Child's Ballads/11

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Child's Collected Ballads by Francis James Child
The Cruel Brother, no. 11
"The Cruel Brother" is a murder ballad that recounts the tale of a girl stabbed by her brother on her wedding day. For more information, see Wikipedia: The Cruel Brother.

The Cruel Brother[edit]

THERE was three ladies playd at the ba,
      Refrain: With a hey ho and a lillie gay
There came a knight and played oer them a’.
      Refrain: As the primrose spreads so sweetly
The eldest was baith tall and fair,
But the youngest was beyond compare.
The midmost had a graceful mien,
But the youngest lookd like beautie’s queen.
The knight bowd low to a’ the three,
But to the youngest he bent his knee.
The ladie turned her head aside,
The knight he woo’d her to be his bride.
The ladie blushd a rosy red,
And sayd, ‘Sir knight, I’m too young to wed.’
‘O ladie fair, give me your hand,
And I’ll make you ladie of a’ my land.’
‘Sir knight, ere ye my favor win,
You maun get consent frae a’ my kin.’
He’s got consent frae her parents dear,
And likewise frae her sisters fair.
He’s got consent frae her kin each one,
But forgot to spiek to her brother John.
Now, when the wedding day was come,
The knight would take his bonny bride home.
And many a lord and many a knight
Came to behold that ladie bright.
And there was nae man that did her see,
But wishd himself bridegroom to be.
Her father dear led her down the stair,
And her sisters twain they kissd her there.
Her mother dear led her thro the closs,
And her brother John set her on her horse.
She leand her oer the saddle-bow,
To give him a kiss ere she did go.
He has taen a knife, baith lang and sharp,
And stabbd that bonny bride to the heart.
She hadno ridden half thro the town,
Until her heart’s blude staind her gown.
‘Ride softly on,’ says the best young man,
‘For I think our bonny bride looks pale and wan.’
‘O lead me gently up yon hill,
And I’ll there sit down, and make my will.’
‘O what will you leave to your father dear?’
‘The silver-shod steed that brought me here.’
‘What will you leave to your mother dear?’
‘My velvet pall and my silken gear.’
‘What will you leave your sister Anne?’
‘My silken scarf and my gowden fan.’
at will you leave to your sister Grace?’
My bloody cloaths to wash and dress.’
‘What will you leave to your brother John?’
‘The gallows-tree to hang him on.’
‘What will you leave to your brother John’s wife?’
‘The wilderness to end her life.’
This ladie fair in her grave was laid,
And many a mass was oer her said.
But it would have made your heart right sair,
To see the bridegroom rive his haire.






A GENTLEMAN cam oure the sea,
      Refrain: Fine flowers in the valley
And he has courted ladies three.
      Refrain: With the light green and the yellow
One o them was clad in red:
He asked if she wad be his bride.
One o them was clad in green:
He asked if she wad be his queen.
The last o them was clad in white:
He asked if she wad be his heart’s delight.
‘Ye may ga ask my father, the king:
Sae maun ye ask my mither, the queen.
‘Sae maun ye ask my sister Anne:
And dinna forget my brither John.’
He has asked her father, the king:
And sae did he her mither, the queen.
And he has asked her sister Anne:
But he has forgot her brother John.
Her father led her through the ha,
Her mither danced afore them a’.
Her sister Anne led her through the closs,
Her brither John set her on her horse.
It’s then he drew a little penknife,
And he reft the fair maid o her life.
‘Ride up, ride up,’ said the foremost man;
‘I think our bride comes hooly on.’
‘Ride up, ride up,’ said the second man;
‘I think our bride looks pale and wan.’
Up than cam the gay bridegroom,
And straucht unto the bride he cam.
‘Does your side-saddle sit awry?
Or does your steed . . .
‘Or does the rain run in your glove?
Or wad ye chuse anither love?’
‘The rain runs not in my glove,
Nor will I e’er chuse anither love.
‘But O an I war at Saint Evron’s well,
There I wad licht, and drink my fill!
‘Oh an I war at Saint Evron’s closs,
There I wad licht, and bait my horse!’
Whan she cam to Saint Evron’s well,
She dought na licht to drink her fill.
Whan she cam to Saint Evron’s closs,
The bonny bride fell aff her horse.
‘What will ye leave to your father, the king?’
‘The milk-white steed that I ride on.’
‘What will ye leave to your mother, the queen?’
‘The bluidy robes that I have on.’
‘What will ye leave to your sister Anne?’
‘My gude lord, to be wedded on.’
‘What will ye leave to your brither John?’
‘The gallows pin to hang him on.’
‘What will ye leave to your brither’s wife?’
‘Grief and sorrow a’ the days o her life.’
‘What will ye leave to your brither’s bairns?’
‘The meal-pock to hang oure the arms.’
Now does she neither sigh nor groan:
She lies aneath yon marble stone.






