George of Oxford

DESCRIPTION: Lady Gray asks the judge to spare George's life but George is condemned to be hanged. A rake that had taken ladies' rings and jewels, he apparently is condemned for stealing and selling the king's steeds. He is hung "in silken string"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1700 (Ebsworth dates the Pepys broadside to 1671-1692: "probably this was reprinted from an earlier and lost broadside ... circa 1612")
LONG DESCRIPTION: Crossing London Bridge, the singer meets Lady Gray lamenting for Georgy. She has her horse saddled and rides to New-Castle, to ask the judge to save his life. The judge says Georgy must be hanged. Her offer of her gold and lands does not avail. George says, "many a mad prank I have played ... but now they've overthrown me"; his heart will "burst in three, To die like a dog!" He had cut a figure with the ladies: "their rings and jewels would I take to keep them for a token." "I ne'er stole Horse nor Mare .. But once, Sir, of the King's white steeds, and sold them in Bohemia." "Georgy he went up the hill, and after followed many, Georgy was hanged in silken string...."
KEYWORDS: captivity crime execution punishment theft trial horse thief
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Child 209 Appendix, "The Life and Death of George of Oxford" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: J Woodfall Ebsworth, The Roxburghe Ballads, (Hertford, 1891 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol. VII Part 1 [Part 20], pp. 67-73, "George of Oxford" (1 text) [also includes Child 209A and "... the Death of ... George Stoole...."]

EngBdsdBA 20768, Pepys 2.150, "The Life and Death of George of Oxford" ("As I went over London Bridge all in a misty morning"), Philip Brooksby (London), no date, accessed 08 Dec 2013.
cf. "Geordie" [Child 209] (theme) and references there
cf. "The Death of George Stoole" (theme and some lines)
cf. "Poor Georgy" (tune, per broadside, EngBdsdBA Pepys 2.150)
NOTES [3720 words]: Ebsworth has "Geordie" [Child 209] as a derivative of "George of Oxford" which is itself related to "... the death of ...George Stoole": "Scotland shows a fantastic and inexplicable modesty, a disparagement of her own resources and native manufacture, insomuch as she actually appropriates to herself several of our English freebooters .... And she has even tried to naturalize 'Georgy' as Geordie.' ... Kinloch thought that it ['Geordie'] 'originated in the factions of the Huntley family, during the reign of Queen Mary' [Ord, p. 457, writes that "The hero of this ballad was George, fourth Earl of Huntly, who was afterwards slain at the battle of Corrichrie on 28th October, 1562"] ... [Joseph Ritson prints] 'A lamentable new Ditty, made on the Death of a worthy Gentleman, named George Stoole ... with his penitent end' .... Date guessed circa 1610-1612. There is certainly a connection between this sorry 'Ditty' ... and our 'George of Oxford.' They probably refer to the same man, by name Skelton, alias Stowell.... Motherwell erred in declaring the George Stoole ballad 'evidently imitated from the Scottish song.' It was antecedent. He knew not our 'George of Oxford.' The 'Merchant's-man of Gowrie' [in 'George Stoole'] becomes [in 'George of Oxford'] some horse-purchaser for Bohemia (not improbably the Palgrave Frederick, husband of James I.'s daughter, the admired Princess Elizabeth), which helps to mark the early date, circa 1612.... The boast about 'never stolen horse or mare in my life' resembles George Stoole's 'I never stole no Oxe,' etc."
Child, who relegated both Georges to his "Geordie" entry, was aware of Ebsworth's comments. "Whether the writers of these English ballads knew of the Scottish 'Geordie,' I would not undertake to affirm or deny; it is clear that some far-back reciter of the Scottish ballad had knowledge of the later English broadside ['George of Oxford']."
At this point Child explains why he does not consider "Geordie" to be the same ballad as the George broadsides: "The English ballads, however, are mere 'goodnights.' The Scottish ballads have a proper story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and (save one late copy [Child 209J the Geordie character is freed but kills his lady in an argument and escapes]), a good end, and they are most certainly original and substantially independent of the English. The Scottish Geordie is no thief, nor even a Johnie Armstrong. There are certain passages in certain versions which give that impression, it is true, but these are incongruous with the story, and have been adopted from some copy of the broadside, the later ['George of Oxford'] rather than the earlier ['George Stoole']. These are ... where we have the king's horses stolen and sold in Bohemia, almost exactly as in the ballad of 'George of Oxford' .... That is to say, we have the very familiar case of the introduction (generally accidental and often infelicitous) of a portion of one ballad into another...."
Nevertheless, most texts I have seen, assigned by various editors to Child 209 but collected outside of Scotland, are a version of "George of Oxford." In the following discussion only the 14 Child references are considered "Geordie" and 11 Greig/Duncan2 #249 references are examined but used only to add information to the "ch" table entries; "Georgie" is 13 texts: Broadwood, English Traditional Songs and Carols (London, 1908), pp32-33 (1 text); Bodleian broadsides Harding B 11(1797), Bodleian Harding B 25(488), Bodleian Harding B11(2297) (3 texts); Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 39 A-D (4 texts); Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 52-53 (1 text); H.M. Belden, "Old-Country Ballads in Missouri. 'Geordie'" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XX, No. 79 (Oct-Dec 1907 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 319-320 (1 text); Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 73-75 A-C (three texts). "George of Oxford" is shown as "Oxford" and "George Stoole" is shown as "Stoole." For all texts cited the verse is indicated [for example, v10 is verse 10] to help keep the sequence of the text in mind.
Separating the elements shared among "George Stoole," "George of Oxford," versions of Child 209, and later versions of what I consider "Georgie" is not quite so straightforward.
* 1 - her+lament) Oxford v1
As I went over London-Bridge, all in a misty morning,
There I did see one weep and mourn, lamenting for her Georgy.
is close to the introduction to Broadwood v1, all three Bodleian broadsides v1, all four Davis
texts v1, Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v1 and Belden v1; that's all of the "Georgie" texts examined here.
* 2 - his+name) Oxford v2
"George of Oxford is my name, and few there's but have known me,
Many a mad prank have I play'd, but now they've overthrown me"

