> Louis Killen > Songs > Young Edwin in the Lowlands
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Edwin
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Edmund in the Lowlands
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Young Emma

Young Edwin in the Lowlands Low / Edwin / Young Emma

[ Roud 182 ; Laws M34 ; G/D 2:189 ; Ballad Index LM34 ; Bodleian Roud 182 ; Wiltshire Roud 182 ; trad.]

Young Edwin in the Lowlands Low is a ballad of a cruel murder from Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L.Lloyd's The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. According to the book notes, George Gardiner and Charles Gamblin collected it in 1907 from Mrs Hopkins of Axford, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and Vaughan Williams in 1909.

Louis Killen recorded Young Edwin in the Lowlands in 1965 for his Topic album Ballads & Broadsides. This recording was also included on the Topic compilation CDs English & Scottish Folk Ballads (1996) and English Originals (1999). Angela Carter commented in the liner notes of Killen's album:

Usually, folk songs tell of a sailor's joyful homecoming, with a happy welcome from the girl he left behind; but Young Edwin's welcome is the cold steel of a sword blade. The girl's cruel parents murder the returned wanderer because his pockets are lined with gold. A favourite of the broadside printers, who knew a good melodrama when they saw one, this ballad has travelled to Canada and the U.S.A. This version is substantially that which Ralph Vaughan Williams collected in Hampshire in 1907; it is printed in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Lizzie Higgins sang Young Emsley to Bill Leader in his own home, Camden Town, London, on January 5, 1968. This recording was released a year later on her Topic album Princess of the Thistle. Another recording made by Ailie Munro in 1970 was included in 2006 on her Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins. The latter's accompanying booklet commented:

Not a song found in the repertoires of too many current British singers, in Rod's experience, yet Roud has some 203 instances. But 56 of these are broadsides and another 94 are from North America, so perhaps it's not so surprising. Unusually, Scotland's 19 entries come from 16 different singers—none of them have been collected twice. Again unusually, England's 25 entries contain the name of only one well-known singer, Harry Cox, while Ireland's 8 boast Maggie Murphy, Geordie Hanna and Eddie Butcher amongst them.

Peter Hall considered that this was an English song, its stanza form perhaps modified by chapbook transmission, brought by coastal fishing trade almost a century ago to Aberdeenshire, where it is always sung to this air. Although also a great favourite of Betsy Whyte's, Lizzie seems to have learned if from her grandmother Maria, in a house filled not only with traditional song but also with popular music of all kinds, from Caruso to Victorian ditties.

Steeleye Span recorded the ballad as Edwin in 1974 for their sixth album, Now We Are Six; their first album with drummer Nigel Pegrum. As so often, their shortened the original version by a few verses. S. Bralex wrote the story Edwin to accompany this song.

George Hanna sang Young Edmund in the Lowlands Low in a recording made in his sister Sarah Anne O'Neill's home near Derrytresk, Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, by Robin Morton in 1977. This was published a year later on the siblings' Topic album On the Shores of Lough Neagh: Traditional Songs of a Tyrone Family.

Peter Bellamy learned this song “from the singing of Geordie Hanna of Co. Tyrone, with additional verses from English variants.” He sang it unaccompanied as Edmund in the Lowlands on his 1979 Topic album Both Sides Then.

In 1992, Martin Carthy sang this ballad as Young Emma on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album's notes:

The English always enjoy good melodrama and this song seems to fit the bill. As such it was very popular with broadside ballad printers, thus ensuring it would be widespread. As Young Edwin / Edward / Edmund in the Lowlands Low it has been collected in England, Scotland, Ireland and North America. Ralph Vaughan Williams collected a fine version from a lady in Hampshire, but (with a hint at a possible future project) Martin's version comes from the Ozark Mountains in the U.S.A. collected by Vance Randolph and obviously went over with emigrants. Unlike many English songs making that journey it has not taken on an American flavour. It also possesses a magnificent melody.

