The Young (Baffled) knight: Down deary down

Leggi in italiano

A young knight strolls through the countryside meets a girl (sometimes he surprises her while she is intent on bathing in a river) and asks her to have sex.


Child ballad #112 B

The girl of this version is a lady, testifying that it was not advisable for the honest girls of the past, to go around unaccompanied; in fact, no girl from a good family would have ventured alone in public places (and less so for woods and fields that were not in the family estate), and although Jane Austen a century later, she used to see the English countryside populated by young girls who walk, rarely they were alone.

In the most ancient version of the ballad, a young and inexperienced knight meets a girl in the fields and asks her to have sex, but the girl makes fun of his inexperience in love and tricks him into a ploy. Throughout the centuries and the oral transmission the context of the ballad becomes more prosaic and the girl is no longer playing with fire, but she is all intent on preserving her virtue from a rape.

The text, which sums up version A, is reported by Thomas D’Urfey in Pills to Purge Melancholy, V, 112, 1719, but we see that with a different melody and some cut, the version lends itself very well at a more current or at least nineteenth-century reading, set in the American Far West!
Nina Simone live at the Carnegie Hall in New York, 1963 (from the album “Folksy Nina” 1964).
Nina had a great success in the 80s (after Chanel selected one of her songs, dating back almost 30 years earlier for a television commercial). Despite being a jazz singer – blues – soul she has ventured into folk or better in American balladry. The melody written by Joseph Hathaway and Charles Kingsley, with its sore movement and the pizzicato of the strings, is perfect for a “murder ballad” so in my opinion, the music casts a sinister light on the encounter revealing it for what it is: one failed rape!

There was a knight (1) and he was young a-riding along the way Sir
And there he met a lady fair
among the stacks of hay (2) Sir
(Down deary down)
Quote he “shall you and I, Lady
among the grass lay down oh
And I will take a special care
of the rumpling of your gown(3) oh”
“So -she told him-
If you will go along with me
into my father’s hall Sir
You shall enjoy my maiden’s head
and my estate and all Sir”
Down deary down
So he mounted her on a milk white steed himself upon another
And then they rid upon the road like sister and like brother
Down deary down 
And when they came to father’s home all moulded all about Sir
She stepped straight within the gate and shut the young man out Sir
Down deary down
“Here is a pursue of gold -she said-
take it for your pain Sir
And I will send my father’s men
to go home with you again Sir
And if you meet a lady fair
as you go by the town Sir
You must not fear the dewy grass or
The rumpling grass of her gown Sir”
Down deary down
And if you meet a lady gay
as you go by the hill Sir
Here is the moral of the story
“If you will not when you may
you shall not when you will Sir”

1) the knight could very well be a cow-boy of the Wild West
2) the girl is configured in this setting if not just like a peasant at least as the wealthy daughter of the owner of a large ranch
3) evidently the young man does not know the saying of the previous version” When you have you owne true-love a mile or two out of the town, spare not for her gay clothing, but lay her body flat on the ground


TITOLI: The Baffled Lover (knight),  Yonder comes a courteous knight, The Lady’s Policy, The Disappointed Lover, The (Bonny) Shepherd Lad (laddie), Blow away the morning dew, Blow Ye Winds High-O, Clear Away the Morning Dew
Child #112 A (Tudor Ballad): yonder comes a courteous knight
Child #112 B
Child #112 D ( Cecil Sharp)
Child #112 D (Sheperd Lad)
Blow Away The Morning Dew (sea shanty)


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