#02001
The Three Babes (MacEdward Leach)

"Oh, Uncle, come tell us that wonderful tale
That you promised you would yesterday."
"Yes, my darlings, be still, yes, most gladly I will,
Now, my darlings, be still,
and you'll miss not a word that I say."

Far, far away o'er the wild, roving hills,
In a forest that spreads far and wide,
Up the mountains so steep, down the valleys so deep,
All along by the great riverside.

An Englishman lived with his children and wife,
In the land where the dark savage dwells,
Where the sun shone o'er the emigrant's home,
And the shamrock blooms over the hill.

The names of those children were John, Frank, and Jane,
Just the names of some darlings of mine,
Whom we loved more than gold, Frank was scarce five years old,
John was seven, and Janie was nine.

To help their dear parents, those three children went
Far away in the forest's dark gloom;
And when sunset grew nigh, it was home they did fly
With their brushwood for kindling and brooms.

They never had gathered such bundles before,
And 'twas homeward they hurried in glee;
And the song that they sang through the whole forest rang,
And the startled birds flew from the trees.

The short time they rested and went on again,
John carried wee Frank on his back;
And the step that they took over valley and brook
Led them further away from their track.

The mother looked out of the door at the sun,
Sinking low in the red western sky;
She cried, "Husband, I fear why our babes are not here,
That our darlings are lost and will die."

The father, he quickly mounted his steed,
And away in the forest rode he;
Long and loud did he shout as he galloped about,
And he searched every thicket and tree.

He searched all around till the fall of the night
That darkened the forest in bloom;
And turning his steed, he rode back at full speed,
To get help from the neighbours all 'round.

The neighbours were willing, they lent him their help
All that night for his children to seek;
And 'twas day after day, till a week passed away,
And their searching all ended in vain.

Then weeps the sad mother, with tears in her woe,
"For our darlings we'll never see again."
Till the native black chief met the father in grief,
Who had rode many miles o'er the plains.

The chief bid him welcome and heard his sad tale,
"For I shed the same tears long ago,
When our tribes were at war o'er the blue hills so far,
And my son in the fight was laid low.

"The Eagle I'm named, with my tribes by my side,
Like that swift bird so dauntless and keen;
I can tell as I pass by one glance at the grass
Where the foot of some white man has been.

"You ride on ahead," to the father he said,
"Ride on and take milk and take bread;
Not an eye will close or take repose,
Till I look on them living or dead.

"You ride on ahead," to the father he said,
"Ride on till the fall of the night
And not far away, down by a green tree they're laid,
On the ground something fluttered in white."

'Twas down by the green tree those three children lay,
John his arms around wee Franklin closed;
While young Frankie embraced his loving sister's waist,
And his head on her bosom reposes.

The father awoke them, as some fathers would,
And with milk and with bread they were fed;
Johnny tried hard to speak, but alas was too weak,
One word, "Papa," was all that he said.

And Frank said, "Papa, why didn't you come
Sooner here to John, sister, and me?"
While poor Janie lay cold, as the father's tears rolled,
Down his cheeks as he gazed on the three.

There's me and my children in this dark valley here,
Into which we may all go astray;
But with God for our guide every path shall be tried,
And I'm sure we will not lose our way.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional ballad ....####

Collected by MacEdward Leach in 1951 from Nicholas (Nick) Davis [1914-?] of St Shott's, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

MacEdward Leach also collected a variant published as #50, Babes In The Wood, in Folk Ballads And Songs Of The Lower Labrador Coast by the National Museum of Canada (Ottawa, 1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Another variant was collected as The Three Lost Babes Of Americay by Kenneth Peacock and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 1, pp.30-32, by The National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.


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