Last Updated on January 21, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 248
Context: This ballad was popular in Italy two hundred and fifty years before it became popular in England about the beginning of the nineteenth century. It concerns the poisoning of a young man by his truelove. The line beginning, "For I'm wearied . . .," serves as the refrain, and as an incremental repetition suspensefully delays the climax. The chief dramatic interest of the story lies within the personalities of the mother and Lord Randal as they reveal themselves, along with the slow unfolding of the story, constructed by Lord Randal's unvolunteered responses to his mother's calculated questions. His mother learns by degrees that her son has been to the Greenwood; he has met his truelove there; she fed him "eels fried in a pan"; his hounds and hawks ate the "leavins"; they stretched out and died. "O I fear you are poisoned!" she cries. The bed for which Lord Randal has been asking must wait, however, while she draws from him information concerning his disposal of his worldly possessions. His answer, "hell and fire," to her question, "What d' ye leave to your true-love?" clearly reflects Lord Randal's resignation of spirit and utter despair, he having apparently climaxed his tragedy with an unspirited revenge on his truelove. The first verse reads:
"O where hae ye been, Lord Randal, my son?
And where hae ye been, my handsome young man?"
"I hae been at the greenwood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm wearied wi' hunting, an fain wad lie down."
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