Blood & Roses Volume 4

by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

Light down, light down, little Henry Lee And stay with me this night; You will have my candle and coal My fire's burning bright. My fire's burning bright. I won't light down. I can't light down. I won't come in, said he; There's a lady ten times fairer than you In Lord Barnet's hall for me. In Lord Barnet's hall for me. He's leaned him o'er her soft pillow, For to give her a kiss so sweet, With her little pen-knife held keen and sharp, She's wounded him full deep, She's wounded him full deep. I will light down, I must light down, I will come in, said he; There is no lady in Barnet's Hall That I love more better than thee. That I love more better than thee. O live, my love. Lord Henry, she said, For an hour or two or three And all I the cards about my waist I'd freely give to thee I'd freely give to thee All them cards about your waist They'd do no good to me: Love, don't you see my own heart's blood? It's trickling by my knee. It's trickling by my knee. She took him by his long yellow hair, She took him by his feet; She dragged him to her cool draw-well Full fifty fathoms deep. Full fifty fathoms deep. Lie there, lie there, you Henry Lee I know you will not swim; That lady ten times fairer than me She'll never see you again. She'll never see you again. Light down, light down, you pretty little bird Light down on my right knee; No, a girl who'd murder her own true-love Would kill a little bird like me. Would kill a little bird like me. I wished I had my bending bow, My arrow and my string; I'd shoot a dart so nigh your heart That you'd no longer sing. That you'd no longer sing. I wished you had your bending bow I wished you had your string, I'd fly away to Barnet's Hall You'd always hear me sing. You'd always hear me sing.
O, I will sing to you a sang It'll grieve your heart fu' sair; How the clerk's twa sons o' Owsenford Went aft to learn their lair, Then oot and spak their mither dear, Dae weel, sons, at the school, And keep awa' free young women, my sons, And wi' them dinnae play the fool. They hadnae been in fair Berwick toon A twelvemonth and a day; Till the clerk's twa sons o' Owsenford Wi' the mayor's twa dochters lay. Then the word has gane to the mayor o' that toon, And an angry man was he; I swear that I'll tak' neither meat nor drink Till I see them baith hangit high, And word has gane to the clerk himsel' As he sat at the wine, That his twa bonnie sons in Berwick's fair toon In prison strang were lyin'. And when he cam' tae Berwick toon, He rode it roond aboot; And he saw his twa sons at a shot-window And the baith a' them lookin' oot. O, lie ye here for oxen, sons, Or lie ye here for kye? Or hae ye injured anyone, Sae sair bound as ye lie? O, it's no' for owsen, faither dear, Nor lie we here for kye It's a' for a little dear-bocht love Sae sair bound as we lie. Then he has gane to the mayor himsel' And he spoke courteouslie: Will ye grant me my twa sons' lives, Either for gowd or fee? Or will ye be sae good a man As grant them baith to me? I'll no' grant ye your twa sons' lives, Either for gowd or fee, Nor will I be sae good a man As gie them baith to thee. Before the morn at twelve o' the clock Ye'll see them baith hangit high. Up and spak his twa dochters And they cried mournfully: O, will ye grant us oor twa loves' lives Either for gowd or fee? Or will ye be sae good a man As grant them baith to me? O, it's I'll no' grant your twa loves' lives, Either for gowd or fee; Nor will I be sae good a man As grant their lives to thee; Before the morn at twelve o' the clock You'll see them baith hangit high. Then he's ta'en oot these twa young lads And hanged them tae a tree, And he's bidden the clerk o' Owsenford Gang hame tae his lady. Ye're welcome hame, my husband dear, Ye're welcome hame to me; But were are my twa bonnie boys, That should hae come hame wi' thee? They're putten to a higher lair, An' tae a higher school; Your twa bonnie sons 'll no' be here Till the hallow days o' Yule. I will spend my time in grief and woe I will neither laugh nor sing; And there's no' a man in Owsenford Will hear my bridles ring.
