Willow Tree Ballad (American Version)

Myth of the Day:

The Willow Tree (American Version)

This ballad is an American variant of Child Ballad #4 (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight or The Outlandish Knight). It is also known as The Lonely Willow Tree.

The ballad appears in several collections as May Colvin, the earliest of which is Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776). The tune is much older. The McNeils (see reference below) place this version in 17th century America.

“There was a youth, a cruel youth,

Who lived beside the sea,

Six little maidens he drowned there

By the lonely willow tree.

As he walked o’er with Sally Brown,

As he walked o’er with she,

And evil thought came to him there,

By the lonely willow tree.

O turn you back to the water’s side,

And face the willow tree,

Six little maidens I’ve drowned here,

And you the seventh shall be.

Take off, take off, your golden crown,

Take off your gown, cried he.

For though I am going to murder you

I would not spoil your finery.

Oh, turn around, you false young man,

Oh turn around, cried she,

For ’tis not meet that such a youth

A naked woman should you see.

He turned around, that false young man,

And faced the the willow tree,

And seizing him boldly in both her arms,

She threw him into the sea.

Lie there, lie there, you false young man,

Lie there, lie there, cried she,

Six little maidens you’ve drowned here,

Now keep them company!

He sank beneath the icy waves,

He sank down into the sea,

And no living thing wept a tear for him,

Save the lonely willow tree.”