”  In this Nell gets a chimney-sweep and some gun-powder as well as ram’s horns; with these she proceeds to terrify the lawyer and makes him “Marry Nell in the morning.”

Come all you young rovers and listen to me,
 Trol lol tidle lidum.
A story I’ll relate of my tragedy,
 Trol lol liddle tidum.

It was of a young lady of Cold Chester,
 And a young lawyer courted her,
  Sing tidium todium trum tiddle lodium
   Trol lol tiddle lidium.

He courted her for many a day,
 But still young Kate she answered nay.
At length he gained young Kate’s consent
 And straight unto another went.

Kate never told a friend or foe,
 Nor did she let her parents know,
But went into a tannery
 And with the tanner did agree.

She borrowed an old cowhide,
 The horns on it both long and wide,
And when she rolled herself therein,
 And now in truth she did begin.

She went into a lonesome place,
 She expected young Glover down that way.
When after him she did pursue
 He cried, “O God, what shall I do?”

Kate quickly seized him by the throat
 And with a sad and doleful note,
“You have left young Kate, so I do hear,
 To court a lawyer’s daughter dear.”

“Pray, master devil, spare me now
 And I’ll perform my former vow.”
“I’ll see you do,” young Kate replied,
 And smiled within her own cowhide.

Kate never told it to fried or foe,
 Now did she let young Glover know
Till three long years had married been
 She told it at a house therein.

It pleased the people to the heart;
 They said young Kate well played her part,
Young Glover laughed as well as they,
 It was a jovial merry day.


Come all you young people and listen awhile,
I’ll sing you a ditty, it will cause you to smile,
It’s witty, it’s pretty, diverting and new;
Altho it is witty I’m sure it is true.

In the City of London a lady did dwell,
A very rich merchant was known very well;
He had but one daughter, a beauty so bright,
And on her he placed his chief joy and delight.

There was a young vendor who that lived near
Had dwelt with this merchant some four or five year;
And being invited to supper one night,
Oh, then he spied this beauty so bright.

Instead of his stomach he feasted his eyes
On the charms of her beauty which did him suffice;
And that very night Fortune proved so kind
That unto this lady he opened his mind.

“Dear sir,” said she, “how can you say so,
When thousands of pounds to my father you owe?”
And I am a lady of noble estate?
How dare you presume to talk at such rate?

“Dear Miss, if I had ten thousand a year
I’d part with it all for the sake of you dear.
Don’t let true love be despised for gold;
It’s not to be bought, it cannot be sold.”

She granted him love and then he replied,
“My dear, I would have you now well satisfied,
But if without the consent of my father I wed,
Not a farthing or portion there is to be had.”

“There’s a politic fancy that runs thru my head,
And when you do hear it, I fear not,” said she,
“That into my project you’ll quickly agree.”

You know in the vault of my father’s wine stand
There’s some empty pipes all on the right hand
I’ll send for a cooper; I’ll trust him,” says she,
I’ll give him ten guineas in gold for a fee.”

They both liked the project; they doth did agree;
They sent for the cooper, he came in all speed;
He took up this lady without more delay,
And into a hogshead he placed her away.

He headed it up, secured it nice;
Then in came the vender, all in a thrice,
And says to her father, “Sir, at this time
I stand in need of a hogshead of wine.”

Then to the wine-cellar they both did repair
To taste of the wine; but when they got there,
Him knowing the hogshead, he made this reply:
“Since all this is for sale, then this I will buy.”

The bargain was made and the money paid;
Then the vender turned round to the merchant and said:
“Now all that I buy in this hogshead is mine,
But the hoops and the staves, and they are all thine.”

He picked up the piercer and pierced the same
Not one single drop from the hogshead there came.
“Well, well,” said the vender,” what a bargain is this?
Not a single drop in the hogshead there is.”

“O, yes,” said the old man, “the bargain is good,
For you bought the hogshead just as it stood”
He knocked off the head and the lady came forth;
The old man stood staring and ripped out an oath.

“It’s folly, I know, to fly in a rage,
I find that youth is too cunning for age.
I sold her; you bought her; now love her,” said he.
“Ten thousand pounds portion I’ll surely give thee.”

This vender he loved her as dear as his life;
It was reported she proved a good wife.
They followed their calling by drawing of bungs,
Therefore, you may know there was love in the tub.


 The plot employed in this ballad is the same that Keats used for his “Isabella,” which was gotten from Boccaccio.  There are stall ballads of the last century kept in the British Museum telling the same story but in a different form.

In a sea port town there lived a merchant,
 He had two sons and a daughter fair,
An apprenticed-bound boy from all danger
 Courted this merchant’s daughter fair.

Five hundred pounds was made her portion,
 She was a neat and cunning dame.
Her brothers were so hard and cruel
 All of this was to the same.

