William Taylor was a brisk young sailor
He who courted a lady fair
Bells were ringing, sailors were singing
As to church they did repair.
Thirty couples at the wedding;
All were dress'd in rich array;
'Stead of William being married
He was press'd and sent away.
She dress'd up in man's apparel
Man's apparel she put on
And she follow'd her true lover;
For to find him she is gone.
Then the Captain stepp'd up to her
Asking her: What's brought you here?
I am come to seek my true love
Whom I lately loved so dear.
If you've come to see your true love,
Tell me what his name may be
O, his name is William Taylor
From the Irish ranks came he.
You rise early tomorrow morning
You rise at the break of day;
There you'll see your true love William
Walking with a lady gay.
She rose early the very next morning;
She rose up at break of day;
There she saw her true love William
Walking with a lady gay.
Sword and pistol she then order'd
To be brought at her command;
And she shot her true love William
With the bride on his right arm.
If young folks in Wells or London
Were served the same as she served he,
Then young girls would all be undone
Very scarce would young men be.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Sharp, C (ed),1916,One Hundred English Folksongs,Boston,Oliver Ditson Co
Cecil Sharp wrote:
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p 254; volume iii, pp 214-220); and Folk Songs from Somerset (no 118).
No tune is better known to the average English folksinger than this. It is usually in the major or, as in the present case, in the Mixolydian mode, but occasionally (see the versions cited above) in the Dorian or AEolian.
A burlesque version of the words, with an illustration by George Cruikshank, is given in the Universal Songster (volume i, p 6). "Billy Taylor" became a very popular street-song during the last half-century and I suspect that it was during that period that the last stanza in the text was added
The tune that Sharp used for the above, collated text, came from James Lovell (75) at Ball's Cover, Somerset, 5 August 1908. The text breaks down roughly as follows:
Verses 1 and 2 came from Mrs. Louie Hooper and Mrs. Lucy White (Hambridge, Somerset, September 1903).
Verses 3 to 8 came from Mrs. Betsy Pike (76. Somerton, Somerset; per Miss Snow, 18 January 1906).
Verse 9 came from Miss Moger (East Harptree, Somerset, 25 August 1904).
Some editing has been done. The texts as collected, with their tunes and a number of others, can be seen in Maud Karpeles (ed), 1974, Cecil Sharp's Collection of Folk Songs, London, Oxford University Press.
There is a broadside example at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:
William Taylor Printer and date unknown. Harding B 25(2069).
There are also several examples of Billy Taylor, which can be found under that name.
Roud: 158 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six