“The Maid of Belfast Town”


"In Belfast town of high renown, There lives a comely maid." The singer approaches her and asks her to come away with him. She rejects him because of a vow made seven years before. Now, "each night I dream, rave and complain" because she refused him.


Among other classic [Roman] references here: "Diana fair cannot compare, Or Venus from the tide, Or Dido sure that virgin pure, That for Aeneas died ...." See the notes to "Sheila Nee Iyer" for some traits of the "hedge school master" school of Irish ballad writing. - BS

Someday, someone should do a study on why Diana (Greek Artemis) became so noted for beauty in British tales (see, e.g., "The an-Yard Side" [Laws M28], "The Beaver Brig," and "The Fair of Balamina"). She was not one of the three goddesses who competed for the title of "the Fairest" in the Judgment of Paris. that was contested between Hera (Roman Juno), Aphrodite (Roman Venus), and Athena (Roman Minerva). That contest of course was won by Aphrodite, leading to the Trojan War.

Not every account says that Aphrodite was born of the sea-foam; Homer simply calls her the daughter of Zeus and Dione. But Hesiod tells of her birth from the sea-foam after the gonads of Ouranos were cast into the ocean after his castration by his son Chronos (Hesiod, _Theogony_, lines 185-195); indeed, the name "Aphrodite" is in these lines falsely equated with Greek "aphros," "foam."

Aphrodite was of course the mother of Aeneas, which lead smoothly into the story of the latter, and his betrayal of Dido, which is a major theme of Virgil's _Aeneid_, which I would assume is the major source for most of the material here. - RBW


  • Bodleian, Harding B 25(1193)[some words in last verse illegible], "The Maid of Belfast" ("In Belfast town of high renown there l[i]ves a comely maid"), J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844; also Harding B 11(2279), "The Maid of Belfast"; Harding B 11(337), "The Belfast Maid"


  1. Leyden 26, "The Maid of Belfast Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Leyd026


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1826 (according to Leyden)