> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > Kemp Owen

Kemp Owyne / Kemp Owen

[ Roud 3912 ; Child 34 ; Ballad Index C034 ; trad.]

Brian Peters sang Kemp Owyne in 1997 on his CD Sharper Than the Thorn. He commented in his liner notes:

Kemp Owyne is a sword 'n' sorcery ballad from 19th century Aberdeenshire, with links to Icelandic sagas and the usual fairy story themes of transmogrification and wicked stepmothers.

Frankie Armstrong sang Kemp Owen in 2000 on her Fellside CD The Garden of Love. The album's liner notes commented:

Only one tune has ever been found for this weirdest of weird ballads. It was taken down from Mrs Brown of Falkland, Aberdeenshire, by her nephew, who wasn't very good at that kind of thing. Frankie spent ages trying to create a singable version only to give up defeated. Then she heard Brian Peters sing his reconstruction of the text and Mrs Brown's tune. That was it!

Former Witch of Elswick, Fay Hield learnt Kemp Owen from The Oxford Book of Ballads and sang it in 2010 on her first solo CD, Looking Glass. She commented:

I have adapted the text from the Scots dialect into my kind of English, and edited to make a mere seven minutes long version. The melody is a mashed up version of the traditional tune Iron Legs.

Lyrics

Brian Peters sings Kemp Owyne Frankie Armstrong sings Kemp Owen

Oh come list awhile my bonny child,
Lay your head low on my knee,
A dreadful tale I'll tell to you
Concerning of a fair lady.

Come list a while my bonny child,
Lay your head low on my knee,
A dreadful tale I'll tell to you
Concerning of a fair lady.

Her mother died when she was young
Causing her to weep and moan.
Her father wed the worst woman
That's ever lived in Christendom.

Her mother died when she was young
Causing her to weep and mourn.
Her father wed the worst woman
That ever lived in Christendom.

She servèd her with foot and hand
But oh, her stepmother loved not she.
She has cursed that bonny maid
And thrown her in the salt, salt sea.

She servèd her well, both hand and foot
But O, her stepmother loved not she.
She has cursed this bonnie maid
And cast her in the salt, salt sea.

Saying, “Oh lie you there, dove Isabel,
A dreadful beast condemned to be,
Till Kemp Owyne, the king's son
Shall borrow you with kisses three.”

“Oh lie you there, dove Isabel
A dreadful beast condemned to be,
Till Kemp Owen, the king's own son
Shall climb the crag and borrow thee.”

Her neck grew long, her teeth grew strong,
On her four feet she did fall.
Every breath brought smoke and fire,
On Eastmuir crag condemned to crawl.

Her neck grew long, her teeth grew strong,
On her four feet she did fall,
Every breath blew smoke and fire,
On Eastmuir crag condemned to crawl.

“Oh it's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owyne, the king's son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

“It's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owen, the king's own son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

Now word has gone to Kemp Owyne
The fiery beast was in his land,
He has taken a bonny boat
And steered it with his own fair hand.

Now word has come to Kemp Owen
The fiery beast was in his land,
He has got on a bonny boat
And steered it with his own fair hand.

A mile before he reached the shore
The sky glowed red, though the sun was dim.
And as he set his foot on land
The fiery heat blistered his skin.

A mile before he's reached the shore
The sky glowed red 'though the sun grew dim.
As he put his foot on shore
The fiery heat blistered his skin.

“Oh it's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owyne, the king's son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

“It's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owen, the king's own son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

So he's mounted up the Eastmuir crag,
He has given her kisses one.
Away she went and back she came,
The foulest beast in Christendom.

He's mounted o'er the Eastmuir crag,
He has given her kisses one.
Away she went and back she came,
The foulest beast in Christendom.

“Oh it's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owyne, the king's son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

“It's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owen, the king's own son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

So he's mounted up the Eastmuir crag,
He has given her kisses two.
Away she went and back she came,
But from her mouth the fire still flew.

He's mounted o'er the Eastmuir crag,
He has given her kisses two.
Away she went and back she came,
But from her mouth the fire still flew.

“It's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owyne, the king's son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

“It's from this rock I'll never rise,
No man on earth shall set me free
Till Kemp Owen, the king's own son
Shall climb the crag and thrice kiss me.”

So he's mounted up the Eastmuir craig,
He has given her kisses three.
Away she went and back she came,
The fairest lady that e'er was seen.

