Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A true & lamentable Ballad, 1804

A True & Lamentable Ballad. Royal Museums Greenwich.
Today's image is another illustrated ballad from the London publishers Laurie and Whittle: "A true & lamentable Ballad call'd Billy Taylor". This song is an early 19th c. ballad (Roud #158) with many variations, about a woman whose lover is pressed into service, dresses in men's clothing him, has her gender revealed by an accident, is questioned by the captain and learns that her lover is about to marry another, shoots them both, and is promoted as a result. This version is as follows:

Billy Taylor was a gay young fellow, Full of mirth, and full of glee ; 
And his heart he did diskiver To a lady fair and free.
Four-and-twenty stout young fellows, Clad they were in blue array, 

Came and press'd young Billy Taylor, And forthwith sent him to sea.

Soon his true love follow'd arter, Under the name of Richard Carr ; 

And her lily white hands she daub'd all over With the nasty pitch and tar.
When they came to the first engagement, Bold she fit amongst the rest, 

Until a cannon-ball cut her jacket open, And diskivered her lily white breast.

When the Captain com'd for to hear on't, Says he, "Vat vind has blown you here?"
Says she, "I come for to seek for my true love, Whom you press'd and I love so dear."
"If you come for to seek for your true love, Tell unto me his name I pray!"
"His name kind sir is Billy Taylor, Whom you press'd, and sent to sea"

"If his name is Billy Taylor, He's both cruel and severe:
For rise up early in the morning, And you ll see him with a lady fair.
With that she ros'd up in the morning, Early as by break of day,
And she met her Billy Taylor, Walking with a lady gay.

Forthwith she call'd for Sword and Pistol, Which did come at her command,
And she shot her Billy Taylor, With his fair one in his hand .
When the captain com'd for to hear on't. He werry much applauded her for what she d done
And quickly he made her the first Lieutenant, Of the gallant THUNDER BOMB.

Carrying her pistol in one hand, our cross-dressing deadly lady tar is drawn dressed like any other sailor portrayed in caricature. Only the curve of her bosom, revealed by her open blue jacket, shows her to be a woman instead of her alias Richard Carr.

She wears small pointed-toe buckled black pumps, white high-waisted trousers that end above the ankle, a double-breasted waistcoat painted yellow in this version, a white shirt with the collar turned up and a small black handkerchief tied tightly around her neck. In her other hand she carries a round hat with a flat brim and a buckle on the black hatband. Her hair is drawn a little differently from the way sailor hair is usually drawn: longer than usual, and combed forward.
Off in the background the faithless Billy Taylor lies dead on the ground next t o his bare-bosomed lover, in a blue jacket buttoned shut, white trousers and stockings, and black shoes. Also glimpsed in the background is a tavern sign that could possibly have three sailors on it, in round hats, short dark jackets, and white trousers.

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