Child's Ballads

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

False Lamkin (Child 93)

Listening time: (4 minutes)

CHILD 93 versions A-Y. This is a revenge ballad about a man who built a castle, but who was not paid for his work. He returns to the castle and takes his revenge. With this ballad, you can see how these stories have a lot in common with the urban legends of today! Lesley Nelson-Burns comments:

"The ballad appears in the Percy Papers (1775) as Long Longkin. The full ballad explains that a mason built a castle for a nobleman, but was not paid and, so he sought revenge. The nursemaid helped Lamkin into the castle where Lamkin killed the family. Lamkin was caught and hanged, burned or boiled in oil and the nursemaid was likewise burned, hanged or boiled in a caldron. The mason is variously Lamkin, Lammikin, Lankin, Lonkin, Lantin, Long Lankyn or Longkin, Rankin, Ballkin, Lambert Linkin or Balcanqual. There is speculation that all of names are derived from Lambert Linkin."


Said, th Lord to his Lady
As he rode away from home
Beware of False Lamkin
For he'll do you much harm

What care I for False Lamkin
Or none of his kin
When th doors are all bolted
And th windows close pinned

At th back kitchen window
False Lamkin crept in
And he pricked one of the elder babes
With a bright silver pin

O nurse maid, o nurse maid
How soundly you sleep
Can't you hear one of the elder babes
A try'n to weep

How durst I go down
In th dead of th night
Where there's no fire akindled
No candle alight

As she was a goin' down
Thinkin' of no harm
False Lamkin, he caught her
Right tight in his arms

O spare my life, o spare my life
My life that's so sweet
You shall have as many guienies
As stones in th street

O spare my life, o spare my life
Till one of th clock
You shall have my daughter, Betsy
Th fairest of th flock

Fetch me your daughter, Betsy
She'll do me some good
She shall hold th silver basin
To ketch her own hearts blood

Pretty Betsy bein' up
At th window so high
Saw her own dearest Father
Come a ridin' close by

O Father, dearest Father
O, blame not of me
For it was False Lamkin
Killed baby and me

There's blood in th kitchen
There's blood in th hall
There's blood in th parlor
Where th lady did fall

False Lamkin shall be hung
From th gallows, so high
While his bones, they are burning
In th fire close by

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

  • why did Lamkin want to punish the rich man's family?
  • how did he get into the house?
  • how did the mother try to stop him? what happened in the end?

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