This very long Ballad mentions Dover and ‘near’ Sandwich and the squire’s daughter Ruth
The Beautiful Lady of Kent or The Seaman of Dover
DESCRIPTION: Ruth's parents would rather have her dead than married to Henry, a poor sailor. She retreats to her chamber. Henry sails to Spain and reluctantly marries a rich woman, believing he can never have Ruth. Ruth, released by her parents after a twelve-month confinement, goes to Spain, dressed as a seaman for disguise. Her parents believe she is lost. Ruth reveals herself to Henry when his wife dies. They return to Dover to marry. Henry, now rich but in poor seaman's dress, invites Ruth's parents to his wedding without telling them that Ruth is to be his bride. They, believing Ruth lost, admit that they should have let Ruth marry him. At the lavish wedding they recognize Ruth. Everyone is happy.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1813 (broadside, Harding B 4(94); 1846 (Dixon-Peasantry)
A seaman of Dover, whose excellent parts,
For wisdom and learning, had conquered the hearts
Of many young damsels, of beauty so bright,
Of him this new ditty in brief I shall write;
And show of his turnings, and windings of fate,
His passions and sorrows, so many and great:
And how he was blessed with true love at last,
When all the rough storms of his troubles were past.
Now, to be brief, I shall tell you the truth:
A beautiful lady, whose name it was Ruth,
A squire's young daughter, near Sandwich, in Kent,
Proves all his heart's treasure, his joy and content.
Unknown to their parents in private they meet,
Where many love lessons they'd often repeat,
With kisses, and many embraces likewise,
She granted him love, and thus gained the prize.
She said, 'I consent to be thy sweet bride,
Whatever becomes of my fortune,' she cried.
'The frowns of my father I never will fear,
But freely will go through the world with my dear.'
A jewel he gave her, in token of love,
And vowed, by the sacred powers above,
To wed the next morning; but they were betrayed,
And all by the means of a treacherous maid.
She told her parents that they were agreed:
With that they fell into a passion with speed,
And said, ere a seaman their daughter should have,
They rather would follow her corpse to the grave.
The lady was straight to her chamber confined,
Here long she continued in sorrow of mind,
And so did her love, for the loss of his dear, -
No sorrow was ever so sharp and severe.
When long he had mourned for his love and delight,
Close under the window he came in the night,
And sung forth this ditty:- 'My dearest, farewell!
Behold, in this nation no longer I dwell.
'I am going from hence to the kingdom of Spain,
Because I am willing that you should obtain
Your freedom once more; for my heart it will break
If longer thou liest confined for my sake.'
The words which he uttered, they caused her to weep;
Yet, nevertheless, she was forced to keep
Deep silence that minute, that minute for fear
Her honoured father and mother should hear.
Soon after, bold Henry he entered on board,
The heavens a prosperous gale did afford,
And brought him with speed to the kingdom of Spain,
There he with a merchant some time did remain;
Who, finding that he was both faithful and just,
Preferred him to places of honour and trust;
He made him as great as his heart could request,
Yet, wanting his Ruth, he with grief was oppressed.
So great was his grief it could not be concealed,
Both honour and riches no pleasure could yield;
In private he often would weep and lament,
For Ruth, the fair, beautiful lady of Kent.
Now, while he lamented the loss of his dear,
A lady of Spain did before him appear,
Bedecked with rich jewels both costly and gay,
Who earnestly sought for his favour that day.
Said she, 'Gentle swain, I am wounded with love,
And you are the person I honour above
The greatest of nobles that ever was born; -
Then pity my tears, and my sorrowful mourn!'
'I pity thy sorrowful tears,' he replied,
'And wish I were worthy to make thee my bride;
But, lady, thy grandeur is greater than mine,
Therefore, I am fearful my heart to resign.'
'O! never be doubtful of what will ensue,
No manner of danger will happen to you;
At my own disposal I am, I declare,
Receive me with love, or destroy me with care.'
'Dear madam, don't fix your affection on me,
You are fit for some lord of a noble degree,
That is able to keep up your honour and fame;
I am but a poor sailor, from England who came.
'A man of mean fortune, whose substance is small,
I have not wherewith to maintain you withal,
Sweet lady, according to honour and state;
Now this is the truth, which I freely relate.'
The lady she lovingly squeezed his hand,
And said with a smile, 'Ever blessed be the land
That bred such a noble, brave seaman as thee;
I value no honours, thou'rt welcome to me;
'My parents are dead, I have jewels untold,
Besides in possession a million of gold;
And thou shalt be lord of whatever I have,
Grant me but thy love, which I earnestly crave.'
