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John Renfro Davis
According to Sam Henry this ballad is ancient, dating to the 16th century.
This ballad is reportedly based on an incident in 1679 when a Scot, James Macgill, killed Sir Robert Balfour of Denmiln in a duel. Macgill went to London to ask Charles II for a pardon. Charles had him fight an Italian gladiator. During the ensuing match the Italian leapt over Macgill. The second time he did so Macgill ran him through with his sword. Macgill was then knighted. Several versions of the ballad gives details of such a fight.
This ballad is Child Ballad #99.
Variants and alternate titles include Jack, the Little Scot, McNaughtan, McNachton, Bonnie Johnie Scot, Love Johny, Johnie Buneftan, Lord Johnnie Scott, Lord John and Johnny Scott. The version here is a variant found by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian Mountains.
The daughter is variously the daughter of King Edwards, King Henry and Earl Percy.
Digital Tradition has a set of lyrics from Nova Scotia (Johnie Scot) and the lyrics from Sam Henry's book (Johnny Scott).
For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.
When Johnie Scot saw this big, broad letter,
It caused him for to smile,
But the very first line that he did read,
The tears run down for a while,
But the very first line he did read,
The tears run down for a while.
Away to old England I must go,
King Edwards has sent for me.
Up spoke young Jimmy Scot himself
As he sat by his knees:
Five hundred of my best brave men
Shall bear you company.
The very first town that they rode through,
The drums, the fifes, they played;
The very next town that they rode through,
The drums they beat all around.
They rode, they rode to King Edwards's gate,
They dingled at the ring;
But who did he spy but his own sweetheart
And her footpage a-peeping down.
I can't come down, dear Johnny, she says,
For Poppy has scolded me.
I'm forced to wear a ball and chain
Instead of ivory.
Is this young Jimmy Scot himself,
Or Jimmy Scotland's king?
Or is the father of that bastard child
From Scotland just come in?
I'm not young Jimmy Scot,
Nor Jimmy Scotland's king;
But I am young Johnie Scot himself
From Scotland just come in.
There's a taveren in our town
That's killed more lords than one,
And before the sun rises tomorrow morning
A dead man you shall be.
The taveren flew over young Johnie's head
As swift as any bird:
He pierced the taveren to the heart
With the point of his broad sword.
He whipped King Edwards and all his men,
And the king he liked to have swung.
I'll make your girl my gay lady
And her child the heir of my land.
English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads and
Sam Henry's Songs of the People
See Bibliography for full information.