> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > False Knight on the Road
> Steeleye Span > Songs > False Knight on the Road
> Martin Carthy > Songs > False Knight on the Road

The Fause Knight Upon the Road / False Knight on the Road

[ Roud 20 ; Child 3 ; Ballad Index C003 ; Wiltshire 869 ; trad.]

Frank Quinn of Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, sang False Knight on the Road in a recording made in 1958 by Sean O'Boyle on the anthology The Child Ballads 1 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 4; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

Archie Fisher sang The Child on the Road in 1968 on his eponymous Transatlantic album Archie Fisher.

Norman Kennedy sang The Fause Knight Upon the Road in 1968 on his Folk-Legacy album Ballads & Songs of Scotland.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded False Knight on the Road in 1971 for their third duo album Summer Solstice and in the same year with Steeleye Span for their second album Please to See the King. The latter version with Martin Carthy's low, sneaky vocals and with driving bass and percussion makes one nearly forget that this is a drummer-less band. Steeleye Span performed this song live on the BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert” on September 15, 1971. This programme was included as bonus CD on the 2006 reissue of Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again.

A live recording of this song from March 7, 1978 at Winter Gardens, Bornemouth, can be found on Steeleye's album Live at Last!. Martin Carthy sings the first four verses, then there is a long coda with the tune Monck's March, and Maddy Prior finishes with the last three verses. This track was included in 2001 on the Martin Carthy anthology The Carthy Chronicles. The latter album's sleeve notes state:

Riddle-solving forms the base of this most ancient ballad. The child who wittily answers the false knight's questions is actually saving his soul from the devil (in disguise?). One wrong answer and you're whipped away to hell, which as a format is far more gripping than any TV show-quiz.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior's version of the ballad comes quite indirectly from the singing of Maud Long, whose mother, Jane Gentry, was one of the singers from whom Cecil Sharp gathered songs in North Carolina in 1916. It is considerably modified from the version recorded for the Library of Congress in 1947 by Maud Long. Two other versions are available by Joe Hickerson and Betty Smith.

Lea Nicholson sang The False Knight on the Road in 1971 on his Trailer album Horsemusic and Pete and Chris Coe sang it in 1972 on their Trailer album Open the Door and Let Us In.

Chris & Siobhan Nelson learned False Knight on the Road from the singing of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior and recorded it for their 2006 album, Day Has Dawned.

Niamh Boadle sang The Knight Upon the Road in 2010 on her CD Wild Rose.

Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts sang False Knight in 2012 on their CD The Innocent Left.

The Outside Track sang False Knight on the Road in 2012 on their CD Flash Company. They commented in their liner notes:

This version of the popular Child ballad come from Tony Small of Galway. Norah [Rendell] learned it from Mirella Murray and Tola Custy's album Three Sunsets. Disguised as a knight, the trickster poses riddles to the child with the intent of luring him away to hell if he answers them incorrectly. The educated boy, armed with his ‘good book’ and common sense, answers all the riddles and keeps walking along his own sure part.

Lyrics

Steeleye Span sing False Knight on the Road

“Oh, where are you going?” says the false knight on the road.
“I'm going to me school,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“What is on your back?” says the false knight on the road.
“Me bundles and me books,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“I came a-walking by your door,” says the false knight on the road.
“That lay in your way,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“Flung your dog a stone,” says the false knight on the road.
“I wish it was a bone,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“Oh, what sheep and cattle's that?” says the false knight on the road.
“They're mine and me father's,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“And how many shall be mine?” says the false knight on the road.
“The ones that have the blue tail,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“Oh, can I get a share o' them?” says the false knight on the road.
“You cannot get a share of them,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“And why the stick all in your hand?” says the false knight on the road.
“To keep me from all cold and harm,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“Oh, I wish you were in yonder tree,” says the false knight on the road.
“A ladder under me,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“The ladder it'll break,” says the false knight on the road.
“And you will surely fall,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“I wish you were in yonder sea,” says the false knight on the road.
“A good boat under me,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“The boat will surely sink,” says the false knight on the road.
“And you will surely drown,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“Has your mother more than you?” says the false knight on the road.
“Oh, none of them for you,” says the wee boy and still he stood.
“I think I hear a bell,” says the false knight on the road.
“It's ringing you to hell,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing False Knight on the Road

“Oh, what brings you here so late?” said the knight on the road.
“I go to meet my God,” said the child as he stood.
And he stood and he stood,
And it's well that he stood.
“I go to meet my God,” said the child as he stood.

“Oh, how will you go by land?” said the knight on the road.
“With a strong staff in my hand,” said the child as he stood.
And he stood and he stood,
And it's well that he stood.
“With a strong staff in my hand,” said the child as he stood.

“Oh, how will you go by sea?” said the knight on the road.
“With a good boat under me,” said the child as he stood.
And he stood and he stood,
And it's well that he stood.
“With a good boat under me,” said the child as he stood.

“Oh, me thinks I hear a bell.” said the knight on the road.
“It's ringing you to hell,” said the child as he stood.
And he stood and he stood,
And it's well that he stood.
“It's ringing you to hell,” said the child as he stood.

“Oh, what brings you here so late?” said the knight on the road.
“I go to meet my God,” said the child as he stood.
And he stood and he stood,
And it's well that he stood.
“I go to meet my God,” said the child as he stood.