The Smart Schoolboy

 

O P E N I N G

February 26, 2015

“The False Knight upon the Road” is a fairly rare Child ballad – not too many different versions of the song were collected in the United States. In this version, a young boy on his way to school meets with the devil (disguised as a knight). The devil questions him. The child remains resolute and rejects the devil, so that by the song’s end the devil must return to hell. Niles writes, “In the case of the smart schoolboy, he would have been carried off to hell had he not been sturdy and brave and full of words, and also of answers” (Ballad Book, 21).

This song proved challenging for us. The melodic line is a bit quaint and not too nuanced. We wanted to make the song upbeat (which is not really our forte), and that too presented a challenge. We hope you’ll enjoy it. In the least, it provides a contrast to the other, more somber songs in The Ballad Book. In the notes, Niles suggests it be played demandingly. 

The only other version I have heard of the song is Robin Pecknold’s: 

 The Smart Schoolboy (Niles No. 3) – Collected Spring 1935 from Preston Wolford, a farmer and dance caller of Dot, Virginia

“Oh, where be ye going?”
Said the knight on the road.
“I be going to school,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“I be going to school,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, what do ye there?”
Said the knight on the road.
“I read from my book,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“I read from my book,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, what have ye got?”
Said the knight on the road.
“‘Tis a bait of bread and cheese,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“‘Tis a bait of bread and cheese,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“Oh, pray give me some,”
Said the knight on the road.
“Oh no, not a crumb,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“Oh no, not a crumb,”
Said the boy as he stood.

“I hear your school bell,”
Said the knight on the road.
“Hit’s a-ringing you to hell,”
Said the boy as he stood.
And he stood and he stood
And ’twas well that he stood.
“Hit’s a-ringing you to hell,”
Said the boy as he stood.

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