Digital Tradition Mirror

Bonnie Black Bess (3)

Bonnie Black Bess (3)

Over highway and byway, in rough or smooth weather
Some thousands of miles we have journeyed together
Our couch the same straw, our meals the same mess
No couple more constant than I and black Bess.

By moonlight, in darkness, by night or by day
Her headlong career there is nothing can stay
She cares not for distance, she knows not distress
Can you show me a courser to match with black Bess?

Once it happened in Cheshire near Dunham, I popped
On a horseman alone, whom I suddenly stopped;
Then I lightened his pockets you surely can guess
Quick work makes Dick Turpin when mounted on Bess.

Now it seems the man knew me. Dick Turpin, says he,
You will swing for this job and I'll be there to see,
I laughed at his threats and his vows of redress,
I looked for my safety to bonny black Bess.

The road was a hollow, a sunken ravine
O'er shadowed completely with woods like a screen,
I clambered the bank and I needs must confess
That one touch of the spur grazed the side of black Bess.

Brook, meadow and field black Bess fleetly bestrode
As the crow wings his flight we selected our road.
We arrived at Hough Green in five minutes or less
My neck it was saved by the speed of Black Bess.

Stepping carelessly forward I lounged on the green
Taking care that by all I am sighted and seen,
Some remarks on time's flight to the squires I address,
But I say not a word of the flight of black Bess.

I mention the hour, it is just about four
Play a rubber of bowls, think the danger is o'er,
When amid my next game like a checkmate at chess
Comes the horseman in search of the rider of Bess.

No matter the chase, off in triumph I came
He swears to the hour and the squires swear the same
I had robbed him at four, while at four they profess
I was quietly bowling, and thaans to black Bess.

Then a halloo, my boys, and a cheery halloo
For the swiftest of coursers, the gallant, the true,
Forever shall horsemen in memory bless
Of the horse of the highwayman, bonny black Bess.

From Ozark Folksongs, Randolph
From Manuscript copy from Maggie Chadwick, AK, 1942
DT #569
Laws L8

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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