Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Cruel Mother

Traditional British/Scottish
This is a very old ballad, found in many forms with many melodies throughout the British Isles. The story itself is as old as civilization: a woman, abandoned and facing utter ruin, takes drastic and terrible action.

Listen and Purchase

There was a lady lived in York 
    Oh the rose and the lindsey-o
She fell in with her father's clerk 
    Down by the greenwood sidey-o

She loved him up, she loved him down
She loved him 'till he filled her arms

She leaned her back against an oak
But first it bent and then it broke

She leaned her back against a thorn
And there she had two pretty babes born

She pulled out her wee penknife
And then she took those fine babes' lives

She buried them beneath a stone
And thought to go a maiden home

As she rode back to her father's hall
She spied two babes a-playin' at ball

Oh babes, oh babes, if you were mine
I'd dress you up in scarlet fine

Oh mother, oh mother, when we were yours
Scarlet was our own heart's blood

Seven years a fish in the flood
Seven years a bird in the wood

Seven years a tongue in the tolling bell
Seven years in the flames of hell

Oh come oh come, the fish in the flood
Oh come oh come the bird in the wood

Oh come oh come, the tongue in the tolling bell
But God save me from the flames of hell

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