Young Hunting
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Sara Grey: On Autumn Harvest ah007: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: Grand to Be a Working Man. Recorded at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2008.

Sara sings an archaic version of the ballad from Appalachian tradition. Walter Scott's version of the ballad (Child 68), naturally the best known to the literary world, is described by the editor as made up from the best verses of Herd's copies with some trivial alterations adopted from tradition. This account is far from being exact, for there are many lines in the edition of 1802 which are not found in Herd's copies and, in the edition of 1833, there are four additional stanzas.

1: "Come in, come in my own true love,
And spend this night with me;
For I have a bed, it's a very fine bed,
I'll give it up for thee,
I'll give it up for thee."

2: Oh I can't come in and I won't come in,
For to spend this night with thee;
For I have a wife in the old Scotland,
This night she'll wait for me,
This night she'll wait for me.

3: She's pulled out her little penknife,
It being both keen and sharp;
And stepp├Ęd up to her own true love,
Pierced him through his heart,
She pierced him through his heart.

4: "Woe be, woe be lady Margaret," he cried,
Woe be it's unto me;
For never was a wife in the old Scotland,
Loved any better than thee,
That I loved any better than thee."

5: "But I won't live and I can't live,
From the wounds you gave to me;
Oh there never was a doctor in the old Scotland,
Could save the life of me,
That could save the life of me."

6: She's gone up to her servant girl,
"This thing I promised thee;
If you'll help me this dark cold night,
My gown I'll give to thee,
My gown I'll give to thee."

7: She's got a hold of his long yellow hair,
And the other took up his feet;
And they throwed him in to the old dry well,
That was both dark and deep,
That was both dark and deep.

8: "Lie there, lie there my own false love,
Till the flesh falls from your frame;
And the little old wife in the old Scotland,
Will mourn for your return,
Will mourn for your return."

A Scandinavian ballad begins somewhat like 'Young Hunting,' but ends like 'Elveskud' or 'Clerk Colvil.' A young man who HAS made up his mind to marry is warned by HIS mother against the wiles of a former mistress. He rides to his old love's house and is welcomed to beer and wine. He tells her that he is on the way to his bride. She wants a word with him, or a kiss, and as he leans over in her on his horse, stabs him to the heart, He rides home bleeding, pretends that he has hurt himself by running against a tree, asks that his bed may be made and a priest sent for, and dies.

The place where the dead body of the knight lies at the bottom of the river is discovered by candles burning bright, Walter Scott supposed these candles to mean "the corpse-lights . . . which are sometimes seen to illuminate the spot where a dead body is concealed." Scott had been informed that the body of a man drowned in the Ettrick had heen discovered by means of these candles. Though the language in the ballad is not quite explicit, owing perhaps to the fact that the method of detection practised was more familiar formerly than now, the meaning is as likely to be that a candle, floated on the water, would burn brighter when it came to the spot where the body lay. A candle (a consecrated one in Catholic countries) stuck in a loaf of bread, or supported by cork, is still believed to be efficient for indicating the place of a drowned body. That the body of a murdered man will emit blood upon being touched, or even approached, by the murderer is a belief of ancient standing and evidence of this character was formerly admitted in judicial investigations.

c p 2009 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk