Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament

DESCRIPTION: The singer sings a lullaby to her baby son. She recalls how his father seduced and left her. She fantasizes about his death on the battlefield. She mourns for herself and the baby "Born to sustain thy mother's shame ... a bastard's name"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1626-1627 (according to Ebsworth); else c.1650 (Percy folio); see comments by Chambers and Ebsworth on earlier "fountain-heads."
LONG DESCRIPTION: The singer sings a lullaby to her baby son. She would have him smile but "not as thy father did To cozen maids ... cruel he Cares neither for his babe nor me." "I was too cred'lous at first To yield thee all a maiden durst." He is away at the wars; perhaps "blessing thee." She fantasizes that he "lies smother'd in his wounds, Repeating, as he pants for air, My name ... she'll forgive, though not forget." She would bind his wounds with her smock and make it his winding sheet; "how happy I had been If he had ne'er been wrapt therein" In days to come "God grant thee patience ... Born to sustain thy mother's shame ... a bastard's name"
KEYWORDS: grief seduction lie promise war separation lament lullaby nonballad baby lover mistress
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (11 citations):
ChambersBallads, pp. 118-121, "Lady Ann Bothwell's Lament" (1 text)
Lyle-Crawfurd2 141, "Balou, My Boy, Lie Still and Sleip" (1 fragment)
GreigDuncan8 1560, "Baloo My Boy, Lie Still and Sleep" (1 fragment)
Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 209-213, "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: J. Woodfall Ebsworth, The Roxburghe Ballads, (1888, Hertford (digitized by Microsoft)), Vol VI Part 3, pp. 578-579,"The New Balow; or, a Wenche's Lamentation for the loss of her Sweetheart, he having left her with a Babe to play her, being the Fruits of her Folly" ("Balow, my Babe, weep not for me") (1 text)
John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall, editors, Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript. Ballads and Romances, (London, 1868 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. III, pp. 515-523, "Balowe" (3 texts: John Gamble's MS Book 1649; Elizabeth Rogers, _Virginal Book_, Additional Manuscript 10337, 1658 ["dated 1658, but the copy may have been taken some few years after"; c. 1650, for _Reliques_ from the Folio, before being "corrected by another [copy] in Allan Ramsay's _Miscellany_, and of course, touched up by Percy himself without notice, Scottified throughout" (p. 515).)
Allan Ramsay, The Tea-Table Miscellany:or, A Collection of Scots Sangs (in three vols) (London, 1760 (twelfth edition) ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 120-123, "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament" ("Balow, my boy, lie still and sleep") (1 text)
James Watson, editor, A Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems Part III (London, 1711 (reprinted as part 3 of Watson's Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems (Glasgow 1869)) ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 79-82, "Lady Anne Bothwell's Balow" ("Balow, my Boy, ly still and sleep") (1 text)
James Johnson, Editor, _The Scots Musical Museum_ [1853 edition], volume II, #130, pp. 135-136, "Lady Bothwell's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune)
Robert Chambers, The Scottish Ballads (Edinburgh, 1829 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 118-121, "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament" (2 texts, including Ramsay's)
Thomas Evans and R.H. Evans, Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative (London, 1810 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol. I, #67 pp. 259-263, "The New Balow; or A Wenches Lamentation for the loss of her Sweetheart: he having left her a babe to play with, being the fruits of her folly" (1 text)

