Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
46. Childe Waters

CHILDE WATERS in his stable stood
  Stroking his milk-white steed:
To him came a fair young lady
  As ever wore woman’s weed.

Says, ‘Christ you save, Childe Waters!’
  Says, ‘Christ you save and see!
My girdle of gold, which was too long,
  Is now too short for me.

‘And all is with one child of yours
  I feel stir at my side:        10
My gown of green, it is too strait;
  Before it was too wide.’—

‘If the child be mine, Burd Ellen,’ he said,
  ‘Be mine as you do swear,
Take you Cheshire and Lancashire both,        15
  And Make that child your heir.’

She says, ‘I would rather have one kiss,
  Childe Waters, of thy mouth
Than I would have Cheshire and Lancashire both,
  That lies by north and south.’—        20

‘To-morrow, Ellen, I must ride
  Far into the north counrtye.’—
‘Then I will run low by your side:
  Your foot-page let me be!’—

‘If you will be my foot-page, Ellen,
  As you do tell it me,
Then you must cut your gown of green
  An inch above your knee.’

Childe Waters leapt on his milk-white steed,
  And fast away did ride:        30
Burd Ellen has kilted her gay clothing,
  And ran low by his side.

All this long day Childe Waters rode,
  She barefoot by his side;
Yet was he never so courteous a knight        35
  As to say, ‘Burd Ellen, ride.’

He has ridden, and she has run,
  And barefoot through the broom;
Yet was he never so courteous a knight
  As to say, ‘Put on your shoon.’        40

‘Ride softly,’ she said, ‘Childe Waters!
  O why do you ride so fast?
The child which is no man’s but yours
My body it will brast.’

He has ridden on high horseback,
  And she’s run low beside,
Utill they came to a wan water—
  I think men call it Clyde.

Says, ‘See’st yon water, Ellen,
  That flows from bank to brim?’—        50
‘I trust to God, Childe Waters
  You will never see me swim.’

The firsten step Burd Ellen stept,
  The water came to her knee;
‘Ochon, alas!’ said Burd Ellen,        55
  ‘This water’s o’er deep for me!’

The neisten step Burd Ellen stept,
  The water came to her middle;
And sighing said Burd Ellen,
  ‘I’ve wetted my golden girdle!’        60

The thirden step Burd Ellen stept,
  The water came to her pap;
And the bairn that was in her two sides
  For cold began to quake.

‘Lie still, lie still, my own dear babe!
  Ye work your mother woe;
Your father that rides on high horseback
  Cares little for us two.’

About the midst of Clyde-water
  There was a yeard-fast stone:        70
He lightly turn’d his horse about
  And took Burd Ellen on.

When she over the water won,
  She then came to his knee:
Says, ‘How far is it to your lodgin’        75
  Where we this night may be?’—

‘Seest thou not yon castle, Ellen?
  Of red gold shines the gate:
There is twenty-and-four fair ladies
  And one my worldly mate.        80

‘Seest thou not yon castle, Ellen?
  Of red gold shines the tower:
There is twenty-and-four fair ladies,
  And one my paramour.

‘Seest thou not yon castle, Ellen,
  That shines so fair to see?
There’s a lady in it, Ellen,
  Will sunder you and me.’—

‘I do see the castle, Chide Waters:
  Of red gold shines the gate.        90
God give you good then of yourself,
  And of Your worldly mate!

‘I wish no ill to your lady;
  She ne’er wish’d none to me;
But I wish the maid most of your love        95
  Dries this and more for thee.

‘I wish no ill to your lady;
  She ne’er comes in my thought;
But I wish the maid most of your love
  That dearest has you bought.’—        100

‘But my hounds shall eat of the bread of wheat,
  And you of the bread of bran;
And you shall curse the heavy hour
  That ever your love began.

‘But my horse shall drink of the good red wine,
  And you of the water wan;
And you will sigh and say “Alas,
  That ever I loved a man!”’—

‘O, I will drink of the wan water,
  And eat of the bread of bran;        110
And aye will I bless the happy hour
  That ever I Loved a man.’

