Clerk Saunders [Child 69]

DESCRIPTION: (Clerk Sanders) and his lady are determined to be wed despite the opposition of her seven brothers. Despite great pains to conceal their acts, they are found abed together. The brothers stab him to death and leave him in bed for his lady to find
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1802 (Scott)
KEYWORDS: courting death homicide family
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Child 69, "Clerk Saunders" (7 texts)
Bronson 69, "Clerk Saunders" (3 versions)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 69, "Clerk Saunders" (2 versions: #1, #2)
Chambers-ScottishBallads, pp. 211-217, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume1 44, "The Ensign and the Lady Gay" (1 text)
Whitelaw-BookOfScottishBallads, pp. 69-73, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text plus 2 fragments)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 234-236, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 27, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 94, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 30, "Clark Sanders" (1 text)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 56, "Clerk Saunders" (1 text)
Morgan-MedievalBallads-ChivalryRomanceAndEverydayLife, pp. 35-37, "Clerk Sanders" (1 text)

Roud #3855
NOTES [206 words]: David C. Fowler, A Literary History of the Popular Ballad, Duke University Press, 1968, p. 193, suggests that "Clerk Saunders" [Child 69] and "Sweet William's Ghost" [Child 77] are fragments of a single long revenant ballad, pointing to one of David Herd's texts which contains both elements. But Child split them because both items exist separately (even Herd had versions which did not combine the two). At best, I think the matter remains open.
Fowler, p. 198, compares the plot to the story of Gareth and Lyonesse in Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur, in which the engaged-but-not-yet-married couple are attacked while secretly visiting -- only a partial parallel, however, since Gareth survives, and his attackers are not Lyonesse's brothers.
The various tricks the lovers use, e.g. of using the sword rather than her hands to open the door, and covering her eyes when he comes in so she can say she has not seen him, are reminiscent of a trick in many versions of the Tristan legend: Isolde, on trial, crosses a brook carried on the shoulders of a beggar (who is actually Tristan in disguise). She then declares her fidelity by vowing that no man has ever come between her legs except the man who carried her across the stream. - RBW
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File: C069

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