Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 2 of 8 from 1860 edition

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LADY JIAISRT.
79
Der Grausame Bruder, Erk, p. 153, and Hoffmann, Schlesische Volkslieder, No. 27 ; Der Grdbe Bruder, Wunderhorn, ii. 272 ; Der Pfalzgraf am Rhein, id. i. 259, etc.; also a fragment in Wendish. The relation­ship of the English ballad to the rest of the cycle can perhaps be easiest shown by comparison with the sim­plified and corrupted German versions.
The story appears to be founded on facts which oc­curred during the reign and in the family of the Dan­ish king, Waldemar the Pirst, sometime between 1157 and 1167. Waldemar is described as being, with all his greatness, of a relentless and cruel disposition (in ira pertinax; in suos tanlum plus justo crudelior). Tradition, however, has imputed to him a brutal feroc­ity beyond belief. In the ballad before us, Lady Mais-ry suffers for her weakness by being burned at the stake, but in the Danish, Swedish, and German bal­lads, the king's sister is beaten to death with leathern whips, by her brother's own hand.
" Er schlug sie so sehre, er sohlug sie so lang, Bis Lung und Leber aus dem Leib ihr sprang! "
The Icelandic and Faroe ballads have nothing of this horrible ferocity, but contain a story which is much nearer to probability, if not to historical truth. While King Waldemar is absent on an expedition against the Wends, his sister Kristin is drawn into a liaison with her second-cousin, the result of which is the birth of two children. Sofia, the Queen, mali­ciously makes the state of things known to the king the moment he returns (which is on the very day of Kristi'n's lying in, according to the Danish ballad), but he will not believe the story, — all the more because the accused parties are within prohibited degrees of







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