is close to Child Fv1
Geordie Lukely is my name, And many a one doth ken me; O
Many an ill deed I hae done, But now death will owrecome me, O.

* 3 - his+letter) Stoole v8
He writ a Letter with his owne hand, he thought he writ it bravely;
He sent it to New-castle Towne, to his beloved Lady.

is close to Child Av2 and Iv6, skipping Oxford.
Gight has written a broad letter, And seald it soon and ready,
And sent it on to Gight's own yates, For to acquaint his lady.

* 3mod) A letter is sent ("O where'll I get a wi bit boy ... With a letter to my ladie?") in
Child Bv2, Dv2, Fv3, Gv1, Hv3, Iv5 and Jv6, Harding B 11(1797)v2 and Harding B 25(488)v2-3. In
Greig/Duncan2 G and I the messenger must swim.
* 4 - her+ride) Oxford v4
"Go, saddle me my milk-white Steed, go saddle me my bonny,
That I may to New-Castle speed, to save the life of Georgy"

is close to all of the "Georgie" texts but one Bodleian broadside, one Davis text and one
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia text, specifically: Broadwood v3, Harding B11(1797)v3, Harding B11(2297)v2,
Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia Av2, Bv2 and Cv2, Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v2, Belden v2 and Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Bv3 ["Oh sad
will be my milk white steed"] and Cv1.
Some Child ballads are close to both lines: Child Fv7, Hv8 and Jv8,
while others
* 4mod) change the second line: Child vA4, Bv6, Cv3, Dv8, Gv3 and Iv8
"... And I'll straight to Edinburgh Myself and see my Geordie"
"... Ere I ride down to Edinburgh town Wi a lang side sark to Geordy."
* 5 - her+plea) Oxford v5
But when she came the Judge before, full low her knee she bended,
For Georgy's life she she did implore, that she might be befriended

becomes for Broadwood v4, Harding B11(1797)v4 and Harding B 11(2297)v2
And when she came to the good Lord Judge She fell down upon her knees already,
Saying "My good Lord Judge, come pity me, Grant me the life of my Georgie"

* 5mod) For Child A v8, alone among the Child ballads,
O she's down on her bended knee, I wat she's pale and weary:
"O pardon, pardon, noble king, and give me back my dearie!"

* 6 - his+condemnation) Oxford v6
Content your self, as well you may, for Georgy must be hanged
* 6mod) in Broadwood v4, Bodleian Harding B 25(488)v4, and Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Av3, Bv5 and Cv2 to
"My pretty fair maid, you are come too late, For he is condemned already"
or in Harding B 11(1797)v5
He said, "My dear you must begone, For there is no pardon granted"
or in Harding B11(2297)v3
The Judge he looked over his left shoulder Saying "Lady pray now be easy,
Georgy hath confess'd and die he must." "The Lord have mercy on my Georgy."

or in Belden v6
Says the La[w]yers unto Georgia Lord I feel so sorry for you
But your own confession has condemned you to die May the Lord have mercy on you.

