The singer meets a damsel who has "a bunch of watercresses." She agrees to marry but "has some bills to pay" first, so he gives her money. Next day he get a letter that she's already someone's wife. "Sure you must have been greener than watercresses"
Watercresses Partial text(s) *** A *** The Dairy Farmer From Louise Manny and James Reginald Wilson, Songs of Miramichi, #63, pp. 226-227. From the singing of Joseph R. Estey, Sr., Sevogle, 1962. Oh, I am a dairy farmer and from Dunstanshire I came To see some friends in Cambridge Wells; Tim Morgan is my name. In the little town of Dunstanshite, the place I do call home, And if I get sent back again, from there I'll never roam. It was then the pretty damsel she came coming down that way. As long as I am living I shall ne'er forget the day. She had a bunch of early onions and a half a pint of beer, Some pickles, and a bunch of water cresses. (Stanzas 1, 3 of 10)
Singer, a dairy farmer, goes to town, meets a pretty girl, asks the way to Camberwell and falls in love. He proposes, citing his farm and herds; she accepts, but tells him she will need money for wedding expenses. He gives her a sovereign; they kiss and part. She sends him a letter telling him that next time he proposes, he should be certain his intended is a maiden or a widow, not a wife, and promises to repay the sovereign, someday. Refr.: "She promised she would marry me upon the first of May/And she left me with a bunch of water cresses"
In [O. J. Abbott's version of] the song, the young man says he is from Belvishire. There is no such shire in England. On the other hand, Camberwell is a borough of London. - PJS
The Southwest Missouri State University site Max Hunter Folk Song Collection includes "Watercrest" ["T'was on the first of April When I arrived in town ..."], a version collected in Arkansas. In this one Mrs. Tray writes "But to think that I would marry you Upon the first of May You must think that I'm as green as watercrest's."
I don't consider this to be the same as the following ballad at Bodleian Library site Ballads Catalogue:
Bodleian, Harding B 11(4047), "The Water-Cress Girl" ("While strolling out one evening by a running stream"), unknown, n.d.; also Harding B 11(1233), "The Water-Cress Girl"
In this one the singer finds Martha gathering water-cresses, they "often strolled together," marry and live happily ever after. - BS