One evening they were silent, courting,
 Her brothers chanced to overhear,
Saying, “your courtship will soon be ended;
 We will send him hither to his grave.”

Next morning early breakfast over,
 With them a hunting he did go.
They went o’er hills and lofty mountains,
 And through the lonesome valleys, too.
Until the came to a lonesome desert
 And there they did him kill and thro.

When they returned back home that evening,
Their sister asked for the servant man;
 “We lost him in the woods a hunting
And never more we could him find.”

Next morning she was silent; weeping;
 He came to her bedside and stood,
All pale and wounded, ghastly looking,
 Wallow’d over in gores of blood.

Saying, “why do you weep my pretty fair one?
 It is a folly you may pawn;
Go over hills and lofty mountains,
 This lonesome place you may me find.”

She went over the hills and lofty mountains,
 And through some lonesome valleys, too,
Until she came to a lonesome desert,
 And there she found him killed and thro.

His handsome cheeks the blood was dyeing;
 His lips were salt as any brine,
She kissed him o’er and o’er, crying:
 “This dear beloved friend of mine.”

Three days and nights she did stay by him;
 ‘Twas on her bended knees she stood.
All in the height of her great anger
 She uttered forth such words as these:

“My love, I thought I would stay by him
 Until my heart should break with woe,
But I feel sharp hunger growing on me,
 Which forces me back home to go.”

When she returned back home that evening,
 Her brothers asked her where she’d been.
“You hard and cruel and unkind creatures!
 For him, alone, you both shall swing.”

And then to avoid all shame and danger,
 Away to the sea they both did go.
The wind did blow and it was no wonder,
 The roaring sea proved both their graves.


 Dr. Belden says:  “If we could know how this piece was made and how it got into currency, we should know more about the genesis of ballads.  It has been traced several times to Michigan, where possibly it originated.”  Two versions were collected by the Seniors of ’11.

Young Charlotte lived by the mountain side,
 In a wide and lonely spot,
No dwelling there for three miles round,
 Except her father’s cot.

Her father loved to see her dress
 Like any city belle,
For she was the only child he had,
 And he loved his daughter well.

While standing at the window,
 A well known voice was heard,
And dashing up to the cottage door
 Young Charley’s sleigh appeared.

Her mother said, “my daughter dear,
 Those blankets around you fold,
For, O!  ‘Tis a dreadful night,
 And you’ll take your death of cold.”

“O no, O no!  young Charlotte said,
 And laughed like a Gipsy queen,
To ride in blankets muffled up
 I never can be seen.”

Her beaver cap and gloves were on,
 They jumped into the sleigh.
Charley cracked his whip, and away they go,
 Yes, o’er the hill away.

“Such a bitter night I never knew,
 I scarce my lines can hold,”
Fair Charlotte in a feeble voice,
 “I am exceedingly cold.”

Charlie spoke and said, “The frozen ice
 Is gathering on my brow,”
Fair Charlotte said a voice,
 “I am a little warmer now.”

Just three more miles to the village inn,
 The ballroom was in sight,
And dashing up to the tavern door
 Charlie, thinking all was right.

He took her by the hand.  O, God!
 It was cold and heavy as stone!
He tore the mantle from her brow
 And the death stars on her shone.

He to the lighted hall
 The speechless form he bore,
Poor Charlotte was so stiff with cold
 That she never spoke words more.

He twined his arms around her neck,
 He kissed the marble brow,
And his thoughts ran back to the time she said
 “I’m a little warmer now.”

He picked her up and carried her out,
 With her he rode alone,
Until he came to the cottage door.
 O, how her parents mourn.

They mourn the love of a daughter dear,
 While he mourns on in gloom,
Until he quite heart broken got.
 They slumber in one tomb.


‘Twas on one cold winter night
 When the wind blew across the wild moor
When Mary came wandering home with her child,
 Till she came to her own father’s door.
O, father, dear father, she cried,
 “Come down and open the door,
For the child in my arms will perish and die
 By the winds that blow across the wild moor.”

The old man was deaf to her cries;
 Not a sound of her voice reached his ears.
And the watchdog did howl
 And the village bell tolled
And the wind blew across the wild moor.
 “Oh, why did I leave this dear spot
Where once I was happy and free?
 But now I am doomed to roam without friends or home
 And no one to take pity on me.”

O, how must the old man have felt
 When he came to the door in the morn!
Poor Mary was dead, but the child was alive,
 And asleep in its dead mother’s arms.
Half frantic he tore his gray hair
One thousand eight hundred and twenty-four,
 And the tears down his cheeks they did pour
Saying, “This cold winter’s night she has perished and died,
By the winds that blew across the wild Moor.”

The old man in grief pined away,
 The child to its mother went soon.
The cabin, not a soul has lived there to this day
 And the cabin to ruins has gone.
The villagers point to the spot
 Where the willow droops o’er the door,
Saying, “There Mary died, once a gay village bride,
 By the winds that blew across the wild Moor.”


