> Tony Rose > Songs > Young Hunting
> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Earl Richard
> June Tabor > Songs > Love Henry
> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Proud Girl

Young Hunting / Earl Richard / Love Henry / The Proud Girl

[ Roud 47 ; Child 68 ; Ballad Index C068 ; trad.]

This 30-verse long ballad of jealousy and murder was sung unaccompanied by Tony Rose as title track of his first album, Young Hunting (1970). He commented in the album sleeve notes:

The story of Young Hunting is basically a simple one—a jilted girl gains revenge by killing her former lover—and yet the song is one of the most powerful and compelling I have heard. Perhaps more than anything this is due to the drama and mystery lent to the story by the recurring hints of magic and the supernatural—the talking bird, the floating candle used to indicate the place of a drowned body, the body of the murdered man bleeding in the presence of the murderer, and the final trial by ordeal. This is a fine reworking of the ballad by Peter Nalder, and the tune I got from Peter too.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded a much shorter form [Child 68F] with the name Earl Richard in 1969 for their second duo album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 2. The record's sleeve notes comment:

This song concerns the murder of Earl Richard by his jealous lover, and is a shorter version of the ballad Young Hunting. In the latter stanzas a bird speaks to the murderess, and while this could be a reference to the transfiguration of the soul of her victim, it is more probable that the bird plays an innocent role, since speaking birds like the mythological phoenix in earlier times and later the parrot, are universal as messengers throughout folklore. This version comes from Motherwell's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

Arthur Knevett sang Young Hunting on his 1988 cassette Mostly Ballads. Vic Gammon commented in the album's notes:

Arthur learnt this ballad from a recording of A.L. Lloyd. This version represents Lloyd's reworking of mainly Scottish traditional material. His skill in sympathetic recasting such ballads was very impressive. The song demonstrates the consonance between the ballad form and a story with elements that might have intrigued Edgar Allan Poe: a refusal of sexual invitation leads to jealousy and murder; a magical talking bird (a motif in common with The Bloody Gardener), the walling up pf the murdered man's body, the disposal of the body in a river; the rousing of divers by the talking bird, candles burning under the water to show the corpse, and the final ghastly burning of the guilty woman. They don't write them like that any more! Visually it would be a video nasty, in Arthur's restrained, and stoical, ballad performance it is a piece of considerable power.

Simon Haworth sang The Ballad of Earl Richard in 1998 on his Fellside CD Coast to Coast.

John Spiers and Jon Boden recorded Earl Richard in 2001 for their Fellside CD Through & Through, and Jon Boden sang it as the June 28, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He also commented in the CD liner notes:

A version of Young Hunting noted from a Miss Stephenson of Glasgow in 1825. Talking birds are not uncommon in traditional ballads but this one is unusually moral and immune to bribery, a stark contrast to the behaviour of the human characters.

Paul and Liz Davenport sang Young Hunting in 2011 on their CD Spring Tide Rising.

A variant of Young Hunting called Love Henry was collected by Cecil Sharp in September 1916 from Mrs Orilla Keeton, Mount Fair, Virginia. Frank Proffitt of North Carolina sang it as Song of a Lost Hunter (Love Henry) on his Folk-Legacy album of 1962, Traditional Songs and Ballads of Appalachia.

Tom Paley sang Love Henry in 1965 on his and Peggy Seeger's Topic album Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?.

Hedy West sang Love Henry in 1967 on her Topic album Ballads. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Young Hunting is the scholars’ name for this story of love, jealousy, murder and magical talking birds. As often happens, the American versions are much revised, simplified, sometimes corrupted, compared with the British versions. That’s not to say that Americanisation of ballads necessarily means decline (it doesn’t necessarily mean improvement either). Many of the changes come about naturally with the historical development of recognisable American characteristics of mood, outlook, personality. Stressing her proper pride in Americanised song (as proper as the British singers’ pride in his own tradition), Hedy West expresses a fond romance of hers: that people can begin from similarity to expand their tolerance of differences to an appreciation of those differences. The ballad has been not uncommon in Scotland, very rare in England. In the U.S.A. its circulation has been limited almost entirely to the Southern states, but in more or less hillbillyized versions it has been carried widely by rural professional minstrels attached to medicine shows and such, notably through Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and the Ozarks. Cecil Sharp collected this Virginia version in 1916.

