> Folk Music > Songs > The Broom of Cowdenknowes

The Broom of Cowdenknowes / How Blythe, Ilk Morn, Was I to See

[ Roud 8709 ; Ballad Index DTcowden ; Bodleian Roud 8709 ; trad.]

This version of The Broom of Cowdenknowes is from Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (1723, 1724). It is also printed in David Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776).

Gordon Mooney played The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes on Northumbrian smallpipes on his 1998 Temple album O'er the Border.

Concerto Caledonia performed two versions od The Broom of Cowdenknowes in the Winter 2002/3 in Crichton Collegiate Church, Pathhead, Scotland in a programme of songs and tunes from 18th-century Scotland. The first version, sung by soprano Mhairi Lawson, is from Robert Bremner, Thirty Scots Songs, Adapted for a Voice and Harpsichord, the Words by Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh, c.1775); and the instrumental second version is from Francesco Geminioni, A Treasure of Good Taste in the Art of Musick (London, 1749). The concert was released in 2008 on their CD The Red Red Rose.

Ivan Drever sang Broom o' the Cowdenknowes on his 2004 album Tradition. He noted:

Another song, like many on here, which I learned when a little boy. A traditional Scottish love ballad. Certainly traceable back to the seventeenth century, its exact origin is unknown.

The following recorded versions have switched the gender of the protagonists to a male shepherd and a female suitor:

Archie Fisher sang The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes in 1976 on his Topic album Will Ye Gang, Love. Arthur Argo noted:

Originally from the Borders—Cowdenknowes mansion and estate is just south of Earlston in Berwickshire—versions of this song were popular in both Scotland and England by the middle of the 17th century. The tune was, in fact, published in London in 1651, in John Playford’s The Dancing Master, and was subsequently used in The Beggar’s Opera. Kinloch observes that “each district has its own version”. The Ewe-Buchts was another popular title for songs from the same family tree.

Silly Wizard sang The Broom o' the Cowden Knowes in 1978 on their second album, Caledonia's Hardy Sons. A live recording from Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, in October 1983 was included in 1986 on their REL (UK) and Green Linnet (USA) album Golden, Golden, in 1988 on their Green Linnet CD Live Wizardry, and in 2012 on their CD ‘Live’ Again. They noted on their original recording:

A song from the Borders of Scotland telling the story of a young man banished from Scotland because of his love for a girl of higher social standing than himself. It is thought that the melody was written by Rizzio, the lover of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the words by a lass from Mellerstane.

Ed Miller sang Broom o' the Cowdenknowes in 1989 on his Folk-Legacy album of songs of Scotland old and new, Border Background. He noted:

This has always been one of my favorite songs, ever since I first heard it sung by Archie Fisher, years ago—so long ago, in fact, that the words of his version and mine have deviated considerably. Such is the oral tradition.

Cowdenknowes was a farm in the hills near Earlston, a small market and woolen mill town about halfway between Edinburgh and the English border; and broom is a bushy plant that covers the hillsides with its yellow blooms in early summer.

For centuries, sheep grazing has been the main land use in the Scottish Border hills, providing wool for mill towns along the Tweed and other rivers. This song is basically a lament by a shepherd who has fallen for the landowner's daughter; but, as she is from a higher class, he is forced to leave, rather than fulfill his love.

Bram Taylor sang The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes on his 1989 Fellside album Taylor Made and on his 1999 Fellside compilation Singing! The Bram Taylor Collection. He noted:

The original derivation of this version can be found in the James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum Collection (Vol. 1) published as long ago as 1787 and the air dates from the 1650s. Yet today this song, and in particular the tune, has for a long time been a favourite of mine because of its gentle and so singable refrain. ‘Hats off’ to Fiona Simpson's overlayed harmonies on this track.

The Cast sang Broom o the Cowdenknowes to the tune Tha mi tinn in 1996 on their Culburnie CD Colours of Lichen. They noted:

This song and tune were already old when, in the early 1700s, Allan Ramsay included it in The Gentle Shepherd and guaranteed its popularity. A few years after its appearance there it became a fad among ‘trained’ fiddlers to try and add second sections on to old traditional tunes. There's a story that the celebrated Italian composer Geminiani, then living in Dublin, had a go and gave up in frustration after ‘blotting several quires of paper’. We didn't attempt to take up where he left off, but we did discover that the old Gaelic air Tha mi tinn (I Am Sick With Love) wove in well.

Misalliance sang The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes on their 1996 WildGoose album Fortune My Foe. They noted:

This is our version of a traditional Scottish song about a thriving love affair, which goes wrong for obscure reasons.

Ian Giles sang Broom of the Cowdenknowes in 1997 on his WildGoose CD The Amber Triangle. He noted:

A particularly fine example of the universal two lovers parted against their will theme.

According to the liner note of Cherish the Ladies' 2001 album The Girls Won't Leave the Boys Alone, “Cowdenknowes was a mansion and estate near Earlston, a small market and woollen mill town halfway between Edinburgh and the English border.”

See also the other versions of The Broom of Cowdenknowes (Roud 92; Child 217; G/D 4:838).

Lyrics

Broom of Cowdenknowes in Herd: Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs

How blythe, ilk morn, was I to ſee
My ſwain come o’er the hill!
He ſkipt the burn, and flew to me;
I met him wi’ good will.

Chorus (after each verse):
O the broom, the bonny, bonny broom,
The broom o' Cowdenknows;
I wiſh I were wi' my dear ſwain,
Wi' his pipe and my ewes.

