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The Bonny Hind

[ Roud 205 ; Child 50 ; Ballad Index C050 ; trad.]

June Tabor learned The Bonny Hind from Peta Webb and recorded it in 1983 for her album Abyssinians.

Both Tony Rose and Martin Carthy learned this song from June Tabor. Tony Rose recorded it in 1976—a few years before June—for his LP On Banks of Green Willow. His words are very similar to June Tabor's shown below. He noted:

The incest motif is abundant in mythology and literature. In The Bonny Hind […], the tragedy is Æschylean—a brother meets his sister, from whom he has been separated, and has his will on her before they discover their relationship.

Ewan MacColl sang The Bonny Hind on his and Peggy Seeger's 1986 album Blood & Roses Volume 4. They noted:

Scots ballad makers seem to have been fascinated by the theme of incest. Lizie Wan (Child 51), The King’s Dochter Lady Jean (Child 52) and Sheath and Knife (Child 16), all bear witness to this preoccupation. The Bonny Hind has none of the grandeur of Lizie Wan or Sheath and Knife: the tragedy is muted and pathos substitutes for the wild anguish of those ballads. Nevertheless, the pathos is never allowed to descend into mawkishness. That part of the story which describes a young man discovering a sister in the girl he has just ravished is also found in a Faroese ballad, and Finnish and Icelandic versions have been collected.

Martin Carthy sang The Bonny Hind on his 1998 album Signs of Life. He noted:

Speaking of heartbreak, I got The Bonny Hind from June Tabor, who is not in the least close-fisted with her songs, about 25 years ago, but decided to try a different tune. This one is more usually sung to the Duke of Marlborough, and it sits with the song easily and feelingly, I think. A huge tragedy told in such matter-of-fact terms as to make you ache all over.

Joe Rae learned The Bonny Hind from Ned Robertson and sang it on his 2001 Musical Traditions anthology of ballads, songs and stories from Ayrshire, The Broom Blooms Bonny.

Norman Stewart sang The Bonnie Hind at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2003 or 2004. This recording was included in 2005 on the festival anthology Here's a Health to the Company (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 1). The liner notes commented:

A ballad that has only been discovered once in the English language—by David Herd, a native of St Cyrus in Kincardineshire, who was supplied with the text “as copied from the mouth of a milkmaid in 1771”. The story—one of unintentional incest—is closely related to that of the Scandinavian ballad Margaret found in Faroe and in Iceland. No traditional tune is known but several singers have recently given new life to the ballad. Norman’s version came from hearing Martin Carthy sing the ballad some years ago and putting this together with the text as in Francis J Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.

Wendy Weatherby sang The Bonny Hind in 2010 on her Fellside CD A Shirt of Silk or Snow.

Debra Cowan sang The Bonny Hind in 2015 on John Roberts' and her CD Ballads Long & Short. They commented in their liner notes:

Deb learned The Bonny Hind from the singing of the late Tony Rose. It's a ballad that seems to have all the ingredients: siblings separated at birth, incest, suicide, riddles and an interesting metaphor towards the end.

Diana Collier sang The Bonny Hind unaccompanied on her 2020 album Ode to Riddley Walker.

Lyrics

June Tabor sings The Bonny Hind

It's May she comes and May she goes
Down by the garden green,
It's there she spied a good young squire,
As good as ev'r she seen.

It's May she comes and May she goes
Down by the Holland green,
And it's here she spied a brisk young squire,
As brisk as ev'r she seen.

“Come give to me your green mantle,
Give me your maidenhead;
If you won't give me your green mantle,
Give me your maidenhead.”

He's taken her by the milk-white hand
And gently laid her down;
And it's when he raised her up again
Given her a silver comb.

“Perhaps there my be bairns, kind sir,
Perhaps there may be none,
But if you be a courtier
Pray tell to me your name.”

“Oh I am no courtier,” he says,
“But new come from sea;
Oh I am no courtier,” he said,
“But when I courted thee.

They call me Jack when I'm abroad,
Sometimes they call me John;
But when I'm in my father's bower,
Oh, Jock Randall is my name.”

“You lie, you lie, you bonny lad,
So loud I hear you lie.
For I am Lord Randall's only daughter,
He has no more than me.”

“You lie, you lie, you bonny lass,
So loud I hear you lie.
For I am Lord Randall's very own son
That new come from the sea.”

She's put her hand down by her side
And out she's taken a knife;
And she's put it in her own heart's blood
And taken away her life.

And he's taken his young sister
With a big tear in his eye,
And he's buried his only sister
Beneath the Holland tree.

It's soon he's hired him o'er the dales,
His father dear to see,
“It's oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

Four score of them are silver shod,
Of these you may have three.”
“But it's oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

“What care you for your bonny hind,
For it you need not care.
There's eight score hinds in yon green park
And five score is to spare.

