Child 50. If there’s a sadder song in the world, I’m not sure I’ve heard it.
I learned this from Tony Rose’s version on On Banks of Green Willow. I’ve sharpened up the tempo slightly – there’s a dance tune lurking somewhere behind that melody – but otherwise it’s a fairly faithful copy. The intro is played on flute and melodica instead of concertina, and the song is accompanied by a drone.
I don’t think accidental brother-sister incest has ever been better written; you can sense the dawning realisation in the lines where they call each other liars. I think the opening is particularly effective; the brother’s lines have a relaxed, expansive jokeyness which is horribly at odds with what’s about to happen (I am no courtier, he said, save when I courted thee). And everything he knows and his father doesn’t – and the bafflement of the father, and his final suggestion (“Tell you what, go and see your sister, that’ll cheer you up”…) Beyond words.