"Edward, Edward" is a Scottish ballad in seven stanzas; each of them is written in a specific meter, rhythm, and rhyme. It is reminiscent, both in content and form, to another Scottish ballad, "Lord Randall." The tone of the poem is mournful.
Stanza one - Edward's mother asks him why his sword is dripping with blood and why he is so sad; he tells her he is sad because he killed his best hawk, the only one he has.
Stanza two - His mother says his hawk's blood was never so red, dismissing the loss as minimal. Edward then tells her he has killed his "red-roan steed," who was once "so fair and free."
Stanza three - His mother says the horse was old and they have more of them, but she can see that her son is upset about some other terrible thing. He says:
'O, I have killed my father dear,
O, I have killed my father dear,
Alas! and woe is me, O!'
Stanza four - Edward's mother does not seem to be too upset, but she wants to know what penance her son is going to pay for killing his father. He tells her he is going to get in a boat and cross the ocean (leave Scotland).
Stanza five - His mother asks what he plans to do with his towers and halls, his beautiful land and holdings. Edward intends to "let them stand till they down fall," since he does not intend to come back.
Stanza six - Edward seems rather heartless about the fate of his family, his children and his wife:
"And what will ye leave to your children and your wife,
And what will ye leave to your children and your wife
When ye go over the sea, O?"
"The world is large, let them beg through life,
The world is large, let them beg throw life,
For them never more will I see, O."
In the last stanza of the poem, Edward's mother asks her son what he intends to leave her, his "mother dear." The pattern has been set in the rest of the ballad, so she had to know what Edward's answer would be, at least in part; however, she was probably not prepared for the enmity he displays toward her.
"The curse of hell from me shall you bear,
The curse of hell from me shall you bear,
Such counsels you gave to me, O."
Edward curses his mother for giving him such bad advice.