Lord Randall

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"Lord Randall"
Lord Randal.jpg
"Lord Randal", by Arthur Rackham, from Some British ballads (published in about 1919).
Published 17th century (earliest known)
Form Border ballad and folksong
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English

"Lord Randall", or "Lord Randal", (Roud 10, Child 12) is an Anglo-Scottish border ballad[1] consisting of dialogue between a young Lord and his mother.[2] Through the mother's inquiry, it is gradually revealed that the Lord has been poisoned by his lover.[3] Similar ballads can be found across Europe in many languages, including Danish, German, Magyar, Swedish, and Wendish.[4] Italian variants are usually titled "L'avvelenato" ("The Poisoned Man") or "Il testamento dell'avvelenato" ("The Poisoned Man's Will"), the earliest known version being a 1629 setting by Camillo il Bianchino, in Verona.[5]

Cultural uses[edit]

The English fiction writer Dorothy L. Sayers used a phrase from some variants for the title Strong Poison, a murder mystery about a man apparently murdered by his lover. In 1962, Bob Dylan modeled his song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" on "Lord Randall," introducing each verse with variants of the introductory lines to each verse of "Lord Randall." Dylan's ballad is often interpreted as a reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dylan himself disclaimed this as an oversimplification; actually, Dylan first publicly performed the song a month before the crisis.[6][7]

The song "Pictures in a Mirror" from the album "I Looked Up" by the Incredible String Band, mentions Lord Randall.

The nursery rhyme "Billy Boy" borrows the verse structure and the narrative format about a suitor visiting his lover, with a happier ending.

The poem is repeatedly alluded to in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

In the novel Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, the character Mack quotes the recurring phrase of the poem while lying defeated in his bed.

A Boy Scout campfire version of this song is "Green and Yellow".[8] A mother is interrogating her son who "[has] got to be sick" and who requests that she "lay [him] down to die". He tells her that he has been in the woods "eating eels" that are revealed to have actually been poisonous snakes, which kill him.



  1. ^ Border Ballads By William Beattie, Compiled by William Beattie, Published by Penguin Books, 1952, Page 17
  2. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Lord Randal"
  3. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 153, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 153-5, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  5. ^ Alessandro D'Ancona, La poesia popolare italiana Livorno, 1878, Cf. "L'avvelenato"
  6. ^ Mike Marqusee,Wicked messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s. Seven Stories Press, 2005, p.64f
  7. ^ Robert Shelton,No direction home: the life and music of Bob Dylan. Da Capo Press, 2003, p.152
  8. ^ "Green And Yellow - We Know Campfire Songs". weknowcampfiresongs.com. Retrieved 2014-09-03. 
  9. ^ "Song of the Day: The Prodigals, "Lord Randall" » Cover Me". covermesongs.com. Retrieved 2014-09-03. 

External links[edit]