Child's Ballads

Week 12: England - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Lord Batesman (Child 53)

Listening time: (4 minutes)

CHILD 53 versions A-N. This is an adventurous ballad that also has a fairy tale-like quality to the story. A certain "Lord Batesman" has been captured by the Turks and put into prison. The jailer's daughter falls in love with him and sets him free, and they swear undying love to one another. But what do you think happens when the jailer's daughter shows up at her lover's home at last? This is perhaps a very old story, dating back to around the year 1100, according to Lesley Nelson-Burns: "There is an ancient legend of St. Thomas Becket's father, Gilbert Becket that suggests the story of the tune."


There was a man in th state of Georgey
An' he did live to a high degree
But he never did live contented
Until he taken a voyage on th sea

He sailed east an' he sailed west
An' he sailed till he came to th Turkish shore
An' there he's caught an' put in prison
No hope of freedom any more

Th jailer had one lonely daughter
An' she's as fair as fair could be
She stoled th keys of 'er Fathers prison
Saying, this Lord Batesman, I'll set free

Have you got house, have you got land
Have you got money to a high degree
An' will you give it to a lady
Who will from prison, set you free

Yes, I've got house and I've got land
And I've got money to a high degree
And I will give it to a lady
Who will from prison set me free

She taken 'im to her Father's cellar
And there she treated 'im on wine so strong
And ever glass she drank with 'im
Saying, I wish Lord Batesman were my own

She taken 'im to her Father's castle
An' there engaged a ship for him
Farewell, farewell, my own true lover
I'm afraid we'll never meet again

Three long years, we'll make th bargin
Three long years, an' here's my hand
If you won't court no other lady
Sure I'll court no other man

Three long years had passed and over
Three long years, just one, two, three
I'll dress myself in my fine jewels
Sayin, this Lord Batesman I'll go see

She sailed till she came t' Lord Batesman's castle
She knocked at th door, till she made it ring
Go out, go out, my poor old servant
And see who's there, that will come in

Here stands a lady at your door
An' she's as fair as fair can be
She wears enough jewel'y around her neck
To buy your bride an' comrades in

O, is this here Lord Batesman's castle
Or is he here 'er gone away
O yes, O yes, this is his castle
He's just now brought his new bride in

Go tell 'im t' send me a slice of his bread
And send me a glass of his wine so strong
And ask 'im if he re-member th lady
That set 'im free when he was bound

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what favor did the jailor's daughter do for the man?
  • what did she find out when she went to visit him?
  • what does she ask for when standing at the door?

Source: From The Max Hunter Folksong Archive (weblink) and Lesley Nelson's Child Ballad website (weblink). See also Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM