“Young Waters”


Because the queen has admitted that Young Waters has the fairest face of all the lords and lairds and knights she's seen, the king has him beheaded.

Supplemental text

Young Waters [Child 94]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From Percy/Wheatley, II.ii.18, pp. 229-231

"[G]iven from a copy printed not long since at Glasgow, in
one sheet 8vo."

About Yule, quhen the wind blew cule,
  And the round tables bevan,
A'! there is cum to our kings court
  Mony a well-favourd man.

The queen luikt ower the castle wa,
  Beheld baith dale and down,
And then she saw young Waters
  Cum riding to the town.

His footmen they did rin before,
  His horsemen rade behind,
Ane mantel of the burning gowd
  Did keip him frae the wind.

Gowden graith'd hos horse before
  And siller shod behind,
The horse yong Waters rade upon
  Was fleeter than the wind.

But then spake a wylie lord,
  Unto the queen said he,
O tell me quha's the fairest face
  Rides in the company.

I've sene lord, and I've sene laird,
  And knights of high degree;
Bot a fairer face than young Waters
  Mine eyne did never see.

Out then spack the jealous king,
  (And an angry man was he)
O, if he had been twice as fair,
  You micht have excepted me.

You're neither laird nor lord, she says,
  But the king that wears the crown;
Ther is not a knight in fair Scotland
  Bot to thee maun bow down.

For a' that she could do or say,
  Appeased he wad nae bee;
Bot for the words which she had said
  Young Waters he maun dee.

They hae taen young Waters, and
  Put fetters to his feet;
They hae taen young Waters, and
  Thrown him in dungeon deep.

Aft I have ridden thro' Stirling town
  In the wind both and the weit;
Bot I neir rade thro' Stirling town
  Wi fetters at my feet.

Aft I have ridden thro' Stirling town
  In the wind both and the rain;
Bot I neir rade thro' Stirling town
  Neir to return again.

They hae taen to the heiding-hill
  His young son in his craddle,
And they hae taen to the heiding-hill,
  His horse both and his saddle.

They hae taen to the heiding-hill
  His lady fair to see.
And for the words the Wueen had spoke,
  Young Waters he did dee.


Various suggestions have been offered for the identity of Young Waters. Percy suggested none other than the Bonny Earl of Murray, while Buchan offered one David Graham of Fintray (executed 1592). These and all other suggestions must be labelled simply, "Possible, but not really likely."

Although Bronson reports a tune, he notes, "It cannot be proved that this ballad was ever traditionally sung in Scots or English." The source of the tune is dubious, and Bronson has some cutting remarks about the stanzas of the English-language texts (though there is little doubt that the story exists in traditional forms in other languages). - RBW


  1. Child 94, "Young Waters" (2 texts)
  2. Bronson 94, "Young Waters" (1 version)
  3. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 228-231, "Young Waters" (1 text)
  4. OBB 82, "Young Waters" (1 text)
  5. Gummere, pp. 156-158+334, "Young Waters" (1 text)
  6. ST C094 (Full)
  7. Roud #2860
  8. BI, C094


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy)
Keywords: beauty death execution
Found in: Britain(Scotland)