THERE waur three ladies in a ha,
      Refrain: Hech hey an the lily gey
By cam a knicht, an he wooed them a’.
      Refrain: An the rose is aye the redder aye
The first ane she was cled in green;
‘Will you fancy me, an be my queen?’
‘You may seek me frae my father dear,
An frae my mither, wha did me bear.
‘You may seek me frae my sister Anne,
But no, no, no frae my brither John.’
The niest ane she was cled in yellow;
‘Will you fancy me, an be my marrow?’
‘Ye may seek me frae my father dear,
An frae my mither, wha did me bear.
‘Ye may seek me frae my sister Anne,
But no, no, no frae my brither John.’
The niest ane she was cled in red:
‘Will ye fancy me, an be my bride?’
‘Ye may seek me frae my father dear,
An frae my mither wha did me bear.
‘Ye may seek me frae my sister Anne,
An dinna forget my brither John.’
He socht her frae her father, the king,
An he socht her frae her mither, the queen.
He socht her frae her sister Anne,
But he forgot her brither John.
Her mither she put on her goun,
An her sister Anne preened the ribbons doun.
Her father led her doon the close,
An her brither John set her on her horse.
* * * * *
Up an spak our foremost man:
‘I think our bonnie bride’s pale an wan.’
* * * * *
‘What will ye leave to your father dear?’
‘My . . . . . an my . . . . . chair.’
‘What will ye leave to your mither dear?’
‘My silken screen I was wont to wear.’
‘What will ye leave to your sister Anne?’
‘My silken snood an my golden fan.’
‘What will you leave to your brither John?’
‘The gallows tree to hang him on.’






THERE were three ladies playing at ball,
      Refrain: Farin-dan-dan and farin-dan-dee
There came a white knight, and he wooed them all.
      Refrain: With adieu, sweet honey, wherever you be
He courted the eldest with golden rings,
And the others with many fine things.
      Refrain: And adieu, etc.






THERE were three sisters playin at the ba,
Wi a hech hey an a lillie gay
There cam a knicht an lockt ower the wa’.
An the primrose springs sae sweetly.
Sing Annet, an Marret, an fair Maisrie,
An the dew hangs i the wood, gay ladie.






THERE did three knights come from the west,
      Refrain: With the high and the lily oh
And these three knights courted one lady.
      Refrain: As the rose was so sweetly blown
The first knight came was all in white,
And asked of her, if she’d be his delight.
The next knight came was all in green,
And asked of her, if she’d be his queen.
The third knight came was all in red,
And asked of her, if she would wed.
‘Then have you asked of my father dear,
Likewise of her who did me bear?
‘And have you asked of my brother John?
And also of my sister Anne?’
‘Yes, I have asked of your father dear,
Likewise of her who did you bear.
‘And I have asked of your sister Anne,
But I’ve not asked of your brother John.’
Far on the road as they rode along,
There did they meet with her brother John.
She stooped low to kiss him sweet,
He to her heart did a dagger meet.
‘Ride on, ride on,’ cried the serving man,
‘Methinks your bride she looks wondrous wan.’
‘I wish I were on yonder stile,
For there I would sit and bleed awhile.
‘I wish I were on yonder hill,
There I’d alight and make my will.’
‘What would you give to your father dear?’
‘The gallant steed which doth me bear.’
‘What would you give to your mother dear?’
‘My wedding shift which I do wear.
‘But she must wash it very clean,
For my heart’s blood sticks in evry seam.’
‘What would you give to your sister Anne?’
‘My gay gold ring and my feathered fan.’
‘What would you give to your brother John?’
‘A rope and gallows to hang him on.’
‘What would you give to your brother John’s wife?’
‘A widow’s weeds, and a quiet life.’