He's mounted o'er the Eastmuir crag,
He has given her kisses three.
Away she went and back she came,
The fairest woman your eyes did see.

“Oh was it wolf into the wood?
Was it fish into the sea?
Was it man or vile woman,
My own dear love, that changèd thee?.”

“O was it wolf into the wood?
Was it fish into the sea?
Was it man or woman,
My own dear love, that changèd thee?.”

“Oh it was not wolf into the wood,
It was not fish into the sea.
But it was my cruel stepmother
Forever cursèd may she be.”

“It was not wolf into the wood,
It was not fish into the sea.
It was my own cruel stepmother
Forever cursed may she be.”

A heavier curse fall her upon
Than ever fell on vile woman,
In Wormie's Wood she'll walk alone
None take pity her upon.
And relieved shall she never be
Till all the saints sail o'er the sea.

A heavier curse light her upon
Than ever fell on vile woman,
In Wormie's Wood she'll walk alone
None take pity her upon.
And relieved shall she never be
Till all the saints sail o'er the sea.

Fay Hield sings Kemp Owen

Her mother died when she was young
Which gave her cause to grieve and mourn.
Her father married the very worst woman
That ever lived in Christendom.

She served her stepmother night and day
In everything that she could do,
Till once when in a fit of rage
She threw her over a crag of the sea.

Saying, “Lie you there, young Isabel,
And all my sorrows lie with thee,
Till Kemp Owen shall come to the crag
And break this spell with kisses three.”

Her breath grew strong and her hair grew long,
Twisted three times round the tree.
And all the people far and near
Thought that a savage beast was she.

And how she cried for Kemp Owen
That he might come but near to her hand.
Word has gone to Kemp Owen
That such a beast was in his land.

So he has built a bonny boat,
Set it sailing on the sea;
But before he reached a mile from the land
The beast has set the red fire free.

So he has taken up his bow
And he’s aimed an arrow at her head;
Swore if she’d not quit the land
With that same shaft he would shoot her dead.

“Oh, I’ll not rise out of my den,
Though it is not for fear of thee,
Till Kemp Owen, the King’s own son,
Shall come to the crag and kiss with me.”

Her breath was strong and her hair was long,
Twisted three times round the tree,
And away she swam, again she came,
Singing, “Come to the crag and kiss with me.”

“Oh, I have a royal sword,” she said,
“That I found in the salt, salt sea.
And while your body it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be.
But if you'll touch me tail or fin,
I swear this sword your death shall be.”

He leaned him over Eastmoor crag
And about the tree she came with a swing.
He stepped in, gave her a kiss,
And the royal sword he has brought with him.

Her breath was strong and her hair was long,
Twisted twice about the tree,
And away she swam, again she came,
Singing, “Come to the crag and kiss with me.”

“Oh, I have a royal belt,” she said,
“That I found in the salt, salt sea.
And while your body it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be.
But if you'll touch me tail or fin,
I swear your death this belt shall be.”

He leaned him over Eastmoor crag
And about the tree she came with a swing.
He stepped in, gave her a kiss,
And the royal belt he has brought with him.

Her breath was strong and her hair was long,
Twisted once about the tree,
And away she swam, again she came,
Singing, “Come to the crag and kiss with me.”

“Oh, I have a royal ring,” she said,
“That I found in the salt, salt sea.
And while your body it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be.
But if you'll touch me tail or fin,
I swear this ring your death shall be.”

He leaned him over Eastmoor crag
And about the tree she came with a swing.
He stepped in, gave her a kiss,
And the royal ring he has brought with him.

Her breath was sweet, her hair grew short,
Twisted no more round the tree,
And away she swam, again she came,
The fairest woman that you ever did see.

“Oh, was it a werewolf of the wood,
Was it a mermaid on the sea?
Was it a man or a vile witch woman,
My own true love, that misshaped thee?”

“Oh, it wasn't a werewolf of the wood,
Nor was it a mermaid on the sea.
But it was my own stepmother,
A cruel and wicked woman is she.”

“A heavy curse will light her on,
Her hair will grow rough, her teeth grow long.
And on her four feet she will crawl,
All alone condemned to be.
And in the Wormeswood she will dwell
And of this spell she will never go free.”

Links and acknowledgements

Brian Peters' and Frankie Armstrong's words are from the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req/Add: Kemp Owen (from Frankie Armstrong).