Earl Colvin
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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Lyrics

This ballad is an American variant of Child Ballad #85 (Lady Alice).

This ballad is similar to Lord Lovel and according to a source in Child was "refined and modernized" by Richard Westall in the 1800s. It appears in Gammer Gurton's Garland, (ed. 1810) and Bell's Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1856).

There is speculation that Lady Alice is a fragment of a longer ballad; Clerk Colville (Child #42) being the first part, and Lady Alice being the last. See the Ballad Index (search for Lady Alice) for further discussion.

John Jacob Niles collected this tune in 1934 from Asheville. (Note: Niles is known to have retouched or written several of the ballads in his book. He is therefore not considered a reliable source. I have included his ballads here out of interest.)

Variants and alternate titles include: Lady Alice and Giles Collins and Proud Lady Anna.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

Earl Colvin rode home from the waterside,
He rode through wind and rain,
And then he lay down on his straight little bed
And died, all a-wrack of pain,
And died, all a-wrack of pain.

Oh, they gave him water, they gave him wine,
They gave him gruel with a spoon,
But when he turned his face to the wall,
The bell in the tower struck noon.

Now Alice May sat in her father's hall,
She sat and rested her head.
She did not know Earl Colvin was sick,
She did not know he was dead.
She did not know he was dead.

Alice May sat in her mother's bower,
She sewed at her mother's side,
When in come a runner with foam on his horse,
Said: 'Earl Colvin, your lover, has died.'
Said: 'Earl Colvin, your lover, has died.'

'Oh daughter, oh daughter, what makes you weep?
Oh daughter, what makes you cry?'
'Oh Mother, oh Mother, my lover is dead,
Oh Mother, I fear I must die.
Oh Mother, I fear I must die.'

At first she looked out of the window wide.
And then she looked out of the door,
And then she spied as fair a corpse
As ever shoulders bore.
As ever shoulders bore.

'Whose coffin, whose coffin, whose coffin?' cried she,
'Whose coffin so stark and so new?'
'It is one that holds Earl Colvin's clay,
Who once did love of you.
Who once did love of you.'

'Sit down, sit down the coffin box,
Lay off the coffin lid.'
And the bearers put him down on the grass
And did as they were bid.
And did as they were bid.

Oh, it's long she looked into his face,
Oh, it's deep she grieved and sore,
Oh, it's hard she pressed his clay-cold lips,
As she did oft before.
As she did oft before.

'See yonder dove, it mourns its love
And flies from pine to pine.
Today you will weep at Earl Colvin's grave,
Tomorrow you'll weep at mine.
Tomorrow you'll weep at mine.'

Additional Versions
From The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.