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The Cruel Mother

No: 20; variant: 20[O]

  1. There was a duke’s daughter lived in York, Come bend and bear away the bows of yew So secretly she loved her father’s clark. Gentle hearts, be to me true.
  2. She loved him long and many a day, Till big with child she went away.
  3. She went into the wide wilderness; Poor she was to be pitied for heaviness.
  4. She leant her back against a tree, And there she endurd much misery.
  5. She leant her back against an oak, With bitter sighs these words she spoke.
  6. She set her foot against a thorne, And there she had two pretty babes born.
  7. She took her filliting off her head, And there she ty’d them hand and leg.
  8. She had a penknife long [and] sharp, And there she stuck them to the heart.
  9. She dug a grave, it was long and deep, And there she laid them in to sleep.
  10. The coldest earth it was their bed, The green grass was their coverlid.
  11. As she was a going by her father’s hall, She see three children a playing at ball.
  12. One was drest in scarlet fine, And the other[s was naked] as ere they was born.
  13. ‘O mother, O mother, if these children was mine, I wold dress them [in] scarlet fine.’
  14. ‘O mother, O mother, when we was thine, You did not dress [us] in scarlet fine.
  15. ‘You set your back against a tree, And there you endured great misery.
  16. ‘You set your foot against a thorne, And there you had us pritty babes born.
  17. ‘You took your filliting off your head, And there you bound us, hand to leg.
  18. ‘You had a penknife long and sharp, And there you stuck us to the heart.
  19. ‘You dug a grave, it was long and deep, And there you laid us in to sleep.
  20. The coldest earth it was our bed, The green grass was our coverlid.
  21. ‘O mother, mother, for your sin Heaven-gate you shall not enter in.
  22. ‘O mother, mother, for your sin Hell-gates stands open to let you in.’
  23. The lady’s cheeks lookd pale and wan, ‘Alass I,’ said she, ‘what have I done!’
  24. She tore her silken locks of hair, And dy’d away in sad despair.
  25. Young ladies all, of beauty bright, Take warning by her last good-night.