ST GrD81560 (Partial)
Roud #2864
NOTES [1489 words]: Hales and Furnivall print the texts "without Percy's tawdry touches....[as] Percy found it.... we must make the date about 1650.... The dialect of the copier seems to have been Lancashire.... " (V.I, pp. xi-xiii: Furnivall's "Forewords").
The first version dating at least to 1606 (according to Chambers 1829) is two verses that share sentiments but no lines with any of the later versions: "Peace wayward barne Oh cease thy moan" Your wayward daddy is gone and won't return. She is sure "how like the dad Would be the lad In time to make fond maydens glad." Daddy being gone does not appear again until Ramsay.
Ebsworth prints the two verses that Chambers dates to 1606 but proposes a 1593-1594 eight verse text as "the fountain-head of all the Balloo rivulets." The tone of that text fits but no line is shared by the later texts. See J. Woodfall Ebsworth, The Roxburghe Ballads, (1888, Hertford (digitized by Microsoft)), Vol VI Part 3, p. 580, "A Sweet Lullabie" ("Come, little babe, come silly soule") (1 text).
The likely sequence of the clearly recognizable texts is Gamble (1649), Rogers (1658), Percy-folio (c.1650), Evans (c.1650 [1626-1627?: see Ebsworth below]), Watson (1711) and Ramsay (1760). Each of these six texts is clearly different from the others, chiefly in added or deleted verses. After Ramsay many anthologists use his version. See, for example,
* Francis James Child, editor, The English and Scottish Ballads (Boston, 1866 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. IV, pp. 123-131
* David Herd, editor, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (facsimile of (Edinburgh,1776) with an "Appendix ... containing the pieces substituted in the 1791 reprint for those omitted of the 1776 edition, &c.") ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol I, pp. 65-68
* William Edmonstoune Aytoun, The Ballads of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1861 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. II, pp. 49-52
* Chambers.
* Percy "corrected" his Reliques version by reference to Ramsay.
Gamble's version has six verses. The four common to later versions complain of her lover's "sugar'd words" and that "cruel he Cares neither for my babe nor me"; she is afraid the son will "cozen maids ... For in thine eye his [father's] look I see The tempting look that ruined me"; she hopes "never a woman after me [would] Submit" to him. This is a difficult verse to accomodate for the later versions that have her lover dead. One verse is dropped by Rogers and shared only with Percy and Evans: she still loves her lover. One verse is shared only with Rogers: from now on I, "sweare all others to forbear ... and sleepe securely hart alone."
Rogers's version has four verses, all common to Gamble.
Percy-folio's version has seven verses. Four common to later versions are shared with Gamble, as well as the one shared with Gamble and Evans. Two verses are unique to Percy: she tells the baby to "be loyal to thy lover trew"; her baby "will comfort me when care do grieve." [A line, "corrected" by Percy following Ramsay, is in verse 6: "thy cruel father is gane," which would have been significant if in the folio version.]
Evans's version has fifteen verses. Besides the four from Gamble and one added by Percy-folio, it shares seven verses with Watson and Ramsay: her lover may be or is dead -- perhaps God "revenging me hath stopt his breath"; if she could hear him "repeating as he pants for breath Her name ... what woman's heart ... Would not forget the greatest wrong?"; then she would wrap him in linen -- her smock if necessary -- for a winding sheet; "thy father dead ... Preferr'd the wars to me and thee"; the baby must live witb "A mother's fault, a father's shame, A hapless state, a bastard's name." Here and later death is symbolized by pig/boar/swine: "but now, perhaps, thy curse and mine Make him eat acorns with the swine." "Three verses are unique to Evans: she would have the baby "follow not His faithless steps who thee begot; she is afraid that when he is grown he will disdain her; she blames herself "But most of all my own two eyes."
Note that Ebsworth prints Evans and gives it a date of 1626-1627. If Evans pre-dates Gamble, Rogers and Percy-folio then it effectively becomes our earliest text and those "later" three texts are just interesting examples of texts that have lost verses.
Watson's version has thirteen verses: four from Gamble, seven from Evans and two that it shares with Ramsay. These two verses cause Chappell (cited by Percy/Wheatley) to ask, "Can any one believe that such lines were written by or for any lady of rank?" One complains that she "must now needs be a nurse ... sweet orphan, take the pap"; the other complains that she had been promised "That I no maintenance should want." I suppose that Chappell is saying that no "lady of rank" would have to worry about nursing her baby, nor about who would provide the next meal. Watson's version has another significant attribute: it is the first time the name "Lady Anne Bothwell" is associated with the story. No version mentions anyone's name. As we shall see, there is a timing problem if Anne Bothwell is really the subject.
Ramsay's version has one significant change: the phrase "thy father dead" becomes "thy father fled" Now the battlefield image of her finding, forgiving and burying her wounded lover becomes a daydream fantasy. Ramsay has kept the "Lady Anne Bothwell" title and resolved the problem Watson introduced: Anne Bothwell's lover died long after the baby was born. The description follows Ramsay.
Chambers (1829): "'Lady Anne Bothwell' was no other than the Honourable Anna Bothwell, daughter of Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney at the Reformation .... This young lady, who is said to have possessed great beauty, was betrayed into a disgraceful connexion by the Honourable Sir Alexander Erskine, third son of John, seventh Earl of Mar .... As ... there arises a presumption, considering the age of the parties, that the unhappy circumstance which occasioned the lament took place early in the seventeenth century. This, indeed, is set almost beyond a question by the occurrence of a poem, apparently the first edition of Miss Bothwell's Lament, in a publication of the year 1606, 'The Northern Lass, or the Nest of Fools.' [1606 text] As to the ultimate fate of Miss Bothwell, it is unfortunately out of the editor's power to say any thing. That of her faithless lover happens to be better known. ... When the religious troubles broke out in Scotland, Sir Alexander ... was prevailed upon by the Covenanters to undertake the command of one of their regiments .... Ten days after the date of ... letter [1640] the colonel was blown up .... It was the general sentiment of the time, and long a traditionary notion in his family, that he came to this dreadful end, on account of his treatment of the unhappy lady who indites the Lament; she having probably died before that time of a broken heart."
In 1847 Chambers reported the apparent next appearance of the text. "The song is an evidence of the public interest excited by the affair: a fragment of it [the same verses Chambers printed in 1829] found its way into an English play of the day, Broom's comedy of the Northern Lass (1632). This is somewhat different from any of the stanzas in the common versions of the ballad. (source: Robert Chambers, Traditions of Edinburgh (1847, Edinburgh ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 91-93).
So, at the end, the lament fits the story. But, does the lament have anything to do with the story? Percy/Wheatley II quotes Chappell's notes to Percy Folio to the effect that:
* The tune and ballad are "alluded to by several of our early [16th century] dramatists" [and so may predate the supposed parties].
* In mid 17th century "Baloo was so popular a subject that it was printed as a street ballad with additional stanzas ...[the Evans text]."
* "The particular honour of having been the 'wench' in question was first claimed for 'Lady Anne Bothwell' ... by Watson in Edinburgh in 1711." Chappell doubts that any of the Lady Anne's in the Bothwell family were involved. [At this point it's worth noting again that none of the parties are named in any version.]
* Of two verses added by Watson's text, and kept by Ramsay's, Chappell asks, "Can any one believe that such lines were written by or for any lady of rank?"
Chambers (1847): "The only error in the setting down of the song, was in calling it *Lady* Anne Bothwell's Lament, as the heroine had no pretension to a term implying noble rank.."
The association of pigs with death, in Evans, Watson, and Ramsey, is an old one. Graves notes that pigs "feed on corpse-flesh," pig is "the beast sacred to the Death-goddess," and "the boar is the beast of death" (source: Robert Graves, The White Goddess (1970, New York), pp. 222, 229, 210). The connection is also made in "Lord Thomas Stuart" [Child 259]: "'I dreamed a dream ... That our chamber was full of swine An our bed full of blood.'" - BS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: GrD81560

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.