Jim MacDonald (over at Making Light) offers us a compendium of vital life advice gleaned from folk songs. Number one is, if someone says to beware of Long Lankin, then totally beware of him, for real. More:
If you are an unmarried lady and have sex, you will get pregnant. No good will come of it.
If you are physically unable to get pregnant due to being male, the girl you had sex with will get pregnant. No good will come of it. You’ll either kill her, or she’ll kill herself, or her husband/brother/father/uncle/cousin will kill you both. In any case her Doleful Ghost will make sure everyone finds out. You will either get hanged, kill yourself, or be carried off bodily by Satan. Your last words will begin “Come all ye.”
Going to sea to avoid marrying your sweetie is an option, but if she hangs herself after your departure (and it’s even money that she’s going to) her Doleful Ghost will arrive on board your ship and the last three stanzas of your life will purely suck.
If you are a young gentleman who had sex it is possible the girl won’t get pregnant. In those rare instances you will either get Saint Cynthia’s Fire or the Great Pox instead. No good will have come of it….
Have nothing to do with former boyfriends who turn up and say it’s no big deal that you’re now married to someone else and have a child. If their intentions are legit, that’s got to be a problem. If it’s not a problem, their intentions are not legit.
You are justified in cherishing the direst suspicions of a suddenly and unexpectedly returned significant other who mentions a long journey, a far shore, or a narrow bed, or who’s oddly skittish about the imminent arrival of cockcrow.
If you are a young lady and you meet a young man who says his name is “Ramble Away,” don’t be surprised if, by the time you know you’re pregnant, it turns out he’s moved and left no forwarding address.
I’d just like to add a few words based on American folksongs (probably derivative of the English ones): if you do kill your pregnant lover by drowning her in the cold, cold sea, the odds are good that someone will find her body and make a fiddle bow of her long black hair, and pegs of her white finger bones, and then the only song that fiddle will play will cry your guilt out to the world. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.