“Helen of Kirconnell”


The singer laments, "I wish I were where Helen lies." The two had been together when Helen was shot and died. The singer pursues and kills her slayer, then promises to be true forever. The rest of the song is a wish to join his love in death

Supplemental text

Helen of Kirconnell
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Where Helen Lies

From James Johnson, "The Scots Musical Museum," Volume II, #155,
p. 163. As found in the 1853 edition (punctuation is somewhat uncertain,
given the state of the facsimile).

O that I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries;
O that I were where Helen lies
  In fair Kirkconnel lee!
O Helen, fair beyond compare,
A rignlet of thy flowing hair,
I'll wear it still forevermair
  Until the day I die.

Curs'd be the hand that shot the shot,
And curd's the gun that gave the crack!
Into my arms bird Helen lap,
  And died for sake o' me.
O think na ye but my heaart was fair;
My love fell down, and spake nae mair;
There did she swoon wi' meikle care,
  On fair Kirkconnel lee.

I lighted down, my sword did draw,
I cutted him in pieces sma',
I cutted him in pieces sma',
  On fair Kirkconnel lee.
O Helen, chaste, thou'rt now at rest,
If I were with thee I were blest,
Where thou lies low, and takes thy rest
  On fair Kirkconnel lee.

I wish my grave was growing green,
An winding sheet put o'er my een,
And I in Helen's arms lying
  In fair Kirkconnel lee!
I wish I were where Helen lies.
Night and day on me she cries;
O that I were where Helen lies,
  On fair Kirkconnel lee!


Under the title "Fair Helen," this is one of the handful of traditional songs in Palgrave's _Golden Treasury_ (item CXXXV).

This song, or the folktale that underlies it, is said to have inspired Wordsworth's "Ellen Irwin." - RBW


  1. OBB 152, "Helen of Kirconnell" (1 text)
  2. HarvClass-EP1, pp. 324-325, "Helen of Kirconnell" (1 text)
  3. BBI, ZN1856, "My sweetest sweet and fairest fair"
  5. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #424, "Helen of Kirconnell" (1 text)
  6. ST OBB152 (Full)
  7. Roud #8191
  8. BI, OBB152


Alternate titles: “I Wish I Were Where Ellen Lies”
Author: (published by Robert Burns)
Earliest date: 1797 (_Scots Musical Museum_ #155); seemingly alsoin Herd