The English Country Blues Band sang Loving Henry (Lord Henry and Lady Margaret) in 1983 on their Rogue album Home and Deranged.

June Tabor (accompanied by Mark Emerson on violin) recorded Love Henry in March 1990 at Wytherston Studios. This demo was included in the Hokey Pokey charity compilation Circle Dance and later on her 4 CD anthology Always. She commented in the latter's notes:

I've often found it amusing and distressing the way the great ballads metamorphosed when they crossed the water. Something as disturbing as Young Hunting with its supernatural references, with the corpse bleeding when the murderer approaches and the real weight of horror that is in that tale of murder and the attempted concealment by the former true love, turns into a kind of Disneyfied version that becomes Love Henry. And yet it still has so much strength. Now I appreciate much more the power of the Appalachian versions, whereas I might once have said, “Yes, but it's not as good as the original.” This one sneaked through because it's got so many good lines in it. Particularly,

Then up and spoke a pretty little bird
Exceeding on a willow tree

You've got to sing a song with that in it! The bird flies away into the sunset to star in the sequel, while everybody else dies unhappily ever after.

Chris Coe sang Love Henry in 2001 on her Backshift CD A Wiser Fool.

Martin Simpson sang Love Henry in 2005 on his Topic CD Kind Letters. This recording was also included in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2007 compilation. He commented in his liner notes:

One of the most affecting performers I ever saw at Scunthorpe Folk Club was Hedy West. A banjo player, singer and guitarist from Georgia, Hedy's work has been a great influence on me and many others. She was the source of the 9/4 tune which appears at the end of Fairport Convention's Matty Groves and which Martin Carthy used for The Famous Flower of Serving Men. Hedy recorded a great collection of ballads for Topic in the early 60's and that was the source for Love Henry. The Scot's version is usually called Young Hunting and it appears on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Songs as Henry Lee, performed by Dick Justice. The mixture of sex, murder, talking bird and a great tune is irresistible to me. I wanted to re-Anglicise the song for this record and James Fagan's beautifully considered, driving bouzouki and Nancy's open-tuned fiddle do the job superbly.

A.L. Lloyd sang another variant of Young Hunting called The Proud Girl live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on November 5, 1972. This concert was published in 2010 on the Fellside CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd.

And Frankie Armstrong sang The Proud Girl in 1996 on her ballads album Till the Grass O'ergrew the Corn. The sleeve notes commented:

Bert Lloyd gave Frankie this chilling version of Young Hunting, which he seems to have based chiefly on that given to Walter Scott by James Hogg, the “Ettrick Shepherd”, who had it from his mother. There can be few more imperious female protagonists in balladry: on learning of her love's falseness, she reacts with a ferocity worthy of a heroine from Greek tragedy. One reason for the power of ballad texts is that the bareness of their telling leaves space for singers and listeners to fill in the parts which are missing: they positively demand that we set our imaginations to work. Was it really pride that sparked the girl's action, or true love turned to hate? Did she keep the corpse so close because she still loved him? The candles which burn so bright may, says Child, allude to the practice of floating a loaf with a consecrated candle on it to divine the whereabouts of a drowned body. The inquisitive and tale-telling bird has been identified by folklorists as housing the soul of the dead man.

Brian Peters sang Young Hunting on the 1997 Fellside anthology Ballads. Paul Adams commented in the liner notes:

Brian notes that this is: “A ballad of murder and detection, whose supernatural elements—locating a submerged body using floating candles, a corpse gushing blood in the presence of a murderer, ordeal by fire—are omitted by recent source singers. The garrulous bird, however, is retained in Martin McDonagh's version (he called in “Lady Margaret”), collected in Co. Roscommon by Tom Munnelly in 1974, which supplied the tune used here. Frank Proffitt of North Carolina sang Song of a Lost Hunter—same story, no bird, servant's gender changed to male providing additional sexual frisson—to a recognisably related melody. The text was knocked together from Child; for dark drama it takes some beating.”

