MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Three Babes
Nick Davis NFLD 2 Tape 19 Track 6
St. Shott's Audio:
Ballad

"Oh, Uncle, come tell us that wonderful tale
That you promised you would yesterday."
"Yes, my darlings, be still, yes, most gladly l will
Now, my darlings, be still, and you'll miss not a word that l say."

Far, far away o'er the wild, roving hills
In a forest that spreads far and wide
Up the mountains so steep, down the valleys so deep
All along by the great riverside

An Englishman lived with his children and wife
In the land where the dark savage dwells
Where the _______ shone o'er the emigrant's home
And the shamrock blooms over the hill.

The names of those children were John, Frank, and Jane,
Just the names of some darlings of mine,
Whom we loved more than gold, Frank was scarce five years old,
John was seven and Janie was nine,

To help their dear parents, those three children went
Far away in the forest's dark gloom
And when sunset grew nigh, it was home they did fly
With their brushwood for kindling and brooms.

They never had gathered such bundles before
And 'twas homeward they hurried in glee
And the song that they sang through the whole forest rang
And the startled birds flew from the trees.

The short time they rested and went on again
John carried wee Frank on his back
And the step that they took over valley and brook
Led them further away from their track.

The mother looked out of the door at the sun
Sinking low in the red western sky
She cried, "Husband, l fear why our babes are not here
That our darlings are lost and will die."

The father, he quickly mounted his steed
And away in the forest rode he
Long and loud did he shout as he galloped about
And he searched every thicket and tree.

He searched all around till the fall of the night
That darkened the forest in bloom
And turning his steed, he rode back at full speed,
To get help from the neighbours all round.

The neighbours were willing, they lent him their help
All that night for his children to seek
And 'twas day after day, till a week passed away
And their searching all ended in vain.

Then weeps the sad mother, with tears in her woe,
"For our darlings we'll never see again."
Till the native black chief met the father in grief
Who had rode many miles o'er the plains.

The chief bid him welcome and heard his sad tale,
"For l shed the same tears long ago,
When our tribes were at war o'er the blue hills so far
And my son in the fight was laid low.

"The Eagle, I'm named with my tribes by my side
Like that swift bird so dauntless and keen
I can tell as l pass by one glance at the grass
Where the foot of some white man has been.

"You ride on ahead," to the father he said,
"Ride on and take milk and take bread
Not an eye will close or take repose
Till I look on them living or dead.

"You ride on ahead," to the father he said
"Ride on till the fall of the night
And not far away, down by a green tree they're laid,
On the ground something fluttered in white."

'Twas down by the green tree those three children lay
John his arms around wee Franklin closed
While young Frankie embraced his loving sister's waist
And his head on her bosom reposes.

The father awoke them, as some fathers would,
And with milk and with bread they were fed.
Johnny tried hard to speak, but alas was too weak,
One word, "Papa," was all that he said.

And Frank said, "Papa, why didn't you came
Sooner here to John, sister, and me?"
While poor Janie lay cold, as the father's tears rolled,
Down his cheeks as he gazed on the three.

There's me and my children in this dark valley here,
Into which we may all go astray
But with God for our guide every path shall be tried
And I'm sure we will not lose our way.


Notes

Sources: [cf. "Three Lost Babes of Amerikay"  Mercer 186; Peacock 1965: 31]

History: American song probably post-1890 (Wounded Knee) in light of the image of Indians as "pacified" (see Deloria 2004, Chapter 2).

Text: An English family lived in the midst of "Indian country" and near the Irish. Three children went to the forest in search of firewood and they lost their way. Their parents were unable to find them and sought the help of an Indian chief, who had lost his son in earlier struggles and vowed to find the children. They are found in one another's arms, but the young girl is dead.

Tune: A triple metre tune with the form "abcd" arch-shaped in a major key.   The "b" phrase sounds like the second phrase of "Auld Lang Syne." Primary triad harmony is implied by the tune.

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