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Supernatural Ballads

The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea
Traditional

In order to preserve the historical integrity of the ballads in this section they are presented in their original dialects, which span a broad range. These ballads have been passed down through the centuries from many different regions of Great Britain before appearing in print. A synopsis of each ballad, in modern American English, is provided to aid in ease of comprehension of the dialects.

Read a synopsis of The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea in modern American English.

'I was but seven year auld
When my mither she did dee;
My father married the ae warst woman
The warld did ever see.

'For she has made me the laily worm,
That lies at the fit o' the tree,
An' my sister Masery she's made
The machrel of the sea.

'An' every Saturday at noon
The machrel comes to me,
An' she takes my laily head
An' lays it on her knee,
She kaims it wi' a siller kaim,
An' washes't in the sea.

'Seven knights hae I slain,
Sin I lay at the fit of the tree,
An' ye war na my ain father,
The eighth ane ye should be.'

'Sing on your song, ye laily worm,
That ye did sing to me.'
'I never sung that song but what
I would sing it to thee.

'I was but seven year auld
When my mither she did dee;
My father married the ae warst woman
The warld did ever see.

'For she has made me the laily worm,
That lies at the fit o' the tree,
An' my sister Masery she's made
The machrel of the sea.

'An' every Saturday at noon
The machrel comes to me,
An' she takes my laily head
An' lays it on her knee,
She kaims it wi' a siller kaim,
An' washes't in the sea.

'Seven knights hae I slain,
Sin I lay at the fit of the tree,
An' ye war na my ain father,
The eighth ane ye should be.'

He sent for his lady,
As fast as send could he:
'Whar is my son that ye sent frae me,
And my daughter, Lady Masery?'

'Your son is at our king's court,
Serving for meat an' fee,
An' your daughter's at our queen's court,
The queen's maiden to be.'

'Ye lee, ye lee, ye ill woman,
Sae loud as I hear ye lee;
My son's the laily worm,
That lies at the fit o' the tree,
And my daughter, Lady Masery,
Is the machrel of the sea!'

She has tane a siller wan',
An gi'en him strokes three,
and he's started up the bravest knight
That ever your eyes did see.

She has ta'en a small horn,
An' loud an' shrill blew she,
An a' the fish came her untill
But the machrel of the sea:
'Ye shapeit me ance an unseemly shape,
An' ye's never mare shape me.'

He has sent to the wood
For whins and for hawthorn,
An' he has ta'en that gay lady,
An' there he did her burn.


The ballad The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea appears in Volume I of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited by Francis James Child. These volumes are in the public domain.