THERE was three ladys in a ha,
      Refrain: Fine flowers i the valley
There came three lords amang them a’,
      Refrain: Wi the red, green, and the yellow
The first of them was clad in red:
‘O lady fair, will you be my bride?’
The second of them was clad in green:
‘O lady fair, will you be my queen?’
The third of them was clad in yellow:
‘O lady fair, will you be my marrow?’
‘You must ask my father dear,
Likewise the mother that did me bear.’
‘You must ask my sister Ann,
And not forget my brother John.’
‘I have askt thy father dear,
Likewise thy mother that did thee bear.
‘I have askt thy sister Ann,
But I forgot thy brother John.’
Her father led her through the ha,
Her mother dancd before them a’.
Her sister Ann led her through the closs,
Her brother John put her on her horse.
‘You are high and I am low;
Let me have a kiss before you go.’
She was louting down to kiss him sweet,
Wi his penknife he wounded her deep.
* * * * *
‘O lead me over into yon stile,
That I may stop and braeth a while.
‘O lead me over to yon stair,
For there I’ll ly and bleed ne mair.’
‘O what will you leave your father dear?’
‘That milk-white steed that brought me here.’
‘O what will you leave your mother dear?’
‘The silken gown that I did wear.’
‘What will you leave your sister Ann?’
‘My silken snood and golden fan.’
‘What will you leave your brother John?’
‘The highest gallows to hang him on.’
‘What will you leave your brother John’s wife?’
‘Grief and sorrow to end her life.’
‘What will ye leave your brother John’s bairns?’
‘The world wide for them to range.’






SHE louted down to gie a kiss,
      Refrain: With a hey and a lilly gay
He stuck his penknife in her hass.
      Refrain: And the rose it smells so sweetly
de up, ride up,’ cry’d the foremost man;
‘I think our bride looks pale and wan.’






THERE war three bonnie boys playing at the ba,
      Refrain: Hech hey and a lily gay
There cam three ladies to view them a’.
      Refrain: And the rose it smells sae sweetlie
The first ane was clad in red:
‘O,’ says he, ’ye maun be my bride.’
The next o them was clad in green:
‘O,’ says he, ’ye maun be my queen.’
The tither o them was clad in yellow:
‘O,’ says he, ’ye maun be my marrow.’
‘Ye maun gang to my father’s bouer,
To see gin your bride he’ll let me be.’
Her father led her doun the stair,
Her mither at her back did bear.
Her sister Jess led her out the closs,
Her brother John set her on the horse.
She loutit doun to gie him a kiss;
He struck his penknife thro her breist.
‘Ride on, ride on,’ says the foremaist man;
‘I think our bride looks pale and wan.’
‘Ride on, ride on,’ says the merry bride-groom;
‘I think my bride’s blude is rinnin doun.’
‘O gin I war at yon bonnie hill,
I wad lie doun and bleed my fill!
‘O gin I war at yon bonnie kirk-yard,
I wad mak my testament there!’
‘What will ye leave to your father dear?’
‘The milk-white steed that brocht me here.’
‘What will ye leave to your mother dear?’
‘The bluidy robes that I do wear.’
‘What will ye leave to your sister Ann?’
‘My silken snood and gowden fan.’
‘What will ye leave to your sister Jess?’
‘The bonnie lad that I loe best.’
‘What will ye leave to your brother John?’
‘The gallows pin to hang him on.’
‘What will ye leave to your brother John’s wife?’
‘Sorrow and trouble a’ her life.’
‘What will ye leave to your brother’s bairns?’
‘The warld’s wide, and let them beg.’






THERE were three sisters playing ball,
      Refrain: With the high and the lily O
And there came three knights to court them all.
      Refrain: With the rosey sweet, heigh ho
The eldest of them was drest in green:
‘I wish I had you to be my queen.’
The second of them was drest in red:
‘I wish I had you to grace my bed.’
The youngest of them was drest in white:
‘I wish I had you to be my wife.’
‘Did ye ask my father brave?
Or did ye ask my mother fair?
‘Or did ye ask my brother John?
For without his will I dare not move on.’
‘I did ask your parents dear,
But I did not see your brother John.’
* * * * *
‘Ride on, ride on,’ said the first man,
‘For I fear the bride comes slowly on.’
‘Ride on, ride on,’ said the next man,
‘For lo! the bride she comes bleeding on.’
* * * * *
‘What will you leave your mother dear?’
‘My heart’s best love for ever and aye.’
‘What will ye leave your sister Anne?’
‘This wedding garment that I have on.’
‘What will ye leave your brother John’s wife?’
‘Grief and sorrow all the days of her life.’
‘What will ye leave your brother John?’
‘The highest gallows to hang him on.’
‘What will ye leave your brother John’s son?’
‘The grace of God to make him a man.’






