Poems of the Week: Two Ballads

These ballads were sent in by Ray Olson

The Broom of the Cowdenknowes (From Child 217)

How blithe each morn was I tae see

My lass come o'er the hill.

She tripped the burn and ran tae me.

I met her wi good will.



O, the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom,

The broom o' the Cowdenknowes!

Fain wad I be in my ain country,

Herdin’ m’ faither's yowes.


Hard fate that I should banished be,

Gang wearily and mourn,

Because I lu’d the fairest lass

That ever yet was born.




Farweel, ye Cowdenknowes, farweel,

Farweel a’ pleasures there.

To wander by her side again

Is a’ I crave or care.



Claudy Banks (Traditional)

'Twas on one summer's evening all in the month of May,
Down by a flowery garden where Betsy, she did stray.
I overheard a fair maid in sorrow to complain,
All for her absent lover who ploughs the raging main.

I stepped up to this fair maid and put her in surprise.
I own she did not know me, I being all in disguise.
Said I, “My charming creature, my joy and heart's delight,
How far have you to travel this dark and rainy night?”

“Away, kind sir, to Claudy banks, if you will please to show,
Pity a girl distracted, it's there I have to go.
I'm a-looking for a young man and Johnny is his name,
And I'm told it's there on Claudy banks today he do remain.”

“If m' Johnny, he was here this night, he'd keep me from all harm,
But he's cruising the wide ocean in tempest and in storm.
He's cruising the wide ocean for honour and for gain.”
“But I'm told his ship got wreck-ed all on the coast of Spain.”

Now when she heard this dreadful news, she fell into despair,
A-wringing of her hands and a-tearing of her hair.
“Since my Johnny's gone and left me, no man on earth I'll take,
But it's all my life on Claudy banks I'll wander for his sake.”

Now Johnny, hearing her say so, he could no longer stand.
He fell into her arms, crying, “Betsy, I'm that man!
I am that faithful young man, all whom you thought was slain,
And since we've met on Claudy banks we'll never part again.”



The Fleming Foundation

2 Responses

  1. Katherine Boyer says:

    Many thanks to Ray. I know Broom of the Cowdenknowes (I am a Silly Wizard fan, and they recorded it) but Claudy Banks is new to me. Beautiful song.

  2. Raymond Olson says:

    Katherine–You’re welcome. My favorite recording of Claudy Banks is the one by the Young Tradition, an a cappella trio consisting of the late Peter Bellamy, Heather Wood, and Royston Wood (the Woods are unrelated). Another recording is by the Copper Family, from whom the YT got the song. Since the Coppers persist, younger members of the family have probably made newer recordings. The family has been singing harmonized versions of the songs of Sussex for generations,