There was a battle in the North,
And nobles there were many;
And they hae killed Sir Charlie Hay,
And laid the wyte on Geordie.
O, he has written a lang letter,
He sent it to his lady -
"Ye maun come up to Edinbro' town,
To see what words o' Geordie."
When first she looked the letter on,
She was baith red and rosy;
But she hadna read a word or twa,
Till she wallow't like a lily.
. . . . . . . .
And she has mounted he gude grey steed,
Her menzie a' gaed w' her'
And she did neither eat nor drink,
Till Edinbro' town did see her.
At first appear'd the fatal block,
And syne the axe to head him,
And Geordie coming down the stair,
Wi' bands of iron on him.
. . . . . . . .
O she's down on her bended knees -
I wat she's pale and weary -
"O! pardon, pardon, noble king,
And gie me back my dearie.
"I hae borne seven sons to my Geordie dear,
The seventh ne'er saw his daddy;
O! pardon, pardon, noble king,
Pity a waefu' lady."
"Gar bid the headin' man mak haste,"
Our king replied fu lordly;
"O! noble king, tak a' that's mine,
But gie me back my Geordie."
. . . . . . . .
An aged lord at the king's right hand,
Says, "Noble king, but hear me,
"Gar her tell down five thousand pounds,
And gie her back her dearie."
Some gae her marks, some gae her crowns,
Some gae her dollars many;
And she's tell'd down five thousand pounds,
And gotten again her dearie.
He claipst her by the middle sma',
And he kissed her lips sae rosy -
"The fairest flower o' woman kind,
Is my sweet, bonnie lady!"
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Source: Kidson F, 1891, Traditional Tunes, Oxford, Taphouse and Son
The air now given resembles in a marked degree the traditional tune, the "Dowie Dens of Yarrow" ... It was obtained for me by Mr Charles Lolley, of Leeds, from the district of Howden, in Yorkshire.
Elsewhere, in Everyman's Book of English Country Songs (1979), Roy Palmer notes:
While some songs accurately reflect historical conditions and events, others are more concerned with factual truth. A ballad called 'Georgie' or 'Geordie', very widely known until recent times in both Britain and America, is really two separate narratives, albeit with a number of similarities, both in substance and in terminology. The Scottish ballad tells of Geordie's being saved from the scaffold in Edinburgh on the payment by his wife of a ransom. It is said to refer to George, Earl of Huntly, who, after failing on a mission for the Queen Regent of Scotland in 1554, was imprisoned and subjected to the forfeiture of his estates, but afterwards restored to favour.
The English variety also tells of a wife's travelling on an errand of mercy, this time to Newcastle. However, her intercession fails, and her husband is executed. George Stoole, alias Skelton, alias Stowell, who is said to have inspired this ballad, was executed at Newcastle in 1610 for stealing horses and cattle. Street ballads on the event appeared almost immediately afterwards, passed into oral circulation, and continued to be sung for some three centuries.
This quotation from Roy Palmer seems to draw on Kidson's further note (or on the source Kidson quotes):
Stenhouse, in his notes to Johnston's Museum, says that Robert Burns obtained this ballad for Johnson, and that it relates to George, Earl of Huntley, who was sent by the Queen Regent of Scotland to Shetland, in 1554, to seize a certain person, which he failed to do.
Roud: 90 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: Georgie (easily confused with)