> Cyril Tawney > Songs > The Three Knights
> Norma Waterson > Songs > The Rose and the Lily
> Eliza Carthy > Songs > The Rose and the Lily

The Cruel Brother / The Three Knights / The Rose and the Lily

[ Roud 26 ; Child 11 ; Ballad Index C011 ; VWML SBG/1/2/834 ; trad.]

The Everlasting Circle Canow Kernow The Scottish Folksinger Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. The Oxford Book of Ballads

Cyril Tawney sang The Three Knights in 1969 on his album of folks songs from Devon and Cornwall, The Outlandish Knight. He noted:

Both [The Three Sisters and The Three Knights] are taken from the 1823 edition of Davies Gilbert's Some Ancient Christmas Carols where they appear as part of a secular “appendix”. Although Gilbert does not definitely state they are from Cornwall he gives them from his own recollection, and as he was a native of St. Erth we can assume they are Cornish versions of these two ancient ballads. […] Cecil Sharp found two versions with texts resembling this Cornish one in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

The Songwainers sang The Three Knights in 1971 on their eponymous Argo album The Songwainers. They noted:

A rather short version of Child 11—The Cruel Brother—in which a girl would marry, but fails to obtain the permission of her brother; for this she dies by his hand. This is a C16 setting, to the tune Queen Eleanor's Confession.

The Gaugers sang this ballad as The Cruel Brother in 1976 on their Topic album Beware of the Aberdonian. This track was also included twenty years later on the Topic compilation Ancient Celtic Roots.

Archie Fisher sang The Cruel Brother in the same year on his Folk-Legacy album The Man with a Rhyme. He noted:

Learned from the singing of a fine young Aberdeenshire fiddler called Tom Spiers [of The Gaugers, see above]. This version was collated for me by Duncan McLellan of Inverness. It is mainly from Child 11, version C, with additions from other versions.

Battlefield Band sang The Cruel Brother in 1977 on their eponymous Topic album, Battlefield Band. They noted:

In the period that concerns this ballad, the heir to a man's possession was not his own child, but his sister's; it was therefore obligatory for a suitor to gain the permission of his sweetheart's brother prior to any marriage. The suitor in this story neglects to obtain this consent, with the result that on the wedding day his bride is murdered by her brother.

This is a compilation of several versions set to the Geordie tune The Jolly Beggar.

Dick Gaughan sang The Cruel Brother in 1977 on the Greentrax album “from Edinburgh's famous folk bar”, Sandy Bell's Ceilidh. This track was also included in 2002 on his Greentrax compilation Prentice Piece.

Colin Thompson recorded The Three Knights in 1980 as the title track of his Fellside album Three Knights.

Katherine Campbell sang Cruel Brother in 2004 on her Springthyme album The Songs of Amelia and Jane Harris.

Debra Cowan sang Cruel Brother on her 2005 CD of songs from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection, Dad's Dinner Pail.

Crucible recorded this ballad as Three Maidens on their 2008 Fellside CD Love & Money.

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sang The Rose and the Lily in 2010 on their Topic CD Gift. A live recording from the Union Chapel in November 2010 was released in the following year on the DVD and CD The Gift Band Live on Tour. They commented in their original album's liner notes:

The idea that the two siblings represent the two flowers of the family: both beautiful, one deadly. What has passed between them we don't know, he could just be a selfish baddun. Or it could be an example of an old-style honour killing as the brother was not informed of her intended wedding. The bulk of this comes from The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, by Bertrand Harris Bronson. We added to the tradition a little bit here and there.

The Shee sang Three Knights in 2012 on their third album, Murmurations. They noted:

Led by Rachel Newton, this grizzly Child ballad, a version of The Cruel Brother, is largely accompanied by the accordion and concentrates on using the three vocalists in the band to dramatic effect.