Nancy Kerr & James Fagan sang Young Hunting in 1998 on their first duo CD on the Fellside label, Starry Gazy Pie. They commented in their liner notes:

This version of Child 68 is from British Ballads from Maine. Vestiges of totemistic belief account for the ability of animals to chat with the human characters in a ballad. In this case the bird discloses the murder and may be the victim in spirit form. Songs like The Grey Cock and Outlandish Knight also feature human attempts to buy the favour of a surly animal/soul, with varying success.

Sara Grey sang Young Hunting at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2008. This recording was released a year later on the Festival CD Grand to Be a Working Man (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 5). She also recorded Young Hunting in 2009 for her Fellside CD Sandy Boys.

James Findlay sang Young Hunting at the Bath Folk Festival 2011:

Alistair Ogilvy sang Earl Richard in 2012 on his Greentrax album Leaves Sae Green.

Lucy Farrell of The Furrow Collective sang Henry Lee on their 2014 album At Our Next Meeting. She commented in their sleeve notes:

Our version comes from the Peggy Seeger record Heading for Home. When I learnt it I was becoming interested in the symbolism of birds in ballads. In Henry Lee I think the bird that appears at the end represents her conscience, singing too loud. We recorded it on a windy day and decided it added to the atmosphere!

This video shows The Furrow Collective at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow on February 22, 2014:

Iona Fyfe sang Earl Richard in 2016 on the Iona Fyfe Band's EP East. She commented:

Variants of the ballad are known as Young Hunting and Love Henry. A song found in England as well as Scotland, and found in William Motherwell's collection as well as Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. From the singing of Rod Paterson. Earl Richard is a ballad which crossed the atlantic and became part of Appalachian song tradition.

Granny's Attic sang False Lady in 2016 on their WildGoose CD Off the Land. They commented:

A variant of Child ballad 68, Young Hunting. Like all good ballads, some variants of Young Hunting run to over 25 verses but we’ve opted for a more compact rendition here. We came across this variant in Bertrand Bronson’s The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads Volume II printed as The Faulse Layde, we’ve decided to correct the spelling (apologies to any traditional spelling purists). The song was collected from Thomas Edward Nelson of Union Mill, New Brunswick on February 18, 1929. The instrumental section features the traditional tune William Irwin’s, also known as Barbara Allen.

Kate Fletcher and Corwen Broch sang Young Hunting on their 2017 CD Fishe or Fowle. They commented in their liner notes:

In which a talking bird reveals a dreadful murder.

The text [is] Child Ballad #68G, set to the tune collected from Mrs G.A. Griffin of Newberry, Florida, by Alton C. Morris in 1950.

Lyrics

Tony Rose sings Young HuntingTim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Earl Richard

Earl Richard is a-hunting gone,
As fast as he could ride
His hunting horn hung round his neck
And broadsword by his side

As she was a-walking all alone
And down in a leafy wood
She has heard the sound of a bridle reins;
And she hoped that it might be for good.

He rode till he came to my lady's gate
He telled out the pin
And answered yes she had said
To rise and let him in

“Come down, come down, you fine young man,
You're welcome home to me,
To my cosy bed and the charcoal red
And the candles that burns so free.”

“Oh light, oh light, Earl Richard,” she said,
“Oh light and stay the night
You shall have cheer with charcoal clear
And candles burning bright”

“Oh I can't come down and I won't come down
And nor I come into your arms at all
For a finer girl than ten of you
Is a-waiting beneath the town wall.”

“I will not light, I cannot light
I cannot light at all
A fairer lady than ten of you
Is waiting now at Richard's hall.”

“Oh well, a finer girl than ten of me
I wonder now how that might be?
For a finer girl than ten of me
I'm sure that you never didn't see.”

Then and he has leaned him across his saddle
Oh for a kiss before they did part,
And she has taken a keen, long knife
And she's stabbed him to the heart.

