Lady Of Carlisle

Lyrics: Traditional, arr Hunter
Music: Traditional, arr Hunter

This is the song from which much of the imagery in Robert Hunter's Terrapin Station Suite came. The lyrics here are from his version on his LP Jack O'Roses: they stick pretty closely to the traditional lyrics except for one change to identify the sea captain with the Jack O'Roses.

Down in Carlisle, there lived a lady
Being most beautiful and gay
She was determined to stay a lady
No man on earth could her betray (note 1)

Unless it was a man of honor
A man of honor, and high degree
And then there came two loving soldiers
This fair lady for to see

The first one being a brave lieutenant
A brave lieutenant, a man of war
The other being a bold sea captain
Known on the deck as Jack O'Roses (note 2)

Don't let me down (note 3)
Don't let me down
Don't let me down sweet Lord
Don't let me down

And then up spoke this fair young lady
"I can't be but one man's bride
If you come back tomorrow morning
On this case we shall decide"

She ordered her a span of horses
Span of horses at her command
Off they rode, these two did ride
Until they came to the lions' den

There she stopped and there she halted
These two soldiers stood gazing round
For the space of half an hour
This young lady lay speechless on the ground

Don't let me down
Don't let me down
Don't let me down, sweet Lord
Don't let me down

When at last she did recover
She threw her fan in the lions' den (note 4)
Saying "Which of you to gain a lady
Will return my fan again?"

Then up spoke the brave lieutentant
In a voice both loud and thin
Said "You know I am a dear lover of women
But I will not give my life for them"

Then up spoke the Jack O' Roses (note 5)
In a voice both loud and high
Said "You know I am a dear lover of women
I will return your fan or die"

Don't let me down
Don't let me down
Don't let me down, sweet Lord
Don't let me down

In the lions' den he boldly entered
The lions being both loud and fierce
Then asleep he walked among them (note 6)
And returned her fan to her

When she saw her true love coming
Seeing no harm to him was done
She threw herself against his bosom
Saying "Here is the prize that you have won"
Here is the prize that you have won
Here is the prize that you have won
Notes
(1) it sounds as if Hunter may sometimes have sung "No man on earth could her bed lay"
(2) Hunter changes this from the original line "captain of the ship that came from far"
(3) this refrain doesn't seem to appear in traditional versions. I'm not sure where it comes from
(4) the story of a lady throwing her fan into a lion's den as a challenge dates back to the 18th century. See below for more details.
(5) "... bold sea captain" in the original
(6) "Then fearlessly" he walked among them" in another version, which makes better sense.

Robert Hunter recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     1980 Jack O'Roses Robert Hunter (note 7)
Notes
(7) also on the Robert Hunter compilation Promontory Rider

There are many recorded versions by others - including the New Lost City Ramblers, which may have been how Hunter got to know the song.

Background
According to Mike Seeger's notes in the "Old-Time String Band Songbook", "This ballad has a history based in classical European poetry (Schiller & Browning) and it entered into the folk tradition via the street ballads and broadsides."

One 19th century ballad from the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads collection (under the title "Bold Lieutenant") shows an earlier version of the song:
In London city there lived a lady who posessed a vast estate
She was courted by men of honour, dukes and earls on her did wait
This lady made a resolution to join in wedlock with none but he
Who signalled himself by honour all in the wars by land or sea

There was two brothers who became lovers, they both admired this lady fair
They did endeavour to gain her favour, likewise to please her was all their care
One of them bore a captain's commission, under the command of bold Colonel Carr
The other he was a noble lieutenant on board the Tiger man of war

The eldest brother was a captain great protestation of did make
The youngest brother swore he would venture his life and fortune for her sake
Now said she I will find a way to try them, to see which of them first from danger start
And he that shall behave the bravest shall be the governor of my heart