Bella Hardy sang Young Edmund in 2007 on her first CD, Night Visiting.

Jo Freya sang Edwin in the Lowlands Low in 2008 on her No Masters CD Female Smuggler. This video shows her at Cheltenham Folk Festival in 2009:

Jon Boden sang Young Edward in the Lowlands as the July 23, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in the project's blog:

Not sure where Martin Carthy got this version, but I think I prefer it to the more common Irish version, although that's great too (particularly when Paul Brady sings it).

Fiona Hunter sang Young Emsley on her eponymous 2014 CD Fiona Hunter. She commented in her liner notes:

When young sailors came off the boats, pockets full of money, they were often lured into pubs with the offer of a bed and cheap beer—only to then be robbed and murdered. In this song, Emsley begs her sweetheart Edward to stay away from her father's inn, but he ignores the warning and goes drinking. While asleep, Emsley dreams that her lover has been killed. The dream proves prophetic and when she questions her parents they admit to Edward's murder.

Thanks to Steve Byrne for alerting me to Lizzie Higgins' version of this song through the work with the Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches project.

Jim Moray sang Edward of the Lowlands in 2016 on his CD Upcetera. He commented in his sleeve notes:

Notated by Charles Gamblin from Mrs Hopkins of Axford, Hampshire in October 1907. I learned this from Louisa Killen's album Ballads & Broadsides (recorded as Louis Killen).

Lyrics

Louis Killen sings Young Edwin in the Lowlands

Come all you wild young people and listen to my song:
Concerning gold which I've been told does lead so many wrong.
Young Emma was a servant girl, her love a soldier bold
Who ploughed the main much gold to gain for his love, so I've been told.

Young Emma she did daily mourn when first Young Edwin roamed.
But seven long years being passed and gone Young Edwin hailed his home.
He went to Young Emma's house, his store of gold to show
That he had won upon the main above the lowlands low.

Her parents kept a public house that stood down by the sea.
Said Emma, “You may enter in and there the night may be.
I'll meet you in the morning, don't let my parents know
That your name is Edwin who ploughed the lowlands low.”

As Emma lay a-sleeping, she dreamed a dreadful dream,
She dreamed her love lay weeping, his blood flowed in a stream.
She got up in the morning and to her home did go,
Because she loved him dearly who ploughed the lowlands low.

“Oh mother, where's the sailor boy who come the night to stay?”
“He is dead, no tales to tell,” her father then did say.
“Oh father, cruel father, you will die a public show
For murdering my Edward who ploughed the lowlands low.”

The fishes of the ocean swim o'er my lover's grave,
His body rocks in motion, pray God his soul to save.
How cruel were my parents for to murder Edwin so
To steal the gold from one so bold to plough the lowlands low.

Steeleye Span sing Edwin

Come all ye wild young people and listen to my song,
I will unfold concerning gold that guides so many wrong.
Young Emma was a servant maid who loved a sailor bold
Who ploughed the main much gold to gain for his love so we've been told.

He ploughed the main for seven years and then returned home,
As soon as he set foot on shore unto his love did go.
He went unto Young Emma's house his gold all for the show,
That he has gained upon the main all in the lowlands low.

Young Edwin he sat drinking till time to go to bed,
He little thought a sword that night would part his body and head.
And Edwin he got into bed and scarcely was asleep
When Emily's cruel parents soft into his room did creep.

They stabbed him, dragged him out of bed, and to the sea did go,
They sent his body floating down to the lowlands low.
“Oh father, where's the stranger came here last night to lay?”
“Oh, he is dead, no tales can tell,” the father he did say.

“The fishes of the ocean swim o'er my lover's breast,
His body rolls in motion I hope his soul's at rest.
The shells upon the sea shore, rolling to and fro,
Remind me of Young Edwin that ploughed the lowlands low.”

