Ed de Moel

Child Ballads - Narrative


    1. Motherwell's Manuscript, p. 139.
    2. Motherwell's Minstrelsy, p. 339. From recitation.
    Version A
  1. Percy's Reliques, 1765, i, 53. Communicated by Sir David Dalrymple. Version B
  2. Manuscript of A. Laing, one stanza. Version C

A b, "given from the recitation of an old woman," is evidently A a slightly regulated by Motherwell. B, we are informed in the 4th edition of the Reliques, p. 61, was sent Percy by Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes. Motherwell thought there was reason to believe "that his lordship made a few slight verbal improvements on the copy he transmitted, and altered the hero's name to Edward, a name which, by the bye, never occurs in a Scottish ballad, except where allusion is made to an English king."[foot-note] Dalrymple, at least, would not be likely to change a Scotch for an English name. The Bishop might doubtless prefer Edward to Wat, or Jock, or even Davie. But as there is no evidence that any change of name was made, the point need not be discussed. As for other changes, the word "brand," in the first stanza, is possibly more literary than popular; further than this the language is entirely fit. The affectedly antique spelling[foot-note] in Percy's copy has given rise to vague suspicions concerning the authenticity of the ballad, or of the language: but as spelling will not make an old ballad, so it will not unmake one. We have, but do not need, the later traditional copy to prove the other genuine. 'Edward' is not only unimpeachable, but has ever been regarded as one of the noblest and most sterling specimens of the popular ballad.

Motherwell seems to incline to regard 'Edward' rather as a detached portion of a ballad than as complete in itself. "The verses of which it consists," he says, "generally conclude the ballad of 'The Twa Brothers,' and also some versions of 'Lizie Wan:'" Minstrelsy, LXVII, 12. The Finnish parallel which Motherwell refers to, might have convinced him that the ballad is complete as it is; and he knew as well as anybody that one ballad is often appended to another by reciters, to lengthen the story or improve the conclusion.[foot-note] More or less of 'Edward' will be found in four versions of 'The Twa Brothers' and two of 'Lizie Wan,' further on in this volume.

This ballad has been familiarly known to have an exact counterpart in Swedish. There are four versions, differing only as to length: 'Sven i Rosengard,' A, Afzelius, No 67, III, 4, eleven two-line stanzas, with three more lines of burden; B, in, 3, six stanzas (Bergström's ed., No 54, 1,2); C, Arwidsson, No 87 A, II, 83, eighteen stanzas; D, No 87 B, II, 86, sixteen stanzas. The same in Danish: A, Grundtvig, Engelske og skotske Folkeviser, p. 175, nine stanzas; B, Boisen, Nye og gamle Viser, 10th ed., No 95, p. 185, 'Brodermordet.' And in Finnish, probably derived from the Swedish, but with traits of its own: A, Schroter's Finnische Runen, p. 124, 'Werinen Pojka,' The Bloodstained Son, fifteen two-line stanzas, with two lines of refrain; B, 'Velisurmaaja,' Brother-Murderer, Kanteletar, p. x, twenty stanzas.

All these are a dialogue between mother and son, with a question and answer in each stanza. The mother asks, Where have you been? The son replies that he has been in the stable [Danish, grove, fields; Finnish A, on the sea-strand]. "How is it that your foot is bloody?"[foot-note] [clothes, shirt; Finnish, "How came your jerkin muddy?" etc.] A horse has kicked or trod on him. "How came your sword so bloody?" He then confesses that he has killed his brother. [Swedish D and the Danish copies have no question about the foot, etc.] Then follows a series of questions as to what the son will do with himself, and what shall become of his wife, children, etc., which are answered much as in the English ballad. Finally, in all, the mother asks when he will come back, and he replies (with some variations), When crows are white. And that will be? When swans are black. And that? When stones float. And that? When feathers sink, etc. This last feature, stupidly exaggerated in some copies, and even approaching burlesque, is one of the commonplaces of ballad poetry, and may or may not have been, from the beginning, a part of the ballads in which it occurs. Such a conclusion could not be made to adhere to 'Edward,' the last stanza of which is peculiar in implicating the mother in the guilt of the murder. Several versions of * The Twa Brothers' preserve this trait, and 'Lizie Wan' also.

The stanza of this ballad was originally, in all probability, one of two lines a question and an answer with refrains, as we find it in A 10, 11, 12, and the corresponding Swedish and Finnish ballad; and in 'Lord Randal,' J, K, etc., and also the corresponding Swedish and German ballad. A 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 are now essentially stanzas of one line, with refrains; that is, the story advances in these at that rate. A 4, 7 (= C) are entirely irregular, substituting narrative or descriptive circumstances for the last line of the refrain, and so far forth departing from primitive simplicity.[foot-note] The stanza in B embraces always a question and a reply, but for what is refrain in other forms of the ballad we have epical matter in many cases. A 1, 2, substantially, = B 1; A 3, 4 = B 2; A 5, 6 = B 3; A 8, 9 = B 4; A 11 = 6; A 12 =7.

Testaments such as this ballad ends with have been spoken of under No 11.

A is translated by Grundtvig, Engelske og skotske Folkeviser, No 26, p. 172; by Rosa Warrens, Schottische V. L., No 21, p. 96; by Wolff, Halle des Völker, I, 22,' and Hausschatz, p. 223. B, in Afzelius, in, 10; "often in Danish," Grundtvig; by Herder, Volkslieder, II, 207; by Doring, p. 217; Gerhard, p. 88; Knortz, Schottische Balladen, No 27. Swedish A, by W. and M. Howitt, Literature and Romance of Northern Europe, I, 263.[foot-note]

This page most recently updated on 15-Oct-2011, 09:07:57.
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