Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies

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"Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies" (a.k.a. "Tiny Sparrow" or "Little Sparrow") (Roud #451) is an American folk music ballad, originating from the Appalachian region.[1]

On the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Catalogue the earliest versions are from "Ballads and Songs Collected by The Missouri Folklore Society" by Henry Marvin Belden.[2] The version by James Ashby from Missouri was collected in 1904 and from CH Williams in 1906. John Jacob Niles collected another version in 1912.

The narrator, a woman, laments the falseness of men. She sadly remarks, "Oh if I were some little sparrow / And had I wings so I could fly / I'd fly away to my own true lover." In some versions she remembers his words "You could make me believe by the falling of your arm that the sun rose in the west".

One of the earliest recordings was Jean Ritchie in 1948 [3] It was recorded by the Carter Family in 1952 [4] In 1957 Peggy Seeger recorded it on the album "Peggy Seeger" [5]

The website "Second Hand Songs" lists about 100 versions.[6]

The website "" lists 49 under the title "Come all Ye Fair and Tender Maidens" and a further 7 under the title "Little Sparrow".[7]

The version by Peter Paul and Mary in 1963 on the album "Moving" got to number two in the Billboard charts. (Moving (Peter, Paul and Mary album)). It used the title "Tiny Sparrow".[8] Ian and Sylvia recorded it on the Vanguard 1967 album "So Much For Dreaming" [9] It got to number 130 in the US charts. (Ian & Sylvia). In 1967 Pete Seeger recorded it on the album "Waste Deep in the Big Muddy and Other Love songs" [10] The Chieftains recorded it in 2012 on "Voice of Ages" [11]

There are numerous other artists, including Joan Baez, Odetta, The Kingston Trio, Leon Bibb, Makem and Clancy, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, The Rankin Family, The Country Gentlemen, Murray Head, Dolly Parton, Gene Clark and Carla Olson. The song's title sometimes finds "Maidens" substituted for "Ladies", and "Come All Ye" or "Come All You" sometimes omitted.

Versions from outside America[edit]

Shirley Collins recorded a song under the title "Are You Going to Leave Me?" [12]

Another ballad, "I Wish I Wish But It's All in Vain" (Roud 495) has a similar theme. It has been collected in Scotland and Ireland.[13]

There are "floating verses" across the songs, but the American lyrics (as Roud 451) are close to each other, and sufficiently different from the British versions (Roud 495) to make them different songs.


The 2000 film "Songcatcher" sees a scholar travelling through Appalachia using a cylinder recording machine. The first two songs recorded are "Mattie Groves" and "Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies". In the film they are sung by Emmy Rossum. An album was released with modern singers performing the same songs. They include Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton.[14]

In 2010, Marideth Sisco performed a portion of the song in the film Winter's Bone.[15]


  1. ^ Santelli, Robert; George-Warren, Holly; Brown, Jim (2001). American Roots Music. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 192. ISBN 0-8109-1432-8.
  2. ^ Vaughan Williams, Ralph. "Henry Marvin Belden". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Cecil Sharp House. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  3. ^ Ritchie, Jean. "Field Wok". culturalequality. archive. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  4. ^ Carter Family, Maybelle (February 1952). "Family". 78 details. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  5. ^ Seeger, Peggy (3 October 2018). "Topic 1957". jiosaavn. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  6. ^ Seeger, Peggy. "Covers". secondhandsongs. Performance. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  7. ^ Garcia, Jerry. "Grateful". deaddisc. Songs. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Michael. "Folklore Ballads". allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Michael. "So Much For Dreaming". allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  10. ^ Seeger, Pete. "Waste Deep". Genius. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  11. ^ Erlewine, Michael. "Voice of Ages". allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  12. ^ Collins, Shirley. "Are You Going To Leave Me". genius. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  13. ^ Bellamy, Peter. "I Wish I Wish". mainlynorfolk. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  14. ^ Rossum, Emmy. "Songcatcher". allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  15. ^ "Winter Bone Soundtrack track listing". Archived from the original on 2011-02-10. Retrieved 2011-02-10.