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Lyr Add: Young Benjie

Moira Cameron 25 Oct 97 - 12:51 AM
GUEST,wysiwyg minus cookie 29 Mar 16 - 06:26 PM
Jim Brown 30 Mar 16 - 05:36 AM
GUEST,Phil Cooper on a new laptop 30 Mar 16 - 08:16 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Mar 16 - 09:58 AM
Jim Dixon 05 Apr 16 - 12:43 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: YOUNG BENJIE
From: Moira Cameron
Date: 25 Oct 97 - 12:51 AM

This is relating to the various Hallowe'en discussions. There is a very detailed superstitious ritual described in this Child Ballad which is suitable for this time of year.

YOUNG BENJIE Child Ballad # 86A

Of all the maids in fair Scotland, the fairest was Marjorie,
Young Benjie was her own true love, and a dear true love was he.

And oh, but they were lovers dear, & they loved full constantly,
But aye the more when they fell out, the sorer was they're plea.

And they have quarreled on a day, 'til Marjorie's heart grew woe;
She swore she'd choose another lover and let Young Benjie go.

But he was stout and proud hearted, & he thought on it bitterly
And he has gone by the wan moonlight to meet with his Marjorie.

"Oh open, open my true love; come open and let me in!"
"I dare na' let you in, Benjie, my three brothers are within."

"Ye lied! Ye lied, ye bonny burd, so loud I hear ye lie!
As I came by the Lowden banks, they bade good e'en to me."

"Sp fare ye weel, my own fause love, that I have loved so lang;
If you will choose another lover and let your Benjie gang."

Then Marjorie turned round about, a tear blinding her ee;
"I dare na', dare na' let you in, but I'll come doon to thee."

Then soft she smiled and soft she said, "Oh what ill have I done?"
But he has ta'en her in his arms and thrown her into the linn.

The stream was strong, but the maid was stout, & loath she was to die;
But e're she reached the Lowden banks, her fair colour it was wan.

Then up ans spoke her eldest brother, "Oh look! See ye what I see?"
Then up and spake her second brother, "It's our sister Marjorie!"

Then up ans spoke her eldest brother, "Oh how shall we her ken?"
Then up and spake her youngest brother, "There's a honey-mark on her chin."

They have ta'en the comely corpse, and they've lain it on the ground.
"Oh who has killed our dear sister and how can he be found?"

"The night it is her low lykewake; the morn's her burial day.
We must watch 'til murk midnight to hear what she will say."

So with doors ajar, and candel light, and torches burning clear,
The streikit corpse, 'til still midnight, they watched, but nothing hear.

Then in the middle of the night, the cocks began to craw;
And in the dead hour of the night, corpse began to thraw.

"Oh who has done this wrong, sister, & has dared this deadly sin;
Who was sae stout, he feared no doubt as to throw ye into the linn?"

"Young Benjie was the very first man I laid me love upon;
He was sae stout, he feared no doubt, and he's thrown me into the linn."

"Shall we Young Benjie head, sister? Shall we Young Benjie hang?
Or shall we put out his bonny gray eyes, and punish him e'er he gang?"

"Ye mauna Benjie head, brothers, and ye mauna Benjie hang;
But ye put out his bonny gray eyes and punish him e'er he gang.

Tie a green cravat around hi neck to lead him out and in,
And the very best servant in my house to wait Young Banjie on.

And aya, at every seven year's end, ye'll tak him to the linn;
And that's the punishment he maun suffer to cure his deadly sin!"

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 23-May-02.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Young Benjie
From: GUEST,wysiwyg minus cookie
Date: 29 Mar 16 - 06:26 PM

Pronunciation and definition/origin help please--

"Murk midnight" as above or generally.... is that usually pronounced "MURK-midNIGHT" with the last syllable accented where it's not usually ('MID-night' being the usual);

And does that time mean about 3-4 am-- halfway between midnight and dawn? As in the darkest hour is just before dawn?

Where/when's it originate?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Young Benjie
From: Jim Brown
Date: 30 Mar 16 - 05:36 AM

The text was published by Walter Scott in 1803 in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. He says it is "from tradition". His introductory notes on the folklore background are reproduced at (or you can find the book itself at

My guess would be that "murk" is there mainly there for alliteration with "midnight" and to emphasize the darkness. I don't think it has to mean a particular time in the night different from simple "midnight" - but since the cocks are growing perhaps we are to understand that it is actually close to dawn.

Is it to be pronounced "MURK midNIGHT"? Probably yes. That sort of change from the usual stress is quite common in ballads. But I guess it could also depend on how it was fitted to a tune.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Young Benjie
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper on a new laptop
Date: 30 Mar 16 - 08:16 AM

I used to sing a version of this ballad pretty close to what was originally posted. It's a great song. Not one one can do at every venue.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Young Benjie
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Mar 16 - 09:58 AM

The OP's text is almost identical to the one given in Stephen Sedley's 'Seeds of Love' (Essex Music 1967), though slightly longer.
Sedley's note reads: "Child (no 86) quotes Sir Walter Scott's inreresting account of the folk superstition associated with this ballad: the idea was tat in certain circumstances the corpses of murdered people would sit up and speak.
Text condensed from the fuller narrative given by Scott in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1803), collated at one point with the longish fragment printed in Buchan. Tune (reprinted by Bronson) from Albyn's Anthology (1816).
Scott claimed to heve his text "from tradition", but parts of itbear signs of remaking".
Jim Carroll

