Also known as: the Butcher and the Chambermaid; The Copshawholme Butcher.
This comical 19th Century Broadside ballad tells the story of an unpleasant butcher who takes advantage of a young maid working at an Inn. He pays her a sovereign to lay with him, and in the morning he tricks her out of the money; when the landlord asks for his rent the butcher says he has paid the maid and got no change! The butcher gets his comeuppance when he returns to the Inn twelve months later and the maid brings him his baby and says, “here I’ve brought your change!”
I was charmed, when I first heard this song, by the way that Maddy Prior sang it so sweetly to the simple accompaniment on banjo by Tim Hart, on their album Folk Songs of Old England Volume 1. A.L. Lloyd also recorded and released it several times, his version has a very different feel to it.
I learnt The Brisk Young Butcher very quickly and used to sing it unaccompanied, it was the song I sang at my audition for the Irish music course I attended in 1993 in Donegal.
I like to sing it with the accompaniment of Nathan Lewis Williams in our Duo/Trio O’r Tir. I particularly like that fact that the song is about a maid who is wronged but she takes it in her stride and gets the last laugh. There are so many tragic folk songs, which of course I love, but I also love the ones with a twist in the tale. I especially like to sing this song around the campfire as it usually gets a laugh at the end.
Difficulty level: Intermediate. This is a fairly easy song to sing, and it covers a fairly small range although the melody does jump about a bit and the verses are quite long. It can be strummed quite simply on the guitar as an accompaniment, I have been trying to work out how to finger pick the chords, but the timing is tricky (hence the intermediate level) and I will amend this when I’ve worked it out!.
The Brisk Young Butcher
It’s of a brisk young butcher, as I have heard them say
He started out of London town all on a certain day
G Em C D
Says he a frollick I will have, my fortune for to try
C G Bm Em
I will go into Leicestershire some cattle for to buy.
When he arrived at Leicester town he came into an inn,
He called for an hostler and boldly he walked in.
He called for liquor of the best, he being a roving blade,
And quickly fixed his eyes upon the lovely chambermaid.
When she took up a candle to light him up to bed,
And when she came into the room, these words to her he said:
“One sovereign I will give to you all to enjoy your charms.”
And this fair maid all night to sleep all in the butcher’s arms.
‘Twas early the next morning he prepared to go away,
The landlord said, “Your reckoning, sir, you have forgot to pay”
“Oh no”, the butcher did reply “pray do not think it strange,
One sovereign I gave your maid and I haven’t got the change.”
They straight way called the chambermaid and charged her with the same,
The golden sovereign she laid down, for fear she’d get the blame.
The butcher then went home, well pleased with what was passed
And soon this pretty chambermaid grew thick about the waist.
‘Twas in a twelve months after he came to town again
And then as he had done before he stopped at that same inn.
‘Twas then the buxom chambermaid she chanced him for to see,
She brought a babe just three months old and sat him on his knee.
The butcher sat like one amazed and at the child did stare
But when the joke he did find out, how he did stamp and swear.
She said, “Kind sir, it is your own, pray do not think it strange:
One sovereign you gave to me and here I’ve brought your change.”
So come all you brisk and lively blades, I pray be ruled by me,
Look well into your bargains before your money pay.
Or soon perhaps your folly will give you cause to range
If ever you sport with pretty maids be sure to get your change.
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Featured Image by Iain Merchant (source Flikr).