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May Colvin Child #4C, Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight, from Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, 1776. Tune from Scots Musical Museum.


O False Sir John a-wooing came
To a maid of beauty fair,
May Colven was this lady’s name
Her father’s only heir.

He wooed her out, he wooed her in
He wooed her night and day,
Until he got this maid’s consent
To mount, and to ride away.

He went down to her father’s stable,
Where all the steeds did stand,
And he’s taken one of the finest steeds
That was in her father’s land.

He’s got on and she’s got on,
And fast as they could flee,
Until they came to a lonesome part,
A rock by the side of the sea.

“Leap off the steed, my May Colven,
For your bridal bed you see;
Here I have drowned seven young ladies
And the eighth one you shall be.

“Cast off, cast off thy silken gown
Deliver it to me
For it looks too good and too costly
To rot in the salt salt sea

“Cast off, cast off thy Holland smock,
Deliver it to me
For it looks too good and too costly
To rot in the sea with thee.”

“O turn you about O false Sir John,
And look to the leaf of the tree,
For it never became a gentleman
A naked woman to see.”

He turned himself straight round about
To look to the leaf of the tree,
She twined her arms around his middle
And threw him into the sea.

“O help, O help my May Colven,
O help or else I’ll drown;
I’ll take you home to your father’s gate,
And set you down safe and sound.”

“No help, no help, O false Sir John
No help nor pity for thee
Though seven young ladies you have drowned
The eighth shall not be me.”

So she went on her father’s steed,
As swift as she could flee,
And she was at her father’s gate
Before the break of day.

Up then spoke the pretty parrot,
“May Colven, where have you been?
What has become of false Sir John
That wooed you so late yestreen,

He wooed you out, he woo’d you in,
He wooed you night and day;
Until he got your own consent
For to mount and go away.”

“O hold your tongue, my pretty parrot,
And tell no tales on me;
And your cup shall be of the flowered gold,
Your cage from the root of a tree.”

Up then spoke her father
In the bed-chamber where he lay:
“What ails the pretty parrot,
That prattles so long before the day?”

“There came a cat to my cage door
It almost a-choked me,
And I was calling on May Colven
To take the cat from me.”



tags: folk Chicago


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