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Also called “Johnie O’ Breadisley,” a highly poetic hunting ballad outlining the conflict between tradition and law.


Johnie rose on a may morning,
Sought water to wash his hands,
And he’s called for his hunting hounds
That were bound in iron bands, bands
That were bound in iron bands.

Johnie has readied his good bent bow,
Likewise his arrows keen,
He stripped himself o the scarlet red
Put on the Lincoln green.

Johnie’s mother got word o that
And a woeful woman was she;
“My son, go not to yon greenwood
I pray be ruled by me.

“It’s we have plenty of good brown bread
And plenty of good blood red wine;
Johnie go not to yon greenwood
For to hunt your venison.

“There are seven o the King’s foresters
At Pickeram Side do dwell,
And for a drop of thy heart’s blood
They would ride the fords of hell.”

But Johnie has made a solemn vow
Between the sun and the moon,
And he’s away to the good greenwood
To hunt the dun deer down.

He look to the east & he looked to the west
And in below the sun,
And there he spied the king’s dun deer
Was cropping a bush o broom.

Johnie shot, the dun deer leapt
And she leapt wondrous wide,
Until they came to the wan water
Where his hounds they stemmed her pride.

Johnie’s handled the deer so well,
That he’s had out the liver and lungs,
With these he feasted his good blood hounds
As if they’d been earl’s sons.

They ate so much o the venison,
And drank so much o the blood,
That Johnie and his good blood-hounds
Fell asleep by yon green wood

Then by there came a grey-headed man
And a silly old man was he;
And he’s away to Pickeram Side
For to tell what he did see.

“As I came in by Brady’s Lee
Among the brambly scrogs,
The fairest youth I e’er did see
Lay sleeping between his dogs.

“The shirt that he wore on his back
Was of the holland fine
The doublet he wore over that
Was of the Lincoln twine.

“The buttons he wore on his sleeve
Were of the gold so good
The hunting hounds he lay between
Their mouths were dyed with blood.”

Out then spoke one, out then spoke two
Out then spoke two or three:
“If this be Johnny o Cockley’s Well,
This youth we’ll go and see.”

They rode out to Brady’s Lee,
And in among the scrogs,
They spied Johnie o Cockley’s Well
A-sleepin between his dogs.

The first arrows that they fired at him
They wounded him on the thigh;
The second arrows they fired at him
Heart’s blood did blind his eye.

When Johnie rose out from his sleep
An angry man was he;
Says “Ye might have asked if I’d be taken
Before that ye fired on me.”

“The wildest wolf in all the wood
Would have sprinkled wan water over me.
If I would not have waked for that.
She’d have gone and let me be”

He planted his back against an oak
His foot against a stone,
And he’s fired at the king’s foresters
And killed them all but one.

Then he broke three ribs o that man’s side
Likewise his collar bone,
And he cast him sideways over a steed
To carry the tidings home.

“Is there not a bird in yon green wood
Can sing as I can say?
Could fly in to my mother’s bower,
Bid her kiss me and fetch me away.”



tags: folk Chicago


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