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about

More frequently known as "The Knight & The Shepherd's Daughter", I first heard this from Scottish singer Lizzie Higgins. I loved her melody, structure and concept, but felt there were segments of the story that were missing in her version. I took additional verses from versions in The Ballad Book and adapted them to Lizzie's melody and rhythm, and anglicized the Scots dialect. This was one of the first "lady wins in the end" songs I ever learned when I first fell in love with Traveller songs. Though part of me wonders if it's much of a triumph to get to marry a cad who tried to run away from you, everything is relative!

lyrics

“I’m a forester in this wood and you’re the same design,
It’s the mantle of your maidenhead, bonny lassie, will be mine.”
He took her by the milk-white hand and he laid her on the ground,
And when he had the will of her, he let her up again.
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“Well, now you’ve let me down, now come pick me up again;
Now that you’ve had the will of me, come tell to me your name.”
“Sometimes they call me John,” he said,
“and sometimes they call me James,
But when I’m in the king’s high court, Sweet William is my name.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

Then he jumped up on his milk white steed
and straightway he did ride;
She’s buckled up her petticoats and after him she flies.
He never was so kind to say, “Lassie, will you ride?”
And neither did she ever say, “Oh, laddie, will you bide?”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

He’s run and she’s run the long summer day,
Till they’ve come unto the water that was called the River Tay.
He plunged his steed into the ford and straightway through he ran;
She set her feet into the stream and like an otter swam.
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

She came unto the king’s castle and twirled all on the pin;
Who was it but the king himself to let the lassie in?
“What is your will with me, fair maid, what is your will with me?”
“There is a man within your court this day has robbed me.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“Well, did he steal your mantle or did he steal your fee?
Or did he steal your maidenhead, the flower of your body?”
“No, he neither stole my mantle and he neither stole my fee,
But he stole my maidenhead, the flower of my body.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“If he be a married man, high hanged he will be,
But if he be a single man, his body I’ll grant to thee.”
“Sometimes they call him John,” she said,
“and sometimes they call him James,
But when he’s here within your court Sweet William is his name.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“There’s not a William in my court, not only one but three,
And one of them is the Queen’s brother and I’ll laugh if it is he.”
The king has called his merry men all by thirty and by three;
Sweet William used to be the first but now the last came he.
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“Oh, will you marry the bonny lass, or hanged will you be?”
“I’d rather marry the bonny lass than hang from the gallows tree.”
But he took out a purse of gold all locked within a glove;
“Take this now, my bonny lass, and go seek another love.”

“I won’t take your gold,” she said, “nor any of your fee,
But I will have your own body that the king has granted me.”
He said, “I wish I drunk the water and never drunk the wine,
Than to have a shepherd’s daughter to be a love of mine.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

“Maybe I’m a shepherd’s girl, or maybe I am not,
But you could have ridden all on your way and left me on my own.
But I dare say a better match could have scarcely paired together,
Than the king of France’s own daughter
and the queen of Scotland’s brother.”
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.
Singing di-dee-eye-oh, sing fa-la-doh, sing di-dee-eye-oh, ah-yay.

credits

from The Fairest Flower of Womankind, released April 28, 2017
Bouzouki & Vocals: Lindsay Straw
Guitar: Owen Marshall

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Lindsay Straw Boston, Massachusetts

Boston-based traditional folk singer, guitarist & bouzouki player.

"Hearken(s) back to more innocent times, of Greenwich Village and pure folk." - The Living Tradition

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