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The Beggarman

Traditional, arr. Calhoun 2003, recorded on Telfer's Cows

Child #279, The Gaberlunzie Man, first printed in Ramsey's Tea-Table Miscellany, 1724.
In similar versions of this story, the beggarman is a nobleman or king in disguise. But in this one, he surely is a beggar, because he knows how to rant and sing.

A "lea" is a meadow. A change-up on the more common attitude in Scots folk song? "Maids, when you're young, never wed an old man."


A beggarman cam o'er yon lea
With many a "good day" and "good even to thee."
Says, "Good wife, for your courtesy
Will ye lodge a beggarman?"

The night was cold, the man was wet
And down beside the fire he sat
And he cast his meal pack off his back
And merrily ranted and sang

"O," says the daughter, "were I as white
As ever the snow lay on the dike,
It's I would dress me ladylike
And away with you I'd run."

"O," said the beggar, "were ye as black
As ever the crown of my father's hat
Then ye should lie down at my back
And away with you I'd run."

And so the two made up the plot
To rise two hours before the cock
So quietly she shot the lock
And through the fields they ran

When the cock did crow, the old wife rose
And at her leisure, put on her clothes
And straight to the servant's chamber goes
Asking for the beggarman

But when she came where the poor man lay
The straw was cold and he was away
She clapped her hands, cried, "well a day,
Are any of our good things gone?"

Some ran to the coffers, some ran to the chest
But all was there and nothing missed
She danced for joy crying "praise be the blest,
I've lodged an honest man!"

"Since nothing's gone, that we can learn
There's cows to milk and milk to churn
Get young Peggy up and out to the barn
And bid her come speedily on"

The servant went where the daughter lay
But the sheets were cold and she was away
And straight to the old wife, she did say
"She's away with the beggarman"

"Fie, go ride! Fie, go run!
And haste ye find these traitors again
For she'll be burnt and he'll be slain
The weariful beggarman!"

Some rode on horseback, some ran on foot
The old wife she went out of her wits
They took her hands and bade her sit
And ay, she cursed and banned.

When years had passed, some two or three
A beggarman came o'er you lea
Seeking out for charity,
"Will you lodge a beggarman?"

"I never will lodge a beggar again
I had one daughter and Peggy was her name
But she ran away with a beggarman
I know not where she's gone"

"Old wife, old wife, well how would it be
To see her comin' o'er yon lea
And her with a baby on her knee
And another one comin' on?

"Yonder she's comin', to your bower
In silk and satin, with many's the flower
She raised up her hands and blessed the hour
That she went with the beggarman.


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