I first encountered this song c.1977 on the debut Steeleye Span LP, Hark! the Village Wait, though it can’t have been very much later that I heard Shirley Collins’ version, on the LP Adieu to Old England, where the accompaniment switches between Dolly Collins’ portative organ and Ian Stewart’s plucked psaltery. Shirley’s version has a few extra verses, but when I learned the song I stuck to the five printed in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Those five verses work just fine, and as the Steeleye album notes suggest, “this ballad can perhaps claim to have the most discreet ending of any folk song”. I can’t remember whether I stuck to those verses simply because I liked the song that way, or because I’d already learned the song before I heard Shirley’s version. Or if, in my innocence, I thought I was preserving the purity of a single collected version. That’s something I’d set less store by these days (although if the words from a single source do hang together OK, I feel no need to start meddling with them). In any case, if I’d read the notes to this song in the Penguin volume properly, I’d have noticed that, while the tune and first verse come from Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset, the remaining verses were collected from Mr. George House, from Beaminster, also in Dorset, and also collected by Henry Hammond.
One Night As I Lay on My Bed