Then, turning aside, to himself he replied,
'I am courted with riches and beauty beside;
This love I may have, but my Ruth is denied.'
Wherefore he consented to make her his bride.
The lady she clothed him costly and great;
His noble deportment, both proper and straight,
So charmed the innocent eye of his dove,
And added a second new flame to her love.
Then married they were without longer delay;
Now here we will leave them both glorious and gay,
To speak of fair Ruth, who in sorrow was left
At home with her parents, of comfort bereft.
When under the window with an aching heart,
He told his fair Ruth he so soon must depart,
Her parents they heard, and well pleased they were,
But Ruth was afflicted with sorrow and care.
Now, after her lover had quitted the shore,
They kept her confined a fall twelvemonth or more,
And then they were pleased to set her at large,
With laying upon her a wonderful charge:
To fly from a seaman as she would from death;
She promised she would, with a faltering breath;
Yet, nevertheless, the truth you shall hear,
She found out a way for to follow her dear.
Then, taking her gold and her silver also,
In seaman's apparel away she did go,
And found out a master, with whom she agreed,
To carry her over the ocean with speed.
Now, when she arrived at the kingdom of Spain,
From city to city she travelled amain,
Enquiring about everywhere for her love,
Who now had been gone seven years and above.
In Cadiz, as she walked along in the street,
Her love and his lady she happened to meet,
But in such a garb as she never had seen, -
She looked like an angel, or beautiful queen.
With sorrowful tears she turned her aside:
'My jewel is gone, I shall ne'er be his bride;
But, nevertheless, though my hopes are in vain,
I'll never return to old England again.
'But here, in this place, I will now be confined;
It will be a comfort and joy to my mind,
To see him sometimes, though he thinks not of me,
Since he has a lady of noble degree.'
Now, while in the city fair Ruth did reside,
Of a sudden this beautiful lady she died,
And, though he was in the possession of all,
Yet tears from his eyes in abundance did fall.
As he was expressing his piteous moan,
Fair Ruth came unto him, and made herself known;
He started to see her, but seemed not coy,
Said he, 'Now my sorrows are mingled with joy!'
The time of the mourning he kept it in Spain,
And then he came back to old England again,
With thousands, and thousands, which he did possess;
Then glorious and gay was sweet Ruth in her dress.
When over the seas to fair Sandwich he came,
With Ruth, and a number of persons of fame,
Then all did appear most splendid and gay,
As if it had been a great festival day.
Now, when that they took up their lodgings, behold!
He stripped off his coat of embroidered gold,
And presently borrows a mariner's suit,
That he with her parents might have some dispute,
Before they were sensible he was so great;
And when he came in and knocked at the gate,
He soon saw her father, and mother likewise,
Expressing their sorrow with tears in their eyes,
To them, with obeisance, he modestly said,
'Pray where is my jewel, that innocent maid,
Whose sweet lovely beauty doth thousands excel?
I fear, by your weeping, that all is not well!'
'No, no! she is gone, she is utterly lost;
We have not heard of her a twelvemonth at most!
Which makes us distracted with sorrow and care,
And drowns us in tears at the point of despair.'
'I'm grieved to hear these sad tidings,' he cried.
'Alas! honest young man,' her father replied,
'I heartily wish she'd been wedded to you,
For then we this sorrow had never gone through.'
Sweet Henry he made them this answer again;
'I am newly come home from the kingdom of Spain,
From whence I have brought me a beautiful bride,
And am to be married to-morrow,' he cried;
'And if you will go to my wedding,' said he,
'Both you and your lady right welcome shall be.'
They promised they would, and accordingly came,
Not thinking to meet with such persons of fame.
All decked with their jewels of rubies and pearls,
As equal companions of lords and of earls,
Fair Ruth, with her love, was as gay as the rest,
So they in their marriage were happily blessed.
Now, as they returned from the church to an inn,
The father and mother of Ruth did begin
Their daughter to know, by a mole they behold,
Although she was clothed in a garment of gold.
With transports of joy they flew to the bride,
'O! where hast thou been, sweetest daughter?' they cried,
'Thy tedious absence has grieved us sore,
As fearing, alas! we should see thee no more.'
'Dear parents,' said she, 'many hazards I run,
To fetch home my love, and your dutiful son;
Receive him with joy, for 'tis very well known,
He seeks not your wealth, he's enough of his own.'
Her father replied, and he merrily smiled,
'He's brought home enough, as he's brought home my child;
A thousand times welcome you are, I declare,
Whose presence disperses both sorrow and care.'
Full seven long days in feasting they spent;
The bells in the steeple they merrily went,
And many fair pounds were bestowed on the poor, -
The like of this wedding was never before!