The False Knight Upon The Road

Traditional, Child Ballad #3

This version taken from English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Francis James Child. Pub. 1904

Historical notes from Child: "This singular ballad is known only through Motherwell's Minstrelsy. The idea at the bottom of the piece is that the devil will carry off the wee boy if he can nonplus him. There is a similar Swedish ballad in which an old crone, possibly a witch, is substituted for the false knight. "

The dialog between the knight and the boy alternates consistently, the attribution lines serving as a refrain.

A variation of this song is performed by Steeleye Span on Please to See the King (1971, Chrysalis) and by Maddy Prior and Tim Hart on Summer Solstice (Shanachie).

"O whare are ye gaun?"
Quo the fause knicht upon the road.
"I'm gaun to the scule,"
Quo the wee boy, and still he stude.

"What is that upon your back?"
Quo the fause knicht upon the road.
"Atweel it is my bukes," Quo etc.
Quo the wee boy, and still he stude.

What's that ye've got in your arm?"
"Atweel it is my peit."

"Wha's aucht they sheep?"
"They are mine and my mither's."

"How monie o them are mine?"
"A'they that hae blue tails."

"I wiss ye were on yon tree;"
"And a gude ladder under me."

"And the ladder for to break;"
"And you for to fa down."

"I wiss ye were in yon sie;"
"And a gude bottom under me."

"And the bottom for to break;"
"And ye to be drowned."