Willy of Winsbury

I first heard this tune performed by Fairport Convention with only two or three verses, written by them, none of which had anything to do with Willy. Later, I learned this version of the ballad from another electric folk group called Pentangle.

Gordon Bok – cellamba; Tom Judge – fiddle; Nick Apollonio – guitar & vocal.


The king had been a prisoner
And a prisoner long in Spain
And Willie of the Winsbury
Has lain long with his daughter at home

“What ails you, what ails you, my daughter Janet?
Why you look so pale and wan.
Have you had any sore sickness
Or yet been sleeping with a man?”

“I have not had any sore sickness
Nor yet been sleeping with a man.
It is for you, my father dear,
For biding so long in Spain”

“Cast off, cast off your berry-brown gown;
Stand naked on the stone,
That I may know you by your shape
If you be a maiden or no.”

So she cast off her berry-brown gown;
Stood naked on the stone.
Her apron was low, her haunches round
Her face was pale and wan.

“Was it with a lord or a duke or a knight,
Or a man of birth and fame,
Or was it with one of my serving men,
That’s lately come out of Spain?”

“It wasn’t with a lord or a duke or a knight,
Nor a man of birth and fame;
But it was with Willie of Winsbury
I could bide no longer alone.”

The king has called on his merry men all;
By thirty and by three,
Saying “Fetch me this Willie of Winsbury
For hanged he shall be.”

But when he came before the king,
He was clad all in the red silk.
His hair was like the strands of gold,
His skin was as white as the milk.

“It is no wonder,” said the king,
“That my daughter’s love you did win.
For if I was a woman, as I am a man,
My bedfellow you would have been.”

“Now will you marry my daughter Janet,
By the truth of your right hand?
Will you marry my daughter Janet,
I’ll make you lord of all my land.”

“Oh yes, I will marry your daughter Janet,
By the truth of my right hand.
Oh yes I will marry your daughter Janet,
But I’ll not be the lord of your land.”

He’s mounted her on a milk-white steed,
Himself on a dapple grey.
|: He has made her the lady of as much land
As she will ride in a long summer’s day :|


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