She desired her coachman for to be ready as soon as he could see the break of day
And she and her two warlike heroes to Tower-hill they rode away
When she arrived unto the Tower she threw her fan into the lion's den
Saying he that wishes to gain a lady shall bring me my fan again

Then well bespoke the faint-hearted captain, who was distracted all in his mind
To hostile danger I am no stranger, to face my foe I'm still inclined
But to hear lions and the wild beasts roaring, for to approach them I do not approve
So therefore madam forbear of danger some other champion must gain your love

And well bespoke the bold lieutenant with voice like thunder so loud and high
To hostile danger I am no stranger, I will bring you back, love, your fan or die
He drew his sword and went in amongst them, the lions fawned and fell at his feet
It was then he stopped for the fan and brought it and left the lions all asleep

This gallant action now being over, unto the lady he took his way
While she sat in the coach a trembling, thinking he might become lions prey
But when she saw her bold hero coming, unto him there was no harm done
With open arms she did embrace him, saying take the prize, love you have won
The Schiller poem refered to by Mike Seeger is called 'Der Handshuh' ('The Glove'). It sets out a story of a knight entering a lion's den to retrieve a lady's glove, but doesn't have the rivalry between two suitors. This translation is from the Schiller Institute:
Before his lion court waiting
The games anticipating
King Francis sat
And round him the kingdom's great powers
And round on balcony towers
The ladies in fair ecagclat

And as with finger he beckons
A cage in the distance opens
And inside with deliberate strides
A lion glides
And without sound
Looks 'round
With long yawns making
And his mane is shaking
And his limbs he's plying
And down is lying

And the King further beck'ning
There opens with ease
A second door
From which flees
So wildly sprung out
A tiger to th' fore
When he the lion espies
Loud he cries
Strikes with his tail
A frightening flail
And sticks his tongue out
And in circles shy
Round th' lion goes by
Fiercely purring
He stretches out murm'ring
By his side lying

At the King's further beck'ning
Then speweth the twice-open'd house thereabout
Two savage leopards at once thereout

They plunge forth with stout-hearted battle-lust
On the tiger beast
He grasps them with his claws so ferocious
And the lion with roar
Standeth upright, sounds no more
And round in a knot
From bloodlust hot
Lay down the cats so atrocious

Then falls from the terrace above
From a beautiful hand a glove
In between tiger and lion it lay
Just at midway

And to Knight Delorges, mockingly
Turneth now Lady Cunigund daring
"Sir Knight, if your love is so hot for me
As you each hour to me are swearing
Why, then get me my glove now back"

And the knight in celerious tack
Climbeth down in the cage truly scaring
With steady pacing
And from the monstrous middle racing
Grabs he the glove now with finger daring

And with amazement and with horror
Knights and ladies all watch him with terror
And the glove he returns without fear
Then from every mouth his praises shower
But to me the loving glance most dear--
Which promises him his bliss is near--
Receives he from Cunigund's tower
And he throws in her face the glove he's got
"Your thanks, Lady, I want that not"
And he leaves her that very hour
The Robert Browning version, titled "The Glove", was written later, in about 1845:
"Heigho!" yawned one day King Francis,
"Distance all value enhances!
"When a man's busy, why, leisure
"Strikes him as wonderful pleasure:
" 'Faith, and at leisure once is he?
"Straightway he wants to be busy.
"Here we've got peace; and aghast I'm
"Caught thinking war the true pastime.
"Is there a reason in metre?
"Give us your speech, master Peter!"
I who, if mortal dare say so,
Ne'er am at loss with my Naso,
"Sire," I replied, "joys prove cloudlets:
"Men are the merest Ixions"--
Here the King whistled aloud, "Let's
"--Heigho--go look at our lions!"
Such are the sorrowful chances
If you talk fine to King Francis.

