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|This ballad is refered to in Deloney's book Pleasant History of John Winchcomb, in his younger yeares called Jacke of Newberie. According to Child the book was written as early as 1597. The earliest existing edition is dated 1619. The ballad is referred to there as The Maiden's Song. It appears later in Ritson's Ancient Songs (1790). The ballad was popular in Scotland, particularly along the border. There are variants from Scandinavia, Germany and Poland.
John Jacob Niles collected this tune in 1932 from Hazard, Kentucky. (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 them here out of interest.)
This ballad is an American variant of Child Ballad #9 (The Fair Flower of Northumberland).
The tunes associated with The Fair Flower of Northumberland date only to the nineteeth century.*
Variants and alternate titles include: The Ungrateful Knight and the Fair Flower of Northumberland, The Provost's Daughter and The Betrayed Lady.
For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.
As she walked past the jailhouse door,
She spied a man with head hung low,
And all because of bolts and bars,
His homeland he would never know.
'I am a prisoner far from home,
But if you'll only steal the key,
I'll take you were the grass grows green,
And make of you a great lady.'
'I cannot go, I will not go,
And be your great lady,
For you have got a Scotland wife,
And you've got babies three.'
She's done to her father's stable,
She's done to her mother's till,
She's got the jailhouse key so large,
And she's galloped o'er the hill.
And as they galloped o'er the plain,
It was "my dearling dear,"
But as they came to Scotland,
Well changed was this cheer.
'Oh pity, pity, pity, please,
As I did pity thee,
Or fling me from your castle's walls
And break my slim body.'
'But how can I have pity
When you are just a whore?
Now get you back to England
Where I'll see you no more!'
'Oh false and faithless knight,' said she,
'I'll to my father's door,
And he will prove to Scotland
That I have never been whore.'
Her mother, who was truly queen,
She gently then did smile:
'You're not the first, nor only one,
The Scotsmen did beguile.'
Come all ye maidens, young and old,
Pray come, be warned of me -
Scots were never, never true.
And Scots will never be.
The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.
*Early Child Ballads