Lady Maisry [Child 65]

DESCRIPTION: The Scottish heroine loves an English lord above all Scots. Her family, learning of her love and (in most versions) her pregnancy, prepare to burn her. She sends tokens to her love, but she has been burnt before he can arrive. (He takes bitter vengeance)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1783/1799 (Riewerts-BalladRepertoireOfAnnaGordon-MrsBrownOfFalkland)
KEYWORDS: love separation death hate hardheartedness family execution revenge suicide
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West),Scotland(Aber)) US(Ap,SE)
REFERENCES (25 citations):
Child 65, "Lady Maisry" (11 texts)
Bronson 65, "Lady Maisry" (13 versions, though some of these are really "Mother, Mother, Make My Bed")
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 65, "Lady Maisry" (3 versions: #1#8, #12)
Riewerts-BalladRepertoireOfAnnaGordon-MrsBrownOfFalkland, pp. 152-159, "Lady Maisery" (2 parallel texts plus a photo of the badly-transcribed tune; also a reconstructed tune on p. 275)
Barry/Eckstorm/Smyth-BritishBalladsFromMaine pp. 448-449, "Lady Maisry" (notes only)
Ford-VagabondSongsAndBalladsOfScotland, pp. 117-119, "Bonnie Susie Cleland" (1 text)
Palmer-FolkSongsCollectedBy-Ralph-VaughanWilliams, #3, "Bonnie Susie Cleland" (1 fragment, 1 tune, with extra text from other versions) {Bronson's #3, although Bronson doesn't have all the padding)
Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 16, "Lady Maisry" (2 fragments, the first probably this but the second is only the verse of the messenger boy swimming the river; I suspect it's actually from "Little Musgrave," or "Mother, Mother," or "Lord Lovell," or some other such source)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 17 "Lady Maisry" (2 texts, 2 tunes){Bronson's #13, #12}
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 10, "Lady Maisry" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 2, "Lady Maisry" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 208-213, "Lady Maisry" (2 texts)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 74, "Lady Maisry" (1 text)
Whitelaw-BookOfScottishBallads, pp. 214-216, "Lady Maisry" (1 text)
Gatherer-SongsAndBalladsOfDundee 5, "Bonnie Susie Cleland" (1 text, 1 tune)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 73, "Lady Maisry" (1 text)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 40, "Janet (Lady Maisry)" (1 text)
Niles-BalladBookOfJohnJacobNiles 26, "Lady Maisry" (2 texts, 2 tunes; the second is short, and appears to be a mixed text)
Gummere-OldEnglishBallads, pp. 218-222+352, "Lady Maisry" (1 text)
Buchan-ABookOfScottishBallads 11, "Lady Maisry", 29, "Lady Maisry" (2 texts, 1 tune in appendix) {Bronson's #1}
Buchan/Moreira-TheGlenbuchatBallads, p.. 37-41, "Lady Mazrey" (1 text)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 138, "The Burning o' Lady Marjorie" (1 text)
Whitelaw-BookOfScottishBallads, pp. 294-295, "Bonnie Susie Cleland" (1 text)
Morgan-MedievalBallads-ChivalryRomanceAndEverydayLife, pp. 63-66, "Lady Maisry" (1 text)

Roud #45
cf. "The Stolen Bride" (plot)
cf. "Mother, Mother, Make My Bed" (lyrics)
cf. "Kafoozalem (I)" (plot)
Sweet Maisry
Lord Dillard and Lady Flora
NOTES [464 words]: Bronson, Roud, and Scarborough, and probably others, have filed "Mother, Mother, Make My Bed" with "Lady Maisry," but that ballad (composed largely of floating elements) lacks key plot elements, notably the reasons for, and fact of, the girl's condemnation and death. It appears to be a separate song, though perhaps composed on the fragments of this song.
Interestingly, it appears that every text Bronson has of "Mother, Mother" is part of his "C" tune group, and every text in the "C" group is either "Mother, Mother" or is too short to allow identification.
I also somewhat question the placing of "Bonnie Susie Cleland" with the other versions of "Lady Maisry." The plot is the same, but the form is very different, and Bronson places the two "Susie Cleland" tunes in a separate group from all the others (his "B"). It all feels like a deliberate rewrite to me. It has been suggested that William Motherwell might have produced "Susie Cleland." On the other hand, Fowler, pp. 206-307, seems to suggest that Anna Gordon Brown of Falkland produced "Lady Maisry" -- which raises at least the possibility that "Susie" is the original and "Maisry" the rewrite.
The tale of a father murdering his daughter for some reason or other goes back in western folklore at least to Agamemnon and Iphigenia. Even earlier is the Biblical tale of Jephthah sacrificing his only daughter in fulfillment of a vow (Judges 11:30-40). There have been attempts to link this to folk tales or nature religions (InterpretersDict, volume II, p. 821; AbingdonComm, p. 368, and HastingsDict, pp.. 431-432, all compare it to the "weeping for Tammuz" of Ezekiel 8:14), although all such parallels seem like a bit of a stretch to me.
These tales share a theme of a father killing a daughter but very little in the way of motivation -- both Agamemnon's and Jephthah's daughters were sacrificed.. A better parallel, because it is a punishment rather than a sacrifice, may be afforded by the case of Saint Barbara. Barbara supposedly lived in the fourth century, and was a very pretty girl -- but she was a Christian among pagans. The details of the story vary, but they agree that she was executed for her faith, with her father being the one who actually struck the fatal blow (DictSaints, p. 27). The year supposedly was 306, the place Heliopolis in Egypt (Haziltt, p. 26). Her feast day is December 4.
The improbability of the whole story is shown by the fact that the father was slain by lightning moments later -- a detail which "Susie Cleland" quite properly omits. As far as I know, the story is pure fiction; at least, checking half a dozen histories of the Christian church did not turn up a single reference to the tale. It may bear some relation to the well-known folk tale of "Rapunzel" (Tatar, p. 105) - RBW
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