O four-and-twenty gay ladies
  Were playing at the ball,
But Ellen, the fairest lady,        115
  Must bring his steed to stall.

And four-and-twenty gay ladies
  Were playing at the chess,
But Ellen, the fairest lady,
  Must bring his horse to grass.        120

When bells were rung, and mass was sung,
  And a’ men bound to meat,
Burd Ellen was at the bye-table
  Among the foot-men set.

‘O eat and drink, my bonny boy,
  The white bread and the beer.’—
‘The never a bit can I eat or drink,
  My heart’s so full of fear.’—

‘O eat and drink, my bonny boy,
  The white bread and the wine.’—        130
‘O I cannot eat nor drink, master,
  My heart’s so full of pine.’

But out and spake Childe Waters’ mother,
  And a skilly dame was she:
‘Where met ye with that little foot-page        135
  That looks so sad on thee?

‘Sometimes his cheek is rosy red,
  And sometimes deadly wan;
He’s liker a woman big with bairn
  Than a young lord’s serving-man.’        140

And then bespake Childe Waters’ sister,
  And these were the words said she:
‘You have the prettiest foot-page, brother,
  Let him go into chamber with me.’—

‘It is more meet for a little foot-page,
  That has run through moss and mire,
To take his supper upon his knee,
  And sit by the kitchen fire,
Than to go into chamber with any lady
  That wears so rich attire.        150

‘Rise up, rise up, my bonny boy;
  Give my horse corn and hay.’—
‘O that I will, my master dear,
  As quickly as I may.’

She’s ta’en the hay under her arm,
  The corn into her hand,
And she’s gone to the great stable
  As fast as e’er she can.

‘O room ye round, my bonny brown steeds!
  O room ye near the wall!        160
For this pain that strikes me through my sides
  Full soon will gar me fall.’

She’s lean’d her back against the wall,
  Strong travail seized her on;
And even among the great horse’ feet        165
  Burd Ellen brought forth her son.

And that beheard Childe Waters’ mother,
  Sat in her bower alone.
‘Rise up, rise up, Childe Waters,’ she said,
  ‘Seek neither hose nor shoon!’        170

She said, ‘Rise up, thou Childe Waters,
  I think thou’rt a cursèd man;
For yonder’s a ghost in thy stable
  That grievously doth groan,
Or else some woman labours of child,        175
  She is so woe-begone.’

But up then rose Childe Waters,
  Stay’d neither for hose nor shoon,
And he’s doen him to the stable-door
  Wi’ the clear light of the moon.        180

And when he came to the stable-door,
  Full still there he did stand,
That he might hear Burd Ellen,
  How she made her monand.

She said, ‘Lullabyè, my own dear child!
  Lùllabye, dear child dear!
I would thy father were a king.
  Thy mother laid on a bier!’—

‘O open the door, Burd Ellen!
  O open and let me in!        190
I want to see if my steed be fed,
  Or my greyhounds fit to rin.’—

‘How can I open, how shall I open,
  How can I open to thee,
When lying amang your great steeds’ feet,        195
  Your young son on my knee?’

He strack the door hard wi’ his foot,
  And push’d it wi’ his knee;
And iron locks and iron bars
  Into the floor flung he.        200
‘Be not afraid, Burd Ellen,’ he says,
  ‘There’s none comes in but me.’

‘An asking, an asking, Childe Waters,
  An asking I beg of thee:
May the meanest maid about your house        205
  Bring a glass o’ water to me!’

Up he has ta’en his bonny young son,
  Gar’d wash him wi’ the milk;
And up he has taken his fair lady,
  Gar’d row her in the silk.        210

‘Peace now,’ he said, ‘Burd Ellen,
  And be of good cheer, I pray;
Your bridal and your churching both
  Shall be upon one day.’
GLOSS:  fountain-stone] font.  yeard-fast] fast in earth.  Dries] endures.  pine] pain.  skilly] wise, knowledgeable.  monand] moaning.  row] wrap.


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