And so, to the courtyard proceeding,
Our company, Francis was leading,
Increased by new followers tenfold
Before be arrived at the penfold;
Lords, ladies, like clouds which bedizen
At sunset the western horizon.
And Sir De Lorge pressed 'mid the foremost
With the dame he professed to adore most.
Oh, what a face! One by fits eyed
Her, and the horrible pitside;
For the penfold surrounded a hollow
Which led where the eye scarce dared follow,
And shelved to the chamber secluded
Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.
The King bailed his keeper, an Arab
As glossy and black as a scarab,
And bade him make sport and at once stir
Up and out of his den the old monster.
They opened a hole in the wire-work
Across it, and dropped there a firework,
And fled: one's heart's beating redoubled;
A pause, while the pit's mouth was troubled,
The blackness and silence so utter,
By the firework's slow sparkling and sputter;
Then earth in a sudden contortion
Gave out to our gaze her abortion.
Such a brute! Were I friend Clement Marot
(Whose experience of nature's but narrow,
And whose faculties move in no small mist
When he versifies David the Psalmist)
I should study that brute to describe you

One's whole blood grew curdling and creepy
To see the black mane, vast and heapy,
The tail in the air stiff and straining,
The wide eyes, nor waxing nor waning,
As over the barrier which bounded
His platform, and us who surrounded
The barrier, they reached and they rested
On space that might stand him in best stead:
For who knew, he thought, what the amazement,
The eruption of clatter and blaze meant,
And if, in this minute of wonder,
No outlet, 'mid lightning and thunder,
Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered,
The lion at last was delivered?
Ay, that was the open sky o'erhead!
And you saw by the flash on his forehead,
By the hope in those eyes wide and steady,
He was leagues in the desert already,
Driving the flocks up the mountain,
Or catlike couched hard by the fountain
To waylay the date-gathering negress:
So guarded he entrance or egress.
"How he stands!" quoth the King: "we may well swear,
("No novice, we've won our spurs elsewhere
"And so can afford the confession,)
"We exercise wholesome discretion
"In keeping aloof from his threshold;
"Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold,
"Their first would too pleasantly purloin
"The visitor's brisket or surloin:
"But who's he would prove so fool-hardy?
"Not the best man of Marignan, pardie!"

The sentence no sooner was uttered,
Than over the rails a glove flattered,
Fell close to the lion, and rested:
The dame 'twas, who flung it and jested
With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months past; he sat there pursuing
His suit, weighing out with nonchalance
Fine speeches like gold from a balance.

Sound the trumpet, no true knight's a tarrier!
De Lorge made one leap at the barrier,
Walked straight to the glove,--while the lion
Neer moved, kept his far-reaching eye on
The palm-tree-edged desert-spring's sapphire,
And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir,--
Picked it up, and as calmly retreated,
Leaped back where the lady was seated,
And full in the face of its owner
Flung the glove.

"Your heart's queen, you dethrone her?
"So should I!"--cried the King--"'twas mere vanity,
"Not love, set that task to humanity!"
Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing
From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing.

Not so, I; for I caught an expression
In her brow's undisturbed self-possession
Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment,--
As if from no pleasing experiment
She rose, yet of pain not much heedful
So long as the process was needful,--
As if she had tried in a crucible,
To what "speeches like gold" were reducible,
And, finding the finest prove copper,
Felt the smoke in her face was but proper;
To know what she had not to trust to,
Was worth all the ashes and dust too.
She went out 'mid hooting and laughter;
Clement Marot stayed; I followed after,
And asked, as a grace, what it all meant?
If she wished not the rash deed's recalment?
"For I"--so I spoke--"am a poet:
"Human nature,--behoves that I know it!"