So many a day she passed away and tried to ease her mind,
Crying, “Oh my friends, my love is gone and I am left behind.”
And Emma, broken hearted, was to Bedlam forced to go,
Her shrieks were for Young Edwin that ploughed the lowlands low.

Peter Bellamy sings Edmund in the Lowlands

Come all you wild young people and listen to my song:
Concerning gold which I am told do lead so many wrong.
Young Emily was a servant girl, she loved a soldier bold
Who ploughed the main much gold to gain for his true love, we are told.

Now seven long years being passed and gone, to his homeland he did go.
He landed to Young Emily and all his gold he did show
That he had gained all on the main down in the lowlands low.

Now her father, he kept a public house, it stood down by the sea.
“Young Edmund, you may enter there and there the night you may stay.
I will meet you in the morning but don't let my father know
That your name it is Young Edmund who ploughed the lowlands low.”

Young Edmund he did enter there but all his gold he did show,
Says Young Emily's cruel father, “All this gold will prove your foe
For I will send your body sinking down in the lowlands low.”

And Young Edmund he went up to bed but scarce had fell asleep
When Young Emily's cruel father all in the room he did creep.
He stabbed him, dragged him from the bed, unto the beach he did go,
And he sent his body sinking down in the lowlands low.

As Young Emily on her pillow lay, she dreamed a dreadful dream,
For she dreamed she saw Young Edmund lying in a crimson stream.
So it's early in the morning to her father's house she did go,
Enquiring for Young Edmund who ploughed the lowlands low.

She says, “Father, where is the stranger who came last night to lie?”
“Ah, he is dead, no tales to tell,” her father did reply.
“Oh father, cruel father, you will die a public show
For the murder of my Edmund who ploughed the lowlands low.”

Now all the fishes of the ocean they swim o'er my true lover's grave,
His body rocks in motion, pray God his soul to save.
How cruel was my father to murder Edmund so
And to steal the gold from one so bold who ploughed the lowlands low.

Now Young Emily's cruel father could not day or night find rest,
For the dreadful deed that he had done he therefore did confess.
He was tried and he was sentenced and he died a public show
For the murder of Young Edmund so dear who ploughed the lowlands low.

Martin Carthy sings Young Emma

Come all you young people and listen to my song:
I will unfold concerning gold that does so many wrong.
Emma was a serving girl, she loved a soldier bold.
He ploughed the main, some gold to gain,
He ploughed the main, some gold to gain
For his love, so I been told.

Young Emma she had daily mourned since Edward first left home.
Seven long years had passed and gone since Edward had been home.
He returned to Emma's home again, his gold all for to show
That he had gained all on the main,
That he had gained all on the main
Down in the lowlands low.

Young Edward he sat smoking till time to go to bed,
Not thinking of the trouble that prowled around his head.
Says Emma's cruel parents, “His gold will make a show,
And we'll send his body floating,
We'll send his body floating
Down to the lowlands low.”

Young Edward had gone to bed, he'd scarcely fall asleep,
When Emma's cruel parents into his room did creep.
They beat him, they dragged him, down to the beach they go,
And they left his body floating,
They left his body floating
Down to the lowlands low.

Now Emma lay sleeping, she dreamed a dreadful dream,
She dreamed her love was murdered and the blood appeared in streams.
She awoke at break of daylight and to his room she go,
'Twas because she loved him dearly,
Because she loved him dearly
Who ploughed the lowlands low.

“Oh father, where's that young man come here last night to lie?”
“He's dead and gone, no tale can tell,” her father did reply.
“Oh father, oh father, you'll die a public show
For the murder of my Edward,
For the murder of my Edward
Who ploughed the lowlands low.”

The fish all in the ocean swim over my love's head,
His body rolls in motion, I hope his soul's at rest.
The trees all on the mountain, a-tossing to and fro,
Remind me of my Edward,
Remind me of my Edward
Who ploughed the lowlands low.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Wolfgang Hell. Thank you!