The Friar In The Well

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is taken from Buchan's MSS., the Scots version being rather more condensed than the corresponding English broadside. There is a reference to this ballad in Munday's Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington (1598); but earlier still, Skelton hints at it in Colyn Cloute.

The Story can be paralleled in French, Danish, and Persian ballads and tales, but is simple enough to have been invented by almost any people. Compare also the story of The Wright's Chaste Wife by Adam of Cobsam, E.E.T.S., 1865, ed. F. J. Furnivall.


O hearken and hear, and I will you tell
Sing, Faldidae, faldidadi
Of a friar that loved a fair maiden well.
Sing, Faldi dadi di di (bis)

The friar he came to this maiden's bedside,
And asking for her maidenhead.

'O I would grant you your desire,
If 't werena for fear o' hell's burning fire.'

'O' hell's burning fire ye need have no doubt;
Altho' you were in, I could whistle you out.'

'O if I grant to you this thing,
Some money you unto me must bring.'

He brought her the money, and did it down tell;
She had a white cloth spread over the well.

Then the fair maid cried out that her master was come;
'O,' said the friar,' then where shall I run?'

'O ye will go in behind yon screen,
And then by my master ye winna be seen.'

Then in behind the screen she him sent,
But he fell into the well by accident.

Then the friar cried out with a piteous moan,
'O help! O help me! or else I am gone.'

'Ye said ye wad whistle me out o' hell;
Now whistle your ain sel' out o' the well.'

She helped him out and bade him be gone;
The friar he asked his money again.

'As for your money, there is no much matter
To make you pay more for jumbling our water.'

Then all who hear it commend this fair maid
For the nimble trick to the friar she played.

The friar he walked on the street,
And shaking his lugs like a well-washen sheep.

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