The Three Captains

This song appears in Andrew Lang’s Ballads and Lyrics of Old France: with Some Other Poems (1872). Lang is best known for his series of Fairy Books of all colors, Pink, Grey, Red, etc.

All beneath the white-rose tree
Walks a lady fair to see,
She is as white as the snows,
She is as fair as the day:
From her father’s garden close
Three knights have ta’en her away.

He has ta’en her by the hand,
The youngest of the three –
‘Mount and ride, my bonnie bride,
On my white horse with me.’

And ever they rode, and better rode,
Till they came to Senlis town,
The hostess she looked hard at them
As they were lighting down.

‘And are ye here by force,’ she said,
‘Or are ye here for play?
From out my father’s garden close
Three knights me stole away.

‘And fain would I win back,’ she said,
‘The weary way I come;
And fain would see my father dear,
And fain go maiden home.’

‘Oh, weep not, lady fair,’ said she,
‘You shall win back,’ she said,
‘For you shall take this draught from me
Will make you lie for dead.’

‘Come in and sup, fair lady,’ they said,
‘Come busk ye and be bright;
It is with three bold captains
That ye must be this night.’

When they had eaten well and drunk,
She fell down like one slain:
‘Now, out and alas! for my bonny may
Shall live no more again.’

‘Within her father’s garden stead
There are three white lilies;
With her body to the lily bed,
With her soul to Paradise.’

They bore her to her father’s house,
They bore her all the three,
They laid her in her father’s close,
Beneath the white-rose tree.

She had not lain a day, a day,
A day but barely three,
When the may awakes, ‘Oh, open, father,
Oh, open the door for me.

”Tis I have lain for dead, father,
Have lain the long days three,
That I might maiden come again
To my mother and to thee.’

I didn’t find the original French version, but I did find “Trois Capitaines” by Isabelle Boulay (1998), which I assume is an updated version. It sounds lovely, and is framed as a sad song with a surprise happy ending. The first verse describes the fifteen year old girl in her tomb.

The beauty is sleeping
on a beautiful bed of roses
The beauty is sleeping
on a beautiful bed of roses
White as the snow
Beautiful as the day
There came three captains
Who wished to court her

The hostess at Senlis town is not mentioned, but at the end of three days she calls to her father to let her from the tomb. Here’s the full song:

La belle c’est endormie
sur un beau lit de roses
La belle c’est endormie
sur un beau lit de roses
Blanche comme la neige
Belle comme le jour
Ils sont trois capitaines
qui veulent lui faire la cour

Le plus jeune des trois
la prend par sa main blanche
Le plus jeune des trois
la prend par sa main blanche
Montez, montez! Ma belle
Sur mon beau cheval gris
A Paris je vous mene
Dans un fort beau logis

Finissant ce discours
le capitaine rentre
Finissant ce discours
le capitaine rentre
Mangez, buvez! Ma belle
Selon votre appétit
Avec le capitaine
Vous passerez la nuit

Au milieu du repas
la belle est tombée morte
Au milieu du repas
la belle est tombée morte
Sonnez, sonnez! Les cloches
Tambours aux régiments
Ma maîtresse, elle est morte à l’âge de quinze ans

Mais au bout de trois jours
son père s’y promène
Mais au bout de trois jours
son père s’y promène
Ouvrez, ouvrez! Ma tombe
Mon père si vous m’aimez
Trois jours j’ai fais la morte
Pour mon honneur gardé

La belle c’est endormie
sur un beau lit de roses
La belle c’est endormie
sur un beau lit de roses
Blanche comme la neige
Belle comme le jour
Ils sont trois capitaines
qui veulent lui faire la cour

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About lostdelights

An old gamer flying his freak flag, I've been playing table-top role-playing games since 1978. I've been building my own system (Journeyman) since 1981.
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