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Famous Flower Of Serving Men

This song is by Martin Carthy and appears on the album Shearwater (1972).

My mother did me deadly spite
For she sent thieves in the dark of night
Put my servants all to flight
They robbed my bower they slew my knight

They couldn't do to me no harm
So they slew my baby in my arm
Left me naught to wrap him in
But the bloody sheet that he lay in

They left me naught to dig his grave
But the bloody sword that slew my babe
All alone the grave I made
And all alone the tears I shed

And all alone the bell I rang
And all alone the psalm I sang
I leaned my head all against a block
And there I cut my lovely locks

I cut my locks and I changed my name
From Fair Eleanor to Sweet William
Went to court to serve my king
As the famous flower of serving men

So well I served my lord, the king
That he made me his chamberlain
He loved me as his son
The famous flower of serving men

Oh oft time he'd look at me and smile
So swift his heart I did beguile
And he blessed the day that I became
The famous flower of serving men

But all alone in my bed at e'en
Oh there I dreamed a dreadful dream
I saw my bed swim with blood
And I saw the thieves all around my head

Our king has to the hunting gone
He's ta'en no lords nor gentlemen
He's left me there to guard his home
The famous flower of serving men

Our king he rode the wood all around
He stayed all day but nothing found
And as he rode himself alone
It's there he saw the milk white hind

Oh the hind she broke, the hind she flew
The hind she trampled the brambles through
First she'd mount, then she'd sound
Sometimes before, sometimes behind

Oh what is this, how can it be?
Such a hind as this I ne'er did see
Such a hind as this was never born
I fear she'll do me deadly harm

And long, long did the great horse turn
For to save his lord from branch and thorn
And but long e'er the day was o'er
It tangled all in his yellow hair

All in the glade the hind drew nigh
And the sun grew bright all in their eye
And he sprang down, sword drew
She vanished there all from his view

And all around the grass was green
And all around where a grave was seen
And he sat himself all on the stone
Great weariness it seized him on

Great silence hung from tree to sky
The woods grew still, the sun on fire
As through the woods the dove he came
As through the wood he made his moan

Oh, the dove, he sat down on a stone
So sweet he looked, so soft he sang
"Alas the day my love became
The famous flower of serving men"

The bloody tears they fell as rain
As still he sat and still he sang
"Alas the day my love became
The famous flower of serving men"

Our king cried out, and he wept full sore
So loud unto the dove he did call
"Oh pretty bird, come sing it plain"

"Oh it was her mother's deadly spite
For she sent thieves in the dark of the night
They come to rob, they come to slay
They made their sport, they went their way

"And don't you think that her heart was sore
As she laid the mould on his yellow hair
And don't you think her heart was woe
As she turned her back away to go

"And how she wept as she changed her name
From Fair Eleanor to Sweet William
Went to court to serve her king
As the famous flower of serving men"

Oh the bloody tears they lay all around
He's mounted up and away he's gone
And one thought come to his mind
The thought of her that was a man

And as he rode himself alone
A dreadful oath he there has sworn
And that he would hunt her mother down
As he would hunt the wildwood swine

For there's four and twenty ladies all
And they're all playing at the ball
But fairer than all of them
Is the famous flower of serving men

Oh he's rode him into his hall
And he's rode in among them all
He's lifted her to his saddle brim
And there he's kissed her cheek and chin

His nobles stood and they stretched their eyes
The ladies took to their fans and smiled
For such a strange homecoming
No gentleman had ever seen

And he has sent his nobles all
Unto her mother they have gone
They've ta'en her that's did such wrong
They've laid her down in prison strong

And he's brought men up from the corn
And he's sent men down to the thorn
All for to build the bonfire high
All for to set her mother by

All bonny sang the morning thrush
All where he sat in yonder bush
But louder did her mother cry
In the bonfire where she burned close by

For there she stood all among the thorn
And there she sang her deadly song
"Alas the day that she became
The famous flower of serving men"

For the fire took first all on her cheek
And then it took all on her chin
It spat and rang in her yellow hair
And soon there was no life left in

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