More Ballads – (Willy O’ Winsbury)

from Sam Hester’s illustration of the ballad Willy o’ Winsbury

AG: “Willie o’ Winsbury“..has some interest ..
Oh, I like that, because there was some little flash.. In all these ballads, there’s no gay ballads at all, but there’s some occasional flashes of manly homoerotic appreciation of other men, just once in a while, very rarely, but when you get that flash, it’s interesting (or was to me, anyway) – The King has been a prisoner and the King was in Spain, and his daughter lay with Willie of Winsbury all these years. Then the King comes home and sees his daughter and notices that she’s big-bellied, and so asks, “have you been laying with anybody?”, and she says, “No, no, no – the reason I look kind of wan and sick is that I’ve been pining for you, daddy, you’ve been in Spain”. So he says “Cast ye off your berry-brown gown/Stand straight upon the stone/That I may ken ye by yere shape/whether ye be a maiden or none” – So she gets up on the stone naked. And he makes her confess – “It is not to a man of might”, she said,/’Nor is it to a man of fame/But it is to William of Winsbury/ I could lye nae longer my laine – (I could lie no longer alone)

So – “The King called on his merry men all/ By thirty and by three/”Go fetch me William of Winsbury/For hanged he shall be.”/ But when he cam the king before/He was clad o the  red silk/His hair was like to threads o gold./ And his skin was as white as milk./”It is nae wonder”, said the King,/”That my daughters love ye did win/Had I been a woman, as I am a man/My bedfellow ye should hae been” – So then he says,”Will you marry my daughter, Janet, by the truth of thy right hand?/I’ll gie ye gold, I’ll gie ye money/And I’ll gie thee an earldom o land” – “Yes, I”ll marry your daughter, Janet,/By the truth of my right hand/ But I’ll hae nanae o yer gold, I’ll hae nane o yer money/ Nor I winna hae an earldom o the land/ For I hae eighteen corn-mills/Runs all in water clear,/And there’s as much corn in each o them/As they can grind in a year”.”
Interesting end. A straight, true, man. He’s got his own corn-mill, he’s got his own independence, he’s beautiful. He’ll sleep with the King’s daughter but he won’t have the Kingdom – That’s pretty good – Willie of Winsbury that was.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-four-and-a-half minutes in and continuing until approximately forty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

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