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A fair young May went up the street,
Some white fish for to buy,
And a bonny clerk's fa'n in luve wi' her,
An' he's followed her by and by.

"O! where live ye, my bonny lass,
I pray thee tell to me,
For gin the night were ever sae mirk,
I wad come and visit thee."

"O ! my faither he aye locks the door,
My mither keeps the key,
And gin ye were ever sic a wily wicht,
Ye canna win in to me."

But the clerk he had ae true brother,
And a wily wicht was lie,
And lie has made a lang ladder,
Was thirty steps and three.

He has made a cleek but and a creel?
A creel but and a pin ;
And he's away to the chimley-top,
And he's letten the bonny clerk in.

The auld wife being not asleep,
Tho' late, late was the hour?
"I?ll lay my life," quo' the silly auld wife,
"There's a man in our dochter's bower."

The auld man lie gat owre the bed,
To see if the thing was true,
But she's ta'en the bonny clerk in her arms,
And covered him owre wi' blue.

"O ! where are ye gaun now, father?" she says,
"And where are ye gaun se late?
Ye've disturb?d me at my evening prayers,
And, O, but they were sweet."

"O ! ill betide ye, silly auld wife,
And an ill death may ye dee ;
She has the muckle bulk in her airms
And she's prain' for yon and me."

The auld wife still lay wide awake,
Then something mair was said,
"I'll lay my life," quo' the silly auld wife,
"There's a man by our dochter's bed."

The auld wife now gat owre the bed,
To see if the thing was true,
But what the wrack took the auld wife's fit!
For into the creel she flew.

The man that was at the chimley-top,
Finding the creel was fu',
He wrappit the rape round his left shouther,
And fast to him lie drew.

"O help! O help! O hinny now, help!
O help! O hinny, do!
For him that ye aye wished me at,
He's carryin' me off just noo'."

"O! if the foul thief's gotten' ye,
I wish he may keep his haud ;
For a' the lee lang winter nicht
Ye'll never lie in your bed."

He's towed her up, lie's towed her down,
He's gien her a richt down fa',
Till every rib o' the auld wife's side,
Played nick nack on the wa'.

O! the blue, the bonny, bonny blue,
And I wish the blue may do weel ;
And every auld wife that's sae jealous o' her dochter
May she got a good keach i' the creel.

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Source: Bruce and Stokoe, Northumbrian Minstrelsy, Newcastle-Upon Tyne, 1882 (reissued Llanerch)

Bruce and Stokoe wrote:

This old and very humorous ballad has long been a favourite on both sides of the Border, but had never appeared in print till about 1845, when a Northumbrian gentleman printed a few copies for private circulation, from which the above was taken.

In former days, in the rural districts of Northumberland, court-ship was secretly conducted; and often the only place of meeting was the "maiden's bower." A better state of things now generally prevails.

Roud: 120 (Search Roud index at VWML)

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