* 7 - her+unsuccessful+offer) Oxford v7
She offer'd gold, she offer'd Lands, to save the life of Georgy
is close to Child Bv16 and Dv14
I have land into the north, And I have white rigs many,
And I could gie them a' to you To save the life of Geordie

* 7gHa) Harding B 11(2297) v3
I have got sheep I have got cows, Oxen I have plenty
And you shall call it all your own, Spare me the life of Georgy.

* 8 - her+children) Child Av9
"I hae born seven sons to me Geordie dear, The seventh neer saw his daddie;
O pardon, pardon, noble king, Pity a waefu lady!"

* 8mod) Child Bv17 Cv8, Dv15, Kv1 and Nv1
"I hae ele'en bairns i the wast, I wait the're a' to Geordie;
I'd see them a' streekit afore mine eyes Afore I lose my Geordie"

"... And I could bear them a' over again For to win the life o Geordie."
is close to Bodleian Harding B11(1797)v7 and Bodleian Harding B25(488)v5
It's six pretty babies I have got, and the seventh lies in my body.
I'd freely part with them every one, If you'd spare the life of Georgy.

* 9 - hill+fight) Stoole v13
"I would I were on yonder Hill, where I have beene full merry;
My sword and buckler by my side, to fight till I be weary"
[spoken by Stoole]
is close to Broadwood v7, Harding B 11(1797)v10, Harding B 25(488)v7, Harding B11(2297)v5,
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v8, Belden v9 and Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Bv8.
"I wish I was on yonder hill, Where times I have been many,
With a sword and buckler by my side I would fight for the life of my Georgie"
[spoken by his
* 9mod) Oxford v16 has
Georgy he went up the hill, and after followed many
so that the fight element is skipped.
* 10 - his+mitigation) Stoole v20
"I never stole nor Oxe nor Cow, nor never murdered any;
But fifty Horse I did receive of a Merchant's Man of Gory"

is close to Oxford v15
"I ne'r stole Horse nor Mare in my life, nor Cloven-foot or any,
But once, Sir, of the King's white steeds, and sold them to Bohemia."

which is close to Child Fv2, Gv7, Hv7, Iv13, Jv19,
"I neither murdered nor yet have I slain, I never murdered any;
But I stole fyfteen of the king's bay horse, And I sold them in Bohemia."

and Broadwood v2, Harding B11(1797)v6, Harding B25(488)v8, Harding B 11(2297)v1,
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v5, Belden v5 and Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Bv2.
Saying "Georgie never stood on the King's highway No never robbed money,
But he stole fifteen of the King's fat deer And sent them to Lord Navey."

Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Av4 has
"Has my Geordie been robbing all along, Or has he wounded any?"
"Oh no, but he stole three of the king's gold rings And sold them in Virginny."

* 11 - his+farewell) Stoole v6
As Georgie went up to the Gate, he took his leave of many
He took his leave of his Lards wife, whom he lov'd best of any.

is close to Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia Av7, Cv4 and Dv2, and Belden v8, skipping Oxford.
As George was walking up the streets, He bid farewell to many;
He bid farewell to his own true love, Which grieved him worse than any.

* 12 - his+planned+decapitation/hanging) In Child the likely tool of execution is the axe
[Child Av6,10, Bv14, Cv7, Dv12, Hv14, Iv23 and Jv20;
* 12chF) hanging is the method only in Child Fv15; but 209F, which begins "'Geordie Lukely is
my name" [see 2 - his+name], has clearly been "corrupted" by Oxford. Greig/Duncan2 B, G, H and
I expect him to be hanged and those are all versions that have him taken for poaching and that
include the usual mitigation text (i.e., that are likely affected by Oxford). Of the hanging
texts in Child and Greig/Duncan2, only Greig/Duncan2 Iv9 is consistent in that the men lusting
after the lady wish Geordie had been hanged rather than wish he had been decapitated.
* 13 - his+hanging) Stoole does not discuss the manner of execution but Oxford v6 "must be
* 14 - in+silk/gold/marble) Oxford v16
"Georgy was hanged in silken string, the like was never any"
is close to Broadwood Av6 and Davis Bv3;
* 14mod) the "silken string/rope" changes to "chains of gold/golden cord" in Harding
B11(1797)v9, Harding B25(488)v8, Harding B11(2297)v6, Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia Av8 and Cv6, Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged
v7, Belden v7 and Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Av5 and Cv3; he is to be buried in a "marble tomb" in
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia Av6 and Bv7.
* 14chF) Child Fv14, the Child version closest to Oxford, must not have an execution but
retains the silk
As she came up the Gallowes Wynd, The people was standing many;
The psalms was sung, and the bells was rung, And silks and cords hung bonnie

