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Mary Hamilton

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Mary Hamilton

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Mary Hamilton

Word is to the kitchen gone
And word is to the hall,
And word is up to Madam the Queen
And that's the worst of all,
That Mary Hamilton's born a babe to the highest Stuart of all

"Arise, arise, Mary Hamilton,
Arise and tell to me,
What thou hast done with thy wee babe
I saw and heard weep by thee?"

"I put him in a tiny boat,
And cast him out to sea,
That he might sink or he might swim,
But he'd never come back to me."

"Arise, arise, Mary Hamilton,
Arise and come with me;
There is a wedding in Glasgow town
This night we'll go and see."

She put not on her robes of black,
Nor her robes of brown,
But she put on robes of white,
To ride into Glasgow town.

And as she rode into Glasgow town,
The city for to see,
The bailiff's wife and the provost's wife
Cried, "Ach, and alas for thee."

"Ah, you need not weep for me," she cried
"You need not weep for me;
For had I not slain my own wee babe
This death I would not dee."

"Ah, little did my mother think
When first she cradled me,
The lands I was to travel in
And the death I was to dee."

Then by and come the King himself,
Looked up with a pitiful eye,
"Come down, come down, Mary Hamilton,
Tonight you'll dine with me."

"Ah, hold your tongue, my sovereign liege,
And let your folly be;
For if you'd a mind to save my life
You'd never have shamed me here."

"Cast off, cast off my gown," she cried,
"But let my petticoat be,
And tie a napkin 'round my face;
The gallows I would not see."

"Last night I washed the Queen's feet,
And put the gold on her hair,
And the only reward I find for this,
The gallows to be my share."

"Last night there were four Marys,
Tonight there'll be but three,
There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,
And Mary Carmichael, and me."
The ballad tale told here bears resemblance to two distinct
historical occurences: one relating to a 16th century incident in
the court of Mary Queen of Scots, and the other to an affair in
the court of Russia's Czar Peter in the 18th century.  At his
late date, however, oral traditrion has altered the story too
greatly to pinpoint the exact incident on which the valland might
have been based.  The long circumstantial version given there
does not have much currency today among traditional singers;  all
that usually remains is a lyric lament in which Mary Hamilton
makes a farewell speech without any explanation of why she is
being punished.
Printed in "British Ballads & Folk Songs" from the Joan Baez
Child #173
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