A seldom heard ballad, but with a terrific story.
The surviving versions of "Jellon Grame" (Child #90) are unclear and confused. It is closely related to another ballad, "Fause Foodrage" (Child #89), and their contents have been mingled and cross-poluted over the centuries. Most of the words used here were extracted from Child. Certain verses have been heavily re-written or newly authored by Jim and Melissa. Plus, in an attempt to present a more compelling and straightforward story, we've re-introduced a handful of additional goodies, taken from cousin-ballads from Denmark and Färöe.
The music we apply here is based on a Bulgarian dance called "Dospatsko Horo."
Word has come to May Margaret
To her garden where she sat:
"You are bidden come to good Green-Wood
And speak with Jellon Grame."
"Go saddle my horseback," she said,
"As quick as e'er you may,
And I will ride to good Green-Wood,
It is a pleasant day."
She had not ridden a mile, a mile
A mile but barely three
When she came to a new made grave
beneath a green oak tree
Up then started Jellon Grame
Out of a bush nearby
"Light down, light down now May Margaret
For in this grave you'll lie."
She lighted off her milk-white steed
and knelt upon her knee
"Oh mercy, mercy, Jellon Grame,
I'm not prepared to die."
"Your babe that stirs between my sides
Will shortly see the light
To see it lying in my blood
would be a piteous sight."
It's out he drew a long, long sword
And a struggle did ensue
But quickly through that lady's sides
He's struck her through and through
O with her last dying breath
That scoundrel she did curse:
"The baby stirring in my sides
Shall be more mine than yours."
Then up spoke cruel Jellon Grame,
"Your curse I shall not heed,
For though you fed our daughter blood,
I'll feed her milk and meat."
He felt no pity for that lady
Though she was lying dead
But he felt some for the bonny girl
Lying in her mother's blood
He's taken up that bonny girl
and given her nurses nine
Three to wake and three to sleep
and three for in between
So strange a thing about this girl
And the way in which she grew
She reached the age of twenty years
While others aged but two
So soon it was that bonny girl
Became a hunting maid
She learned her art from Jellon Grame
And never left his side
One day it fell upon a time
As a-hunting they did go
They rested them in good Green-Wood
It was a pleasant day
Then out did speak that bonny girl
While a tear stood in her eye
"O tell me this now, Jellon Grame,
and I pray you will not lie,"
"Why is it that my mother dear
does never take me home?
To keep me still in banishment
is both a sin and shame."
"You wonder why your mother dear
does never send for thee
Lo, there's the place I slew your mother
beneath that green oak tree."
With that the girl has bent her bow
It was both stout and long
And though and through this Jellon Grame
She's made an arrow go.
"Lie you there, oh father dear
My mother's curse to rue
The place that she lies buried in
Is far too good for you."
from With Teeth
released August 17, 1999
(words: adapted by Jim Speer and Melissa Demian from trad. Scottish and Scandanavian; music: trad. Bulgarian)
JD: drums; AK: flute, vocal; TR: citterns, vocal; JS: bass; HZ: violas; MD: vocal
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