Arthur Knevett sang The Cruel Brother on his 2016 CD Simply Traditional. He noted:

Davies Gilbert in his collection, Some Ancient Christmas Carols, gives this ballad as The Three Knights. Francis James Child included it in his seminal collection (The English and Scottish Popular Ballads) using the title The Cruel Brother. He simply says of it that the mortal offence giving by neglecting to ask for the approval of the brother for the marriage of his sister also occurs in a number of Scandinavian ballads.

Steeleye Span sang both Cruel Brother and Gulliver Gentle and Rosemary in 2016 their CD Dodgy Bastards. They noted on the first ballad:

Child 11. It seems to concern an honour killing. A young man comes to ask for a woman's hand, but fails to ask the permission of the brother, an offence that is fatal for the sister.

and on the second:

Child Ballad 11. Sometime versions of the same ballad, in Child and Bronson, are almost urecognisable as the same story. This is such a light hearted lyric that it feels unconnected to the Cruel Brother, which it is grouped with.

Sophie Crawford sang Green Grow the Lily on her 2018 album Silver Pin. Her storyline is similar to Archie Fisher's The Cruel Brother, with the in-verse chorus lines “Green grow the lily-o / And the rose is sweet and merry”. Sophie noted:

I heard this sung by someone at Towersey Folk Festival many, many years ago and just repeated it to myself ever since, which might account for variation in lyrics. I don't know where it is from.

Lyrics

Archie Fisher sings The Cruel Brother

There were three sisters lived in a ha'
   Hech, hey, and the lily gay,
By cam a knicht and he woo'd them a'
   And the rose is aye the redder aye.

And the first ane she was dressed in green.
“Would ye fancy me and be my queen?”

And the second ane she was dressed in yellow.
“Would ye fancy me and be my marrow?”     [mate]

And the first ane she was dressed in red.
“Would ye fancy me and be my bride?”

“Ye may seek me frae my faither dear,
And frae my mither wha' did me bear.

“Ye may seek me frae my sister Anne,
And dinna forget my brither John.”

And he socht her frae her faither, the king,
And he socht her frae her mither, the queen.

And he socht her frae her sister Anne,
But forgot tae speir at her brither John.     [inquire of]

And her mither dressed her in her gown,
And her sister tied the flounces 'round.

Her faither mounted her on her horse,
And her brither led her doon the close.     [courtyard]

And he's ta'en a knife baith lang and sharp,
And he's pierced the bonnie bride through the heart.

“Oh, lead me, lead me up yon hill,
And there I'll sit and mak' my will.”

“What will ye leave tae your faither dear?”
“The bonnie white steed that brocht me here.”

“What will ye leave tae your mither dear?”
“The bloody robes that I do wear.”

“What will ye leave tae your sister Anne?”
“The gowden ring frae off my hand.”

“What will ye leave tae your brither John?”
“The gallows tree for tae hang him on.”

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sing The Rose and the Lily The Shee sings The Three Knights

There were three men come from over the way,
O the rose and the lily-o,
And these three men came after one lady
As the rose was so sweetly grown.

There were three knights came from the West,
    With the high and the lily-o,
And these three knights courted one lady,
    As the rose was so sweetly blown.

The first man came, he was all in white,
He asked her if she'd be his delight.
The next man came and he was all in green,
Asked her if she would be his queen.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
O the rose and the lily
O the rose and the lily
As the rose is so sweetly grown
So the lily, so sweetly sown

The first man came, he was all in white
Asked her if she'd be his delight.
The last man came and he was dressed in red
Asked her nicely if she would wed.

The first knight came was all in green,
And asked of her if she'd be his queen.

The next knight came was all in white,
And asked of her if she'd be his delight,

The third knight came was all in red,
And asked of her if she would wed,

“Then you must ask of my Father dear,
Likewise of her that did me bear?

“And you must ask of my brother John?
And also of my sister Anne.”

“As I have asked your father dear
And also her that did you bear.
And I have asked your sister Anne
Though I never met your brother John.”

So he did ask of her father dear,
Likewise of her that did she bear.

