A mother questions her son about the blood on his sword. He puts her off with claims that it is his hawk or his horse, in some combination, but finally admits that it is his brother, or his father, whom he has killed. He declares that he is leaving and will never return, and various creatures (wife, children, livestock) will have to fare without him. His mother then asks what she will get from his departure. He answers "a curse from hell" and implicates his mother in the murder.
Parallels in other languages
This ballad type was also found in Northern Europe, where it is often known under "Svend i Rosensgård" or a similar name. Its general Scandinavian classification is TSB D 320, and it is known in Danish (DgF 340), Icelandic (IFkv 76), Norwegian, and Swedish (SMB 153). In Finland, it is popular as "Poikani Poloinen", both as a poem and as a song, first published in the collection Kanteletar.
In the Scandinavian versions, and the Finnish one, the stress is more on the gradual divulge of the fact that the son will never return home to his mother.
Versions collected orally in Ireland are usually named "What Put the Blood" or similar. The version sung by County Fermanagh traditional singer Paddy Tunney is on his Folk-Legacy CD The Man of Songs. He called it "What put the Blood on Your Right Shoulder, Son?"
The versions collected from traveller John ("Jacko") Reilly in the 1960s in Boyle, County Roscommon became very popular in Ireland, as they were recorded by folk singers of the day. There are recordings by Christy Moore, The Johnstons, Karan Casey, Al O'Donnell and others.
The authenticity of one popular version of this ballad (Child 13B) has been called into question. This version originally appeared in print in Bishop Percy's 1765 edition of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Percy reported that he received this Scottish ballad from Sir David Dalrymple, who said he heard it from an unnamed lady. This version appears inauthentic because it seems, in short, too "good": it makes exceptional use of literary devices for maximum impact. Moreover, unlike most other versions, the father is the victim rather than the brother, and the mother receives a curse at the end. There is also little evidence that this version was disseminated orally; it seems to have appeared most often in print form.
- Carl Loewe set a German translation of Percy's version to music in his Op. 1, No. 1 (1817/18).
- Franz Schubert also used Percy's version in his "Eine altschottische Ballade" D. 923 (1827).
- Johannes Brahms was inspired by Percy's version of "Edward" twice in his ballades, in opus 10 (1854) and opus 75, no. 1 (late 1870s).
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky used a translation by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy in his Six Duets with piano accompaniment, Op. 46, No. 2 (1880).
- Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "The Bloody Son" in his collection Poems and Ballads, 1866
- Nic Jones recorded a version of "Edward" on his 1971 album Nic Jones.
- Steeleye Span recorded a version of "Edward", arranged in a 'question and answer' format by Bob Johnson on the 1986 album Back in Line.
- Amps for Christ recorded a version on their 1999 album Circuits.
- James Yorkston recorded a version on his 2004 album Just Beyond the River.
- Sam Amidon recorded a version on his 2010 album I See the Sign.
- Oysterband recorded a version called "Son David" on Ragged Kingdom, their 2011 collaboration with June Tabor.
- Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman recorded a version of "Edward" on their 2016 American Murder Song album Dawn
- Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Edward"
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, vol. 1, p. 167, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- "O'er his grave the grass grew green", Tragic Ballads, The Voice of the People vol. 3, Topic TSCD 653 (1975)
- O'Boyle, Seán: The Irish Song Tradition. Toronto: Macmillan, 1976, pp. 90–91
- John Reilly, Topic 12T 359, 1969 ("The Bonny Green Tree")
- Folktrax 175-C60 ("John Reilly"), 1967
- Most notable is Bertrand Bronson in "Edward, Edward. A Scottish Ballad and a Footnote," in The Ballad as Song (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969).
- "Six Duets (Шесть дуэтов)", Tchaikovsky Research
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