Sheath and Knife

by Jon Loomes

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A traditional British ballad on the gritty theme of incest and murder. Thinking about it, a lot of folk music is fundamentally pretty unpleasant. The "sheath and knife" image is a kind of obstetric simile. She is the sheath, her unborn child, the knife. They just don't write 'em like that anymore. Thank heavens.


Oh it's whispered in parlour and it's whispered in hall,
(Oh, the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair,)
That the king's daughter goes with a child to her brother

(And they'll never go down to the broom no more.)

He has taken his sister down to her father's park

With a yew-tree bow and arrow all slung across his back.

“Oh, it's when that you hear me give a loud cry,
Shoot from your bow an arrow, and there let me lie”

“And when that you see that I am lying dead,
Then you'll dig for me a grave with the turf at my head

Oh, it's when that he's heard her give a loud cry,
A silver arrow he suddenly let fly.

Then he has dug a grave, both long, wide and deep,
And he's buried his own sister with their child at her feet.

Then he has gone back to his father's own hall,
There was music, there was minstrels, there was dancing and all.

“Oh Willie, oh Willie, what gives you such pain?”

“ I have lost a sheath and knife that I'll never see again”

“There are the ships of your father's all sailing on the sea, 

That'll bring as good a sheath and knife unto thee”

“There are the ships of my father's all sailing on the sea,
But such a sheath and knife they can never bring to me.”


released January 6, 2015
Trad arr. Loomes



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Jon Loomes Ripponden, UK

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