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Sir Aldingar

[ Roud 3969 ; Child 59 ; Ballad Index C059 ; trad.]

Chris Foster sang Sir Aldingar in 2008 on his CD Outsiders. He noted in the album's booklet:

I have always loved singing the big narrative songs of the British ballad tradition. I found two texts for Sir Aldingar in Francis Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, where it is number 59. Child draws attention to variants of the story from across Scandinavia and as far south as Spain. I do not know of any English language version ever having been collected from the oral tradition, or found written down with a tune. The epic sweep of the two versions in Child's book was just too good to ignore, so I compiled this text and made up a tune so I could sing it. Someone should make a film of it.

Brian Peters sang Sir Aldingar on his 2008 CD Songs of Trial and Triumph. He commented:

Professor Child regarded this as one of the ‘best and most ancient’ ballads in his collection, with a history possibly dating back to the twelfth century, and a Scandinavian analogue. It appeared amongst the charred pages of the Percy Folio manuscript—a priceless literary document probably written in the mid-1600s, allegedly rescued by Bishop Thomas Percy from a friend's sitting room fireplace, where it was being used as kindling. Judging by its rarity in oral tradition and conspicuous absence in the folk revival repertoire, singers throughout history have held Sir Aldingar in lesser regard than did Child, but it's such a fantastic Gothic tale that I just had to write a tune for it and bash the words into shape.


Chris Foster sings Sir Aldingar

The birds sang clear as any bell
They never sang so well
The queen has gone to her chamber
To talk with Aldingar
“I love you well my queen my dame
More than lands and rents so clear
And for to spend one night with you
I would bear pain most severe.”

“Away, away you Aldingar
You are both stark and stoor
Would you defile the king’s own bed
And make his queen a whore?
Tomorrow you would be taken sure
And like a traitor slain
And I would be burned at the stake
Although I am the queen.”

Then there came a leper to the queen’s door
He was a leper blind and lame
Aldingar took him upon his back
And on the queen’s bed has him lain
He told the leper to lie still
And not to go away
And he would be a healthy man
By the dawning of the day.

Then he has gone out of the queen’s door
As quickly as he could go
And he’s gone straight to the very place
Where the king himself did go
The king said unto Aldingar
“What news have you for me?”
He said, “Your queen is a false woman
As I did plainly see.”

Then the king has gone into the queen’s door
So costly and so fine
And he’s gone straight to her bed chamber
Where the leper man was lain
He looked down on the leper man
As he lay on his queen’s bed
Then he lifted up the snow white sheet
And unto him he said.

“Since she has lain into your arms
She shall not lie in mine
Since she has kissed your ugly mouth
She’ll never more kiss mine
If you were a man as you are not
It’s here that you would die
But a pair of gallows shall be built
To hang you on so high.”

Then in anger he went unto the queen
Who fell upon her knee
He said, “You false and unchaste woman
What is this you’ve done to me?
If you had taken a comely knight
Well the lesser would have been your shame
But you have taken a leper man
Who is both blind and lame.”

Then the queen she turned herself around
A tear was blinding her eye
She said ,“There’s not a knight in all your court
Dare make such a claim to me.”
He said ,“’tis true what I do say
For I a proof did make
Now you shall be taken from my bower
And burned at the stake.”

She said, “I thought that dreams were never true
But now I’ve proved them true at last.
I dreamed a dream the other night
In my bed where I lay
I dreamed a great and a gruesome beast
Had carried my crown away
My gorget and my belt of gold
And all my fair head gear.”

“How he would have worried me with his claws
And carried me into his nest
Saving there came a little hawk
Flying out of the west
Saving there came a little hawk
Which men call merlion
And with his claws he struck him down
And dead he did fall down.”

“Then the king said, “I will give you forty days
To find you a man there in
But if you find not a man in forty days
In a hot fire you shall burn.”
So she called up all her messengers
And sent them to the west
But they couldn’t find none to fight for her
Nor enter in the contest.

Then a messenger the queen sent east
Who rode for many a day
And as he rode along by a riverside
There he met with a little boy
Who said, “Turn again you messenger
Greet well our queen from me
And bid her remember what she has dreamt
In her bed where she lay.”

Then the day came on that was to do
That dreadful tragedy
But the little boy was not come up
To fight for our lady
So before the hour the queen was brought
The burning to proceed
And in a black velvet chair then she was set
It was a token for the dead
And she saw the flames ascending high
A tear blinded her eye
“Oh where is the worthy knight?” she said
“Who is to fight for me.”

Then up and spoke the king himself
“My dearest have no doubt
For yonder comes a little boy
As bold as he set out.”
Then the child advanced to fight the dual
And his sword was tempered steel
He struck the first stroke at Aldingar
And he cut his legs off at the knee.

“Stand up, stand up you false traitor
and fight upon your feet
Now I have taken your legs away
At an even height we shall meet
“Confess your treachery now,” he said,
“Confess it before you die.”
“Oh I do confess it,” said Aldingar,
“For I can no longer lie.”

“Now take your wife you King Henry
And love her with your all
For the queen she is as true to thee
As the stones on your castle wall.”
And the leper under the gallows tree
Was a healthy man and small
And the leper under the gallows tree
Was made steward in the king’s hall.