the Roxburghe Collection, in which the following lines occur:
Go fetch the sickle, to crop the nettle,
That grows so near the brim;
Far fear it should tangle my golden locks,
Or freckle my milk-white skin.
As “May Colvin,” the ballad appears in Herd’s Scottish Songs (volume i, p. 153), in Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (p. 67, tune 24), and in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (volume ii, p. 45). Buchan also gives a second version of the ballad entitled “The Gowans sae Gay” (volume i, p. 22). In the latter, the hero appears as an elf-knight, and the catastrophe is brought about by the heroine. Lady Isabel, persuading her false lover to sit down with his head on her knee, when she lulls him to sleep with a charm and stabs him with his own dagger. None of the English versions introduce any supernatural element into the story. They all, however, contain the “parrot” verses.
The expression “outlandish” is generally taken to mean an inhabitant of the debatable territory between the borders of England and Scotland. In other parts of England, however, “outlandish” simply means “foreign,” i.e., not belonging to the county or district of the singer.
One singer gave me the first verse as follows:
There was a knigla, a baron-knight,
A knigks of high degree;
This knight he came from the North land,
He came a-courting me.
For versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 282; volume iv, pp. 116–123); Traditional Tunes (pp. 26 and 172); English County Songs (p. 164); and a Border version in Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 48).
The tune is nearly always in 6⁄8 time, and is usually modal. The second air, however, in Traditonal Tunes and a variant collected by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould in Devon and printed in English Folk Songs for Schools, are both in common measure.
The singer varied his tune, which is in the Dorian mode, in nearly every verse.
No. 12. The Coasts of High Barbary
A version of this song, which the Rev. S. Baring-Gould collected in Devonshire, is published in English Folk Songs for Schools. I have collected only one other version, the first stanza of which runs thus:
Two lofty ships of war from old England set sail;
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we,
One was the Princess Charlotte and the other the Prince of Wales,
A-coming down along the coasts of Barbary.
The George-Aloe and the Sweepstake, too,
with hey, with hoe, for and a nony no,
O, they were Merchant men, and bound far Safee
and alongst the Coast of Barbary.
Mr. Ashton thinks that the “ballad was probably written in the latter part of the sixteenth century,” and he points out that it is quoted in a play, “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” written by “the Memorable Worthies, Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William Shakespeare.”
To the six verses which the singer sang to me I have added three others; two from the Devon version (with Mr. Baring-Gould’s kind permission), and one — the last one in the text — from the broadside above mentioned.
The third phrase of the tune, which is in the Æolian mode, is not unlike the corresponding phrase of “When Johnny comes Marching Home Again.” Compare, also, “Whistle, Daughter, Whistle” (No. 59).