Henry's Songbook

All original copyrights respected / For private use only

go to  de   Susannes Folksong-Notizen   English Notes  uk

The Wife Of Usher's Well

  • (Trad - Child 079)

    There lived a wife at Usher's Well, and a wealthy wife was she
    She had three stout and stalwart sons and sent them o'er the sea

    They had not been a week from her a week but barely ane
    When word came tae the carlin wife that her three sons were gane

    They had not been a week from her a week but barely three
    When word came tae the carlin wife that her sons she would never see

    I wish the wind may never cease, nor fashes in the flood
    Till my three sons come hame to me in earthly flesh and blood

    It fell about the Martinmas when the nichts are long and mirk
    The carlin wife's three sons came hame, and their hats were o' the bark

    It neither grew in syke nor ditch, nor yet in ony sheugh
    But at the gates o' Paradise that bark grew fair enough

    Oh blow up the fire my maidens, bring water from the well
    For all my hoose shall feast this nicht since my three sons are well

    And she has made tae them a bed, she's made it large and wide
    And she's ta'en her mantle her aboot, sat doon at the bedside

    And up then crew the red red cock, and up and crew the grey
    The eldest tae the youngest said, 'Tis time we were away

    The cock he hadna crawed but once and clapped his wings at a'
    When the youngest tae the eldest said, Brother we must awa'

    The cock doth craw the day doth daw', the channerin worm doth chide
    Gin we be missed oot o' oor place, a sair pain we mun bide

    Fare the weel my mother dear, fareweel tae barn and byre
    And fare ye weel that bonnie lass that kindles my mother's fire

    carlin - peasant
    fashes - storms
    syke - brook; sheugh - ditch
    channerin - gnawing

    (as sung by Lorna Campbell)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1880:] The Clerk's Twa Sons o' Owsenford, first published in Chambers's "Scottish Ballads" [...] was eked out from a version published by Buchan, and from a fragment in the Border Minstrelsy, with the title of The Wife of Usher's Well. [...] This ballad is also in two parts, though the story is complete in the first; the second recounts the appearance of the ghosts of the two sons after death. [...] The reality of the ghosts is the singular thing in these old ballads. They are not thin evanescent forms that are seen for a moment and then disappear, but substantial beings in their way, who deceive their own flesh and blood. The birken hat, made of the birch that grows at the gate of Paradise, is a characteristic of these apparitions. There have been various conjectures as to the meaning of this singular head-dress; but none very satisfactory. The "channerin worm" is a terribly realistic vision of the loathsomeness of the grave. (Ord, Glasgow Weekly Herald, January 3)

  • [1975:] It is said that the birch is a charm for ghosts to keep off the living; but the folklore of this moving poem need not be taken too seriously. It may be yet another Scots creation of the 18th century. (Faber Book of Ballads, 3rd edn.)

  • [1981:] This haunting piece has died out in the British Isles but it lives a rich and varied life in North America, where most of the versions are similar, pointing perhaps to a common printed source. The story has obvious supernatural overtones [...]. (Notes Peggy Seeger/Ewan MacColl, 'Blood and Roses', vol 2)

  • [1992:] ['Lady Gay'] is one of the best American versions of [this] remarkable ballad on the theme of persistent grief and tears disturbing the sleep of the dead. The children have been sent away to learn magic (grammaree), a point rarely recognized by the folk who sing the ballad. The children's death and their mother's prayer for their return culminates in their ghostly visit to warn her of the effect of her mourning. In most American versions of the Child ballads, supernatural motifs disappear, except where, as in the case of 'Lady Gay', there are religious overtones to the ballad tale. From "British Ballads and Folk Songs from the Joan Baez Songbook." (DC, UWP Archive,

  • [1993:] It is difficult to understand now the lengths of time people would be away when they joined the navy and the uncertainty which must have existed when people were presumed to have died. Dreams and feelings of disaster must have been something which many people would have had to live with without the opportunity for a telephone conversation to see what was happening. (Notes Heather Heywood, 'By Yon Castle Wa'')


Quelle: Scotland / England

go back de  W-Index uk

 Sammlung : Susanne Kalweit (Kiel)
Layout : Henry Kochlin  (Schwerin)

aktualisiert am 10.06.2002