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Jellon Graeme

[ Roud 58 ; Child 90 ; G/D 2:198 ; Ballad Index C090 ; DT JELGRAEM ; Mudcat 164335 ; trad.]

Alexander Keith: Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs Sir Walter Scott: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border James Kinsley: The Oxford Book of Ballads.

Peggy Seeger sang Jellon Graeme in 1982 on her and Ewan MacColl’s Blackthorne album Blood & Roses Volume 3. They noted:

This is a very rare ballad—since the publication of Child, it has been reported only twice in the oral tradition, once from Scotland and once from Virginia (via North Carolina). My text, from the memory of M.A. Yarber, Mast, N.C., is startlingly like the Child A-text. The B and C texts are notably different in that the maid is slain by Hind Henry, brother to Brown Robin (the father of the child). May Margerie’s sisters come running to the wood, take the infant up and educate him. When he is grown, he meets Hind Henry in the wood and slays him. These latter two texts seem over-complicated and top-heavy with detail. The simpler story remains a grand example of a genre not often found in balladry: that of a grown child killing its parent.

Sara Grey sang Red Robber, a variant of Jellon Graeme “adapted by Bob Coltman from diverse elements”, in 2019 on her and her son Kieron Means’ WildGoose album Better Days a Comin. She noted:

This is a rare ballad—few version have been found: one in Scotland and one in the Appalachians. In this reworking of the ballad Coltman gets rid of all the complicated versions—with witchcraft—with sisters of the dead woman educating the child. The ballad is made up of other ballads indicating it’s probably not that old, maybe 19th century.


Peggy Seeger sings Jellon Graeme

Jellon Graeme sat in the wood
He whistled and he sang;
He called for his servant boy
Who quickly to him ran.

“Hurry up, hurry up, my pretty little boy,
As fast as ever you can.
You must run for Rosy Flower
Before the day is gone.”

The boy buckled on his yellow belt
And through the woods he sang,
Ran till he come to the lady’s window
Before the day was gone.

“Are you awake, little Rosy Flower?
The blood runs cold as rain.”
“I was asleep but now I’m awake,
Who’s that that calls my name?”

“You must go to the Silver Wood
Though you never come back again.
You must go to the Silver Wood
To speak with Jellon Graeme.”

“I will go to the Silver Wood
Though I never come back again.
The man I most desire to see
Is my love, Jellon Graeme.”

She had not rid about two long mile,
It were not more than three;
Till she come to a new-dug grave
Beneath that white oak tree.

Out and sprang young Jellon Graeme
From out of the woods nearby.
“Get down, get down, you Rosy Flower,
It’s here that you will die.”

She jumped down from off her horse
Then down upon her knee.
“Pity on me, dear Jellon Graeme,
I’m not prepared to die!
Wait until our babe is born
And then you can let me lie.”

“If I should spare your life,” he said,
“Until our babe is born,
I know your pa and all your kin
Would hang me in the morn.

“Pity on me, dear Jellon Graeme,
My pa you need not dread;
I’ll bear my baby in the Silver Wood
And go and beg my bread.”

No pity, no pity for Rosy Flower,
On her knees she pray;
He stabbed her deep with the silver steel
And at his feet she lay.

No pity, no pity for Rosy Flower,
She was a-lying dead.
But pity he had for his little young son
A-smothering in her blood.

He’s torn the baby out of the womb,
Washed him in water and blood;
Named him after a robber man
He called him Robin Hood.

Then he took him to his house,
And set him on a nurse’s knee;
He growed as much in the one-year-time
As other ones do in three.

Then he took him to read and write
And for to learn how to thrive,
He learned as much in the one-year-time
As other ones do in five.

“But I wonder now,” said little Robin,
“If a woman did bear me;
Many a mother do come for the rest
But never one come for me.”

It fell out in the summertime
When they was a-hunting game,
They stopped to rest in the Silver Wood,
Him and Jellon Graeme.

“I wonder now,” said little Robin,
“Why my mammy don’t come for me?
To keep me hid in the Silver Wood,
I calls it a cruelty.

“But I wonder now,” said little Robin,
“If the truth would ever be known?
Why all this woods as a-growing green
And under that tree there’s none?”

“You wonder now,” said Jellon Graeme,
“Why your mammy don’t come for thee;
Lo, there’s the place I laid her low
Right under that white oak tree.”

The little boy chose him an arrow
Was both keen and sharp,
Laid his cheek all along his bow
And pierced his father’s heart.

“Lie there, lie there, you Jellon Graeme,
The grave you never will see;
The place where lies my mammy dear
Is far too good for thee.”

“I should have torn you out of the womb
And thrown you upon a thorn!
Let the wind blow east and the wind blow west
And left you to die alone.”