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Brown Robyn's Confession

[ Roud 3882 ; Child 57 ; Ballad Index C057 ; trad.]

Steeleye Span sang Brown Robyn's Confession on their 2016 CD Dodgy Bastards. They commented in their liner notes:

In this song there is an admission of guilt, followed by human punishment and then heavenly reward for the confession. Once Brown Robyn's ship gets lost in the darkness, his men draw lots to establish blame, and it falls to Brown Robyn. He confesses to incest and is thrown out to sea by his men, tied to a plank of wood. The Virgin Mary appears to him and offers him the choice of going back to his men and facing them, or going to heaven. He chooses to go to heaven, but she makes it clear that he's only able to go because he has confessed his sins.

Lyrics

Steeleye Span sing Brown Robyn's Confession

It came upon a Wedensday
Brown Robyn's men went to sea,
But they saw neither moon nor sun,
Nor starlight wi their ee.

“We'll cast kevels among us,
See what the unhappy man may be.”
The kevel fell on Brown Robyn,
The master-man was he.

“'It is no wonder,” said Brown Robyn,
“Although I do not thrive,
For with my mother I had two bairns
And with my sister five.

“Tie me to a plank of wood
And throw me in the sea;
And if I sink you may bid me sink,
But if I swim just lat me be.”

He had not been in the sea
One hour but barely three,
Till by it came Our Blessed Lady,
Her dear young son with she.

“Oh will ye go to your men again,
Or will ye go with me?
Will ye go to the high heavens
With my dear son and me?”

“I will not go to my men again,
For they'd be feared of me;
But I will go to the high heavens
With thy dear son and thee.”

“It's not fot your honour,
It's for no good you did to me;
But it is for your fair confession
You've made upon the sea.”