Lady Margaret

Pete Seeger

This song is a variation of "Fair Margaret and Sweet William", Child Ballad number 74. I sing the version that Pete Seeger played on one of his Folkways 'American Favorite Ballads' albums. I suspect that this recording comes from the period that Pete describes in his musical autobiography, ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone:’

"At the time I could wander into the office of Moe Asch (Folkways Records) almost any time, on little or no notice. He'd prop up a mike in front of me, and I'd sing the latest songs I'd learned or made up. A half hour later I'd be on my way."

We can never fully appreciate the legacy of Moses Asch. And last I heard of Pete he came down to sing with the folks at Occupy Wall Street. Ninety-two and still singing, he is a national treasure.

Lady Margaret is a ghost story. After William marries Margaret's rival Margaret kills herself and shows up to haunt poor Billy right at the foot of the bridal bed. William can't resist a spectral fling and two-times his new wife with his dead former girlfriend. Only old ballads can achieve this level of bizarreness.


Lady Margaret sitting in her high hall door
Combing her long yellow hair
Saw sweet William and his new-made Bride
Riding from the church so near

She throwed down her ivory comb
Throwed back her long yellow hair
Said I'll go down to bid him farewell
And never more go there

It was all lately in the night
When they were fast asleep
Lady Margaret appeared all dressed in white
Standing at their bed feet

How do you like your pillow said she
How do you like your sheet
And how do you like that gay young lady
Lying in your arms asleep

Very well do I like my pillow says he
Very well do I like my sheet
But better do I like that fair young lady
Standing at my bed feet

Once he kissed her lily white hand
Twice he kissed her cheek
Three times he kissed her cold corpsey lips
And fell in her arms asleep

Is Lady Magraret in her room?
Or is she in the hall?
No, Lady Margaret's in her cold black coffin
With her pale face to the wall