He stooped down from his milk white steed
To kiss her rosy cheek
She had a pen knife in her hand
And wounded him so deep

Saying, “Lie there, lie there, you fine young man,
Until the flesh it rots from your bones
And that finer girl than ten of me
Can weary waiting alone.”

“Oh lie ye there, oh lie ye there
Oh lie ye there till morn
A fairer lady than ten of me
Will think long of your coming home.”

She's called the servants one by one
She's called them two by two
“I have a dead man in my bower
I wish he were away.”

Then one's a-take him by the hands
The other by the feet
They've thrown him in the deep draw-well
Full fifty fathom deep

But as she walked up on the high highway
She's spied a little bird up in the tree,
Saying, “Oh how could you kill that fine young man
As he was a-kissing of thee?”

Then up bespake a little bird
That sits upon a tree
“Go home, go home you false lady
And pay your maids a fee.”

“Come down, come down, you pretty little bird
And sit upon my right knee,
And your cage shall be made of the glittering gold
And the spokes of the best ivory.”

“Come down, come down, oh my pretty bird
That sits upon the tree,
I have a cage of beaten gold
That I will give to thee.”

“I can't come down and I won't come down
Nor sit upon your right knee,
For as you did serve that fine young man
I know that you would serve me.”

“Go home, go home you false lady
And pay your maids a fee.
For as you have done to Earl Richard
So would you do to me.”

“Oh, then I wish I had my bended bow
And my arrow close to my knee.
I would fire a dart that would pierce your heart
As you sit there a-pipin' on that tree.”

“If I had an arrow in my hand
And a bow bent on a string
I'd shoot a dart at thy proud heart
Among the leaves so green.”

“Ah, but you've not got your bended bow
And nor your arrows close to your knee.
So I'll fly across the sea to that young man's home
And tell them what I did see.”

So she's gone back to her own house
And she's crossed the threshold with a moan,
And she has taken that fine young man
And she's walled him behind the stones.

And she has kept that fine young man
For full three-quarters of a year
Till a heavy smell began to spread
And it filled her heart with fear.

So she's called unto the servant girl
And this to her did she say:
“There is a fine and a young man in my room
And but it's time that he was away.”

So the one of them's took him by the shoulders,
And the other one's took him by the feet
And they've thrown his body in the River Clyde
And that run so clear and so sweet.

And they had not crossed a rig of land,
A rig and barely one,
Before they saw his old father come a-riding
All along.

“Oh where you've been, my gay lady?
And where have you been so late?
For we've come a-seeking for my only son
Who used to visit your gates.”

And there came a-seeking for this fine young man
A-many lords and many knights.
And there came a-weeping for this fine young man
Full a-many's the lady bright.

And now the ladies turned them around and about
And they made such a mournful sound,
Saying, “We greatly fear that your son is dead
And he lies neath the water and drowned.”

“So, who will dive from either bank
For gold and for fee?”
And the young men dived from either bank
But his body they could not see.

Then up and speaks that pretty little bird
A-sitting up high in the tree,
Saying, “Oh, cease your diving, you divers bold,
For I'd have you to listen to me.”

“And I'd have you to cease your day diving
And to dive all into the night.
For under the water where his body lies
The candles they burn so bright.”

So the divers ceased their day diving
And they dived all into the night.
And under the water where his body lay,
The candles they burned so bright.

And they have raised his body up
From out the deepest part,
And they've seen the wound deep into his chest
And the turf all across his heart.

And when his father did see this dreadful wound
He made such a mournful sound,
Saying, “Oh, who has killed my only son
Who used to follow my hounds?”

Then up and speaks the pretty little bird,
Saying, “What needs all this din?
For it was his light leman took his life
And then threw his body in.”

“Oh, blame not me,” the lady says,
“For it was the servant girl.”
So they built a fire of the oak and ash
And they put that servant girl in.

But the fire wouldn't take upon her cheek
And the fire wouldn't take upon her chin,
And nor would it take upon her hair
For she was free from the sin.

And when the servant girl touched the clay cold corpse,
A drop it never bled.
But when the lady laid a hand upon it
The ground was soon covered with red.