According to Dr. Belden, the “Whale Song” is otherwise known as “The Greenland Fishery” – it is given under that title in Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of Ballads.  This version is rather more popular than that given by Quiller-Couch, which is probably from a stall ballad or from a sailors’ garland.  That version begins:

 In seventeen hundred and ninety-four,
  On March the twentieth day, --

 The “brave boys” of the refrain goes back to a very popular street ballad of the time of the Restoration, known as “Up the Green Forest,” or “Cupid’s Trappan.”  A characteristic stanza is this:

Up the green forest, and down the green forest,
 Like one much distressed in mind,
I whooped and I whooped and I flung up my hood,
 But my bonny bird I could not find, brave boys,
My bonny bird I could not find.

The bonny bird is her lover, who has forsaken her for another.  The figure is taken from the sport of hawking, and goes well back into the middle ages;  it is used in the same way by one of the German minnesingers, der von Kurenberc, in the twelfth century.

One thousand eight hundred and twenty-four,
 And March the twenty-third,
We hoisted the colors of our masthead,
 And for Greenland bore our way, brave boys
And for Greenland bore our way.

Our captain being on the mast so high,
 With a spy glass in his hand,
“Here’s a whale, here’s a whale, here’s a wild fish!” he cried,
 And she blows at every spang, brave boys,
And she blows at every spang.

Our boatswain being on the quarter deck,
 And a merry, good man was he.
“Overhaul, overhaul, let your jibsheet fall,
 And launch your boat on the sea.”

Our boat being launched and the men all in
 And she fourished with her tail,
Capsized our boat and lost five men,
 Nor did we catch that whale, brave boys,
Nor did we catch that whale.

The news unto our captain went,
 “We have lost your prentice boy,”
And hearing of this dreadful news
 He down with the colors all, brave boys,
He down with the colors all.

In losing of this wild fish
 It grieved his heart full sore,
But in losing of the five jolly tars
 It grieved him ten times more, brave boys,
It grieved him ten times more.

Oh, Greenland is a barren place!
 Neither light nor day to be seen!
The ice and the snow, and the wild fish do play,
And the daylight’s seldom seen, brave boys,
 And the daylight’s seldom seen.

Now weigh your anchors now, brave boys,
 For the winter star I see;
It is time for to leave such a cold country,
 And for England bear our way, brave boys,
And for England bear our way.


 This is a good specimen of modern balladry in its present stage, made possible by some local poet in the past and not yet worn down by the oral tradition.

Come all ye young people of every degree,
 And give your attention one moment to me,
See how a fair damsel just in her bloom
 Was carried away by death and lies buried in a tomb.

She was as the flowers that bloom in the morn;
 Her parents’ fond hope now blasted and gone.
The sweet stem is shaken, for death hath its bound,
The flower is forsaken and lies underground.

She was scarcely thirteen, obedient and kind,
 Possessed of a lady like temper and mind,
She started from home with a niece, still more young.

The youngest of all,being beautiful and bright
 Her mother being dead, she was her father’s delight.
To pay a short visit being the Chimung;
 To pay a short visit and then go and see
A sister, the mother of her company.

She paid the short visit and started again,
 The next place appointed in spite of the rain.
The river had risen both rarely and high
 But little did she think that so soon she must die.

Her horse being antic a blunder it did make;
 The girth of the saddle did instantly break,
And plunged this fair maiden beneath the swift waves,
 And none was there able poor Martha to save.

Her horse running home alarmed all her friends,
 They ran to the river, while wringing their hands,
Crying, O! my dear Martha are you in that stream,
And can we do nothing your life to redeem?”

She rose in the water and some were so near,
“O mercy!  O mercy! is there none to save,
 As her lamentations distinctly to hear;
And must I go down to a watery grave?”

She rose in the water and sank down again,
 Never more to arise.
To wake all all the nations that sleep under ground.
 Then her body will rise and with them will be found.

The fish leave the water and seem in afright,
 The birds have all flown with refuge more to light,
Loud pealing of cannons ascend to the skies.
 They are trying her slumbering body to rise.

The river is covered with boats and with men,
 They are trying her slumbering body to gain.
But all in vain, till four days had expired,
 Then three men whom the people all of virtue admired,

Espied her caught fast on a mill dam below.
 Then quick with the news to her friends they did go,
O see the poor father and see his deep sighs,
 As he goes to the carriage and sees where she lies.

He raises his eyes to heaven in tears;
 Crying, “O my dear Martha! but I can’t make you hear.
Are you my dear Martha, so altered I see,
 Who I so fondly dangled on my knee.”

Well pleased with the prattle while rolled in my arms?
 And must you be food for the poor hungry worms?
Although she be dead, may she never be forgot,
 Her youthful companions be solemn in thought.
In Harteville church yard in sadness repair,
 I will not be long till we must be there.”

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