Lord Randall - Anonymous Folk Ballad

Poisoned by His Lover, Lord Randall Sings to His Mother

"Lord Randal", by Arthur Rackham. This is an illustration from Some British ballads, published in about 1919.
Arthur Rackham/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The folk ballad Lord Randall is an example of an Anglo-Scottish border ballad. These songs were sung a capella. They often had repeating lines.

History of the Ballad

Sir Walter Scott collected border ballads and published them in his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," published in three volumes from 1802 to 1803. Scott is known for his 1805 poem "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," which brought him to literary fame.

He was offered the position of Poet Laureate in 1813 but declined.

Lord Randall tells the tale of a noble young man who has been poisoned by his lover. He comes home to his mother and complains that he is fatigued and only wants to lie down on his bed. He repeatedly pleads with his mother to make his bed so he can finally rest. His mother repeatedly questions him on what he has been doing and teases the story out of him. He has been poisoned by his false-hearted lover, and he bequeaths his belongings and treasures to his siblings.

The structure of the song is reminiscent of the nursery rhyme Billy Boy, but instead of the hero being poisoned by the young lady, he bakes her a pie and decides she is too young to leave her mother. It also is mirrored in the campfire song, "Green and Yellow."

The song is a source for many artists and authors. Bob Dylan used it as the basis of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Many artists have covered the folk ballad on their albums and releases.

Lord Randall
Anonymous Traditional Folk Ballad
Published by Sir Walter Scott in 1803

    1
“O where ha you been, Lord Randal, my son?
And where ha you been, my handsome young man?”
“I ha been at the greenwood; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.”

    2
“An wha met ye there, Lord Randal, my son?


An wha met you there, my handsome young man?”
“O I met wi my true-love; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin , an fain wad lie down.”

    3
“And what did she give you, Lord Randal, my son?
And what did she give you, my handsome young man?”
“Eels fried in a pan; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied with huntin, and fain wad lie down.”

    4
“And wha gat your leavins, Lord Randal, my son?
And what gat your leavins, my handsom young man?”
“My hawks and my hounds; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.”

    5
“And what becam of them, Lord Randall, my son?
And what became of them, my handsome young man?”
“They stretched their legs out an died; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.”

    6
“O I fear you are poisoned, Lord Randal, my son!
I fear you are poisoned, my handsome young man!”
“O yes, I am poisoned; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.”

    7
“What d’ ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?”
“Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.”

    8
“What d’ ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?


What d’ ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?”
“My gold and my silver; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, an I fain wad lie down.”

    9
“What d’ ye leave to your brother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ ye leave to your brother, my handsome young man?”
“My house and my lands; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.”

    10
“What d’ ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ ye leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?”
“I leave her hell and fire; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.”