On the night that I was married, that night we went to bed, Up stepped the bold sea-captain and stood at our bed-head, Rise, you wedded man, and go with me To the low, low lands of Holland to fight your enemy. I throwed my arms around him, imploring him to stay, Up spoke the bold sea-captain, Rise and come away! Rise, you wedded man, and go with me, To the low, low lands of Holland to fight your enemy. O daughter, dearest daughter, what makes you so lament? There's many a young man In our town might give your heart content; There's many a young man in our town, nary a one for me. For I only had but one true-love and he is drowned at sea. No shoes, no stockings I'll put on, no comb go through my hair, No firelight, no candle bright come in my chamber more, And never will I married be until the day I die, For the angry waves and cruel wars parted my love and I.
The laird o' Drum's to the huntin' gane A' in the mornin' early, And there he met wi' a weel-faur'd maid A-shearin' her faither's barley. O, could ye fancy me, fair maid. And would ye marry me, O? And would ye be the Lady o' Drum And let your shearin' be, O? O, I couldnae fancy you, kind sir, Or let my shearin' be, O. For I'm no' a lady o' high degree And your miss I would scorn to be, O. My faither he's a shepherd man, Keeps sheep on yonder hill. O; And ilka work he bids me dae I'm always at his will, O, Then he has to her faither gene, With his sheep on yonder hill, O; I've come tae ask for your dochter's hand If ye'll gie me your good will, O. My dochter can neither read nor write, She was never at the school, O. But she can milk baith cows and ewes, For the work she has the will, O. She'll work in your barn, she'll winnow your corn, She'll gang to byre or mill, O. In time o' need, she'll saddle your steed And draw your boots hersel', O. I'll learn the lass to read and write, I'll pit her to the school, O; And she'll never need to saddle my steed, Nor draw my boots hersel', O. There were four-and-twenty gentlemen Stood at the yetts o' Drum, O; And ne'er a yin pit his hand tae his hat To welcome the lady in, O He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand And led her but and ben, O; Ye're welcome hame, my Lady o' Drum, For a' this is your ain-, O. i Then up and spak his ae brither And sair pit oot was he, O; Ye've marriet a wife o' low degree, A disgrace to thee and me, O. Then oot and spak the Laird o' Drum, I hae done ye nae wrang, O; I've gotten a wife to work-and win, And you've got yin to spend, O. The firsten wife that I did wed, She was far abune my degree, O. And I dursna gang in the room she was in But my bonnet was by my knee, O. The firsten wife that I did wed, She lookit doon on me, O; And she wadna hae walked to the yetts o' Drum But the pearlins were at her bree, O Yet four-and-twenty gentlemen Stood at the yetts o' Drum, O, And there wasna yin amang them a' Would welcome Peggy in, O. Then thrice he kissed her cherry cheek, And thrice her cherry chin, O. And twenty times her comely mou', Says, Ye're welcome, Lady Drum, O. When they had eaten and drunken weel, And they were bound for bed, O. The Laird o' Drum and the shepherd's dochter In ane bed they were laid, O. It's ye shall be my kitchen cook, And the butler in my ha', O. And you'll saddle my steed when I hae need To hunt and ride awe', O. I tell't ye weal ere we were wed Ye were far abune my degree, O; But noo I'm wed and in your bed, I'd scorn to carry your keys, O. I tell't ye weel ere we were wed, You were far too high for me, O. But noo I'm wed and in your bed, I'm just as good as thee, O. When I am deid and you are deid And both o' us in ane grave, O; They would need to see wi' very clear een To tell your bould free mine, O.
