“The Cherry-Tree Carol” is a ballad with the rare distinction of being both a Christmas carol and one of the Child Ballads (no. 54).The song itself is very old, reportedly sung in some form at the Feast of Corpus Christi in the early 15th century.
The ballad relates an apocryphal story of the Virgin Mary, presumably while traveling to Bethlehem with Joseph for the census. In the most popular version, the two stop in a cherry orchard, and Mary asks her husband to pick cherries for her, citing her child. Joseph spitefully tells Mary to let the child’s father pick her cherries. – Wikipedia
Oh, waly, waly up the bank and waly, waly down the brae, And waly, waly up burnside where I and my love used to go. I was a lady of high renown that lived in the North country; I was a lady of high renown when Jamie Douglas courted me.
And when we came to Glasgow town, it was a comely sight to see, My lord was clad in the velvet green and I myself in cramasie. And when my eldest son was born and set upon his nurse’s knee, I was the happiest woman born and my good lord, he loved me.
There came a man into our house and Jamie Lockhart was his name And it was told unto my lord that I did lie in bed with him. There came another to our house and he was no good friend to me; He put Jamie’s shoes beneath my bed and bade my good lord come and see.
Oh woe be unto thee, Blackwood, and an ill death may you die, You were the first and the foremost man that parted my good lord and I. And when my lord came to my room this great falsehood for to see, He turned him round all with a scowl and not one word would he speak to me.
“Come up, come up, now Jamie Douglas, come up the stair and dine with me, I’ll set you on a chair of gold and court you kindly on my knee.” “When cockleshells turn silver bells and fishes fly from tree to tree, When frost and snow turn fire to burn it’s I’ll come up and dine with thee.”
Oh woe be unto thee, Blackwood, and an ill death may you die, You were the first and the foremost man that parted my good lord and I. And when my father he had word my good lord had forsaken me, He sent fifty of his brisk dragoons to fetch me home to my own country.
O had I wist when first I kissed that love should been so ill to win, I’d locked my heart in a cage of gold and pinned it with a silver pin. You think that I am like yourself and lie with each one that I see, But I do swear by Heavens high, I never loved a man but thee.
‘Tis not the frost that freezes fell, nor blowing snow’s inclemency, ‘Tis not such cold that makes me cry, but my love’s heart grown cold to me. O waly, waly, love is bonnie a little while when first it’s new, But love grows old and waxes cold and fades away like morning dew.
After hundreds of densely packed pages on folk song in England — a subject for which I share Steve Roud’s passion — I am none the wiser as to why folk song collectors assumed that a man singing in a pub for free drinks in, say, 1890 or 1920 was de facto a folk singer? A singer of folk songs, yes. A folk singer, maybe not. Such men were ‘professional’ singers of popular songs. They sung what people wished to hear, for recompense: a pint.
If a collector was lucky — and they often weren’t — he might hear on a particular evening the weal and woe and muck and mire of ‘auld ballets’, but they would be buried amid what the 19th-century ballad editor Francis James Child called ‘a veritable dunghill’ of broadside ballads and music-hall pastiches [ . . . ] More at: The vibrant tradition of English folk song | The Spectator