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©1980 Tania Opland

What makes the spring come in wintertime?
What makes the flower bloom in February,
When the world lies in snow?

What warms a household without a hearth?
How can the poor man keep close his family,
When the winter winds blow?

What is that light that I see in your eyes?
What is that warmth in your touch?
What's this flame in my heart?

This is the warmth of the summer sun.
This is the fire of love.


It's a rosebud in June, and the violets in full bloom
And the small birds singing love songs on each spray.
We'll pipe and we'll sing, love, we'll dance in a ring, love
When each lad takes his lass all on the green grass.
And it's oh, to plough where the fat oxen graze low
And the lads and the lasses do sheep shearing go.

When we have all sheared all our joly, jolly sheep
What joy can be greater than to talk of their increase
We'll pipe and we'll sing, love...
For their flesh it is good, it's the best of all food
And their wool it will clothe us and keep our backs from cold.
We'll pipe and we'll sing, love...

It's the ewes and the lambs, it's the hogs and the rams
And the fat withers, too, they will make a fine show.
We'll pipe and we'll sing, love...

CRUEL SISTER Top of page
trad, adapted by David C. Webb

There lived a lady by the North Sea shore,
Two daughters were the babes she bore.
One grew as fair as in the sun
So coal dark grew the elder one.

A knight came riding to the lady's door;
He travelled far to be their wooer.
He courted one with gloves and rings
But the other he loved above all things.

"Oh sister, sister, won't you walk with me
To see the ships sail o'er the sea?"
And as they walked the windy shore
The dark girl pushed her sister o'er.

Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam
Crying "Sister, reach to me your hand!
Oh sister, sister, please let me live
And all that's mine I'll surely give."

"It's your own true love that I want, and more
That thou shalt never come ashore."
And as she floated like a swan
The salt sea bore her body on.

Two minstrels walked by the windy strand
They saw her body float to land
They made a harp of her breastbone
Whose sound would melt a heart of stone.

They took three strands of her yellow hair
And with them strung this harp so rare.
They took this harp to her father's hall
There to play before them all.

But when they set the harp upon a stone
It began to play alone.
The first string sang a doleful sound:
"The bride her younger sister drowned."

The second string, when this they tried:
"In terror sits the black-haired bride."
The third string sang beneath their bow:
"And now her tears will surely flow."


Blow thy horn, hunter, and blow thy horn on high.
There is a doe in yonder wood, in faith she will not die.
Now blow thy horn, hunter, now blow thy horn jolly hunter.

Sore this deer stricken is, and yet she bleeds no whit,
She lay so fair, I could not miss. Lord I was glad of it...

As I stood under a bank the deer shoff on the mede
I struck her so that down she sank, but yet she was not dead...

There she goeth, see ye not how she goeth o'er the plain,
And if ye lust to have a shot, I warrant her barrain...

To the covert both they went, for I found where she lay.
An arrow in her haunch she hent for faint she might not bray...

Here I leave and make an end now of this hunter's lore
I think his bow is well unbent, his bolt may flee no more...


The provost's daughter was walking alone - Oh but her love it was easy won
When she spied a Scots prisoner a-making his moan - And she was the flower of Northumberland.

"Oh, if a lassie would marry me" - Oh but her love it was easy won
"I would make her a lady of high degree, if she'd loose me out of my prison so strong."

So she's made her way to her father's good stocks - Oh but her love it was easy won
And she's stolen the keys there for many brave locks for to loose him out of his prison so strong.

Then she's made her way to her father's good stable - Oh, but her love, it was easy won
And she's stolen a horse that was both fleet and able To carry her man back to bonny Scotland.

But as they were riding across the scots moor, he said "Oh, but your love it was easy won.
Get you down from my horse, you're a brazen faced whore, and you need to go back to Northumberland."

"Well, it's cook in your kitchen I surely will be, Oh, but my love it was easy won!
For I cannot go back to my own country, although I'm the flower of Northumberland"

"Well, it's cook in my kitchen you never will be, Oh, but your love it was easy won,
For my lady, she will not have servants like thee, and you need to go back to Northumberland."