Twas of a lady gay A lady of beauty bright All for the love of a little cabin boy She forsake both lord and knight. Away to Billy she go, Billy, coo, says she; I don't want no lord or knight My mind is bound to thee. If I your bed may gain, love, If you my arms would fill: You must go to the cap'n of the ship And gain his right good will. Away to the cap'n she go, Cap'n, coo, says she; Pretty little Billy, your little cabin boy, Can he tarry on shore with me? What, and you a lady so gay, And you ask me for a boy? More fitting you be for a lord or knight Your sweet body for to enjoy. No matter for that, says she, Billy do please me well; Were his body down deep in the sea, It's I would love him still. Away with this talk of love, Come no more to me. Poor little Billy, my little cabin boy, Can't tarry on shore with thee. It was in yon garden green, On green and grassy ground, Early, early when the men arose, This lady's body they found. Now Billy is on the sea, And the waves toss to and fro, Cryin' like a little sea-bird, From east to west he go. Till the winter wind did blow, And the stormy sea did roar; Then little Billy, her little cabin boy, Was heard and seen no more.
Ye Hielan's and ye Lawlan's, O whaur hae ye been? They hae ta'en the Earl o' Murray And laid him on the green. He was a brew callant And he played at the ba' And the bonnie Earl o' Murray Was the flooer amang them a'. Refrain: Lang will his lady Look frae the castle doon, Ere the bonnie Earl o' Murray Come soundin' through the toon. O, wae betide ye, Huntly, And whaurfor did ye sae? I bade ye bring him tee me And forbade ye him to slay. He was a braw callant And he played at the glove, And the bonnie Earl o' Murray He was the Queen's love. Ye Hielan's and ye Lawlan's, O whaur hae ye been? They hae ta'en the Earl o' Murray And laid him on the green. He was a brew callant And he played at the ring, And the bonnie Earl o' Murray He micht hae been a king.
As I cam' in by Fiddich-side On a May mornin', I spied Willie Macintosh An hour before the dawnin'. Turn again, turn again, Turn again, I bid ye, If ye burn Auchendown, Huntly, he will heid ye. Heid me, or hang me, That shall never fear me, I'll burn Auchendown, Though the life leave me. As I cam' in by Fiddich-side, On a May mornin', Auchendown was in a bleeze An hour before the dawnin'. Crawin', crawin', For all your crowse crawin', Ye brunt your crop and tint your wings An hour before the dawnin'.
The young men o' the north country Hae a' a-coortin' gene, To win the love o' Lady Maisry, But o' them she would hae nane, They hae coorted Lady Maisry Wi' brooches and rings, And they hae socht her, Lady Maisry, Wi' a' kinds o' things. And they hae socht her, Lady Maisry, Frae her faither and her mither; They hae socht her, Lady Maisry Fae her sister and her brither. A' you young men, haud your tongues, she said, And think nae mair on me; For I've gi'en my love to an English Lord And he's gi'en his to me. Her faither's kitchie-boy was there He was stannin' close at hand, And he's gone tae her brither As fast as he could gang. Is my faither and my mither weel, And how fare my brithers three? Whit news o' my sister, Maisry, Whit news hae ye brocht to me? Your faither and your mither's weel And your brithers weel are farin' But your sister, Lady Maisry, She gangs big wi' bairn. He's gene tae his sister's bower Filled wi' muckle dule and care; And he saw her, Lady Maisry, Kaimin' doon her yellow hair. When he was in her bower And his foot was on the floor, He said, They tell me, sister Maisry That you've become a whore. Wha's the faither o' that bairn, he said, That ye sae big are wi'? Wha's the faither o' that bairn? Come tell the truth to me! O pardon me, my brither, And the truth I'll tell to thee. My bairn is tae an English lord And he's gi'en his troth to me. Could ye no' hae gotten lords enough Into your ain country, That ye've played the whore wi' an English dog And brocht sic shame tae me. O, whaur is a' my merry men That took baith meat and fee? Gae pu' the thistle and the thorn To burn this vile whore wi'. O, whaur will I get a bonnie boy To help me in my need, To rin to my love, William, And bid him Come wi' speed. Then oot and spak a bonnie boy, Stood at her brither'a knee; O, I would rin your errand, Owre a' the warld for thee. When he cam' tae the broken brigs He bent his bow and swam, When he cam' tae green grass growin', Sat doon his foot and ran. When