I was baffled by this one the first time I heard it – we seem to go from classical mythology to a sailor parting with his true love in a matter of seconds – but it’s actually not that mysterious. In the eighteenth century there was a popular London pleasure garden called Cuper’s Gardens; its merits as a place where young men and maidens do meet their sweethearts (to quote another song entirely) gave it the nickname of “Cupid’s Garden”. So this song is describing nothing more or less than an attempted pickup followed by a successful ditto. (Interesting that the more compliant girl is named as “lovely Nancy”; she got around, if the songs are anything to go by.)
The penultimate verse is taken from a version of the song collected on the Isle of Wight; it makes more sense than the more usual version, taken from the version preserved by the Coppers. I like the wordplay of the last couple of lines, too.
I’ve been on an accompaniment binge this week, but inspiration failed for this one; straight through, unaccompanied, no messing.