Lord Randall

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"Lord Randall"
Lord Randal.jpg
Illustration by Arthur Rackham in Some British Ballads, ca. 1919
Written17th century (earliest known)
GenreBorder ballad, folk song

"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] Similar ballads can be found across Europe in many languages, including Danish, German, Magyar, Irish, Swedish, and Wendish.[3] [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]


Lord Randall returns home to his mother after visiting his lover. Through the mother's inquiry, it is gradually revealed that the Lord has been poisoned by his lover, who has fed him poisoned eels.[6][7] In some variants, Lord Randall dictates his last will and testament after realizing he has been poisoned. His lover's motive for poisoning him is never discussed.[7]

Cultural uses[edit]

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, and in reality, Dylan first publicly performed the song a month before the crisis.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Border Ballads By William Beattie, Compiled by William Beattie, Published by Penguin Books, 1952, p. 17
  2. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Lord Randal"
  3. ^ Leonhardt, Luise (1968). "Spin Magazine article on Finding Folk Songs". Spin Magazine. 6 (4): 17.
  4. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v. 1, pp. 153–55, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  5. ^ Alessandro D'Ancona, La poesia popolare italiana Livorno, 1878, cf. "L'avvelenato"
  6. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v. 1, p. 153, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  7. ^ a b Hallissy, Margaret (1987). Venomous woman: fear of the female in literature. New York: Greenwood Press. p. 24. ISBN 0313259194. OCLC 15790392.
  8. ^ Mike Marqusee,Wicked messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s. Seven Stories Press, 2005, pp. 64ff
  9. ^ Robert Shelton,No direction home: the life and music of Bob Dylan. Da Capo Press, 2003, p. 152

External links[edit]