> June Tabor > Songs > If My Love Loves Me

Willie’s Lyke-Wake / Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow

[ Roud 30 ; Child 25 ; G/D 4:843 ; Ballad Index C025 ; DT WILILYKE ; trad.]

Willie wants to know if his sweetheart loves him. On the advice of his (mother), he feigns death and has his lover come to his wake. She despairs. Coming to the wake, she kisses the ‘corpse’, which comes to life to accept her love. [Traditional Ballad Index]

Ewan MacColl sang a very much abridged version called Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd’s Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume III. This and 28 other ballads from this series were reissued in 2009 on MacColl’s Topic CD Ballads: Murder·Intrigue·Love·Discord. He also sang Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow in 1964 on his Folkways album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 2—Child Ballads. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the Riverside album’s booklet:

The full story of this ballad concerns an unsuccessful lover who seeks information at to how to win his lady. He is told to feign death, and his desired on will come to his wake and indicate her love for him. He does so, and when his loved one attends the wake and is shown into the death chamber, he starts up, claims her for his own, and informs her that she cannot return home until their marriage is completed.

The ballad appears to be extinct, and, indeed, except for a single fragmentary text collected by Greig at the turn of the century (and sung here by MacColl), has not been reported for almost 100 years. The ballad tale is a popular one in Northern Europe Countries where it is known to this day.

The text sung by MacColl has lost the heart of the story, the part concerning the lyke-wake itself. What is left is two introductory stances concerning the youth’s plight and three ending stanzas in which Willie, in answer to the girl’s request to be allowed to return home a maiden, tells her she cannot return until they are married.

Johnny Collins sang Willie’s Lyke Wake in 1973 on his Traditional Sound Recordings album The Traveller’s Rest.

The Clutha sang Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow in 1973 on their Topic album The Bonnie Mill Dams. Don Martin noted:

This song was transmitted to the Rev. J.B. Duncan, Gavin Greig’s collaborator, by his sister Mrs. Gillespie, who came originally from New Deer, Aberdeenshire. Born in 1841, she got her songs and ballads from her parents and from a washerwoman. Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow was published by Alexander Keith in Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs (1925). It is in fact a fragment of the ballad Willie’s Lyke-Wake (Child 25).

Jez Lowe sang Willy’s Lyke Wake in 1980 on his eponymous Fellside album Jez Lowe.

Lucy Pringle & Chris Wright sang Willie’s Lyke-Wake on their 2010 CD The Speaking Heart. They noted:

The protagonist in this song resorts to playing dead as a ruse to seduce the woman he loves at his own wake (a ‘lyke’ being a corpse). Any young lad trying that kind of trick these days would likely be sued for emotional distress—but in the world of traditional ballads, it’s a tried and true method… Adam McNaughtan was recorded singing this ballad at a kitchen-ceilidh by the School of Scottish Studies in 1980.

June Tabor sang If My Love Loves Me in 2011 on her CD with Oysterband, Ragged Kingdom. She noted:

(Child no. 25—Willie’s Lyke-Wake) More widely found in Scandinavia than in Britain. Most Scottish texts for this song have the male lover faking his own death with a view to the rape and forced marriage of a girl not quite sure of her feelings. This version is surprisingly gentle, but it’s nice to have a happy ending sometimes…

Arthur Watson sang Willie’s Lyke-Wake in 2012 on Shepheard, Spiers & Watson’s Springthyme album Over the Hills. They noted:

The hero who feigns death to draw a timid maiden is a common ballad theme. This is among the commonest of ballads in Danish, and is known in Magyar, Slovenian, and Italian variants but has been rare in Scotland. This version is based on the fragmentary ballad sung by Mrs Gillespie of Glasgow as learnt by her in Buchan from her father’s stepmother, here with additional text from a similar but full version published as Among the Blue Flowers and the Yellow by Peter Buchan in his Ballads of the North of Scotland of 1828.


Ewan MacColl sings Amang the Blue Flowers and the Yellow

“O, Willie, my son, what makes ye so sad?”
    As the sun shines over the valley,
“I lie sorely sick for the love of a maid.”
    Amang the blue flowers and the yellow.

“O, is she an heiress or lady fine?
    As the sun shines over the valley,
That she winna tak nae pity on thee.”
    Amang the blue flowers and the yellow.

“Though a’ our kin were aboot yon bower,
    As the sun shines over the valley,
Ye shall no’ be a maiden one single hour
    Amang the blue flowers and the yellow.

“For a maid ye cam’ here without a convoy,
    As the sun shines over the valley,
And ye shall return with a horse and a boy,
    Amang the blue flowers and the yellow.

“Ye cam’ here a maiden sae meek and sae mild,
    As the sun shines over the valley,
But ye shall gae hame a wedded wife wi’ a child.”
    Amang the blue flowers and the yellow.

June Tabor sings If My Love Loves Me

If my love loves me, she lets me not know
This is a dowie chance.
I wish that I the same could do
Though my love were in France, France,
Though my love were in France.

But I will write a broad letter
And write it so perfite
That if she will not of me rue
I’ll bid her come to my lyke.

And when she looked the letter on
A light laugh then ga’e she,
But ere she read it to an end
a tear blinded her e’e.

“O saddle to me a steed, father,
O saddle to me a steed.
For word has come to me this night
That my true love is dead.“

“The steeds are in the stable, daughter,
The keys are casten by.
You cannot win the night, daughter,
The morn you’d better away.

She’s cutten off her yellow locks
A little above her e’e,
And she is on to Willie’s lyke
As fast as go could she.

As she went over yon high hill head
She saw a dowie light;
It was the candles at Willie’s lyke
And the torches burning bright.

Three of Willie’s eldest brothers
Were making for him a bier,
One half of it was good red gold,
The other silver clear.

Three of Willie’s older sisters
Were making for him a sark,
The one half of it was cambric fine,
The other was needle work.

Out spoke the youngest of the sisters
As she stood on the fleer,
“How happy would our brother have been
If you’d been sooner here.”

She lifted up the green covering
And gave him kisses three,
Then he looked up into her face,
The blythe blink in his e’e.

O then he started to his feet
And thus to her said he,
“Fair Annie since we’ve met again
Parted no more we’ll be.”

Arthur Watson sings Willie’s Lyke-Wake

“Willie ma son, why look ye sae sad?”
    As the sun shines over the valley
“I lie sairly sick for the love o a maid.”
    Amang the blue flooers and the yellow

“O Willie, ma son, I wad learn ye a wile,
It is how ye can this maiden beguile.”

“And it’s ye’ll gie the bellman his bell groat,
Tae ring his deid bell at your true love’s gate.”

And he’s gien the bellman his bell groat,
And he’s rung his deid bell at Willie’s true lover’s gate.

And the maid she stood and she heard it aa,
Aye, and doun her cheeks the tears did faa.

And she’s gaed doun tae Willie’s yett,
Willie’s seiven brithers were standin thereat.

And they did convoy her intae Willie’s haa,
For there were weepers an mourners amang them aa.

She has lifted up the coverin, the coverin o reid,
An wi a melancholy countenance tae gaze upon the deid.

Willie’s taen aroond the middle sae sma,
An he’s laid her atween him and the waa.

“O Willie, O Willie let me stay a maid,
And the very next mornin I’ll be your bride.”

“Aye, but noo ye’ve cam intae my bower,
Ye winna ging a maid anither quarter o an hour.”

It wis at Willie’s wake that she got her beddin,
    As the sun shines over the valley
And the very next day was her gay weddin.
    Amang the blue flooers and the yellow