Young Beichan, Part One

from by Lindsay Straw

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about

More often known as "Lord Bateman", this is another tale of a woman being her lover's savior, with some supernatural influence to help them reunite. The text comes from Robert Graves' English & Scottish Ballads, while the melody is more or less derived from the one in Cecil Sharp's One Hundred English Folksongs. Towards the end of Part One, Isabel is woken by the “Billie Blin", defined in the Graves book as a household demon. This song is common both in the British Isles and throughout Europe.

lyrics

Part One:

Young Beichan was a noble lord, and a peer of high degree;
He took a ship from London town for that Christ’s tomb he would see.

He sailed west and he sailed east, until he came to Proud Turkey,
Where he was cast in prison strong and treated most cruelly.

Now in that prison there grew a tree; it grew so stout, it grew so strong.
He was chained all up by the middle until his life was almost gone.

The Turk he had a daughter fair, never fairer did man see;
She stole the keys to her father’s prison, Young Beichan for to set free.

“Oh, if a lady would save me, at her stirrup foot I would run;
Or if a widow would rescue me, oh, I would swear to be her son.”

“And if a virgin would save me, I would wed her with a ring;
I’d give her halls, I’d give her bowers, I would love her above all thing.”

O, barefoot, barefoot, she went out, and barefoot, barefoot she came in;
It was not for want of hose and shoes but for fear of making din.

And when she saw Young Beichan, her heart it felt most wondrous sore,
For all the mice and the cruel rats had eaten off his yellow hair.

She gave him a razor for his beard, and a comb for his yellow hair;
Five hundred pound into his pocket for to spend and not to spare.

“Go set your foot on good shipboard, and make haste to your own country,
And before three years are past and gone, it’s well-married we shall be.”

He had not been in his own country not a twelve month till an end,
But he must marry a famed earl’s daughter or else lose all of his land.

“Oh, no alas!” cries Young Beichan, “I know not what I will do,
For I cannot reach my Lady Isabel and she cannot come to me.”

Oh, it fell once about that time, Fair Isabel lay asleep,
When up there starts the Billy Blin that slept all at her bed feet.

“Wake up, wake up, Fair Isabel, how can you sleep so sound?
When today it is Beichan’s wedding day, all upon the English ground?”

“Now go you to your mother’s bower, and think it neither sin nor shame,
But take you two of your mother’s ladies, for to keep you from all blame.”

“Then dress yourself in the red scarlet, and your ladies in dainty green,
And put a girdle about your middle that were fit for any queen.”

Then go you down by yon seaside, and down by the sea-strand,
So bonny will the Holland boats come rowing all to your hand.

Then set your milk-white foot aboard and cry you, “Hail ye, Domine!”
And I shall be the steerer of it, to row you over the sea.

***
Part Two:

She came full soon to Young Beichan’s gate and she heard the fiddlers play,
Then well she knew from all she heard it was his wedding day.

She’s put her hand in her pocket and took out guineas three,
“Here take you this, you proud porter, and bid the bridegroom speak to me.”

And when he came all up the stair, he bowed to his bended knee,
“Rise up, rise up, you proud porter, what meaneth this courtesy?”

“Oh, I have been porter at these gates, it’s thirty years and three,
But there’s a lady at them now, her like I never did see.”

“For she is dressed in red scarlet and her ladies in dainty green,
She has a girdle about her middle that were fit for any queen.”

“On every finger she has a ring and on the middle she has three,
There’s as much gold all about her brow would buy an earldom for me.”

Then up it starts him, Young Beichan, and he swears by Our Lady,
“It can be none but my Fair Isabel come o’er the flood to see me.”

Oh, quickly ran he down the stairs, of fifteen made but three;
He’s taken Isabel all in his arms and kissed her most tenderly.

“Oh, have you forgotten, Young Beichan, the vow you made to me,
When I took you out of the prison strong, and helped you over the sea.”

“Oh, have you taken another bride, have you forgotten about me?
Though I stole the keys to the prison door and gave you your liberty.”

She looked over her left shoulder to hide the tears all in her eye;
“Now fare thee well, my false love, and I’ll think no more on thee.”

“Take home your daughter, madam,” says he, “with all my lands to be her fee;
For I must marry my truest love that gave me life and liberty.”

“Is this the custom of your house,” says she, ”or the fashion of your town?
To marry a maid on a May morning and send her back before it’s noon?”

credits

from The Fairest Flower of Womankind, released April 28, 2017
Vocals: Lindsay Straw
Harmonium & 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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