So they've taken out the servant girl
And they've put the lady in.
And the fire it reached a ruddy red,
And all because of her sin.

And the fire took fast upon her cheek,
And the fire took fast upon her chin,
And it sang in the points of her yellow hair,
And 'twas all because of her sin.

June Tabor sings Love Henry Lucy Farrell sings Henry Lee

As Lady Margaret was a-going to her bed
She heard the sound of a musical horn;
It made her feel both glad and sad,
To think it was her brother John, John,
Coming in from his wild hunt.

Who should it be but her love, Henry,
Returning from his king, king,
Returning from his king?

“Come down, come down, Love Henry
And stay all night with me.
You shall have a cheer of a cheerful girl
The best I can give thee, thee,
The best I can give thee.”

“Lie down, lie down, my love Henry,
And stay with me tonight,
And you shall have both candle and comb,
My fire's burning bright,
My fire's burning bright.”

“I shan't come down and I won't come down
And stay all night with thee.
There's a girl by the city wall
I love far better than thee, thee,
I love far better than thee.”

“I won't lie down, I can't lie down
And stay all night with thee;
For there's a lady ten times fairer than you
In Lord Barnet's hall for me,
In Lord Barnet's hall for me.”

He's leaned across his saddle trim
To give her a kiss so sweet;
And with a pen-knife in her right hand
She's wounded him in full deep, deep,
She's wounded him in full deep.

And he's leaned him o'er her soft pillow
For to give her a kiss so sweet;
And with her little pen-knife held keen and sharp
She's wounded him fully,
She has wounded him fully.

“Woe be, woe be, Lady Margaret,
Woe be, woe be to thee;
Don't you see my thick heart's blood
Run a-trickling down my knee, knee,
Run a-trickling down my knee?”

She's called unto a maid of hers:
“The secret keep on me,
And all the fair robes on my body
Shall always be to thee, thee,
Shall always be to thee.”

One's taken him by the long yellow hair,
The other one by the feet;
They throwed him into the well water
Which was both cold and deep, deep,
Which was both cold and deep.

And she's picked him up by his long yellow hair
And also by his his feet,
And she's thrown him in her cruel well
Fifty fathoms deep,
Oh, fifty fathoms deep.

”Lie there, lie there, Love Henry
Until the flesh rots off your bones.
There's a girl by the city wall
Thinks long on your coming home, home,
Thinks long on your coming home.”

“Lie there, lie there, love Henry Lee,
Though I know you may not swim;
That lady ten times fairer than me
She'll never see you again,
She will never see you again.”

It's up and spoke a pretty little bird
Exceeding on a willow tree:
“There never was a girl by the city wall
He loved far better than thee, thee,
He loved far better than thee.”

“Come down, come down, my pretty little bird
And sit all on my knee.
Your cage shall be made of the beaten gold
And the bars of ivory, -ry,
And the bars of ivory.”

“Come down, come down, you pretty little bird,
Come down, sit on my knee.”
“Well, a girl who'd killed her own true love
Would kill a little bird like me,
She would kill a little bird like me.”

“I shan't come down and I won't come down
And sit all on your knee.
For you have murdered your own true love;
Far sooner you would kill me, me,
Far sooner you would kill me.”

“O, if I had an arrow in my hand,
My bow on a tuneful string,
I'd fire a dart to pierce your heart
So you could no longer sing, sing,
You could no longer sing.”

“I wish I had my bending bow,
My arrow and my string,
I'd shoot the dart so nigh your heart
That you'd no longer sing,
That you'd no longer sing.”

“O, if you had an arrow in your hand,
Your bow on a tuneful string,
I'd spread my wings and fly away
And tune my voice to sing, sing,
And tune my voice to sing.”

“I wish you had your bending bow
Your arrow and your string,
I'd fly away to Barnet's hall
You'll always hear me sing,
You will always hear me sing.”

Acknowledgements

I found the verses of June Tabor's Love Henry and Malcolm Douglas's note to the song's origin and some text variants at the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Love Henry and changed the verses to June's actual singing. Thanks too to Garry Gillard who reminded me of Martin Simpson's version.