Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Folksongs 2017-18: The Outlandish Knight

by Dulac, Golden Age of Poetry artist
I first knew this song as a long poem.  When I was 10 I spent my Christmas week in the hospital laid up with a bad case of a pneumonia (my temperature reached 106).  I had to receive pencillin via injections around the clock, every four hours, which I loathed but was too sick to fight about it.  One of my Christmas presents was the Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermyer and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund.  (this was my copy, but it's also been republished with this cover.) It was from my aunt, who always gives the best gifts.

I read it from cover to cover, I think, spending that week in the hospital with nothing to do. I loved poetry before that week, I loved it even more afterwards.

The Outlandish Knight was one of my favourites.  The spunky, clever would-be victim turning the tables on the villain and tossing him into the brink gave me much satisfaction.  
I was delighted to learn that it was also a folk song which I could sing with my own children.

An outlandish knight came from the north lands
He courted a lady fair
He said he would take her to those northern lands
And there he would marry her

Go fetch some of your fathers gold
And some of your mothers fee
And two of the horses from out of the stables
Where there stands thirty and three

She’s mounted on the lilly white steed
And he the dapple gray
They’ve rode til they come unto the sea side
Three hours before it was day

Lights off Lights off, your lily white steed
Deliver it unto me
Six pretty maidens have I drowned here
And the seventh will surely be thee
Take off take off
Your silken gowns
Deliver them unto me
For I do feel that they are too fine
To rot in the sun salt sea.

If I take off my silken gowns
And turn your back on me
For it is not fitting that such a cruel world
A naked woman should see

And cut away the brambles so sharp
The brambles from of the brim
For I do feel that they’ll tangle my hair
And scratch my tender skin

So he’s turned his back all on the fair maid
And leant down over the brim
She’s taken him by his slander waist
and tumbled him into the stream

Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
Lie there instead of me,
For six pretty maidens have you drowned here
The seventh hath drown-ed thee

You can also find this at They share this information about the background of the song:

"This ballad is known throughout Great Britian and Ireland, as well as northern and southern Europe. It appears in several collections as May Colvin, the earliest of which is Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776).This ballad is Child Ballad #4 (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight)."

Outlandish probably just refers to the knight living in the border country that was not quite England and not quite Scotland- a place short on law and long on outlaws. 

In some versions of the song he's an elfen knight. 

You can read more about several variations and recordings here.

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