The Keach i' the Creel

Melody -

A fair young maid went up the street
Some fresh fish for to buy,
And a bonnie clerk's fell in love wi' her,
And he's followed her by and by.

Ricky doo dum da,
Doo dum da,
Ricky, dicky doo dum day.

"O whaur live ye, my bonnie lass,
I pray ye tell to me,
And though the nicht were never sae mirk
I would try and win in to thee."

"My faither he aye locks the door
And my mither keeps the key,
And though the nicht were never sae mirk
You couldna win in to me."

Noo the clerk he had a true brother,
And a wily wicht was he,
And he has made a lang ladder
Wi' thirty steps and three.

He has made a pin but and a creel,
A creel but and a pin,
And he has gane to the chimla-tap
To let the bonnie clerk in.

Noo the auld wife she lay wide awake
Though late, late was the hour;
"I'll lay my life," said the silly auld wife,
"There's man in oor dochter's bower."

The auld man he gat oot o' the bed
To see gin the thing was true;
But she's ta'en the bonnie clerk in her airms
And covered him owre wi' blue.

"O whit are ye daein', my ain dochter,
Whit are daein', my doo?"
"I'm prayin' on the muckle buik
For my silly auld mammie and you."
  "Pray on, pray on, my ain dochter,
And see that you do it richt;
For if ever a woman has tint her reason,
Your mither has done this nicht."

"O wife, O wife, ye silly auld wife,
And an ill deith may ye dee;
She's gotten the muckle buik in her airms
An' she's prayin' far you and me."

The auld wife she lay wide awake,
No' anither word was said:
"I'll lay my life," said the silly auld wife,
"There's a man in oor dochter's bed.

"Get up, get up, my auld guid man,
And see if the thing be true."
"Get you yoursel', ye silly auld wife,
I'll no' be fashed wi' you.

"Get up yoursel', ye silly auld wife,
And may the deil tak' ye;
For atween you and your ae dochter,
I havna ance blinkit an ee."

The auld wife she gat owre the bed
To see gin the thing be true,
But she slippit her foot and fell into the creel,
And up the tow he drew.

The man that was at the chimla-tap,
Finding the creel was fu',
He's wrappit the rope his shouther roond,
And up the tow he drew.

"O help, O help, my auld guidman,
Help me noo, my doo!
For he that ye wished me wi' this nicht,
I fear he's gotten me noo!"

"O gin he has got ye, I wish he may haud ye,
I wish he may haud ye fast,
For atween you and your ae dochter,
I hanna aince gotten my rest."

O, hey the blue and the bonnie, bonnie blue,
And I wish the blue richt weel,
And for ilka auld wife that wakes at nicht,
May she get a guid keach i' the creel!

The first printed version of this ballad did not appear until early in the 19th century, although the theme has been part of European literature since the middle-ages. Child concludes his notes on the ballad with a peculiarly prim comment: "No one looks for decorum in pieces of this description but a passage in this ballad, which need not be particularized, is brutal ond shameless almost beyond description,'' These are harsh words for a scholar whose stock-in-trade was stories dealing with mayhem in all its forms and it's difficult to imagine what prompted them. It is, of course, possible that Child was shocked by the word 'keach' on which considerable play is made in the course of the story, Used as a noun the word denotes bustle or fluster, when used as a verb, it can mean hoist or lift; alternatively it can mean to void excrement.

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