Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
"What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randall my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?"
- So Lord Randall's nosy mother already asked where he ate dinner, and now she wants to know what he ate there.
- When she says "what gat ye to your dinner," we would say "what did you get for dinner?" Pretty standard question.
"I gat eels boiled in broo: mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."
- Lord Randall's answer to his ma's pretty standard question may not seem so standard to us modern day readers. He responds that he ate "eels boiled in broo" (we imagine "broo" is a kind of broth. An archaic spelling of "brew," perhaps?).
- Though some of us may not be big eel fans, eels and their creepier suction-mouthed cousins, lampreys, were eaten with greater frequency in Medieval and Renaissance England, so a line that stands out to us as odd wouldn't have been back strange at all when this ballad was being sung. (And for an interesting eel-eating historical link regarding this line, take a look at the "Shout-outs" section.)
- Then we get the same old song again—Lord Randall's refrain. Is this making you nervous yet? We mean, what does eating eels have to do with feeling so weary?