So quickly was he this young lass to return - Oh but her love it was easy won
That he's hired her a horse and he's hired her a man and he sent her back home to Northumberland.

But when she got there her father did frown, and said "Oh, but your love it was easy won,
For to go with a Scotsman when you're barely sixteen, and ye the fair flower of Northumberland!"

But when she got there her mother did smile and said "Oh, but your love it was easy won,
But you're not the first that young Scot did beguile and you're welcome back home to Northumberland.

"Now you will not lack bread and you will not lack wine, Oh, but your love it was easy won,
And you will not lack silver to buy you a man , and you're aye the fair flower of Northumberland."

Trad. - adaptated by Danny Carnahan

There was a youth and a well-bred youth, a squire's only son,
He fell in love with the bailiff's daughter who lived near Islington
When his parents came to hear of his foolish courtship blind
They sent him away to London town, an apprentice did him bind.
To study books and learn the law no comfort did he find
"The girl I love, I'll see her more, she's dear unto my mind."

When a year had passed and gone, his mates got leave to play
And back on the road to Islington the laddie stole away
And the maid, she dressed as a beggar maid in a tattered gown of grey
And she's up to fair London gone with the sun high in the day,
But the maid she stopped to rest awhile, the day being hot and dry
And there she spied her own true love as he came riding by
She took his horse by the bridle ring and drew him gently in,
Saying, "Give to me one penny, sir, to ease my weary limbs."

"Where were you born?" said the well-bred youth, "Where did you come from?"
"In Islington, kind sir," she said, "Where I suffered many a wrong."
"Oh, if you come from Islington, I'm sure you can't but know
If the bailiff's daughter be dead or alive, come tell me if you know"
"She's not alive but she is dead and in her grave so low.
She's not alive, but she is dead these three long months or more."

"Oh, if my true love she is dead, and in her grave so cold
But you've survived in my father's land, what claim do riches hold?
Take from me my milk-white steed, my saddle and my bow,
And I will go to another land where no one me will know."
But when she saw the grief she caused by the telling of the lie
The maid cast off her beggars clothes, stood revealed before his eye.
"Oh she is not dead, she is alive, and standing by your side.
Your loving maid she is alive and ready to be your bride."
"Fly away grief and welcome joy ten thousand times to me
For I have found my own true love that I thought I ne'er would see!"


When I was a young maid, about seventeen
I enlisted in the Navy for to serve the Queen.
I enlisted in the navy, a sailor lad to stand,
For to hear the cannons rattling and the music so grand.

Well, the officer who enlisted me was a fine and handsome man.
He said, "You'll make a sailor, so come along me lad."
Well, my waist being tall and slender and my fingers long and thin,
Oh the very soon they learned me I soon exceeded them.

They sent me to bunk and they sent me to bed
For to lie with the sailor lads I never was afraid
But in buttoning up me blue coat, it often made me smile
For to think I was a sailor, and a maiden all the while.

They sent me to London to guard the tower
And I swore that I would be there until my dying hour,
But a lady fell in love with me and I told her I was a maid.
She went up to my captain and my secret she betrayed.

Well the captain he came up to me and he asked if it were so.
I dared not, I dared not, I dared not say no.
"It's a pity we should lose you, such a sailor lad you made,
It's a pity we should lose you, such a handsome young maid."

So fare you well my captain, you've been so kind to me
And likewise my sailor lads, I'm sorry to part with thee.
But if ever the Navy needs a lad, a sailor I'll remain,
I'll put off my cap and feathers and I'll run the rigging again!

FACT'RY GIRL Top of page

No more shall I work in the fact'ry, greasy up my clothes.
No more shall I work in the fact'ry with splinters in my toes
Pity me my darling, pity me, I say.
Pity me my darling and carry me away.

No more shall I hear the whistle blow to call me up so soon.
No more shall I hear the whistle blow to call me from my home.
Pity me...

