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Poem by Andrew Lang
False Sir John a wooing came To a maid of beauty fair; May Colven was this lady's name, Her father's only heir. He wood her butt, he wood her ben, He wood her in the ha, Until he got this lady's consent To mount and ride awa. He went down to her father's bower, Where all the steeds did stand, And he's taken one of the best steeds That was in her father's land. He's got on and she's got on, As fast as they could flee, Until they came to a lonesome part, A rock by the side of the sea. 'Loup off the steed,' says false Sir John, 'Your bridal bed you see; For I have drowned seven young ladies, The eighth one you shall be. 'Cast off, cast off, my May Colven, All and your silken gown, For it's oer good and oer costly To rot in the salt sea foam. 'Cast off, cast off, my May Colven. All and your embroiderd shoen, For oer good and oer costly To rot in the salt sea foam.' 'O turn you about, O false Sir John, And look to the leaf of the tree, For it never became a gentleman A naked woman to see.' He turned himself straight round about, To look to the leaf of the tree, So swift as May Colven was To throw him in the sea. 'O help, O help, my May Colven, O help, or else I'll drown; I'll take you home to your father's bower, And set you down safe and sound.' 'No help, no help, O false Sir John, No help, nor pity thee; Tho' seven kings' daughters you have drownd, But the eighth shall not be me.' So she went on her father's steed, As swift as she could flee, And she came home to her father's bower Before it was break of day. Up then and spoke the pretty parrot: 'May Colven, where have you been? What has become of false Sir John, That woo'd you so late the streen? 'He woo'd you butt, he woo'd you ben, He woo'd you in the ha, Until he got your own consent For to mount and gang awa.' 'O hold your tongue, my pretty parrot, Lay not the blame upon me; Your cup shall be of the flowered gold, Your cage of the root of the tree.' Up then spake the king himself, In the bed-chamber where he lay: 'What ails the pretty parrot, That prattles so long or day?' 'There came a cat to my cage door, It almost a worried me, And I was calling on May Colven To take the cat from me.'
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