The Outlandish Knight
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad is known throughout Great Britian and Ireland, as well as northern and southern Europe. It appears in several collections as May Colvin, the earliest of which is Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776).

This ballad is Child Ballad #4 (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight).

The lyrics vary slightly in Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight. In Peter Buchan's Ancient Ballads (1828) the heroine is Lady Isabel. The knight is an elf. She persuades the knight to lay his head on her knee and when he falls asleep she kills him with his dagger. Child noted the similarity between this and Bluebeard as well as the story of Judith and Holofernes in the Apocrypha.

A variant also appears in the Appalachians as Pretty Polly. Another American variant is The Willow Tree.

Sharp believes the term "outlandish" refers to the borderland between England and Scotland, but notes that in many parts of England the term "outlander" referred to anyone who did not belong to the local county or district.

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

An outlandish knight came from the northlands;
And he came wooing to me;
He said he would take me to foreign lands
And he would marry me.

Go fetch me some of your father's gold,
And some of your mother's fee,
And two of the best nags from out of the stable,
Where there stand thirty and three.

She mounted upon her milkwhite steed,
And he on his dapple grey;
They rode till they came unto the seaside,
Three hours before it was day.

Light off, light on, thy milkwhite steed;
Deliver it up unto me;
For six pretty maidens I have drown'd here,
And thou the seventh shall be.

Doff off, doff off thy silken things,
Deliver them up unto me;
I think that they look too rich and too gay
To rot all in the salt sea.

If I must doff off my silken things,
Pray turn thy back unto me;
For it is not fitting that such a ruffian
A naked woman should see.

And cut thou away the brimbles so sharp,
The brimbles from off the brim
That they may not tangle my curly locks,
Nor scratch my lilywhite skin.

He turned around his back to her
And bent down over the brim.
She caught him around the middle so small
And bundled him into the stream.

He dropped high, he dropped low,
Until he came to the side;
Catch hold of my hand, my fair pretty maid,
And thee I will make my bride.

Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
Lie there instead of me,
For six pretty maidens hast thou a-drowned here
The seventh hath drown-ed thee.

She mounted on her milkwhite steed,
And led the dapple-grey;
She rode till she came to her father's house,
Three hours before it was day.

The parrot hung in the window so high,
And heard what the lady did say;
What ails thee, what ails thee, my pretty lady,
You've tarried so long away?

The king was up in his bed-room so high,
And heard what the parrot did say:
What ails thee, what ails thee, my pretty Polly,
You prattle so long before today?

It's no laughing matter, the parrot did say,
That loudly I call unto thee;
For the cat has a-got in the window so high,
I fear that she will have me.

Well turn-ed, well turned, my pretty Polly;
Well turned, well turn-ed for me;
Thy cage shall be made of the glittering gold,
And the door of the best ivory.
Additional Versions
Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs
See Bibliography for full information.
Some information also From The Traditional Ballad Index