Fair Janet
Download Midi File
Lesley Nelson-Burns

Fair Janet appears in collections beginning in the late 1700s. It appears in Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776), Charles Sharpe's Ballad Book (1823) and Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland (1828). Child collected seven variants of the ballad and noted similar ballads in Scandinavia and Germany.

Fair Janet is Child Ballad #64.

Variants and alternate titles include: Fair Janet and Sweet William, Willie and Annet, Lord William, Willie and Janet, Sweet Willie and Fair Maisry and Sweet Willie.

In some of the variants Janet is pregnant by Willie and about to give birth when her father tells he she must marry a French lord. She persuades Willie to run away with her but is forced to return because she goes into labor. The child is given to Willie's mother to raise. Janet then goes to her wedding and dies after "three turns" with Willie. Child notes that in any "pure and full" version of the ballad Willie also dies.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

Ye maun gang to your father, Janet
Ye maun gang to him sune;
Ye maun gang to your father Janet,
Before his days are dune.

Janet's awa' to her father,
As fast as she could hie:
Oh, what's your will wi' me father;
Oh, what's your will wi' me?

My will wi' you, fair Janet, he said,
It is baith bed and board;
Some say that ye lo'e sweet Willie,
But ye maun wed a French lord.

Janet's awa' to her chamber,
As fast as she could go;
Wha's the first ane that tapped there
But sweet Willie, her jo?

O we maun part this love, Willie
That has been lang between;
There's a French lord coming o'er the sea
To wed me wi' a ring.

Willie he was scarce awa'
And the lady put to bed;
When in came in her father dear,
Make haste and busk the bride!

There's a sair pain in my head, father;
There's a sair pain in my side;
And ill, O ill am I, father.
This day for to be a bride.

Some put on the gay green robes,
And some put on the brown;
But Janet put on the scarlet robes,
To shine foremost through the town.

And some they mounted the black steed,
And some they mounted the brown,
But Janet mounted the milk white steed,
To ride foremost through the town.

O wha will guide your horse, Janet?
O wha will guide him best?
O wha but Willie, my true love;
He kens I lo'e him best.

And when they came to Marie's Kirk,
To tye the haly ban'
Fair Janet's face looked pale and wan',
And her colour gaed and cam'

When dinner it was past and done,
And dancing to begin,
O, we'll go take the bride's maidens,
And we'll go fill the ring.

O, ben them cam' the auld French lord,
Saying, Bride, will ye dance wi' me?
Awa', awa', ye auld French lord,
Your face I dawna see.

O, ben then cam' now sweet Willie,
Saying, Bride, will ye dance wi' me?
Ay, by my sooth, and that I will,
Gin my back should break in three.

She hadna turned her thro' the dance,
Thro' the dance but thrice,
When she fell down at Willie's feet,
And up did never rise.

Willie's ta'en the key o' his coffer,
And gi'en it to his man,
Gae hame, and tell my mother dear,
More horse he has me slain.

The tane was buried in Marie's Kirk,
And the tither in Marie's quier;
And of the tane there grew a birk,
And the tither, a bonnie brier.
From Songs of Scotland
The Royal Edition, Volume II and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.