Allison Gross (Child #35)
1 O ALLISON GROSS, that lives in yon towr,
The ugliest witch i the north country,
Has trysted me ae day up till her bowr,
An monny fair speech she made to me.
2 She stroaked my head, an she kembed my hair,
An she set me down saftly on her knee;
Says, Gin ye will be my lemman so true,
Sae monny braw things as I woud you gi.
3 She showd me a mantle o red scarlet,
Wi gouden flowrs an fringes fine;
Says, Gin ye will be my lemman so true,
This goodly gift it sal be thine.
4 ‘Awa, awa, ye ugly witch,
Haud far awa, an lat me be;
I never will be your lemman sae true,
An I wish I were out o your company.’
5 She neist brought a sark o the saftest silk,
Well wrought wi pearles about the ban;
Says, Gin you will be my ain true love,
This goodly gift you sal comman.
6 She showd me a cup of the good red gold,
Well set wi jewls sae fair to see;
Says, Gin you will be my lemman sae true,
This goodly gift I will you gi.
7 ‘Awa, awa, ye ugly witch,
Had far awa, and lat me be;
For I woudna ance kiss your ugly mouth
For a’ the gifts that ye coud gi.’
8 She’s turnd her right and roun about,
An thrice she blaw on a grass-green horn,
An she sware by the meen and the stars abeen,
That she’d gar me rue the day I was born.
9 Then out has she taen a silver wand,
An she’s turnd her three times roun an roun;
She’s mutterd sich words till my strength it faild,
An I fell down senceless upon the groun.
10 She’s turnd me into an ugly worm,
And gard me toddle about the tree;
An ay, on ilka Saturdays night,
My sister Maisry came to me,
11 Wi silver bason an silver kemb,
To kemb my heady upon her knee;
But or I had kissd her ugly mouth,
I’d rather a toddled about the tree.
12 But as it fell out on last Hallow-even,
When the seely court was ridin by,
The queen lighted down on a gowany bank,
Nae far frae the tree where I wont to lye.
13 She took me up in her milk-white han,
An she’s stroakd me three times oer her knee;
She chang’d me again to my ain proper shape,
An I nae mair maun toddle about the tree.
Dave and Toni Arthur sang Alison Gross in 1970 on their Trailer album Hearken to the Witches Rune (from whence Moondancer learned this song, a few years before being introduced to the Steeleye Span version), set to a melody that seems to be a modified (modal) form of the tune Cecil Sharp found in Somerset with The Knight and the Shepherd’s Daughter, including a form of the refrain: “Line, twine, the willow dee” [Mudcat Café note from Malcolm Taylor].
Steeleye Span recorded Alison Gross for their 1973 album Parcel of Rogues. A live recording from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide, Australia in 1982 was released on the rare Australia-only LP On Tour and in 2001 on the CD Gone to Australia.
Lizzie Higgins sang Alison Cross in 1985 on her Lismor album What a Voice. An earlier recording made by Peter Hall at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert in 1977 was released in 2006 on her Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins, augmented by three verses from another recording made by Tim Neat. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:
The text originally appeared in Jamieson, Popular Ballads & Songs 2 , pp.187-190, said to have been collected from Mrs Anna Brown, of Falkland, Aberdeen, in 1792-1794; the only collection from the oral tradition.
Lizzie was deeply interested in the interfaces between the worlds of ordinary folk, of those who practised the Black Arts in league with the Devil, and—as in this ballad—of those of the Scottish fairies, an amoral, unpredictable tribe of whom Stanley Robertson says, “We call them the Guid Folk—because they can dee you an awful lot of damage” (Barrie’s dangerously vicious Tinker Bell being a prime depiction). The hero of the song can count himself lucky that the Queen of the Fairies took pity on him, even as a much-desired witch’s pet (although, as Child observed, the Scottish Queens are reputed to be more favourably inclined to help humans enchanted by their subjects). Stanley Robertson comments that Lizzie started singing this late in life and probably derived it from print. [https://mainlynorfolk.info/steeleye.span/songs/alisongross.html]