Folksongs Blog

"The Cruel Mother"

As written in Select English Classics: Old Ballads, by Q

ca. 1910

In the following text, the burden is indicated in italics in the first stanza.
The form of each individual chorus is a-1-b-2, where a is the first line of the couplet, b is the second, and 1 and 2 are the first and second lines of the burden.

She leaned her back unto a thorn;
Three, three, and three by three
And there she has her two babes born.
Three, three, and thirty-three.

She took frae 'bout her ribbon-belt,
And there she bound them hand and foot.

She has ta'en out her wee pen-knife,
And there she ended baith their life.

She has howked a hole baith deep and wide,
She has put them in baith side by side.

She has covered them o'er wi' a marbel stane,
Thinking she would gang maiden hame.

As she was walking by her father's castle wa',
She saw twa pretty babes playing at the ba'.

'O bonnie babes, gin ye were mine,
I would dress you up in satin fine.

'O I would dress you in the silk,
And wash you ay in morning milk.'

'O cruel mother, we were thine,
And thou made us to wear the twine.

'O cursed mother, heaven's high,
And that's where thou will ne'er win nigh.

'O cursed mother, hell is deep,
And there thou'll enter step by step.'