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Subject: Lyr Add: YOUNG BENJIE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Apr 16 - 12:43 AM

From Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. 3, 2nd edition, by Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1803), page 251:


In this ballad the reader will find traces of a singular superstition, not yet altogether discredited in the wilder parts of Scotland. The lykewake, or watching a dead body, in itself a melancholy office, is rendered, in the idea of the assistants, more dismally awful, by the mysterious horrors of superstition. In the interval betwixt death and interment, the disembodied spirit is supposed to hover around its mortal habitation, and, if invoked by certain rites, retains the power of communicating, through its organs, the cause of its dissolution. Such enquiries, however, are always dangerous, and never to be resorted to unless the deceased is suspected to have suffered foul play, as it is called. It is the more unsafe to tamper with this charm, in an unauthorized manner, because the inhabitants of the infernal regions are, at such periods, peculiarly active. One of the most potent ceremonies in the charm, for causing the dead body to speak, is setting the door ajar, or half open. On this account, the peasants of Scotland sedulously avoid leaving the door ajar, while a corpse lies in the house. The door must either be left wide open, or quite shut; but the first is always preferred, on account of the exercise of hospitality usual on such occasions. The attendants must be likewise careful never to leave the corpse for a moment alone, or, if it is left alone, to avoid, with a degree of superstitious horror, the first sight of it. The following story, which is frequently related by the peasants of Scotland, will illustrate the imaginary danger of leaving the door ajar. In former times, a man and his wife lived in a solitary cottage, on one of the extensive border fells. One day, the husband died suddenly; and his wife, who was equally afraid of staying alone by the corpse, or leaving the dead body by itself, repeatedly went to the door, and looked anxiously over the lonely moor, for the sight of some person approaching. In her confusion and alarm, she accidentally left the door ajar, when the corpse suddenly started up, and sat in the bed, frowning and grinning at her frightfully. She sat alone, crying bitterly, unable to avoid the fascination of the dead man's eye, and too much terrified to break the sullen silence, till a Catholic priest, passing over the wild, entered the cottage. He first set the door quite open, then put his little finger in his mouth, and said the paternoster backwards, when the horrid look of the corpse relaxed, it fell back on the bed, and behaved itself as a dead man ought to do.

The ballad is given from tradition.


1. Of a' the maids o' fair Scotland,
The fairest was Marjorie;
And young Benjie was her ae true love,
And a dear true love was he.

2. And wow! but they were lovers dear,
And loved fu' constantlie;
But ay the mair when they fell out,
The sairer was their plea.a

3. And they hae quarrelled on a day,
Till Marjorie's heart grew wae,
And she said she'd chuse another luve,
And let young Benjie gae.

4. And he was stout,b and proud-hearted,
And thought o't bitterlie,
And he's ga'en by the wan moon-light,
To meet his Marjorie.

5. "O open, open, my true love,
O open and let me in!"
"I dare na open, young Benjie,
My three brothers are within."

6. "Ye lied, ye lied, ye bonny burd,
Sae loud's I hear ye lie;
As I came by the Lowden banks,
They bade gude e'en to me.

7. "But fare ye weel, my ae fause love,
That I hae loved sae lang!
It sets yec chuse another love,
And let young Benjie gang."

8. Then Marjorie turned her round about,
The tear blinding her ee,
"I darena, darena, let thee in,
But I'll come down to thee."

9. Then saft she smiled, and said to him,
"O what ill hae I done?"
He took her in his armis twa,
And threw her o'er the linn.

10. The stream was strang, the maid was stout,
And laith laith to be dang,d
But, ere she wan the Lowden banks,
Her fair colour was wan.

11. Then up bespak her eldest brother,
"O see na ye what I see?"
And out then spak her second brother,
"Its our sister Marjorie!"

12. Out then spak her eldest brother,
"O how shall we her ken?"
And out then spak her youngest brother,
"There's a honey mark on her chin."

13. Then they've ta'en up the comely corpse,
And laid it on the grund—
"O wha has killed our ae sister,
And how can he be found?

14. "The night it is her low lykewake,
The morn her burial day,
And we maun watch at mirk midnight,
And hear what she will say."

15. Wi' doors ajar, and candle light,
And torches burning clear,
The streikit corpse, till still midnight,
They waked, but naething hear.

16. About the middle o' the night,
The cocks began to craw,
And at the dead hour o' the night,
The corpse began to thraw.

17. "O wha has done the wrang, sister,
Or dared the deadly sin?
Wha was sae stout, and feared nae dout,
As thraw ye o'er the linn?"

18. "Young Benjie was the first ae man,
I laid my love upon;
He was sae stout and proud-hearted,
He threw me o'er the linn."

19. "Sail we young Benjie head, sister,
Sail we young Benjie hang,
Or, sail we pike out his twa gray een,
And punish him ere he gang?"

20. "Ye mauna Benjie head, brothers,
Ye mauna Benjie hang,
But ye maun pike out his twa grey e'en,
And punish him ere he gang.

21. "Tie a green gravat round his neck,
And lead him out and in,
And the best ae servant about your house,
To wait young Benjie on.

22. "And ay, at every seven year's end,
Ye'll tak him to the linn;
For that's the penance he maun drie,
To scuge his deadly sin."

a. Plea—Used obliquely for dispute.
b. Stout—Through this whole ballad, signifies haughty,
c. Sets ye—Becomes you—ironical.
d. Dang—defeated.
e. Scug—shelter or expiate.

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