Coming from "the holy land Of Blessed Walsingham," the singer asks (a jolly palmer) about the singer's love. The (palmer) asks questions and is told that she has left him, but his love endures
Walsingham Partial text(s) *** A *** As You Came From the Holy Land From Norman Ault, editor, Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts, pp. 282-284. Apparently from Bodley MS. Rawlinson Poet. 85. As you came from the holy land Of Walsingham, Met you not with my true Love By the way as you came? 'How should I know your true Love That have met many one, As I went to the holy land, That have come, that have gone?' (9 additional stanzas)
Ault tentatively credits this to Raleigh, and dates the manuscript containing it (Bodley MS. Rawl. Poet. 85) "before 1600." Of course, Ault also claims that this is "How Should I Your True Love Know." Which it isn't, though it has similar lines; I wouldn't be surprised if this inspired that.
The tune too is different (at least from the version of "How Should I" that I've heard), though again there are some similarities, probably caused more by the metrical form than anything else.
Several references mention the great popularity of this song, and it is quoted in John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont's 1611 play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act II, scene vii:
As you came from Walsingham,
From that holy land,
There met you not with my true love
By the way as you came?
There seem to be two openings to the piece, the one above (found also in the Percy folio) and that quoted by Chappell:
As I went to Walsingham,
To the shrine with speed,
Met I with a jolly palmer,
In a pilgrim's weed.
Something similar is quoted in the Pepys collection. I have not seen a full text of the latter, and it is possible that they are distinct, but I cannot prove it. The piece does not seem to survive in oral tradition, but there are enough references to it that I thought it proper to include it here. It also seems to have given rise to yet another song,
King Richard's gone to Walsingham,
To the Holy Land,
To kill the Turk and Saracen, the the truth do withstand....
The notes to Chappell and Percy (on "Gentle Herdman, Tell to Me") note that Walsingham was a pilgrimage site at least from the time of Henry III, but was closed down in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.
This piece has been very popular in poetry anthologies; _Granger's Index to Poetry_ lists some two dozen printings, noting that some attribute the piece to Sir Walter Raleigh, without accepting the attribution.
Walsingham figures in other poems as well, also seemingly as a pilgrimate destination. Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928, in the notes to #473 prints a fragment beginning, "Gentle herdsman, tell to me, Of courtesy I thee pray, Unto the town of Walsingham Which is the right and ready way." - RBW