THE BROWN AND YELLOW EARL
As I was going down the road one fine day, O
O, the brown and yellow earl
I met with a man who was no right man
O, love of my heart
He asked me was the woman with me my daughter
And I said that she was my married wife.
He asked me would I lend her for an hour and a day, O
And I said I would do anything that was fair.
So you take the upper road and I'll take the lower
And I'll meet you again by the bank of the river.
I was going that way one hour and a day, O
When she came to me without any shame.
When I heard her news, I lay down and I died, O
And they sent three men to the woods for timber.
A board of holly and a board of elder
And three great yards of cloth about me.
Me own dear mother, she was a woman;
I could tell you another sad story about women.
traditional (translated from Irish by James Joyce)
Note: In the feudal British Isles, the lord or earl of
the manor had the first right to bed the new bride
of any of his subjects. By the time of the brown
and yellow earl, this custom had been forgotten by
all but, perhaps, the lords themselves. When the
earl spies the pretty young bride, he invokes the old
law. The husband innocently hands her over for an
hour and a day, only to kill himself in grief when
he learns the truth. Debby McClatchy