Since coming to this country, we have tried to seek out and learn American variants of British ballads, particularly those sung in the North-East. Such a ballad is KATE AND HER HORNS, found as a broadside in Britain although it appears not to have been collected from oral tradition there. Tony's version is based on the set sung by the late George Edwards of Roscoe, NY, a Catskill singer with a fine repertoire of traditional ballads. It is printed in Norman Cazden's Abelard Song Book. A very "literary" piece, it is interesting to note that this recent text is almost identical to the set given by the unknown soldier of Sandgate, Vermont, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, who published his Great Mountain Songster as long ago as 1823. It is also very close to another Vermont text, from Fred Atwood of Dover, collected by Margaret MacArthur in 1961.
You that in merriment delight
Pray listen unto what I recite
So shall you satisfaction find
'Twill cure a melancholy mind.
A damsel fair lived in Colchester
At length a clothier courted her
Six months apace, both night and day
But still this damsel answered, Nay.
At length this maid gave her consent
To marry him, and straight they went
Unto her parents then, and who
Gave their consent and their liking too.
But see the cursed fruits of gold
He left his loyal love to hold
Her grief and sorrow all compassed round
While he a greater fortune found.
A lawyer's daughter, fair and bright
Her parents joy and their hearts' delight
He did resolve to make his spouse
Denying all his former vows.
Kate knew each and every night he came
To his true love, Nancy by name
Sometimes at ten o'clock or more
Kate to a tanner, went therefore.
She borrowed there an old cowhide
With crooked horns, both large and wide
With hairy hide horns on her head
That near three feet asunder spread.
Kate to a lonesome path did stray,
And at length, the clothier came that way
He was so sorely scared of her
She looked so like old Lucifer.
And when he saw her long black tail
He strove to run, but his feet did fail
Kate quickly seized him by the throat
And said with grim and doleful note
You leave poor Kate, as I do hear
To wed the lawyer's daughter dear
You shall, whether you will or no
Into my gloomy regions go
Oh, Master Devil, spare my life,
And I will make young Kate my wife
See that you do, the Devil exclaimed
Or else you'll hear from me again.
He went to Kate and married her
For fear of doleful Lucifer
Her friends and parents thought it strange
That there was such a sudden change.
She never let her parents know
Nor any other person too
Till they a year had married been
She told it at her lying-in.
It pleased the women to the heart
They said she'd fairly played her part
Her husband laughed as well as they
It was a merry and a happy day.