Prev Next

She has ta'en out her wee penknife, And there she ended baith their life.

She has howked a hole baith deep and wide, She has put them in baith side by side. 10

She has covered them o'er wi' a marble stane, Thinking she would gang maiden hame.

As she was walking by her father's castle wa', She saw twa pretty babes playing at the ba'.

"O bonnie babes! gin ye were mine, 15 I would dress you up in satin fine!

"O I would dress you in the silk, And wash you ay in morning milk!"

"O cruel mother! we were thine, And thou made us to wear the twine. 20

"O cursed mother! heaven's high, And that's where thou will ne'er win nigh.

"O cursed mother! hell is deep, And there thou'll enter step by step."


From Kinloch's _Ancient Scottish Ballads_, p. 46.

Three stanzas of a Warwickshire version closely resembling Kinloch's are given in _Notes and Queries_, vol. viii. p. 358.

There lives a lady in London-- _All alone, and alonie_; She's gane wi' bairn to the clerk's son-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

She has tane her mantel her about-- 5 _All alone, and alonie_; She's gane aff to the gude greenwud-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

She has set her back until an aik-- _All alone, and alonie_; 10 First it bowed, and syne it brake-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

She has set her back until a brier-- _All alone, and alonie_; Bonnie were the twa boys she did bear-- 15 _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

But out she's tane a little penknife-- _All alone, and alonie_; And she's parted them and their sweet life-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_. 20

She's aff unto her father's ha'-- _All alone, and alonie_; She seem'd the lealest maiden amang them a'-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

As she lookit our the castle wa'-- 25 _All alone, and alonie_; She spied twa bonnie boys playing at the ba'-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

"O an thae twa babes were mine"-- _All alone, and alonie_; 30 "They should wear the silk and the sabelline"-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

"O mother dear, when we were thine,"

_All alone, and alonie_; "We neither wore the silks nor the sabelline"-- 35 _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.

"But out ye took a little penknife"-- _All alone, and alonie_; "An ye parted us and our sweet life"-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_. 40

"But now we're in the heavens hie"-- _All alone, and alonie_; "And ye have the pains o' hell to dree"-- _Doun by the greenwud sae bonnie_.


In the very ancient though corrupted ballads of _Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight_, and _The Water o' Wearie's Well_ (vol. i. p. 195, 198), an Elf or a Merman occupies the place here assigned to False Sir John. Perhaps _May Colvin_ is the result of the same modernizing process by which _Hynde Etin_ has been converted into _Young Hastings the Groom_ (vol. i. p. 294, 189). The coincidence of the name with _Clerk Colvill_, in vol. i. p. 192, may have some significance. This, however, would not be the opinion of Grundtvig, who regards the Norse and German ballads resembling _Lady Isabel_, &c., as compounded of two independent stories. If this be so, then we should rather say that a ballad similar to _May Colvin_ has been made to furnish the conclusion to the pieces referred to.

The story of this ballad has apparently some connection with _Bluebeard_, but it is hard to say what the connection is. (See _Fitchers Vogel_ in the Grimms' _K. u. H.-Marchen_, No. 46, and notes.) The versions of the ballad in other languages are all but innumerable: e. g. _Rofvaren Rymer_, _Rofvaren Brun_, _Svenska F.-V._, No. 82, 83; _Den Falske Riddaren_, Arwidsson, No. 44; _Ulrich und Aennchen_, _Schon Ulrich u. Roth-Aennchen_, _Schon Ulrich und Rautendelein_, _Ulinger_, _Herr Halewyn_, etc., in _Wunderhorn_, i. 274; Uhland, 141-157 (four copies); Erk, _Liederhort_, 91, 93; Erlach, iii. 450; Zuccalmaglio, _Deutsche Volkslieder_, No. 15; Hoffmann, _Schlesische Volkslieder_, No. 12, 13, and _Niederlandische Volkslieder_, No. 9, 10; etc. etc. A very brief Italian ballad will be found in the Appendix, p. 391, which seems to have the same theme. In some of the ballads the treacherous seducer is an enchanter, who prevails upon the maid to go with him by the power of a spell.

_May Colvin_ was first published in Herd's Collection, vol. i. 153.

The copy here given is one obtained from recitation by Motherwell, (_Minstrelsy_, p. 67,) collated by him with that of Herd. It is defective at the end. The other versions in Sharpe's _Ballad Book_, p. 45, and Buchan's _Ballads of the North of Scotland_, ii. 45, though they are provided with some sort of conclusion, are not worth reprinting. A modernized version, styled _The Outlandish Knight_, is inserted in the Notes to _Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads_, Percy Society, vol. xvii. 101.

Carlton Castle, on the coast of Carrick, is affirmed by the country people, according to Mr. Chambers, to have been the residence of the perfidious knight, and a precipice overhanging the sea, called "Fause Sir John's Loup," is pointed out as the place where he was wont to drown his wives. May Colvin is equally well ascertained to have been "a daughter of the family of Kennedy of Colzean, now represented by the Earl of Cassilis." Buchan's version assigns a different locality to the transaction--that of "Binyan's Bay,"

which, says the editor, is the old name of the mouth of the river Ugie.

False Sir John a wooing came To a maid of beauty fair; May Colvin was the lady's name, Her father's only heir.

He's courted her butt, and he's courted her ben, 5 And he's courted her into the ha', Till once he got this lady's consent To mount and ride awa'.

She's gane to her father's coffers, Where all his money lay; 10 And she's taken the red, and she's left the white, And so lightly as she tripped away.

She's gane down to her father's stable, Where all his steeds did stand; And she's taken the best, and she's left the warst, 15 That was in her father's land.

He rode on, and she rode on, They rode a lang simmer's day, Until they came to a broad river, An arm of a lonesome sea. 20

"Loup off the steed," says false Sir John; "Your bridal bed you see; For it's seven king's daughters I have drowned here, And the eighth I'll out make with thee.

"Cast off, cast off your silks so fine, 25 And lay them on a stone, For they are o'er good and o'er costly To rot in the salt sea foam.

"Cast off, cast off your Holland smock, And lay it on this stone, 30 For it is too fine and o'er costly To rot in the salt sea foam."

"O turn you about, thou false Sir John, And look to the leaf o' the tree; For it never became a gentleman 35 A naked woman to see."

He's turn'd himself straight round about, To look to the leaf o' the tree; She's twined her arms about his waist, And thrown him into the sea. 40

"O hold a grip of me, May Colvin, For fear that I should drown; I'll take you hame to your father's gates, And safely I'll set you down."

"O lie you there, thou false Sir John, 45 O lie you there," said she; "For you lie not in a caulder bed Than the ane you intended for me."

So she went on her father's steed, As swift as she could flee, 50 And she came hame to her father's gates At the breaking of the day.

Up then spake the pretty parrot: "May Colvin, where have you been?

What has become of false Sir John, 55 That wooed you so late yestreen?"

Up then spake the pretty parrot, In the bonnie cage where it lay: "O what hae ye done with the false Sir John, That he behind you does stay? 60

"He wooed you butt, he wooed you ben, He wooed you into the ha', Until he got your own consent For to mount and gang awa'."

Report error

If you found broken links, wrong episode or any other problems in a anime/cartoon, please tell us. We will try to solve them the first time.