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Brown Adam

[ Roud 482 ; Child 98 ; G/D 5:994 ; Ballad Index C098 ; trad.]

Martin Carthy sang the Child ballad Brown Adam on his 1971 album Landfall. He commented in the record's sleeve notes:

The tunes for The Broomfield Hill and Brown Adam were written by myself, the former based on a Hebridean tune, which itself is a variant of the tune taken by Marjorie Kennedy Fraser to make the song known around the clubs as Kishmul's Galley and the latter, as far as I know, not being based on any other tune, but for a song that I wanted to do for years.

John Spiers and Jon Boden sang Brown Adam to Martin Carthy's melody in 2003 on their duo CD Bellow and again in 2010/11 on their CD The Works. Jon also sang it as the August 5, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in the former CD's liner notes:

The cult of the smith was strong in pre-Christian Britain. Weland could generally be found living apart from others, concerning himself with forging magical rings to bring back his swan-maiden lover. There is something of a family resemblance in Brown Adam methinks.

This video shows Spiers & Boden at Wallingford BunkFest 2005:

Katherine Campbell sang Brown Edom in 2004 on her CD The Songs of Amelia and Jane Harris which is a companion to the book The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris, edited by Emily Lyle (2002). Her album's notes commented:

The Harris family had only a fragment of this very rare ballad which Child included in his collection as Brown Adam (Child 98B) along with two other longer texts neither of which tell a particularly coherent story. The ballad relates how Broun Edom the smith goes to the good green wood to visit his true love:

It fell out aince upon a time,
Broun Edom he thoucht lang,
That he wad gae to see his luve,
By the lee licht o the mune.

A rather picturesque stanza paints a picture of his studie or anvil of gold (steel in other versions), his hammer with a soft core of reed, and his bellows:

His studie was o the beaten gowd,
His hammer o the pith;
His cords waur o the gude green silk,
That blew his bellows with.

In the fuller texts of the ballad, when he comes to his lady’s bower he finds her being tempted with gifts by a false knight, whereupon he fights with the knight and sends him packing.

The tune as notated by Amelia Harris fits the bagpipe scale (i.e. myxolydian mode with flattened 7th) and is accompanied here on the Scottish small pipes by Gary West. For some reason, Bronson in his Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads has assumed the 7th should be sharp as in the major scale.

Danny Spooner sang Brown Adam on his 2008 CD Brave Bold Boys. He noted:

A characteristic of the traditional ballads is to jump into the action, and give little or no information about the background of the story and Brown Adam is no exception. We are given no clue as to why our hero is banished and has had to set up house with his lady in “the gude green wood”. Professor Child included this song in his immense collection and suggests that a sixteenth century Danish Ballad Den Afhugne Haand is a similar tale except that it is the father who saves the girl by cutting off the hand of her oppressor. A version of Brown Adam also appears in Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy but he omits the second verse which suggests that Brown Adam was a blacksmith. I have often wondered if Brown Adam was the genesis for The Ballad which is included in Scott's epic poem The Lady of the Lake.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Brown AdamSpiers & Boden sing Brown Adam

Oh who would wish for the wind to blow
Or the green leaves fall therewith,
And who would wish for a finer love
Than Brown Adam the smith.

Oh who would wish for the wind to blow
Or the green leaves to fall away,
And who would wish for a far better love
Than Brown Adam the smith.

Oh his hammer is of a beaten gold
And his anvil's all of steel.
Oh his fingers white they are my delight
And he blows at his bellows well.

Oh his hammer is of a beaten gold
And his anvil's all of steel.
And his fingers white they are my delight
And he blows at his bellows well.

But they have banished him, young Brown Adam,
From father and from mother.
And they have banished him, young Brown Adam,
From sister and from brother.

They have banished him, young Brown Adam,
From father and from mother.
And they have banished him, young Brown Adam,
From sister and from brother.

And they have banished him, young Brown Adam,
From the flower of all his kin.
And he's built him a bower in the gay greenwood
All between his lady and him.

And they've banished him, young Brown Adam,
From the flower of all his kin.
And he's built him a bower in the gay greenwood
All between his lady and him.

And as it fell out all on one day,
Brown Adam he thought long.
And he is away to the gay greenwood
For to hunt him venison.

As it fell out all upon a day,
Brown Adam he thought long.
And he walked to the gay greenwood
For to hunt him venison.

And he's taken his bow all in his hand
And his arrows one by one,
And he is away to the gay greenwood
As fast as he could run.

Well, he's taken his bow, his arm all o'er,
And his sword all in his hand,
And he is to the gay greenwood
As fast as he could run.

And he shot up and he shot down
The bird all on the briar.
And he sent it all to his gay lady,
Told her be all of good cheer.

Oh he shot up and he shot down
The bird all in the briar,
Then he sent it home to his gay lady,
Told her be all of good cheer.

And he shot up and he shot down
The flower all on the thorn.
And he sent it all to his gay lady,
Told her he would be home in the morn.

And he shot up and he shot down
The bird all in the thorn,
And he sent it home to his gay lady,
Told her he would be home in the morn.

Brown Adam, he come to his own bower door
And he stood there a little way away.
And it was there that he spied a full false knight
Come a-tempting his lady gay.

And when he came to his lady's bower door
And he stood there a little way away.
Oh, there that he spied a full false knight
Come a-tempting his lady gay.

Oh the knight drew out a gay gold ring
That had cost him many's the pound.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
And this shall all be thine.”

He's taken out a gay gold ring
That has cost him many's the pound.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
And this shall all be thine.”

“Oh I love Brown Adam well,” she says,
“And I know that he loves me.
And I would not give Brown Adam's love
For any false knight that I see.”

“Oh I love Brown Adam well,” she says,
“And I know that he loves me.
And I would not give Brown Adam's love
For any false knight that I see.”

So the knight drew out a purse of gold
That was filled right up to the string.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
And this shall all be thine.”

He's taken out out a purse of gold
That was full unto the brim.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
And this shall all be thine.”

“Oh I love Brown Adam well,” she says,
“And I know that he loves me
And I would not give Brown Adam's love
For any false knight such as thee.”

“Oh I love Brown Adam well,” she says,
“And I know that he loves me
And I would not give Brown Adam's love
For all that you could give.”

So the knight drew out his noble sword
And it flashed there all in her eye.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
Or through you this shall go.”

Then he's taken out a long broadsword
And he's flashed it all in her eye.
“Oh grant me love, oh love, lady,
Or through you this shall go.”

Then a-sighing says the lady gay,
“Brown Adam tarries long.”
Then up there jumped him Brown Adam,
He says, “Lady, I'm here at your hand.”

Then a-sighing says this gay lady,
“Brown Adam, he tarries long.”
Then up there jumped him Brown Adam,
Says, “Lady, I'm here at your hand.”

And he's made him leave his bow and his bow
And he's made him leave his brand.
And he's made him leave a far better thing,
Four fingers of his right hand.

Well, he's made him leave his bow, his bow
And he's made him leave his brand.
And he's made him leave a far better thing,
Four fingers of his right hand.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard. Thanks to Jim Lawton for a small correction.