No more shall I hear the drummer wheel rollin' o'er my head
When the fact'ry girls are hard at work, I'll be home in bed
Pity me...

No more shall I hear the bosses say "Girls, you better doff."
No more shall I hear the bosses say "Spinners, you better clean off."
Pity me...

No more shall I see the super come, all dressed up so proud
For I know I'll marry a country boy before the year is out.
Pity me...

No more shall I wear the old black dress, greasy all around.
No more shall I wear the old black bonnet with holes all in the crown.
Pity me...


"Oh say, gentle maiden, may I be your lover?
Condemn me no longer to mourn and to weep!
Struck down like a hart, I lie wounded and fainting
So let down your drawbridge, I'll enter your keep."
Enter your keep, nonny nonny, enter your keep, nonny nonny
Let down your drawbridge, I'll enter your keep.

"Alas, gentle errant, I am not a maiden.
I'm married to Sir Oswald, the cunning old Celt -
He's gone to the wars for a twelve-month o

"Fear not gentle maiden, for I know a locksmith
To his forge we will go, on his door we will knock
And try to avail us of his specialized knowledge
And see if he's able to unpick the lock."
Enter your keep...

"Alas, sir and madame, to help I'm unable.
My technical knowledge is of no avail.
I can't find the secret to your combination
The cunning old bastard has fitted a yale."

"I'm back from the wars with sad news of disaster.
A terrible mishap I have to confide.
As my ship was passing the Straights of Gibralte

"Alas and alack, I am locked up forever!"
When up steps a pageboy, says "Leave it to me!
If you will allow me to enter your chamber
I'll open it up with my duplicate key."

TRUE THOMAS Top of page
© by Danny Carnahan
Used by permission; all rights reserved.

Thomas lay upon a grassy bank and beheld a lady gaye
Come riding o'er so brisk and bold, all on the ferny brae.
Her skirt was of the silk so green and her coat the velvet fine,
And at each toss, her horse's mane rang fifty bells and nine.
And Thomas did salute her, bending down upon his knee.
He said "Well met, enchanting one, you're the flower of this country."
And as he gazed upon her, oh so blind a-love was he
That he has kissed her rosy lips all beneath the Eildon tree

"Oh now you've kissed me Thomas, you must ride away with me
To serve my will for seven years whate'er your chance may be."
She's mounted up her snow-white steed and pulled Thomas up behind,
And aye, whene'er her bridle rang, they flew swift as the wind.
And it's on they rode, and farther on till they spied a garden green,
She said, "Light down dear Thomas, for we near my fair country.
Take this bread and wine and lay your head down on my knee,
For when your fill you've eaten, I will show you fairlies three.

"See the narrow road to paradise, though it winds through thorn and tree.
The broad road leads to the gates of Hell, though fair it seems to be.
But see you not yon farther road, winding round the lilly lee?
That is the road to my fair land where you must go with me.
But mark you Thomas, hold your tongue and answer only unto me,
For should you speak unto another, your own home you ne'er shall see."
When Thomas came into the hall, oh a well bred man was he.
They've asked him questions, one and all, but not one word spoke he.

It's of woven clouds she's made her roof, and of flowered vines the walls,
And jewels did shower down as rain that night among them all.
And each day brought Thomas wonders never seen by mortal eye,
And each night brought Thomas wonder as next to the lady he did lie.
But she rose and said, "True Thomas, now 'tis time you were away,
For seven years have passed and gone, though it seemed but seven days."
"If it's seven years, my lady, since my face on earth was seen,
Pray give to me some token that I may prove where I have been."

And it's on she rode, and farther on­ to the Huntly banks rode she.
She set him down upon the ground beside the Eildon tree.
"As you'd have a token, Thomas, a rare token shall it be,
For the gift I give you, Thomas, 'tis a tongue that cannot lie."
But he's cried "I pray lady and give not this gift to me!
For how may I counsel prince or lord, or court a fair lady?"
"Be careful in your silence, as you're careful what you say.
May your truth outlive them all" she said, as she turned and rode away.