Ewan MacColl - The Elfin Knight (English translation)

English translation

The Elfin Night

There are three trumpeters standing on yonder hill
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
Blow their trumpets so loudly and shrilly
And the wind always blows my shawl1 away
 
If I had his trumpet in my chest2
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
And were in the arms of the lad that I like best
And the wind always blows my shawl away
 
If you want to be married to me
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
There's one thing you must do for me
And the wind always blows my cloak away.
 
I must have a fine linen shirt
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
Without a stitch of needlework
And the wind always blows my cloak away.
 
You must wash it in younder draw-well3
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
Where water never sprang nor did it fall
And the wind always blows my cloak away.
 
You must dry it on yonder hawthorn bush
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
That has not seen blossom since there were men
And the wind always blows my cloak away.
 
If I make a shirt for you
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
There's one thing you must do for me
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
My father has an acre of land
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
You must plow it with one of your hands
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
You must sow it without any seed
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
And roll it with a sheep's shin-bone
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
You must shear it with a scythe made of leather
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
And bind it with a peacock's feather
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
You must stack it in the sea
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
And bring the wheat sheaves to me dry
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
And if now you succeed in all this work
Blow, blow, blow winds, blow
Come to me and you'll get your shirt
And the wind always blows my shawl away.
 
  • 1. although plaid is modern English, it has different meanings depending where you are, and additionally a plaid in Scotland was different for a man and for a woman: a man's plaid was a heavy woolen cloak or blanket, while a woman's plaid was either a woolen shawl or her main item of clothing. I've replaced it with the appropriate word according to which of the two characters is speaking in each verse.
  • 2. the box for keeping stuff in, not the upper front of the body
  • 3. A draw-well is a deep well where a bucket on the end of a rope is the means of getting water
Translations in this website are protected by copyright law. Don't claim any of my translations as your own, and please if you publish them anywhere attribute them to me.
Some translations I post will have been provided by someone other than me, and when that is the case it will be made clear on the pages containing those translations; if you want to copy those translations you must first obtain permission from the people who provided them, as I don't have the right to give you such permissions, and please carefully observe the rights of the authors of the original material that has been translated.
Submitted by michealt on Tue, 11/11/2014 - 22:34
Added in reply to request by barsiscev
Last edited by michealt on Tue, 23/01/2018 - 17:45
Author's comments:

This isn't middle English, it's a fairly modern version of The Elfin Knight (mdern enough that the man isn't an elf and isn't threatening to kidnap the woman) of which the oldest known versions date from the middle of the 17th century, more than 150 years after the end of the Middle English period. Besides, it's not in English at all, but in Scots.
[13 months later: I see that Bariscev changed the language from "middle english" to "scots" soon after I made that comment; don't know why Melmoth had confused the two, though.]

Of course it seems pretty certain that there were earlier version, possibly as far back as the Middle English period, because the tune used for the English version of this ballad (Scarborough Fair) sounds as if it might be that old.

There's a fairly decent wikipedia article that covers this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair_(ballad)

I reckon it's rather a pity that Ewan and Peggy both sing all the verses, instead of having Peggy sing the woman's verses and Ewan the man's.

English (Scots)

The Elfin Knight

More translations of "The Elfin Knight"
Englishmichealt
See also
Comments