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.
Frequently recorded by some of the best known names in the English folk tradition. Well-known recordings include:
- Emily Smith on her 2014 album, Echoes
- Malinky on their 2005 album, The Unseen Hours
- Eliza Carthy on the 1996 album, Heat Light and Sound
- June Tabor on her second solo album, Ashes and Diamonds from 1977
- Martin Simpson on Kind Letters and various collections
- Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Clerk Saunders"
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 156-7, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 167, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862)