THERE were three ladies playing at ball,
      Refrain: Gilliver, Gentle, and Rosemary
There came three knights and looked over the wall.
      Refrain: Sing O the red rose and the white lilly
The first young knight, he was clothed in red,
And he said, ‘Gentle lady, with me will you wed?’
The second young knight, he was clothed in blue,
And he said, ‘To my love I shall ever be true.’
The third young knight, he was clothed in green,
And he said, ‘Fairest maiden, will you be my queen?’
The lady thus spoke to the knight in red,
‘With you, sir knight, I never can wed.’
The lady then spoke to the knight in blue,
And she said, ‘Little faith I can have in you.’
The lady then spoke to the knight in green,
And she said, ‘’Tis at court you must seek for a queen.’
The three young knights then rode away,
And the ladies they laughed, and went back to their play.
      Refrain: Singing, etc.






There were three ladies playing at the ba,
      Refrain: With a hey and a lilly gay
When the King o Fairies rode by them a’.
      Refrain: And the roses they grow sweetlie
The foremost one was clad in blue;
He askd at her if she’d be his doo.
The second of them was clad in red;
He asked at her if she’d be his bride.
The next of them was clad in green;
He askd at her if she’d be his queen.
‘Go you ask at my father then,
And you may ask at my mother then.
‘You may ask at my sister Ann,
And not forget my brother John.’
‘O I have askd at your father then,
And I have askd at your mother then.
‘And I have askd at your sister Ann,
But I’ve quite forgot your brother John.’
Her father led her down the stair,
Her mother combd down her yellow hair.
Her sister Ann led her to the cross,
And her brother John set her on her horse.
‘Now you are high and I am low,
Give me a kiss before ye go.’
She’s lootit down to gie him a kiss,
He gave her a deep wound and didna miss.
And with a penknife as sharp as a dart,
And he has stabbit her to the heart.
‘Ride up, ride up,’ says the foremost man,
‘I think our bride looks pale an wan.’
‘Ride up, ride up,’ says the middle man,
‘I see her heart’s blude trinkling down.’
‘Ride on, ride,’ says the Fairy King,
‘She will be dead lang ere we win hame.’
‘O I wish I was at yonder cross,
Where my brother John put me on my horse.
‘I wish I was at yonder thorn,
I wad curse the day that ere I was born.
‘I wish I was at yon green hill,
Then I wad sit and bleed my fill.’
‘What will you leave your father then?’
‘The milk-white steed that I ride on.’
‘What will you leave your mother then?’
‘My silver Bible and my golden fan.’
‘What will ye leave your sister Ann?’
‘My good lord, to be married on.’
‘What will ye leave your sister Pegg?’
‘The world wide to go and beg.’
‘What will you leave your brother John?’
‘The gallows-tree to hang him on.’
‘What will you leave your brother’s wife?’
‘Grief and sorrow to end her life.’






There was three ladies playing at the ba,
      Refrain: With a hay and a lilly gay
A gentleman cam amang them a’.
      Refrain: And the roses grow sweet aye
The first of them was clad in yellow,
And he askd at her gin she’d be his marrow.
The next o them was clad in green;
He askd at her gin she’d be his queen.
The last o them [was] clad in red;
He askd at her gin she’d be his bride.
‘Have ye asked at my father dear?
Or have ye asked my mother dear?
‘Have ye asked my sister Ann?
Or have ye asked my brother John?’
‘I have asked yer father dear,
And I have asked yer mother dear.
‘I have asked yer sister Ann,
But I’ve quite forgot your brother John.’
Her father dear led her thro them a’,
Her mother dear led her thro the ha.
Her sister Ann led her thro the closs,
And her brother John stabbed her on her horse.
‘Ride up, ride up,’ says the foremost man,
‘I think our bride looks pale and wan.’
‘Ride up,’ cries the bonny bridegroom,
‘I think the bride be bleeding.’
‘This is the bludy month of May,
Me and my horse bleeds night and day.
‘O an I were at yon green hill,
I wad ly down and bleed a while.
‘O gin I was at yon red cross,
I wad light down and corn my horse.
‘O an I were at yon kirk-style,
I wad lye down and soon be weel.’
When she cam to yon green hill,
Then she lay down and bled a while.
And when she cam to yon red cross,
Then she lighted and corned her horse.
‘What will ye leave your father dear?’
‘My milk-white steed, which cost me dear.’
‘What will ye leave your mother dear?’
‘The bludy clothes that I do wear.’
‘What will ye leave your sister Ann?’
‘My silver bridle and my golden fan.’
‘What will ye leave your brother John?’
‘The gallows-tree to hang him on.’
‘What will ye leave to your sister Pegg?’
‘The wide world for to go and beg.’
When she came to yon kirk-style,
Then she lay down, and soon was weel.