Author Topic: Add: The Three Ravens


Posted - 23 Oct 02 - 01:35 pm

Three Ravens, The

There were three ravens on a tree
A-down, A-down, Heigh ho!
There were three ravens on a tree
Heigh ho!
The middlemost raven said to me,
There lies a dead man at yon tree.
A-down, a-down, a derry down, Heigh-ho!

There comes a lady full of woe
A-down, A-down, Heigh ho!
There comes a lady full of woe
Heigh ho!
There comes a lady full of woe
[ ... ] as she could go.
A-down, a-down, a derry down, Heigh-ho!

Who's this who killed my own true love?
A-down, A-down, Heigh ho!
Who's this who killed my own true love?
Heigh ho!
I hope in heaven he'll never rest
Nor e'er enjoy that blessed place.
A-down, a-down, a derry down, Heigh-ho!

Source: Traditional Tunes, A collection of Ballad Airs, ISBN 1-86143-081-7


Collected by Frank Kidson from John Holmes who remembered the air from his mother's singing from about 1825
This is an unusual version. Broadly there are two main threads of the Raven ballads - "The Twa Corbies" is a bleak ballad about how the knight is forgotten by everyone, whereas "The Three Ravens" is a more romantic song in which the body of the knight is carried home and honoured.
This song doesn't seem to fit perfectly into either strand, but it is closer to the second.

Database entry is here

Edited By dmcg - 10/23/2002 1:36:45 PM


Posted - 23 Oct 02 - 08:36 pm

Here is a copy of the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index

Three Ravens, The [Child 26]

DESCRIPTION: (Three) ravens decide that a new-slain knight would make a nice lunch. He is guarded by hawk, hounds, and leman, who either guard the body from the birds or abandon it to its fate

AUTHOR: unknown


KEYWORDS: death bird food

FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland,England) US(MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Mar)

REFERENCES (21 citations):

Child 26, "The Three Ravens" (2 texts)
Bronson 26, The Three Ravens" (21 versions)
Randolph 9, "The Three Crows" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 111-113, "The Three Ravens/The Twa Corbies" (2 texts)
OBB 67, "The Twa Corbies"; 68, "The Three Ravens" (2 texts)
Friedman, p. 23, "The Three Ravens (The Twa Corbies)" (3 texts)
PBB 28, "The Three Ravens" (1 text)
Doerflinger, p. 21, "Blow the Man Down (IV)" (this text combines the words of "The Three Crows" with the tune & metre of "Blow the Man Down")
Niles 17, "The Three Ravens" (3 texts, 3 tunes, although the first piece, "Lovers' Farewell," is at best distantly related to this ballad)
Gummere, pp. 167+336, "The Three Ravens" (1 text)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 5, "The Two Crows (The Three Ravens)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Chase, pp. 114-115, "The Two Ravens" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hodgart, p. 37, "The Three Ravens"; p. 38, "The Twa Corbies" (2 texts)
JHCox 31, "The Three Ravens" (2 texts, 1 tune)
TBB 36, "The Three Ravens" (1 text)
Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 75-76, "There Were Three Ravens" (1 text, 1 tune)
HarvClass-EP1, pp. 73-74, "The Three Ravens"; p. 74, "The Twa Corbies" (2 texts)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 173-176, "The Three Ravens"; "The Twa Corbies"; "The Three Crows" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Darling-NAS, pp. 26-28, "The Three Ravens (or, 'Rauens')"; "The Twa Corbies"; "The Three Crows" (3 texts)
Silber-FSWB, p. 405, "Billy Magee Magaw"; p. 215, "The Three Ravens" (2 texts)


cf. "Blow the Man Down" (lyrics)
cf. "Lover's Farewell (I)" (lyrics)


Billie Magee Magaw
Willie McGee McGaw
Two Old Crows

Notes: The degree of degeneration suffered by the American versions of this song is phenomenal. If it weren't for the intermediate versions, we could hardly recognize them as one piece. But that's oral tradition....

"The Twa Corbies" this is one of the handful of traditional songs in Palgrave's Golden Treasury (item CXXXVI). Not sure what that says about either Palgrave or the song.

Edited By dmcg - 10/24/2002 10:58:31 AM

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 25 Oct 02 - 07:34 pm

Roud 5.

The earliest known version appeared in Thomas Ravenscroft's Melismata of 1611. A facsimile can be seen at Melismata.

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