“What care you for your bonny hind,
For it you need not care.
Take you the best and give me the worst,
Since plenty is to spare.”

“I care not for your hinds, kind sir,
And I care not for your fee.
But it's oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

“Oh were you your your sister's bower,
Your sister fair to see;
Oh, you'll think no more on your bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

Ewan MacColl sings The Bonny Hind

O lane she stands and lane she gangs
Doon by yon gairdens green,
And there she saw the brawest young man
That she had ever seen.

O lane she stands and lane she gangs
Doon by yon hollin tree;
And there she saw this braw young man,
A brisk young squire was he.

Gie me your green manteel,” he said,
“And the kerchie' fae your heid;
Gif ye dinnae gie me your green manteel
I'll tak' your maidenheid.”

He's ta'en her by the milk-white haund
And gently laid her doon,
And when he's ta'en his will o' her,
Gi'en her a siller kaim.

“And what if there's a bairn, kind sir,
And what if there are nane?
Gif ye come fae the king's high court
You’ll tell to me your name.”

“I dinnae come fae the king's high court,
I'm new come fae the sea,
I never was a courtier, lass,
But when I courted thee.

“When I'm abroad they ca' me Jaick
And whiles they ca' me John,
But when I'm at hame in my faither's ha',
Jock Randal is my name.”

“Ye lee, ye lee, ye fause, fause chiel,
Sae loud's I hear ye lee;
For I'm Lord Randal's ae dochter,
He got nae mair but me.”

“Ye lee, ye lee, my bonnie may,
Sae loud’s I hear ye lee;
For I'm Lord Randal's only son,
Just new come fae the sea.”

She's putten her hand doon by her gair,
Ta'en oot a wee pen-knife,
And putten it in her ain hairt's blood
And ta'en awa' her life.

And he's ta'en up the bonnie may,
The saut tears blint his e'en,
And he has buried his bonnie sister
Below the hollins green.

Then he has gane to his faither's ha',
His faither for to see;
Sing, “O and O for yon bonnie hind
Below yon hollin tree.”

“What needs ye greet for your bonnie hind?
For it ye need nae care;
There's eight-score hinds in yonder park,
And five-score hinds to spare.

“Four-score o' them are siller shod
O’ them you may tak' three.”
But aye he grat for the bonnie hind
Below yon hollin tree.

“What needs ye greet for your bonnie hind?
For it ye need nae care;
Tak' ye the best, leave me the worst,
Since plenty is to spare.”

“I care nae for your hinds, faither,
I care nae for your fee,
But O and O, for my bonnie hind
Below the hollin tree.”

Gin ye were at your sister's bower
Your sister fair to see,
Ye'd think nae mair o' your bonnie hind
Below the hollin tree.”

Martin Carthy sings The Bonny Hind

May she comes and May she goes
Down the garden green,
There she spied this sweet young boy,
Sweetest ever she's seen.

May she comes and May she goes
Down the Holland green,
There she spied this sweet young boy,
Sweetest ever she's seen.

“Give to me your mantle darling,
Give me your maidenhead;
If you won't give me your mantle darling,
Give me your maidenhead.”

Ta'en her by her hand, her hand,
So gently laid her down;
Soon as she rose up again
He give her the silver comb.

“Oh maybe there will be babies so
And maybe there will be none,
But since you are a gentleman
Oh tell to me your name.”

“No I am no gentleman
But am newly come from sea;
No I am no courtier darling
But well I courted thee.

Sometimes they call me Jack,” he said,
“And sometimes they call me John.
But when I'm in my father's house
It's Randall is my name.”

“Now you lie you false young man,
So loud you lie to me.
I am Randall's only daughter
And he has none but me.”

“Ah you lie, you foolish girl,
So loud you lie to me.
I am Randall's only son
Newly come from the sea.”

Oh she reached down below her waist
And she has pulled out a knife;
She has let her own heart's blood
And taken her own sweet life.

And he's picked up his young sister
With a big tear in his eye,
For he has buried his only sister
Beneath the Holland tree.

Then it's up the hill and it's down the hill,
His own father to see,
Crying, “Oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

“What care you for your bonny hind,
For her you need not care.
We've eight score hinds in yonder park
And five score is to spare.

Four score of these are silver shod,
Of these you may have three.”
“But it's oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

“What care you for your bonny hind,
For her you need not care.
Take you the best and leave me the worst,
For plenty is to spare.”

“Oh I care not for your hinds, father,
I care not for your fee.
But it's oh and oh for my bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.”

𝄆 “Son get you to your sister's bower,
Your sweet young sister to see.
You'll think no more of your bonny hind
Beneath the Holland tree.” 𝄇

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard.