Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Folksongs 2017-18: The Outlandish Knight

by Dulac, Golden Age of Poetry artist
I first knew this song as a long poem.  When I was 10 I spent my Christmas week in the hospital laid up with a bad case of a pneumonia (my temperature reached 106).  I had to receive pencillin via injections around the clock, every four hours, which I loathed but was too sick to fight about it.  One of my Christmas presents was the Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermyer and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund.  (this was my copy, but it's also been republished with this cover.) It was from my aunt, who always gives the best gifts.

I read it from cover to cover, I think, spending that week in the hospital with nothing to do. I loved poetry before that week, I loved it even more afterwards.

The Outlandish Knight was one of my favourites.  The spunky, clever would-be victim turning the tables on the villain and tossing him into the brink gave me much satisfaction.
I was delighted when I grew up and learned that it was also a folk song which I could sing with my own children.  Here is one set of lyrics:

An outlandish knight came from the north lands
He courted a lady fair
He said he would take her to those northern lands
And there he would marry her

Go fetch some of your fathers gold
And some of your mothers fee
And two of the horses from out of the stables
Where there stands thirty and three

She’s mounted on the lilly white steed
And he the dapple gray
They’ve rode til they come unto the sea side
Three hours before it was day

Light off Light off, your lily white steed
Deliver it unto me
Six pretty maidens have I drowned here
And the seventh will surely be thee

Take off take off
Your silken gowns
Deliver them unto me
For I do feel that they are too fine
To rot in the sun salt sea.

If I take off my silken gowns
Then turn your back on me
For it is not fitting that such a cruel world
A naked woman should see

And cut away the brambles so sharp
The brambles from of the brim
For I do feel that they’ll tangle my hair
And scratch my tender skin

So he’s turned his back all on the fair maid
And leant down over the brim
She’s taken him by his slender waist
and tumbled him into the stream

Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
Lie there instead of me,
For six pretty maidens have you drowned here
The seventh hath drown-ed thee

You can also find this at They share this information about the background of the song:

"This ballad is known throughout Great Britian and Ireland, as well as northern and southern Europe. It appears in several collections as May Colvin, the earliest of which is Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776).This ballad is Child Ballad #4 (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight)."

Outlandish probably just refers to the knight living in the border country that was not quite England and not quite Scotland- a place short on law and long on outlaws. 

In some versions of the song he's an elfen knight. 

You can read more about several variations and recordings here.

Please do not let yourself get caught up in questions about which lyrics are 'right,' and why are they different, and how can you sing from one set of lyrics if the lyrics used in the youtube version you are listening to is different?  It doesn't matter.


Folk songs change over time and region, and even from one singing to the next by the same singer.  Pick a version and go.

 Even if the lyrics you choose are slightly different or even very different from a youtube version, it's not that important. The youtube version is for the tune, not the visuals and not for singing along with- at least not for very long. Only use the youtube version until you can sing through the song yourself (with lyrics). One way to do this is to first play it a couple times, then play and sing along. Next day, play and sing along. Next day, turn the sound down a bit, play and sing along, and every day turn the sound down a bit more until you don't need it anymore. Because you know the point here is to sing the songs, right?  We are not being spectators at an entertainment. We are participating, fully participating, in our own education and development, nourishing our souls, and singing songs ourselves.  Later you will find yourselves singing as you wash the dishes or weed a garden, or on a car trip, or as a joke when giving the children a bath ('take off, take off, thy filthy clothes....').  You will hear your children making up their own lyrics, or re-enacting the sing with their toys, or referring back to the lyrics in a narration (this character reminds me of the villain in Outlandish Knight, because he...).

There is a playlist for this term's folksongs here.

Please join us and sing!


  1. I wish that sheet music, or a link to a playable video, were included here.

  2. To the above commenter, this is my favorite YouTube version. We love this song!