he cam' tae Lord William's castle, He lightly leap' the wall, Ere the porter cam' runnin' tae the gate, That lad he was in the ha'. O, is my biggin broken, boy, Or is my towers won? of Or is my lady lighter O' a daughter or a son? Your biggin isnae broken, sir, Nor is your towers won; But your bonnie Lady Maisry For you this day maun burn. O, saddle me the black, the black, Or saddle me the broon; O, saddle me the fastest horse That e'er rode through the toon. When he was near a mile awa', She heard his horse sneeze; Build the fire up, my fause brither, For it's no' yet tae my knees. And when he lichted at the gate She heard his bridle ring; Build the fire up, my fause brither, For it's no' yet tae my chin. Build the fire up, my fause brither. Build the fire up tae me; For I see my William comin' And he'll soon build it up for thee. O, gin my hands had been loose, my Willie, Sae hard as they are bound. I would hae turned me frae the fire, love, Add cast oot your young son. I'll gar burn for you, my Maisry Your faither and your mither: I'll burn for you, my Maisry, Your sister and your brither. I'll gar burn for you, my Maisry, The chief o' a' your kin; And the last fire that I come tae, Mysel' I will cast in.
I'll lay you five-hundred pounds, Five-hundred pounds and ten, That a maid won't go to the green broom hill And come back a maid again. Up and spoke a sweet young girl, Her age was just fifteen, A maid I'll go to the green broom hill And come back a maid again. But when she went to the green broom hill Her lover was asleep, With a gay goshork and a good hound dog And the green broom under his feet. She pulled a bunch of the pretty green broom And smelled of it so sweet, Scattered a handful around his head And another around his feet. And then she kissed his pretty red lips And cut off a lock of his hair, For to let him know when he woke up That his darlin' had been there. And when she done what she wagered to do She turned herself away, Hid herself in the green broom hill For to hear what he would say. And when he wakened from his sleep A fearsome man was he, He looked to the east, looked to the west His darlin' for to see. Where were you, my gay goshork, And the hound I trusted dear, That you would not waken me from my sleep When my darlin' was so near? For if you'd a-wakened me from my sleep Of her I'd a-had my will. Or the hawks that fly out over the sky Of her would a-had their will. Come saddle me my milk-white steed And come saddle me my brown, Come saddle me the speediest mare That ever ran through the town. You need not saddle your milk-white steed And you need not saddle your brown, For the doe never ran so fast through the woods As the little girl ran to town.
The king sits in Dunfermline toon A-drinkin' at the wine, And he has ca'd for the strangest skipper In Fife and a' the land. Then oot and spak' an auld carle Stood by the king's ain knee: Patrick Spens is the strangest sailer That ever sailed the sea. The king has screivit a long letter And signed it wi' 's ain hand; And sent it to young Patrick Spens, Was walking on Leith Sands. To Norrowa', to Narrowa' To Norrowa' ower the faem; The king's dochter o' Norrowa' 'Tis ye maun bring her hame. When first he lookit the letter on, A muckle laugh gied he; But ere he'd done the readin' o't The saut tear blint his e'e. To Norrowa', to Norrowa' To Norrowa' ower the faem; The king's dochter o' Norrowa' 'Tis I maun bring her hame. They hadnae been in Norrowa' A week but barely, three, When a' the lords o' Norrowa' Did up and spak' sae free. These ootland Scots waste oor king's gowd And swallow oor queen's fee. Weary fa' the tongue that spak' Sic a muckle lee. Tak tent, tak tent, my good men a' And see ye be weal forn, For come it wind or come it hail, Oor guid ship sails the morn. Then oot and spak' the weatherman, I fear we'll a' be drooned, For I saw the new moon late yestreen With the auld moon in her airms. They hadnae sailed a league. a league, A league but barely three, When the lift grew laich and the wind blew haich And the ship it was a wreck. O, whaur will I get a bonnie boy To tak' my steer in hand? While I climb up the high topmast To see if I can spy land, O laith, laith were oar guid Scots lords To wet their cork-heeled shoon, But lang ere all the ploy was done. They wet their hats abune. O, lang, lang will our ladies sit Wi' their gowd kaims in their hands Before they see young Patrick Spens Come walkin' on Leith Sands. Half ower, half ower by Aberdour Whaur the sea's sae wide and deep, It's there it lies young Patrick Spens Wi' the Scots lords at his feet.
