Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
"Oh where ha'e ye been, Lord Randall my son?
O where ha'e ye been, my handsome young man?"
- The first two lines establish the poem's formula: the mother asks questions to her son (her "handsome young man," which he answers in the second half of the stanza.
- Here, mom asks a pretty familiar question to most of us: "Where on earth have you been?" Of course, in this day and age, she'd probably follow that up with, "It's a school night!"
- But hey, at least she ends it with a compliment, calling her kiddo a "handsome young man." There's love there! Not just nagging.
- Allow us one brief Scottish vocab explanation: "ha'e" is a contraction of "have," so every time you see it, you can make that substitution.
"I ha'e been to the wild wood: mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."
- Lord Randall responds rather enigmatically, saying that he's been to the "wild wood."
- This place seems like it could either be exciting or ominous. Or both, as it turns out.
- He asks his mama to make his bed, and then Lord Randall states the poem's refrain for the first time, which concludes stanzas 1-4. And keep an eye out for the notable change in Stanza 5.
- In this original version of the refrain, he asks his mother to make his bed, because he's tired from hunting in the woods. Our suspicions might also be roused by this line. After all, Lord Randall is a bold young man, and his old ladyish complaint here seems a little out of place. Why is he so tired? What has he really been up to?
- Another note on linguistic weirdness: "wi'," like "ha'e" is another contraction, this time for "with." While we're on this archaic word explaining kick, we should tell you that "I fain wald lie down" basically means "I'd really like to lie down"; "fain wald" is another old-fashioned, poetic way of stating desire.
- The gist here is that this dude is not in good shape after his time in the wild wood. Whatever happened there has tuckered him out—a lot.