I neither wanted ew nor lamb,
While his flock near me lay;
He gather’d in my ſheep at night,
And chear’d me a’ the day.

He tun’d his pipe and reed ſae ſweet,
The birds ſtood liſt’ning by;
Ev’n the dull cattle ſtood and gaz’d,
Charm’d wi’ his melody.

While thus we ſpent our time, by turns
Betwixt our flocks and play,
I envy’d not the faireſt dame,
Tho’ ne’er ſo rich and gay.

Hard fate! that I ſhou’d baniſh’d be,
Gang heavily and mourn,
Becauſe I lov’d the kindeſt ſwain
That ever yet was born!

He did oblige me ev’ry hour;
Cou’d I but faithfu’ be?
He ſtaw my heart; cou’d I refuſe
Whate’er he aſk’d of me?

My doggie, and my little kit,
That held my wee ſoup whey,
My plaidy, broach, and crooked ſtick,
May now ly uſeleſs by.

Adieu, ye Cowdenknows, adieu,
Farewel a’ pleaſures there;
Ye gods, reſtore me to my ſwain,
Is a’ I crave, or care.

Concerto Caledonia sing The Broom of Cowdenknowes

How blythe was I each morn to see,
My swain come o'er the hill,
He leap'd the burn and flew to me
I met him with good will.

O the broom, the bonny bonny broom,
The broom of the Cowdenknows,
I wish I were with my dear Swain,
With his pipe and my ewes.

I neither wanted ewe nor lamb,
When his flocks round me lay:
He gather'd in my sheep at night.
And chear'd me all the day.

He did oblige me ev'ry hour,
Cou'd I but faithful be.
He stole my heart, cou'd I refuse
Whate'er he ask'd of me.

Hard fate that I must banish'd be,
Gang heavily and mourn,
Because I lov'd the kindest swain
That ever yet was born.

O, the broom, the bonny bonny broom,
Where last was my repose:
I wish I were with my dear swain,
With his pipe and my ewes.

Archie Fisher sang The Broom o' the Cowden Knowes

How blithe each morn was I tae see
My lass come over the hill,
She skipped the burn and ran tae me,
I met her wi' good will.

Chorus (after each verse):
O the broom, the bonny, bonny broom,
The broom o' the Cowdenknowes,
Fain would I be in the north country
Herdin' my faither's ewes.

We neither wanted ewes nor lamb
While the flock near us lay,
She gaithered in the sheep ae nicht,
Cheered me a’ the day.

Hard fate that I should banished be,
Gang wearily and mourn,
Because I lo'ed the fairest lass
That ever yet was born.

Adieu, ye Cowdenknowes, adieu,
Fareweel a' pleasures there,
To wander by her side again
Is all I crave or care.

Silly Wizard sang The Broom o' the Cowden Knowes

How blithe was I each morn tae see
My lass come o'er yon hill,
She skipped a burn and ran tae me,
I met her wi' good will.

Chorus (after each verse):
O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom,
The broom o' the Cowden Knowes,
Fain wad I be in my ain countrie
Herdin' my faither's ewes.

Hard fate, that I should banished be
Gang wearily and mourn
Because I loo'd the fairest lass
That ever yet was born.

Fareweel ye Cowden Knowes fareweel
Fareweel all pleasures there
Tae wander by her side again
Is all I crave or care.

Ed Miller sings Broom o' the Cowdenknowes

Oh, blithe was I each morn tae see
My lass come o'er the hill.
She skipped the burn an' she ran tae me;
I welcomed her wi' guid will.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, the broom, oh, the bonnie, bonnie broom,
The broom o' the Cowdenknowes,
Fain would I be in my ain countrie,
Herdin' her faither's ewes.

We neither wanted sheep nor lambs
While the flock near was lain.
I herded in those sheep every night;
She cheered me a' the day.

So hard fate that I should banished be,
Tae gang withoot thee an' tae mourn,
Because I lo'ed the bonniest lass
That ever yet was born.

So, adieu, ye border hills, adieu;
Farewell oor pleasures there.
Tae wander by your side once again
Is all I crave or care.

The Cast sing Broom o the Cowdenknowes

How blithe was I each morn to see
My lass come o'er the hill,
She skipped the burn and ran to me,
I met her wi good will.

Chorus (after each verse):
O the broom! the bonny, bonny broom,
The broom o the Cowdenknowes,
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herdin my faither's ewes.

We neither wanted ewe nor lamb
While the flock near us lay,
She gaithered in the sheep ae nicht,
Cheered me a’ the day.

Hard fate that I should banished be,
Gang wearily and mourn,
Because I lo'ed the fairest lass
That ever yet was born.

Adieu, ye Cowdenknowes, adieu,
Fareweel a' pleasures there,
To wander by her side again
Is a‘ I hope or care.

Ian Giles sings Broom of the Cowdenknowes

How glad was I each morning to see
My lass come over the hill,
She leaped the burn and ran to me,
I met her with good will.

Chorus (after each verse):
O the broom! the bonny, bonny broom,
The broom of the Cowdenknowes,
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herding my father's ewes.

We neither wanted ewes nor lambs
While the flock asleep did lay,
She herded in her flocks by night,
And cheered me through the day.

Hard fate that I should banished be,
To gone away and mourn,
Because I loved the fairest lass
That ever yet was born.

Farewell, ye Cowdenknowes, farewell,
Farewell all pleasure there,
To wander by her side again
Is all I crave or care.