My mother was a brave woman, A brave woman and bold, She sent me to the queen's court When scarce eleven years old. The queen's meat was so sweet, The wine it was so fine, That I had lain in the old king's arms And rued it all sin, syne. News is to the kitchen News has come to me That Mary Hamilton's borne a babe And thrown him in the sea. Down came the old queen Gold tassels round her head; Mary Hamilton, where's the babe That lay all in your bed? Mary, put on your robe of black, Put on your robe of brown; Mary, come along with me To ride to Edinburgh town, She didn't put on the black, the black, She didn't put on the brown, She put on her brightest white To ride to Edinburgh town, As she rode up the Canongate The Canongate rode she; The ladies leaned over their casements And wept for that lady. As she walked up the Parliament Stairs A loud, loud laugh gave she. When she walked down the Parliament Stairs She was condemned to die. Go bring me the red wine, The reddest that may be; I'll drink a toast to the sailory boys Who brought me over the sea. Lest night I washed the old queen's feet, Put gold round her hair; Today she gave me my reward The gallows to be my share. They'll put a kerchief round my eyes They'll never more let me see; They'll never let on to my mammy and my daddy I died way over the sea. Last night there were four Maries, Tonight there'll be but three; There's Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton, Mary Carmichael and me.
O lane she stands and lane she gangs Doon by yon gairdens green, And there she saw the brawest young man That she had ever seen, O lane she stands and lane she gangs Doon by yon hollin tree; And there she saw this braw young man, A brisk young squire was he. Gie me your green manteel, he said And the kerchie' fae your heid; Gif ye dinnae gie me your green manteel I'll tak' your maidenheid. He's ta'en her by the milk-white haund And gently laid her doom, And when he's ta'en his will a' her, Gi'en her a siller kaim. And what if there's a bairn, kind sir, And what if there are name? Gif ye come fae the king's high court You'll tell to me your name. I dinnae come fae the king's high court, I'm new come fae the sea, I never was a courtier, lass, But when I courted thee. When I'm abroad they ca' me Jaick And whiles they ca' me John, But when I'm at hame in my faither's ha', Jock Randal is my name. Ye lee, ye lee, ye fause, fause chiel Sae loud's I hear ye lee; For I'm Lord Randal's ae dochter He got nae mair but me, Ye lee, ye lee. my bonnie may Sae loud's I hear ye lee; For I'm Lord Randal's only son, Just new come fae the sea. She's putten her hand doon by her gair * Ta'en oot a wee pen-knife, And putten it in her ain hairt's blood And ta'en awa' her life. And he's ta'en up the bonnie may, The saut tears blint his e'en, And he has buried his bonnie sister Below the hollins green. Then he has gene to his faither's ha', His faither for to see; Sing, O and O for yon bonnie hind Below yon hollin tree. What needs ye greet for your bonnie hind? For it ye need nae care; There's eight-score hinds in yonder park, And five-score hinds to spare. Four-score o' them are siller shod O' them you may tak' three; But aye he grat for the bonnie hind Below yon hollin tree. What needs ye greet for your bonnie hind? For it ye need nee cure; Tak' ye the best, leave me the worst, Since plenty is to spare. I care nae for your hinds, faither, I care nae for your fee, But O and O, for my bonnie hind Below the hollin tree. Gin ye were at your sister's bower Your sister fair to see, Ye'd think nee mair o' your bonnie hind Below the hollin tree.