And he did ask of her sister Anne,
But did not ask of her brother John.

On the road as they rode alone
There they met her brother John;
Oh she stood low to give him kisses sweet,
Into her heart did a dagger meet.

'Twas on the road as they rode along,
There they did meet with her brother John.

She stooped low to kiss him sweet,
He to her heart did a dagger meet.

“Ride on, ride on,” cried the serving man,
“Methinks your bride she looks wond'rous wan.”

“I wish I was on yonder stile,
There I would site and I'd bleed awhile.

“I wish I were on yonder stile,
There I'd sit and I'd bleed awhile.
I wish I were upon yonder hill
For there I'd sit and I'd make my will.”

“I wish I were on yonder hill,
There I'd alight and I'd make my will.”

“What would you give to your Father dear?”
“The gallant steed that doth me bear.”

“What would you give to your father dear?”
“This gallant horse that does me bear.”
“What would you give to your mother dear?”
“This wedding dress that I do wear.”

“What would you give your mother dear?”
“This wedding dress that I do wear;
Though she must wash it very, very clean
For my heart's blood sticks in every seam.”

“What would you give to your mother dear?”
“My wedding gown that I do wear.

“But she must wash it very clean,
For my heart's blood sticks in ev'ry seam.”

“What would you give to your sister Anne?”
“My good gold ring and my feathered fan.”
“What would you give to your brother John?”
“A tall, tall tree to hang him on.”

“What would you give to your sister?”
“My gay gold ring and my feathered fan.”

“What would you give to your brother?”
“A rope and gallows to hang him on.”

“What would you give to your brother John?”
“A rope and gallows to hang him on.”
“What would you give to your brother's wife?”
“A widow's weeds and a peaceful life.”

What would you give to your brother's wife?”
“A widow's weeds and a quiet life.”

Steeleye Span sing Gulliver Gentle and Rosemary

There were three ladies playing at ball,
    Gulliver, Gentle and Rosemary,
There came three knights, looked over the wall,
    Sing: Oh, the red rose and pure white lily.

The first young knight was clothed in red,
    Oh, the rose, the blood red rose,
He said, “Gentle lady will you me wed?”
    Oh, the rose and the pure white lily.

The second young knight was clothed in blue,
    Oh, the rose, the blood red rose,
He said, “To my love I will be true.”
    Oh, the rose and the pure white lily.

The third young knight was clothed in green,
    Oh, the rose, the blood red rose,
He said, “Fair maiden, will you be my queen?”
    Oh, the rose and the pure white lily.

The lady spoke to the knight in red,
“With you, Sir Knight, I never can wed.”

The lady spoke to the knight in blue,
She said, “Little faith I have in you.”

The lady spoke to the knight in green,
She said, “'Tis a court you must seek for a queen.”

The three young knights they rode away,
The ladies laughed and went back to their play.

Sophie Crawford sings Green Grow the Lily

There were three ladies played at ball,
    Green grow the lily O
They were virgins maidens all,
    And the rose is sweet and merry.

There came a young red knight
To take another as his bride.

“You must ask of my father dear
And the mother that did me bear.

“You must ask of my brother John,
And you must ask my sisters everyone.”

“I have asked of your father dear
And the mother that did you bear.

“I have asked of your lover John,
I have asked your sisters everyone.”

Her father led her to the door
And her brother gave her a death wound.

Oh the horse she rode it was pitch black
And her brother rode at the back.

“Ride on, you false young man,
For I fear your bride looks awf'lly wan.

“Ride on and never fail,
For I fear your bride looks awf'lly pale.”

They rode to the riverside
And there she laid down and died.

“What'll you leave your mother dear?”
“Oh the bridal dress that I do wear.”

“Take it down to yonder stream,
My heart's blood runs in every seam”

“What'll you leave your brother's wife?”
“Oh to mourn and grieve in all her life.”

“What'll you leave your brother John?”
“Oh a hangman's noose to hang him on.”