The singer "never knew what it was to sigh / till I saw Betsy Baker." He tries to court her, but she consistently rejects him. He becomes sick with love, barely recovers, tries again to win her, and is once again rejected
Betsy Baker Complete text(s) *** A *** From Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Volume I, #117, text B, pp. 424-425 (the A text is much shorter but almost identical as far as extant). From a manuscript copy in the keeping of Mabel E. Mueller, thought to have been in her family since around 1880. From noise and bustle far away Hard work my time employing, How happily I passed each day Content and health enjoying. The birds did sing and so did I As I trudged o'er each acre, Oh I never knew what it was to sigh Till I saw Betsy Baker. At church I met her dressed so neat One Sunday in hot weather, With love I found my heart did beat As we sang psalms together; So piously she hung her head, The while her voice did shake, sir, I thought if ever I did wed 'Twould be with Betsy Baker. From her side I could not budge, And sure I thought no harm on't, My elbow then she gave a nudge And bade me mind the sarmint. When church was over, out she walked But I did overtake her, Determined I would not be balked I spoke to Betsy Baker. Her manners were genteel and cool I found on conversation, She'd just been to a boarding school And finished her education. But love made me speak out quite free, Says I, I've many an acre, Will you give me your company? I sha'n't, says Betsy Baker. All my entreaties she did slight And I was forced to leave her, I got no sleep that live long night For love brought on a fever. The doctor came, he smelt his cane With long face like a Quaker, Says he, young man, pray where's the pain? Says I sir, Betsy Baker! Because I was not bad enough He poulticed and he pilled me, And if I'd taken all his stuff I think he must have killed me. I put an end to all their strife 'Twixt him and the undertaker, And what do you think 'twas saved my life? Why, thoughts of Betsy Baker. I then again to Betsy went, Once more with love attacked her, But meantime she had got acquainted With a ramping mad play-actor. If she would have him he did say, A lady he would make her, He gammoned her to run away And I lost Betsy Baker. I fretted very much to find My hopes of love so undone, My mother thought 'twould ease my mind If I came up to London. But though I strive another way, My thoughts will not forsake her, I dream all night and think all day Of cruel Betsy Baker. *** B *** From John Henry Johnson, ed. Bawdy Ballads and Lusty Lyrics, pp. 62-63. Said to be from Dixon's Songs of 1842. This text obviously is recensionally different from the above (and, since it has a happy/humorous form, I have to suspect that it is the rewritten version; see also the comment in the third line), but form and metre says the two at least derive from a common original. My sweetheart is a wonder quite, And lately I did take her, Her name you've heard before tonight, Or else I do mistake her. Others may be great and good, On land, on sea, or lake sir. Few names have ever fairer stood Than my sweet Betsy Baker. We started off from New Orleans, 'Cross Alleghany mountains The snow was deep as e'er was seen, The water poured in fountains; The coach it got upset quite flat, Of course the bad coachmaker! And knocked into a cock'd hat Was my sweet Betsy Baker. The ice ran down the Ohio, The steamboat it impeded, At last we got away from snow, Of which we so much needed; No accident did us befall, Tho' steamboat was a shaker, I was not then blown up at all, Except by Betsy Baker. At last arrived at Louisville, We thought ourselves quite lucky To get so far down our route, And lodge safe in Kentucky; My wife she wished to see the men; Half horse, half alligator, I fearful was that they might gouge My lovely Betsy Baker. Down Mississippi we did way, The moon in her first quarter, One night the boat ran on a snag And filled her full of water; The passengers both great and small, Enough to shock a Quaker, Had scarcely any clothes at all What a sight for Betsy Baker. At last arrived in New Orleans, The town was in our view, sirs, A Frenchman, smart as e'er was seen, Began to parlez-vous, sirs, Say he, Mister Permitey mois Mademoiselle to take, ah, Says I -- I will be damned if you Shall touch my Betsy Baker. I went into a masquerade To see the pretty souls, sirs, There saw ladies fine parade, I think they're called Creoles, sirs, They walked about and danced so fine, And waltzed and cut a caper, But I was fetched home in a trice, By my sweet Betsy Baker.
- The First World's Fair, or The National Exhibition (per broadside Murray, Mu23-y2:005, "The First World's Fair, or The National Exhibition" ("How wonderful it doth appear To people of each station"), unknown, 19C)
- Push About the Jorum (per broadside Bodleian Harding B 17(24a))
- Bodleian, Harding B 11(257), "Betsy Baker," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Harding B 17(24a), "Betsy Baker"; Firth b.25(508), Harding B 11(258), Harding B 25(176), Firth b.34(266), "Betsey Baker"
- LOCSinging, as100980, "Betsey Baker," unknown, n.d.
- Randolph 117, "Betsy Baker" (2 texts, 1 tune)
- Mackenzie 146, "Betsy Baker" (1 text)
- JHJohnson, pp. 62-63, "Betsy Baker" (1 text, seemingly the same song but with a happy ending)
- ST R117 (Full)
- Roud #1288
- BI, R117