WHEN IS A BALLAD NOT A BALLAD? WHEN IT HAS NO TUNE. It is with this conundrum and its answer that Bertrand Bronson opened his introduction to The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. While agreeing with the spirit of the answer, we would go a little further and say that "a ballad is not a ballad until it is sung."

We had been singing ballads for quite a long time when this recording was made. Of the hundred-and-forty albums we had made, more than half have contained at least one or two ballads; and as far as live concerts and clubs are concerned, we have both regarded the ballads as a necessary part of any program.

What is it about the ballads that we find so fascinating? Well, the stories themselves are first rate. They have certainly stood the test of time, and that isn't a bad recommendation. Then again--the poetry can be breathtaking. Most of the ballads we've sung contain some memorable lines: perhaps it is just a phrase, a line of incremental repetition, or it can be an entire stanza: but however brief the moment of pure poetry, it generally generates enough heat and light to radiate an entire ballad. Finally, there is the element of challenge. The mere length of most of the ballads is challenge enough. We sometimes regard them as actors regard the great classic roles of Hamlet, Lady MacBeth, Clytemnestra and King Lear.

On the face of it, the challenge is a formidable one. You are faced with an audience made up of a number of separate individuals who may or may not share anything in common (other than the more or less sophisticated attitude to life and each other, which is the result of long exposure to TV and radio, with its instant news, instant politics, instant simulated passion yelled, sobbed and moaned by a never-ending succession of pop-singers).

And the ballad singer, for the next eight or ten or twelve minutes is going to sing a tale in the form of a long narrative poem organised into twenty or thirty (or more) quatrains, tied to a melody that will be repeated every four lines. Not much room for manoeuvre! Furthermore, the poetry is of a kind that few people in the audience have had the opportunity to become familiar with. It is full of odd usages, repetitions, strange combinations of romantic love and incredible violence. To complicate matters still further, some of the texts are in braid Scots. A challenge indeed...!

Occasionally, the challenge has been taken up with results that have been less than encouraging. "Sir Patrick Spens" with spangles and a rock accompaniment; they have dragged "Barbara Allen", protesting, into the Middle Ages to the (albeit skilled) thrumming of shawns and crumhorns. But the ballads don't lend themselves to this kind of treatment. They don't make good "production numbers". The poetry gets in the way: too much action, too many incidents, and the quality of the language leads to a kind of rock parody. The words of the ballads have something of the feeling of stones fashioned into a smooth perfection by endless tides. Attempts to create settings, arrangements for the poetry only succeed in making it seem overdressed--like putting a silk garter on the Venus de Milo. Also, in a curious way, a ballad appears to have difficulty breathing inside an arrangement, for though the bond that fuses the ballad text and tune into a single whole is oddly flexible and appears to be constantly shifting its centre of gravity, it appears to be unable to function in the proximity of foreign musical influences.

Our own feelings for the ballads are something that we have nurtured throughout most of our joint working life as singers. Time and again we have returned to this or that ballad and discovered

something new in it. Occasionally we have been led to conduct major explorations into territory that we thought we already knew. The end result has been the complete reworking of a ballad...and a new search for the degree of tension to match one's new understanding of the piece. Finding the right amount of tension and sustaining it over thirty or forty stanzas: That's where the skill lies!

And what is tension? It is compounded of many elements. It is the right weight of vocal attack, the weight which best suits the theme and the nature of the ballad; it is the right tempo, the one in which the action of the story has time to unfold without confusing the listener; it is the right pulse, that is the right combination of breathing, articulation, sense and shape of the tune; it is complete empathy with words and music; it is the right length of pause, of silence between the verses, during which both listener and singer make the jump into thinking to a new unit of the story; and finally, it is creative judgment, the singer's knowledge of how far tune and text can be teased out and worked in each performance without destroying any part of the ballad's structure; it is the singer's ability to add colour to a word, to thicken or attenuate a line, to let a hint of harshness creep into the tone, to suggest that somewhere--not far off--there is a laugh lying in wait..and to be able to do all these things without upsetting the delicate balance of the ballad, and, moreover, without the listener being aware that it is being done.

There comes a moment during the singing of a long ballad when everything is working. You have moved into the story crabwise, not giving too much of yourself at first. Then, suddenly, for a moment you are conscious of the people listening, and they are all breathing in time with you! And all around you there is silence, except for the voice guiding you through the ineluctable dark landscape of the ballad.

© Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (1979)

About Child and Bronson:

The definitive collection of traditional ballad texts was made by Francis J. Child (The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1882-1892, five volumes).

The definitive collection of tunes was made by Bertrand Barris Bronson (The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, Princeton, New Jersey, 1959-1972, four volumes).


released April 12, 1986

Produced by Calum MacColl
Engineered by Nigel Cazaly


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Ewan MacColl London, UK

This site is maintained by the MacColl family, aiming to make Ewan's catalogue available to download.
Ewan MacColl is known to most as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. His art reached huge numbers through the folk clubs, greater numbers through his recordings and untold millions through the radio. ... more

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