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The Franklin's Maid is a ballade I first encountered in The White Company, a historic novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. I am actually unsure if The Franklin's Maid is an Old English folk song or an original creation of Doyle. The lyrics are available from the Songs of Action book by Doyle.

The franklin he hath gone to roam,

The franklin’s maid she bides at home;

But she is cold, and coy, and staid,

And who may win the franklin’s maid?

There came a knight of high renown

In bassinet and ciclatoun;

On bended knee full long he prayed—

He might not win the franklin’s maid.

There came a squire so debonair,

His dress was rich, his words were fair.

He sweetly sang, he deftly played—

He could not win the franklin’s maid.

There came a mercer wonder-fine,

With velvet cap and gaberdine;

For all his ships, for all his trade,

He could not buy the franklin’s maid.

There came an archer bold and true,

With bracer guard and stave of yew;

His purse was light, his jerkin frayed—

Haro, alas! the franklin’s maid!

Oh, some have laughed and some have cried,

And some have scoured the countryside;

But off they ride through wood and glade,

The bowman and the franklin’s maid.

However, I wasn't able to find the tune of this song. Are there any vocal recordings of The Franklin's Maid? Has anyone ever performed it?

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I've not been able to find a setting, but here is what I have found: According to Brian W Pugh's "A Chronology Of The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Detailed Account Of The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle", "The Franklin's Maid" was published in June 1891 in "The Sun", the same year as "The White Company". The "Songs of Action" collection was published later in 1898.

Other songs from "Songs of Action", for example "The Song of the Bow" were set to music in Conan Doyle's day - Toronto public library has a copy of the sheet music: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/search.jsp?Ntt=Doyle%2c+Arthur+Conan%2c+1859-1930--Musical+settings.&Ntk=Subject_Search_Interface

The "Song of the Bow" is a more rollicking sort of lyric, with echoes of GK Chesterton: "The bow was made in England: Of true wood, of yew-wood, The wood of English bows; ..."

I can see it being a more obvious choice to set to music in 1898, more in tune with public tastes of the day for patriotism and action.

"The Franklin's Maid" tells a good story, but the verse doesn't have the darkness or bluntness to appeal to folk-revivalists of today, and was maybe a little frisky to be sung in the parlour in CD's day, so that could be a reason for it not to have been set to music either then or now.

Go on, make your own music for it...

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  • "The Franklin's Maid" is a part of "The White Company", so no wonder they both have 1891 as the publication year. By the way, one of the characters there is called Samkin Aylward -- did Doyle named a character after his fellow composer? Thanks for the sheet music for the "Song of the Bow", I appreciate the finding, and for all the background information.
    – svavil
    Mar 12, 2016 at 6:44

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