US+additions) Davis, in Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 39, points out verses that seem limited to the United
States: "... when all possible identifications have been made, there is a goodly residuum ...
to be found in no black-letter piece, which must be identified with the traditional ballad of
'Geordie' [or, as I would have it, 'Georgie']."
* 4gUS) Davis Av3, Cv3; Belden v3:
She rode all day, she rode all night, till she came wet and weary,
A-combing back her long yellow locks, A-pleading for the life of Georgie.

* 5gUS) Davis Av4; Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v4; Belden v4:
It's out of her pocket she drew a purse of gold, the like I never saw any:
"Here, lawyers, come fee yourselves, And spare me the life of Georgie."

* 6gUS) Davis Av6, Cv5; Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged v6; Belden v6:
The oldest lawyer was a-standing at the bar, Saying, "George, I'm sorry for you,
That your own confession has condemned you to hang; May the Lord have mercy on you"

Of course, as in all but the Child 209 ballads, Georgie is hanged.
                                                  Stoole  Oxford   Child   Georgie
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - If he is to be taken for poaching ch
or cuckolding:
She refuses to go with him
from River Spey to Gight
[Greig/Duncan2 A,D,G,H,
but see Child Hv17-18];
or she does go with him
but not as his wife [Iv3,Jv4]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - Geordie blamed for killing ch
Charlie Hay in battle;
or taken prisoner in battle
[Greig/Duncan2 E];
or taken for poaching deer;
or taken in revenge by
cuckolded husband [Iv4,Jv4]]
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he is betrayed by friends, mourned st
by ladies, dies bravely]
------- ------- ------- -------
1 - her+lament 1 1
------- ------- ------- -------
2 - his+name 2 2chF
------- ------- ------- -------
3 - his+letter 3 3
3mod 3mod
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he admits folly, trusts God, would 3st
have her be true but not grieve]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she reads his letter] 3ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he curses betrayers, st
minimizes his crime]
------- ------- ------- -------
4 - her+ride 4 4 4
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she has her horse swim when 4ch
the ferry is not available]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she would have people pray 4ch
for him]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she sees block and Geordie] 4ch
------- ------- ------- -------
5 - her+plea 5 5
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - king would hasten execution] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
6 - his+condemnation 6
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she rejects men's advances] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
7 - her+unsuccessful+offer 7 7
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - ransom proposed and collected] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[ox - he admits cheating women he'd ox
------- ------- ------- -------
7 - her+unsuccessful+offer 7 7
------- ------- ------- -------
8 - her+children 8
------- ------- ------- -------
9 - hill+fight 9 9
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he'd rather die fighting] 9st
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he says only Christ st
save him; he would have her pray]
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he gives her gold for her babies] st
------- ------- ------- -------
10 - his+mitigation 10 10 10 10
------- ------- ------- -------
11 - his+farewell 11 11
------- ------- ------- -------
12 - his+planned+decapitation or 12
12chF - hanging 12chF
------- ------- ------- -------
13 - his+hanging 13 13
------- ------- ------- -------
14 - in+silk or 14 14
14mod - marble or 14mod
14chF - gold 14chF
------- ------- ------- -------
[st - he dies bravely [again]] st
------- ------- ------- -------
[gHa - she hopes to meet him in heaven] gHa
------- ------- ------- -------
[chJ - king, to avoid conflict, chJ
releases, recondemns, and,
faced with Lord Huntly's offer
to fight for Geordie, proposes
a ransom]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she raises the ransom] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - the ransom is accepted] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - he is freed] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - they ride off together] ch
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - she would have a ballad ch
written about "a' this I've
done for Geordie"]
------- ------- ------- -------
[ch - they declare their love for ch
each other, or ...]
------- ------- ------- -------
[chJ - he still prefers his other chJ
mistress; she would stay with
him anyway; they argue;
he kills her; he escapes;
her old friends mourn
for seven years]
------- ------- ------- -------
mod modified
gUS only Georgie: US addition
gHa only Georgie: Harding B 11(2297)
st only Stoole
ox only Oxford
ch only Child
chF only Child 209F
chJ only Child 209J

- BS
Last updated in version 3.2
File: C209AGO

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