She told me, "Too long had I heard
"Of the deed proved alone by the word:
"For my love--what De Lorge would not dare!
"With my scorn---what De Lorge could compare!
"And the endless descriptions of death
"He would brave when my lip formed a breath,
"I must reckon as braved, or, of course,
"Doubt his word---and moreover, perforce,
"For such gifts as no lady could spurn,
"Must offer my love in return.
"When I looked on your lion, it brought
"All the dangers at once to my thought,
"Encountered by all sorts of men,
"Before he was lodged in his den,---
"From the poor slave whose club or bare hands
"Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands,
"With no King and no Court to applaud,
"By no shame, should he shrink, overawed,
"Yet to capture the creature made shift,
"That his rude boys might laugh at the gift,
"--To the page who last leaped o'er the fence
"Of the pit, on no greater pretence
"Than to get back the bonnet he dropped,
"Lest his pay for a week should be stopped.
"So, wiser I judged it to make
"One trial what `death for my sake'
"Really meant, while the power was yet mine,
"Than to wait until time should define
"Such a phrase not so simply as I,
"Who took it to mean just `to die.'
"The blow a glove gives is but weak:
"Does the mark yet discolour my cheek?
"But when the heart suffers a blow,
"Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?"

I looked, as away she was sweeping,
And saw a youth eagerly keeping
As close as he dared to the doorway.
No doubt that a noble should more weigh
His life than befits a plebeian;
And yet, had our brute been Nemean--
(I judge by a certain calm fervour
The youth stepped with, forward to serve her)
--He'd have scarce thought you did him the worst turn
If you whispered "Friend, what you'd get, first earn!"
And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married,
To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The voice of the Court, I dared augur.

For De Lorge, he made women with men vie,
Those in wonder and praise, these in envy;
And in short stood so plain a head taller
That he wooed and won ... how do you call her?
The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King's love, who loved her a week well.
And 'twas noticed he never would honour
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her)
With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching
His wife, from her chamber, those straying
Sad gloves she was always mislaying,
While the King took the closet to chat in,--
But of course this adventure came pat in.
And never the King told the story,
How bringing a glove brought such glory,
But the wife smiled---``His nerves are grown firmer:
"Mine he brings now and utters no murmur."
In between these two versions, Leigh Hunt had written a shorter poem, "The Glove And The Lions", based on the same story:
King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport,
And one day as his lions fought, sat looking on the court;
The nobles filled the benches, and the ladies in their pride,
And 'mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he sighed:
And truly 'twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show,
Valour and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below.

Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws;
They bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went with their paws;
With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another;
Till all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother;
The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air;
Said Francis then, "Faith, gentlemen, we're better here than there."

De Lorge's love o'erheard the King, a beauteous lively dame
With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same;
She thought, the Count my lover is brave as brave can be;
He surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me;
King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine;
I'll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.

She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled;
He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild:
The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place,
Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady's face.
"By God!" said Francis, "rightly done!" and he rose from where he sat:
"No love," quoth he, "but vanity, sets love a task like that."
All these versions derive from an anecdote related in "Essais Historiques sur Paris", by Germain-François Poullain de Sainte-Foix, published in 1754-57, as part of his descriptions of the names and origins of Paris streets and districts.
Rue des Lions, près Saint-Paul

Cette rue prit son nom du bâtiment et des cours où étoient renfermés les grands et les petits Lions du Roi. Un jour que François I s’amusoit à regarder un combat de ses Lions, une Dame ayent laissé tomber son gant, dit à de Lorges: si vous voulez que je crois que vous m’aimez autant que vous me le jurez tous les jours, allez ramasser mon gant. De Lorges descend, ramasse le gant au milieu de ces terrible animaux, remonte, le jete au nez de la Dame, et depuis, malgré toutes les advances et les agaceries qu’elle lui saisoit, ne voulut jamais la revoir.
My rough translation is:
Rue des Lions, near Saint-Paul

The street took its name from the building and yards where the large and small lions owned by the King were kept. One day when Francis I was enjoying watching a fight between his lions, a lady dropped her glove, and said to de Lorges: if you want me to believe that you love me as much as you swear every day that you do, go and pick up my glove. De Lorges climbed down, picked up the glove in the middle of these fearsome beasts, climbed back, threw it in the lady's face, and since then, despite all the advances and pleadings that she made to him, would never see her again.


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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