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This ballad was one of 25 traditional works included in Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912) where it was illustrated by Vernon Hill.
Clerk Colvill, ignoring the advice of his lady or his mother, goes to a body of water, where a mermaid seduces him. His head starts to ache, and the mermaid tells him he will die of it. He goes home and dies.
In some variants, she offers that he may go to sea with her instead of dying, at the end, and he refuses.
Francis James Child regarded the ballad as incomplete, and that Clerk Colvill is not an innocent victim of jealousy, but has clearly had a relationship with the mermaid, so that she inflicts death as the penalty for his infidelity, a motif found in many German and Scandavian tales.
Similar ballads exist in the Nordic countries. The ballad is called "Elveskud" (DgF 47) in Danish, "Olav Liljekrans" (NMB 36) in Norwegian, "Herr Olof och älvorna" (SMB 29) in Swedish, "Ólavur Riddararós og álvamoy" (CCF 154) in Faroese and "Kvæði af Ólafi liljurós" (IFkv 1) in Icelandic. In these ballads the role of the mermaid is taken by an elf woman.
- Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Clerk Colvill"
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 372-4, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Child, Francis James (1884). "43. Clerk Colvill". The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. p. 374. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Jonsson, Bengt R.; Solheim, Svale; Danielson, Eva, eds. (1978). The types of the Scandinavian medieval ballad (2nd ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-09479-0.
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