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The Clerk’s Twa Sons o Owensford

No: 72; variant: 72C

  1. I’LL tell you a tale, or I’ll sing you a song, Will grieve your heart full sair; How the twa bonny clerks o Oxenford Went aff to learn their lear.
  2. Their father lovd them very weel, Their mother muckle mair, And sent them on to Billsbury, To learn deeper lear.
  3. Then out it spake their mother dear: ‘Do weel, my sons, do weel, And haunt not wi the young women, Wi them to play the fiel.’
  4. Their father sware them on their souls, Their mother on their life, Never to lie wi the auld mayor’s daughters, Nor kiss the young mayor’s wife.
  5. But they hadna been in Billsbury A twallmonth and a day, Till the twa bonny clerks o Oxenford With the mayor’s twa daughters lay.
  6. As these twa clerks they sat and wrote, The ladies sewed and sang; There was mair mirth in that chamber Than all fair Ferrol’s land.
  7. But word’s gane to the wicked mayor, As he sat at the wine, That the twa bonny clerks o Oxenford With his twa daughters had lyne.
  8. ‘O have they lain with my daughters dear, Heirs out ower a’ my land, The morn, ere I eat or drink, I’ll hang them with my hand.’
  9. Then he has taen the twa bonny clerks, Bound them frae tap to tae, Till the reddest blood in their body Out ower their nails did gae.
  10. ‘Whare will I get a little wee boy, Will win gowd to his fee, That will rin on to Oxenford, And that right speedilie?’
  11. Then up it starts a bonny boy, Gold yellow was his hair; I wish his father and mother joy, His true-love muckle mair.
  12. Says, Here am I, a little wee boy, Will win gowd to my fee, That will rin on to Oxenford, And that right speedilie.
  13. ‘Where ye find the grass green growing, Set down your heel and rin, And where ye find the brigs broken, Ye’ll bend your bow and swim.
  14. ‘But when ye come to Oxenford, Bide neither to chap nor ca, But set your bent bow to your breast, And lightly loup the wa.’
  15. Where he found the grass green growing, He slackt his shoes and ran, And where he found the brigs broken, He bent his bow and swam.
  16. And when he came to Oxenford, Did neither chap nor ca, But set his bent bow to his breast, And lightly leapt the wa.
  17. ‘What news, what news, my little wee boy? What news hae ye to me? How are my sons in Billsbury, Since they went far frae me?’
  18. ‘Your sons are well, and learning well, But at a higher school, And ye’ll never see your sons again. On the holy days o Yule.’
  19. ‘Wi sorrow now gae make my bed, Wi care and caution lay me down; That man on earth shall neer be born Shall see me mair gang on the groun.
  20. ‘Take twenty pounds in your pocket, And ten and ten to tell them wi, And gin ye getna hynde Henry, Bring ye gay Gilbert hame to me.’
  21. Out it speaks old Oxenford, A sorry, sorry man, was he: Out it speaks old Oxenford, A sorry, sorry man, was he: ‘Your strange wish does me surprise, They are baith there alike to me.
  22. ‘Wi sorrow now I’ll saddle my horse, And I will gar my bridle ring, And I shall be at Billsbury Before the small birds sweetly sing.’
  23. Then sweetly sang the nightingale, As she sat on the wand, But sair, sair, mournd Oxenford, As he gaed in the strand.
  24. When he came to Billsbury, He rade it round about, And at a little shott-window His sons were looking out.
  25. ‘O lye ye there, my sons,’ he said, ‘For oxen, or for kye? Or is it for a little o deep dear love, Sae sair bound as ye lye?’
  26. ‘We lye not here, father,’ they said, ‘For oxen, nor for kye; It’s all for a little o deep dear love, Sae sair bound as we lye.
  27. ‘O borrow’s, borrow’s, father,’ they said, ‘For the love we bear to thee!’ ‘O never fear, my pretty sons, Well borrowed ye shall be.’
  28. Then he’s gane to the wicked mayor, And hailed him courteouslie: ‘Good day, good day, O Billsbury, God make you safe and free!’ ‘Come sit you down, brave Oxenford, God make you safe and free!’ ‘Come sit you down, brave Oxenford, What are your wills with me?’
  29. ‘Will ye gie me my sons again, For gold or yet for fee? Will ye gie me my sons again, For’s sake that died on tree?’
  30. ‘I winna gie you your sons again, For gold nor yet for fee; But if ye’ll stay a little while, Ye’se see them hanged hie.’
  31. Ben it came the mayor’s daughters, Wi kirtle, coat alone; Their eyes did sparkle like the gold, As they tript on the stone.
  32. ‘Will ye gie us our loves, father, For gold or yet for fee? Or will ye take our own sweet life, And let our true-loves be?’
  33. He’s taen a whip into his hand, And lashed them wondrous sair: Gae to your bowers, ye vile rank whores, Ye’se never see them mair.
  34. Then out it speaks old Oxenford, A sorry man was he: ‘Gang to your bowers, ye lily-flowers, For a’ this maunna be.’
  35. Out it speaks him hynde Henry: ‘Come here, Janet, to me; Will ye gie me my faith and troth, And love, as I gae thee?’
  36. ‘Ye shall hae your faith and troth, Wi God’s blessing and mine;’ And twenty times she kissd his mouth, Her father looking on.
  37. Then out it speaks him gay Gilbert: ‘Come here, Margaret, to me; Will ye gie me my faith and troth, And love, as I gae thee?’
  38. ‘Yes, ye shall get your faith and troth, Wi God’s blessing and mine;’ And twenty times she kissd his mouth, Her father looking on.
  39. ‘Ye’ll take aff your twa black hats, Lay them down on a stone, That nane may ken that ye are clerks Till ye are putten down.’
  40. The bonny clerks they died that morn, Their loves died lang ere noon; Their father and mother for sorrow died, They all died very soon.
  41. These six souls went up to heaven, I wish sae may we a’! The mighty mayor went down to hell, For wrong justice and law.