A young woman wearing a sleep cap lies asleep on her back in a bed framed by open curtains.
This nursery rhyme shortens to its first verse a longer folk song based on an inn-keeper who lived in the eighteenth century.
Elsie Marley’s grown so fine
She cannot get up to serve the swine,
But lays in bed till eight or nine,
And surely she does take her time.
And do you ken Elsie Marley, honey?
The wife that sells the barley, honey;
She lost her pocket and all her money
A back o’ the bush i’ the garden, honey.
Elsie Marley is so neat.
‘Tis hard for one to walk the street,
But every lad and lass you meet,
Cries, do you ken Elsie Marley, honey?
Elsie Marley wore a straw hat,
But now she’s getten a velvet cap,
The Lambton lads mun pay for that—
Do you ken Elsie Marley, honey?
Elsie keeps good gin and ale
In her house below the dale,
Where every tradesman up and down,
Does call and spend his half-a-crown.
The farmers as they come that way,
Drink with Elsie every day,
And call the fiddler for to play,
The tune of “Elsie Marley,” honey.
The pitmen and the keelmen trim,
They drink humho made of gin,
And when to dance they do begin
The tune is “Elsie Marley,” honey.
Those gentlemen that go so fine,
They’ll treat her with a bottle of wine,
And freely will sit down and dine
Along with Elsie Marley, honey.
So to conclude these lines I’ve penn’d,
Hoping there’s none I do offend,
And thus my merry joke doth end
Concerning Elsie Marley, honey.
* From Sharp, Cuthbert. The Bishoprick garland, or A collection of legends, songs, ballads, &c. London: Nichols, and Baldwin & Cradock, 1834.