MUSIC: Pentangle – Willy O Winsbury, 1972

“Willy o’Winsbury” is a ballad, a folksong from the middle ages performed by a minstrel as a dancing song. This particular ballad is a traditional Scottish ballad thought to be from sometime before 1775.

The Mountain Dulcimer is a sweet-to-the-ear (dulcet) and easy to play instrument that first appeared in the early 19th century among Scotch-Irish in the Appalachia.  Probably related to the the German scheitholt.

For me the dulcimer, like the mandolin, stimulates those ancestral memories resting deep in the collective unconscious.


Willy O Winsbury

The king has been a prisoner
And a prisoner long in Spain
And Willie of the Winsbury
Has lain long with his daughter at home

“What ails you, what ails you, my daughter Janet
Why you look so pale and wan?
Oh, have you had any sore sickness
Or yet been sleeping with a man?”

“I have not had any sore sickness
Nor yet been sleeping with a man
It is for you, my father dear
For biding so long in Spain.”

“Cast off, cast off your berry-brown gown
You stand naked upon the stone
That I may know you by your shape
If you be a maiden or no.”

And she’s cast off her berry-brown gown
She stood naked upon the stone
Her apron was low and her haunches were round
Her face was pale and wan

“Oh, was it with a lord or a duke or a knight
Or a man of birth and fame
Or was it with one of my serving men
That’s lately come out of Spain?”

“It wasn’t with a lord, nor a duke or a knight
Nor a man of birth and fame
But it was with Willie of Winsbury
I could bide no longer alone.”

And the king has called on his merry men all
By thirty and by three
Says, “Fetch me this Willie of Winsbury
For hanged he shall be.”

[- Instrumental verse -]
But when he came the king before
He was clad all in the red silk
His hair was like the strands of gold
His skin was as white as the milk

And “It is no wonder,” said the king
“That my daughter’s love you did win
For if I was a woman, as I am a man
My bedfellow you would have been.”

“And will you marry my daughter Janet
By the truth of your right hand?
Oh, will you marry my daughter Janet?
I will make you the lord of my land.”

“Oh yes, I will marry your daughter Janet
By the truth of my right hand
Why yes, I will marry your daughter Janet
But I’ll not be the lord of your land.”

And he’s mounted her on a milk-white steed
And himself on a dapple grey
He has made her the lady of as much land
As she shall ride in a long summer’s day


2 Replies to “MUSIC: Pentangle – Willy O Winsbury, 1972”

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