Sir Cawline [Child 61]

DESCRIPTION: Sir Cawline falls ill for love of the king's daughter; she attends him. He desires to prove himself worthy of her; she sends him to vanquish the elvish king. He then defeats a giant threatening to wed her, and survives a lion attack before marrying her.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1750 (Percy folio); the text of "Sir Colllyne," in Scotland National Archive MS. H13/35 is dated c. 1583 by Lyle
KEYWORDS: courting disease royalty knight battle marriage
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Child 61, "Sir Cawline" (3 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
Bronson 61, "Sir Cawline" (2 versions, but #2 is "King Malcolm and Sir Colvin")
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 61, "Sir Cawline" (1 version: #1)
Hales/Furnival-BishopPercysFolioManuscript, volume III, pp. 1-15, "Sir Cawline" (1 text)
Percy/Wheatley-ReliquesOfAncientEnglishPoetry I, pp. 61-81, "Sir Cauline" (1 text)
Lyle/McAlpine/McLucas-SongRepertoireOfAmeliaAndJaneHarris, pp. 12-17, "Sir Colin" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1, with differences}
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 3, "Sir Cawline" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Emily Lyle, _Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition_, Wissenschaflicher Verlag Trier, 2007, pp. 85-93, "(Sir Colin)" (2 parallel texts, one the Percy text, one the "Edinburgh" version of c. 1583, plus on pp. 104-105a collation of Lyle's transcription of the Edinburgh text against Stewart's; the Harris tune is on p. 943)
Rhiannon Purdie, _Shorter Scottish Medieval Romances: Florimond of Albany, Sir Colling the Knight, King Orphius, Roswall and Lillian_, Scottish Text Society, Fifth Sieries, No. 11, 2013, pp. 241-248, "Sir Cawline" (1 text); pp. 104-111, "Sir Colling the Knycht" (1 text)
MANUSCRIPT: {MSPercyFolio}, The Percy Folio, London, British Library MS. Additional 27879, page 368

Roud #479
cf. "King Malcolm and Sir Colvin" (derivative, some lines, plot)
Sir Collyne
Sir Colling
NOTES [901 words]: According to David C. Fowler, A Literary History of the Popular Ballad, Duke University Press, 1968, p. 158 n. 25, this is one of eighteen ballads in the Child collection found only in the Percy Folio. That's perhaps a little oversimplified; the only copy of this that Child accepted as real is that in the Percy Folio (which Percy thoroughly corrupted), though Child prints two texts ("Sir Colin" and "King Malcolm and Sir Colvin," from the Harris ms. and Buchan respectively) in an appendix.
Percy's modifications to the text are so thorough that the 210 lines of the Percy manuscript are made into 392 lines in his text. Percy is even responsible for giving the heroine the name "Christabelle"; in the folio text, she is nameless.
Based on Child's notes, it would seem that this song was never traditional as we would define the term; all the later versions were derived from the literary text as reworked by Percy. Bronson, however, pointed out that the Harris version *was* found in tradition, even if the text was influenced by Percy (Bronson adds that the result is in many ways simpler and superior to the Percy text; it also has a different ending). It seems that there were folk revivals before The Folk Revival. Also, the "Sir Colling" text, found in the 1970s, shows that the piece had a substantial history even before the Percy Folio text was written.
It appears (paraphrasing and expanding comments by Lyle, p. 93) that this ballad existed in two states: A full form, in which Sir Cawline/Colin/Colling fights an "elvish knight," a giant, and a lion; this is represented in the Percy and Edinburgh texts. There is also a short form, in the Buchan and Harris texts, in which the fight with the knight is the only major escapade. Although Child considered the long form to be the true version and relegated the other to the appendix, Lyle, pp. 93-94, suggests treating the long form as a "ballad romance" -- a strange term but not an unreasonable suggestion. Given the frequent connections between ballad and romance, a semi-literary origin seems likely.
I am less confident of Lyle's next stage, which consists of trying to identify and retrovert cases where original six-line stanzas were converted to four-line stanzas; it is her belief that the original "Sir Colin" romance was in six-line stanzas rhymed abcbdb and with a 434343 metrical pattern (Lyle, pp. 96-99). It takes an almost Percy-esque amount of fiddling to get there, though.
Purdie goes so far as to treat the Edinburgh text of "Sir Cawline/Colling" as a full-blown, if short, romance, and is much less confident of Lyle's complex suggestions. I too wonder if Lyle has been too ambitious. Purdie goes on to suggest that "Sir Cawline" itself is a derivative item, having elements in common with the well-known romance "Sir Eglamour of Artois" (which is also connected with "Sir Lionel" [Child 18]. This connection is also mentioned on p. xlv of Frances E. Richardson, editor, Sir Eglamour of Artois, Early English Text Society/Oxford University Press, 1965; for more details for "Sir Eglamour," see the notes to "Sir Lionel"). Also, "Sir Cawline" shares the slaying of an Elvish knight with the romance of "Eger and Grime," and even uses some of the same lyrics. Thus there is a real possibility that "Sir Cawline" is a derivative tale.
(For a bibliography of "Eger and Grime," see Joanne A. Rice, Middle English Romance: An Annotated Bibliography, 1955-1985, Garland Publishing, 1987, pp. 251-252. For bibliography of "Sir Eglamour," see pp. 415-416 of Rice.)
Which raises another interesting question. The Percy Folio has several cut-down romances -- that is, items which exist as a full-blown Middle English romance but which also have a shorter form in the folio. Examples of this include the romances of "Eger and Grime," "Guy of Warwick," "Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle," the various "Marriage of Sir Gawain"-type romances, and "The Squire of Low Degree." Could "Sir Colling/Cawline" be a cut down form of something else, and are the short forms a further shortening of "Sir Colling," or of the hypothetical original romance, or of something else? It may be time to give this ballad another hard look.
There is another interesting point about Child's text, which is that he chopped off the first two verses of the Percy Folio version, regarding them as part of another ballad which referred to Robert Bruce. But this material is in the "Sir Colling" text, except that it refers to Robert Bruce's brother Edward and his invasion of Ireland ("Vith Edvaird the Bruce he fuir to fecht /In Irland biyond the sie" -- lines 9-10 on p. 104 of Purdie). This implies that the lyrics are original to the ballad, and that on this point at least "Sir Colling" is more correct than the Percy version (since Edward, not Robert, invaded Ireland). But it also gives us a date: Edward Bruce went to Ireland in 1315, and died there in 1318. Purdie suggests, therefore (p. 19), that "Sir Colling" is one of the various Colin Campbells, and that this is a sort of Campbell Family romance. Which makes some sense to me; some minstrel made it up for the Campbells of Argyll.
Purdie, p. 21, points out that the language of "Sir Colling," which seems to be the oldest copy, is much too modern for a fourteenth century event. This strikes me as further evidence that the piece was a latter attempt to glorify the early Campbells. - RBW
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