The butcher boy has "courted [the girl's] life away," but now has left her (for a richer girl?). She writes a letter expressing her grief, then hangs herself. Her father finds her body and the note asking that her grave show that she died for love
Most scholars hold that this song is a combination of two others (Randolph follows Cox in claiming *four*). The primary evidence is the shift in narrative style: The first part of the ballad is in first person, the rest (affiliated with "There is an Alehouse in Yonder Town/Tavern in the Town") is in the third person. Leach, on the other hand, considers it to be a single song of American origin. Given the extreme variations in the form of this ballad (e.g. a significant number of versions omit the fact that the butcher boy left to marry a richer girl; some of the most poignant imply that the butcher boy rather than the father found her body) and the amount of floating material it contains, any theories of dependence must be examined carefully.
The two songs, "My Blue-Eyed Boy" and "Must I Go Bound," are clearly related (probably decayed offshoots of this song), now so damaged as to force separate listing. But there are, as so often, intermediate versions; one should check the references for those songs.
"Died for Love (I)" is perhaps a worn-down fragment of this piece, consisting of the lament without the suicide. Similarly the Brown collection's piece "My Little Dear, So Fare You Well."
MacColl and Seeger have classified related texts under fully seven heads:
* "Deep in Love," corresponding roughly to "Must I Go Bound" in the Ballad Index. Generally lyric.
* The Butcher Boy. Characterized by the story of betrayal and eventual suicide (informal translation: If the girl kills herself, file the song here no matter *what* the rest of it looks like. If she dies but doesn't kill herself, it's something else, perhaps "Died for Love (I)"). If there is a core to this family, this is it.
* Love Has Brought Me To Despair. (Laws P25). This shares lyrics with this family, notably those concerning the girl's burial, but has a slighly distinct plot.
* Waly Waly/The Water Is Wide. Related primarily by theme, it seems to me.
* The Tavern in the Town. Shares lyrics, but a distinct song (or at least recension) by our standards.
* Careless Love. Clearly distinct.
* Died for Love (I). This shares the stanzas of lamentation with "The Butcher Boy," but is distinct in that the girl is certainly pregnant (the girl in "The Butcher Boy" may be, but not all versions show this), she laments her folly, but she does *not* kill herself. It's much more lyric than "The Butcher Boy." - RBW
Broadside Bodleian Harding B 18(72): H. De Marsan dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS