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    Clark Colven

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Clark Colven 

Traditional, arranged by Andrew Calhoun 2003, recorded on Telfer's Cows
Child #42   Tune: Sweet William's Ghost 

A supernatural ballad also found in Scandinavia, Spain, and Portugal. A bit of crucial information from the Danish version—the prior relationship with the mermaid—found a way back into this re-working of an intensely poetic Scots one. Clark Colven is a wealthy young man with entitlement issues. 

Clark Colven and his lady gay 
Were walking to yon garden green; 
The belt about her slender waist 
Had cost Clark Colven pounds fifteen. 

"O listen well now, Clark Colven, 
O listen well what I do say; 
When ye go to the wall of stream 
Don't ye go near the pretty maid." 

"Never fear, my lady fair,
No need to take such care of me; 
I never saw a woman in all my life 
That I could love as well as thee." 

He mounted on his berry-brown steed, 
And merry, merry rode he on; 
Until he came to the wall of stream 
And there he spied the mermaiden. 

"Wash on, wash on, ye pretty maid, 
That wash so clean your shift of silk"; 
"It's all for you my gentle knight, 
My skin is whiter than the milk." 

He took her by the milk-white hand, 
He took her by the sleeve so green; 
And he forgot his lady fair, 
And he went with the mermaiden. 

"Alas, alas!" cries Clark Colven, 
"And why so sorely aches my head?" 
"Perhaps you've lain with a lady fair, 
Since last you saw your mermaiden." 

"But ye'll take out your little pen-knife, 
And from my shift come cut a strip, 
And tie it round your lovely head, 
And then the pain will ease its grip." 

And he took out his little pen-knife, 
And from her shift he cut a strip; 
She tied it round and round his head 
And yet the pain increased its grip. 

"Alas, alas!" cries Clark Colven, 
"It's sore and sorer aches my head!" 
"And sorer sorer ever will," 
The maiden cries," till ye be dead!" 

Then he took out his trusty blade 
And sought to stab her where she stood; 
But there she turned into a fish, 
And merrily sprang into the flood. 

He mounted on his berry brown steed 
And gloomy, gloomy rode he home; 
And heavily, heavily lighted he down, 
When he came to his lady's door. 

"Oh, mother, mother make my bed, 
Oh gentle lady, lay me down; 
O brother, brother, unbend my bow, 
I'll never bend a bow again." 

Clark Colven's mother made his bed, 
His gentle lady laid him down; 
His brother, he unbent his bow, 
It never was bent by him again.