Dalhousie University Archives

Nova Scotia Ballads

Author: Anonymous

[Page 141]

Kate and Her Horns.

You that in merriment delight,
Pray listen now to what I write,
So shall you satisfaction find,
Will cure a melancholy mind.
A damsel sweet in Colchester1,
And there a clothier2 courted her,
For six months space, both night and day,
But yet the damsel still said nay3.
She said, "Were I to love inclined,
Perhaps you soon might change your mind,
And court some other damsel fair,
For men are false, I do declare."
He many propositions made,
And like a loyal lover said,
"There's none but you shall be my wife,
The joy and comfort of my life."
At length this maid gave her consent
To marry him, and straight they went
Unto their parents then, and lo4!
Both gave their leave and liking too.
[Page 142]
But see the cursed fruits of gold,
He left his loyal love behind,
With grief and love encompassed round,
Whilst he a greater fortune found.
A lawyer's daughter, fair and bright,
Her parents' joy and whole delight,
He was resolved to make his spouse,
Denying all his former vows.
And when poor Kate she came to hear
That she must lose her only dear,
All for the lawyer's daughter's sake,
Some sport of him, Kate thought she'd make.
Kate knew when every night he came
From his new love, Nancy by name,
Sometimes at ten o'clock or more.
Kate to a tanner went therefore,
And borrowed there an old cowhide,
With crooked horns both large and wide,
And when she wrapped herself therein,
Her new intrigue she did begin.
[Page 143]
Kate to a lonesome field did stray
At length the clothier came that way,
And he was sore a-scared at her
She looked so like old Lucifer5.
A hairy hide, horns on her head,
At length two
Which near three feet asunder spread,
At length
With that he saw a long black tail.
He strove to run, but his feet did fail.
And with a groan and mournful note,
She quickly seized him by the throat,
And said, "You have left poor Kate, I hear,
And won a lawyer's daughter dear.”
"Now, since you’ve been so false to her,
You perjured knave6 of Colchester,
You shall, whether you will or no,
Into ray gloomy regions go."
[Page 144]
This voice did so affrighten him,
He, kneeling on a trembling limb,
Cried "Master Devil, spare me now,
And I'll perform my former vow."
"I'll make young Kate my lawful bride."
"See that you do" the Devil cried.
"If Kate again of you complain,
You soon shall hear from me again."
It's home he went though very late,
He little thought that it was Kate,
That put him into such a fright.
Therefore next day, by morning light
He went to Kate and married her,
For fear of that old Lucifer.
Kate's friends and parents thought it strange,
That there was such a sudden change.
Kate never let her parents know,
Nor any other, friend or foe,
Till they a year had married been,
She told it at her lying in7.
[Page 145]
It pleased the women to the heart.
They said they'd fairly plead her part.
Her husband laughed ae well as they.
It was a joyful merry day.


The source of this notation dates the earliest evidence of the ballad to a
               broadside printed between 1689 and 1690.
Figure 1. Kate and Her Horns musical notation (Cazden, ‎Haufrecht, and Studerpp, 1982, 473)
Ballad Theme: the Practical Joke
MacKenzie (1919) discussed “Kate and Her Horns” within a broader category of ballads that incorporate the motive of a practical joke to entertain and humour the audience, invoking sympathy with the contriver of the practical joke, often the victim of some romantic injustice, who is applauded for the cleverness with which the scheme is executed (pp. 145-146).
Clothier [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 12, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clothier
Knave [Def. 2]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/knave
Lo [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 12, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lo
Lying-in [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lying-in
Cazden, N., ‎Haufrecht, H., and Studerpp, N. (1982). Folk Songs of the Catskills. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
MacKenzie, W. R. (1919). The quest of the ballad. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/questofballad00mack
Colchester: A reference to Colchester, England
clothier: middle English, a person that makes clothes ("Clothier," n.d.).
nay: archaic, meaning no
lo: archaic - calling attention to something, an expression wonder or surprise ("Lo," n.d.).
Lucifer: a reference to the devil
knave: a tricky, deceitful person ("Knave," n.d.).
lying-in: referring to the old custom of lying in bed before or after birthing a child ("Lying-in," n.d.).
Anonymous. Date: 2014-10-16