"Young Beichan" is a ballad, which with a number of variants and names such as "Lord Baker", "Lord Bateman", and "Young Bekie", was collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century, and is included in the Child ballad as number 53 (Roud 40).
Beichan is born in London but travels to far lands. He is taken prisoner, with different captors appearing in different variations, usually being a Moor, though sometimes the king of France after Beichan fell in love with his daughter. Lamenting his fate, Beichan promises to be a son to any married woman who will rescue him, or a husband to an unmarried one. The daughter of his captor rescues him, and he leaves, promising to marry her.
He does not return. She sets out after him — in some variants, because warned by a household spirit, Belly Blin, that he is about to marry — and arrives as he is marrying another. In some variants, he is constrained to marry; often he is fickle. His porter tells him of a woman at his gate, and he instantly realizes it is the woman who rescued him. He sends his new bride home and marries her.
This ballad is also known in Norse, Spanish, and Italian variants.
A Scandavian variant, "Harra Pætur & Elinborg", the hero set out on a pilgrimage, after asking the heroine, his betrothed, how long she would wait for him; she says, eight years. After the eight years, she sets out and the rest of the ballad is the same, except that Paetur has a reason for his fickleness: he was magically made to forget.
The motif of a hero magically made to forget his love and remembering her on her appearance is common; it may even have been dropped from "Young Beichan", as the hero always returns to the heroine with a promptness of an enchantment breaking. Other folktales with this motif include Jean, the Soldier, and Eulalie, the Devil's Daughter, The Two Kings' Children, The Master Maid, Anthousa, Xanthousa, Chrisomalousa, Snow-White-Fire-Red, The True Bride, and Sweetheart Roland.
In 1908 Percy Grainger visited Brigg and used a wax cylinder recording machine to make two recordings of this song. One was by Joseph Taylor (born 1832) and another by a "Mr Thompson". They are among the earliest known recordings of folk songs.
It was recorded by:
- Jean Ritchie on British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains - Child Ballads, Vol 1 (1961)
- Ewan MacColl on The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Child Ballads) - Vol. 2 (1964) (as "Young Beichan")
- Peter Bellamy on The Fox Jumped Over The Parson's Gate (1969)
- New Lost City Ramblers on Remembrance of Things to Come (1966)
- Nic Jones on Nic Jones (1971)
- Steve Ashley on Stroll On (1974) (as "Lord Bateman")
- Planxty on Words and Music (1983) (as "Lord Baker")
- Broadside Electric on More Bad News ... (1996) (as "Lord Bateman")
- June Tabor on On Air (1998)
- Susan McKeown on Lowlands (2000) (as "Lord Baker")
- Sinéad O'Connor on Sean-Nós Nua (2002) (as "Lord Baker")
- Jim Moray on Sweet England (2003) (as "Lord Bateman")
- Chris Wood on The Lark Descending (2005) (as "Lord Bateman")
- John Kirkpatrick on Make No Bones (2007)
- The Askew Sisters on Through Lonesome Woods (as "Lord Bateman") (2010)
- Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Young Beichan"
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 459, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 459-61, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 461, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Young Beichan
- "Lord Beigham", 19th-century broadside
- Video of a gradually scrolling panorama of illustrations of this ballad that arrive inside a stationary frame when the lyrics that they illustrate are sung.