Clerk Saunders

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Clerk Saunders is Child ballad 69. It exists in several variants.[1]


Clerk Saunders and may Margaret ("may" meaning maiden and being a title rather than a name) are walking in the garden. He persuades her to go to bed with him before their marriage, saying that he will let himself in and she can cover her eyes, so that she can swear that she did not let him in or see him. Her seven brothers catch them and argue over what to do, but the youngest kills him without a word, and Margaret finds him dead in the morning. They bury him.

His ghost appears at her window and tells her she must release him from his promise. She demands a kiss, but he tells her it would kill her. She frees him.


The woman who attempts to conceal her lover, and the family members who find him, are common ballad motifs.[2] Willie and Lady Maisry has much in common with it.[3]


Frequently recorded by some of the best known names in the English folk tradition. Well-known recordings include:


Clerk Saunders is the subject, and title, of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones in the Tate Collection[4] and Elizabeth Siddal, currently in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Clerk Saunders"
  2. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 156-7, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  3. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 167, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862)

External links[edit]