Child Waters

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is here given from the Percy Folio, with some emendations as suggested by Child.

The Story, if we omit the hard tests imposed on the maid's affection, is widely popular in a series of Scandinavian ballads,--Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian; and Percy's edition (in the Reliques) was popularised in Germany by Bürger's translation.

The disagreeable nature of the final insult (stt. 27-29), retained here only for the sake of fidelity to the original text, may be paralleled by the similarly sudden lapse of taste in the Nut-Brown Maid. We can but hope--as indeed is probable--that the objectionable lines are in each case interpolated.

'Child,' as in 'Child Roland,' etc., is a title of courtesy = Knight.


Childe Watters in his stable stoode,
& stroaket his milke-white steede;
To him came a ffaire young ladye
As ere did weare womans weede.

Saies, 'Christ you saue, good Chyld Waters!'
Sayes, 'Christ you saue and see!
My girdle of gold which was too longe
Is now to short ffor mee.

'& all is with one chyld of yours,
I ffeele sturre att my side:
My gowne of greene, it is to strayght;
Before it was to wide.'

'If the child be mine, faire Ellen,' he sayd,
'Be mine, as you tell mee,
Take you Cheshire & Lancashire both,
Take them your owne to bee.

'If the child be mine, ffaire Ellen,' he said,
'Be mine, as you doe sweare,
Take you Cheshire & Lancashire both,
& make that child your heyre.'

Shee saies, 'I had rather haue one kisse,
Child Waters, of thy mouth,
Then I would have Cheshire & Lancashire both,
That lyes by north & south.

'& I had rather haue a twinkling,
Child Waters, of your eye,
Then I would have Cheshire & Lancashire both,
To take them mine oune to bee!'

'To-morrow, Ellen, I must forth ryde
Soe ffar into the north countrye;
The ffairest lady that I can ffind,
Ellen, must goe with mee.'
'& euer I pray you, Child Watters,
Your ffootpage let me bee!'

'If you will my ffootpage be, Ellen,
As you doe tell itt mee,
Then you must cut your gownne of greene
An inch aboue your knee.

'Soe must you doe your yellow lockes
Another inch aboue your eye;
You must tell no man what is my name;
My ffootpage then you shall bee.'

All this long day Child Waters rode,
Shee ran bare ffoote by his side;
Yett was he neuer soe curteous a knight,
To say, 'Ellen, will you ryde?'

But all this day Child Waters rode,
She ran barffoote thorow the broome!
Yett he was neuer soe curteous a knight
As to say, 'Put on your shoone.'

'Ride softlye,' shee said, 'Child Watters:
Why do you ryde soe ffast?
The child, which is no mans but yours,
My bodye itt will burst.'

He sayes, 'Sees thou yonder water, Ellen,
That fflowes from banke to brim?'
'I trust to God, Child Waters,' shee sayd,
'You will neuer see mee swime.'

But when shee came to the waters side,
Shee sayled to the chinne:
'Except the lord of heauen be my speed,
Now must I learne to swime.'

The salt waters bare vp Ellens clothes,
Our Ladye bare vpp her chinne,
& Child Waters was a woe man, good Lord,
To ssee faire Ellen swime.

& when shee ouer the water was,
Shee then came to his knee:
He said, 'Come hither, ffaire Ellen,
Loe yonder what I see!

'Seest thou not yonder hall, Ellen?
Of redd gold shine the yates;
There's four and twenty ffayre ladyes,
The ffairest is my wordlye make.

'Seest thou not yonder hall, Ellen?
Of redd gold shineth the tower;
There is four and twenty ffaire ladyes,
The fairest is my paramoure.'

'I doe see the hall now, Child Waters,
That of redd gold shineth the yates;
God giue good then of your selfe,
& of your wordlye make!

'I doe see the hall now, Child Waters,
That of redd gold shineth the tower;
God giue good then of your selfe,
And of your paramoure!'

There were four and twenty ladyes,
Were playing att the ball;
& Ellen, was the ffairest ladye,
Must bring his steed to the stall.

There were four and twenty faire ladyes
Was playing att the chesse;
& Ellen, shee was the ffairest ladye,
Must bring his horsse to grasse.

& then bespake Child Waters sister,
& these were the words said shee:
'You haue the prettyest ffootpage, brother,
That ever I saw with mine eye;

'But that his belly it is soe bigg,
His girdle goes wonderous hye;
& euer I pray you, Child Waters,
Let him go into the chamber with me.'

'It is more meete for a litle ffootpage,
That has run through mosse and mire,
To take his supper vpon his knee
& sitt downe by the kitchin fyer,
Then to go into the chamber with any ladye
That weares so [rich] attyre.'

But when thé had supped euery one,
To bedd they tooke the way;
He sayd, 'Come hither, my litle footpage,
Hearken what I doe say!

'& goe thee downe into yonder towne,
& low into the street;
The ffarest ladye that thou can find,
Hyer her in mine armes to sleepe,
& take her vp in thine armes two,
For filinge of her ffeete.'

Ellen is gone into the towne,
& low into the streete:
The fairest ladye that shee cold find
She hyred in his armes to sleepe,
& tooke her in her armes two,
For filing of her ffeete.

'I pray you now, good Child Waters,
That I may creepe in att your bedds feete,
For there is noe place about this house
Where I may say a sleepe.'

This [night] & itt droue on affterward
Till itt was neere the day:
He sayd, 'Rise vp, my litle ffoote page,
& giue my steed corne & hay;
& soe doe thou the good blacke oates,
That he may carry me the better away.'

And vp then rose ffaire Ellen,
& gave his steed corne & hay,
& soe shee did and the good blacke oates,
That he might carry him the better away.

Shee layned her backe to the manger side,
& greiuouslye did groane;
& that beheard his mother deere,
And heard her make her moane.

Shee said, 'Rise vp, thou Child Waters!
I thinke thou art a cursed man;
For yonder is a ghost in thy stable,
That greiuously doth groane,
Or else some woman laboures of child,
Shee is soe woe begone!'

But vp then rose Child Waters,
& did on his shirt of silke;
Then he put on his other clothes
On his body as white as milke.

& when he came to the stable dore,
Full still that hee did stand,
That hee might heare now faire Ellen,
How shee made her monand.

Shee said, 'Lullabye, my owne deere child!
Lullabye, deere child, deere!
I wold thy father were a king,
Thy mother layd on a beere!'

'Peace now,' he said, 'good faire Ellen!
& be of good cheere, I thee pray,
& the bridall & the churching both,
They shall bee vpon one day.'

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Child Waters' by Frank Sidgwick

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy