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Kemp Owyne
Child Ballads #34

Her mother died when she was young
Which gave her cause to make great moan
Her father married the worst woman
That ever lived in Christendom

She served her with foot and hand
In everything that she could dee
Till once in an unlucky time
She threw her in ower Craigy's sea

Says, Lie you there, dove Isobel
And all my sorrows lie with thee
Till Kemp Owyne come ower the sea
And borrow you with kisses three
Let all the world do what they will
Oh borrowed shall you never be

Her breath grew strang, her hair grew lang
And twisted thrice around the tree
And all the people far and near
Thought that a savage beast was she

These news did come to Kemp Owyne
Where he lived, far beyond the sea
He hasted him to Craigy's sea
And on the savage beast looked he

Her breath was strang, her hair was lang
And twisted thrice about the tree
And with a swing she came about
"Come to Craigy's sea and kiss with me

"Here is a royal belt," she cried,
"That I have found in the green sea
And while your body it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be
But if you touch me, tail or fin
I vow my belt your death shall be"

He stepped in, gave her a kiss
The royal belt he brought him wi'
Her breath was strang, her hair was lang
And twisted twice about the tree
And with a swing she came about
"Come to Craigy's sea and kiss with me"

"Here is a royal ring," she said
"That I have found in the green sea
And while your finger it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be
But if you touch me, tail or fin,
I swear my ring your death will be"

He stepped in, gave her a kiss
The royal ring he brought him wi'
Her breath was strang, her hair was lang
And twisted aince about the tree
And with a swing she came about
"Come to Craigy's sea and kiss with me"

"Here is a royal brand," she cried,
"That I have found in the green sea
And while your body it is on
Drawn shall your blood never be
But if you touch me tail or fin
I swear my brand your death will be"

He stepped in, gave her a kiss
The royal brand he brought him wi'
Her breath was sweet, her hair grew short
And twisted nane about the tree
And smilingly she came about
As fair a woman as fair could be


Kemp: Champion, or Knight. Owyne: Owain ap Urien, aka Sir Yvain, a famous Knight of the Round Table.

strang: strong. lang: long. aince: once.

Like the woman of "The Laily Worm," Isobel is turned into a dragon or sea serpent by her wicked stepmother, who tells her that only Sir Owain can save her by kissing her three times while in that hideous state. In this respect, it resembles Beauty and the Beast with a gender reversal. Also, it is reminicient of the Celtic stories of Loathly Damsels who court a knight, and he who is able to see past her form becomes the king of the land--the myth of sovereignty, such as "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" and the Grail Quest.

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