“Katie Cruel (The Leeboy's Lassie; I Know Where I'm Going)”


"When first I came to the town, They called me the roving jewel; Now they've changed my name; They call me Katie Cruel." The ending varies; the girl sets her heart on someone, but she may or may not get him and he may or may not rule over her


The forms and endings of this song are extremely diverse, although I've only heard three tunes, two of them clearly related. I might be tempted to break the piece up into separate entries, except that there is simply no way to draw the boundaries.

Paul Stamler observes, "I think ['I Know Where I'm Going'] may need its own entry, being as how it's only overlap with 'Katie Cruel' is the 'I know where I'm going' verse. On the other hand, it's a distinct nonballad, so maybe not." As usual, there is truth in this; the two basic families are "Katie Cruel" and "Leaboy's Lassie" (the latter clearly the forerunner of "I Know Where I'm Going"). However, there is much more in common between these two than just the "I know where...." verse.

My guess is that the original is Scottish, but I could well be wrong. Don Duncan points out a broadside, "A New Song, Called Harry Newell," which is clearly a form of the same thing and printed probably in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It is English or Irish, not Scottish.

Child alluded to this piece in his appendix of fragments, quoting a stanza from Beaumont and Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act II, Scene viiii:

She cares not for her daddy,

Nor she cares not for her mammy;

For she is, she is, she is, she is

My lord of Lowgrave's lassy.

(This, incidentally, is the part of the play densest in traditional song; in my edition -- p. 335 of M. L. Wine's _Drama of the English Renaissance_ -- five songs are quoted in the space of thirty lines.)

Based on the date, this may well be very close to the original of this piece.

Linscott claims it "is a marching song used by the American troops in the Revolutionary War" (compare the Flanders/Brown title). But she was ignorant of most of the other versions.

Ritson printed the chorus, "O that I was where I would be, Then would I be where I am not, But where I am I must be, And where I would be I cannot," in _Gammer Gurton's Garland_, 1784 (see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #80, p. 82; see also Ben Schwartz's note below) .

One chorus is the same as Opie-Oxford2 246, "Oh that I were I would be" (earliest date in Opie-Oxford2 is 1784). - BS

Cross references


  1. Flanders/Brown, pp. 123-124, "Regimental Song," "Katie Cruel" (2 short texts, the first one having lost all references to Katie, the Leeboy, or any other proper noun)
  2. Linscott, pp. 225-227, "Katy Cruel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Scott-BoA, pp. 50-52, "Katie Cruel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Silber-FSWB, p. 153, "I Know Where I'm Going" (1 text); p. 194 ,"Katy Cruel" (1 text)
  6. ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), p. 267, "I Know Where I'm Going" (1 text)
  7. Roud #5701
  8. BI, SBoA050


Alternate titles: “The Lichtbob's Lassie”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1611 (quoted by Beaumont & Fletcher)
Keywords: love courting
Found in: US(NE) Britain(Scotland)