Cecil Sharp's Note 68 (1916)
No. 68. O No, John!
I have collected several versions of this song. The first stanza is identical with the initial verse of the Singing Game, “Lady on the Mountain” (Dictionary of British Folk-Lore, volume i, pp. 320–324). Lady Gomme shrewdly guesses that the game was derived from a ballad, and Mr. Newell, in his Games and Songs of American Children (p. 55), prints a version which he also believes to be “an old English song, which has been taken for a ring-game.” See also “The Disdainful Lady,” in Miss Burne’s Shropshire Folk-Lore (p. 561); and “Twenty, Eighteen,” in English County Songs (p. 90).
The main theme of the song—the daughter’s promise to her father to answer “No” to all her suitors during his absence—is not in any of the songs above mentioned. The idea, however, is carried out in “No, Sir!” which the late Miss A. M. Wakefield made very popular some years ago. Miss Wakefield wrote to me: “I first heard something like it from an American governess. Neither words nor music were at all complete. …I wrote it down and it got a good deal altered and I never looked upon it at all as a folk-song,” and added that her song was now sung by the Salvation Army, under the title “Yes, Lord!” The song is, of course, closely allied to the two preceding songs. The tune is a variant of the “Billy Taylor” tune (see No. 71). The Shropshire version and the one in English County Songs are Dorian and Æolian (?) variants of the same air. The first two stanzas of the text are exactly as they were sung to me; the rest of the lines were coarse and needed considerable revision.