O where hae ye been, Lord Randal, my son?
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?
I hae been to the wild wood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi hunting, and fain wad lie doon.

Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?
I din'd wi my true-love; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi hunting, and fain wad lie doon.

What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?
I gat eels boild in broo; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi hunting, and fain wad lie doon.

What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randal, my son?
What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?
O they swelld and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi hunting, and fain wad lie doon.

O I fear ye are poisond, Lord Randal, my son!
O I fear ye are poisond, my handsome young man!
O yes! I am poisond; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doon.

Lord Randal is a traditional folk ballad dating to at least 1629 in Italian. Many variants exist; many of the best-known in English have been collected in Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The first version in Child’s canonical work (public domain) is as follows :

‘O WHERE ha you been, Lord Randal, my son?
And where ha you been, my handsome young man?’
‘I ha been at the greenwood; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.’

‘An what met ye there, Lord Randal, my son?
An wha met you there, my handsome young man?’
‘O I met wi my true love; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, an fain wad lie down.’

‘And what did she give you, Lord Randal, my son?
And what did she give you, my handsome young man?’
‘Eels fried in a pan; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.’

‘And wha gat your leavins, Lord Randal, my son?
And wha gat your leavins, my handsom young man?’
‘My hawks and my hounds; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.’

And what becam of them, Lord Randal, my son?
And what becam of them, my handsome young man?’
‘They stretched their legs out an died; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.’

‘O I fear you are poisoned, Lord Randal, my son!
I fear you are poisoned, my handsome young man!’
‘O yes, I am poisoned; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

‘What d’ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?’
‘Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

‘What d’ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?’
‘My gold and my silver; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, an I fain wad lie down.’

‘What d’ye leave to your brother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your brother, my handsome young man?’
‘My houses and my lands; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

‘What d’ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?’
‘I leave her hell and fire; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’


The song’s structure may be familiar to lovers of slightly more recent music – it was used loosely as the basis of Bob Dylan’s track, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.

The hero - variously named – suffers the same fate in the various versions of the ballad. The story is revealed through a sparse dialogue between the hero and his mother. Through her questions, the mother discovers where the young man has been, that he was fed, that the creatures that got his leavings died, that he has a pain in his heart, that he must lie down. There is a last will and testament of sorts, closing with the young man willing damnation to his betrayer and poisoner. In the last two lines above, he leaves her ‘hell and fire’. In another popular version, the final stanza runs :

What do you leave your lover my son?
What will you leave her my bonny young one?’
A rope to hang her, mother, a rope to hang her,
Oh make my bed soon mother,
I’m sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.’

In another version it’s :

‘The tow and the halter, for to hang on yon tree,
And lat her hang there for the poysoning o me.’


In French, the ballad is known as Le Testament du garçon empoisonné. One version ends with the betrayed wishing for his love :

Que la terre se rouvrit,
Que tu sois engloutie


The song however, is unknown in France. The translator Robert Paquin and others trace French versions to the Atlantic coast of Canada and to Louisiana where the ballad was independently translated from English – testament to its dramatic effectiveness and popularity. According to Paquin, Louisiana versions demonstrate adoption and Canadian versions adaptation. In Louisiana for example, ‘I’m sick at the heart’ becomes ‘je suis malade du coeur’. This is a faithfully literal rendering of the English but awkward in French, meaning, if anything ‘I am subject to heart attacks’. The French Canadian version adapts the English to the more sensible ‘j’ai mal au coeur.’

The historical identity of the eponymous unfortunate is debated. Sir Walter Scott thought it referred to Thomas Randolph, First Earl of Murray and nephew of Robert the Bruce who died in 1332 under mysterious circumstances. Others have suggested the Sixth Earl of Chester who died in 1232, reportedly at the hand of his wife. Versions of the song are known in Italy, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. Betrayal in love is not uncommon. The story as sung may have never happened, it may have happened once in one place. It may have happened many times and in many languages, with each iteration, adoption and adaptation imparting something new to the tale and ensuring its survival in one form or another as a folk ballad down the ages.




Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898) (online)

Robert Paquin, 'Le Testament du Garcon Empoisonne': A French 'Lord Randal' in Acadie, Folklore, Vol. 91, No. 2, (1980), pp. 157-172

http://www.contemplator.com/child/rendal.html (awful midi warning)

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.