Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance - Popular Ballads of the Olden Times - Third Series
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Uniform with this Volume


First Series. Ballads of Romance and Chivalry.

'It forms an excellent introduction to a sadly neglected source of poetry.... We ... hope that it will receive ample encouragement.' —Athenaeum.

'It will certainly, if carried out as it is begun, constitute a boon to the lover of poetry.... We shall look with anxiety for the following volumes of what will surely be the best popular edition in existence.' —Notes and Queries.

'There can be nothing but praise for the selection, editing, and notes, which are all excellent and adequate. It is, in fine, a valuable volume of what bids fair to be a very valuable series.' —Academy.

'The most serviceable edition of the ballads yet published in England.' —Manchester Guardian.

Second Series. Ballads of Mystery and Miracle and Fyttes of Mirth.

'Even more interesting than the first.' —Athenaeum.

'The augmenting series will prove an inestimable boon.' —Notes and Queries.

'It includes many beautiful and well-known ballads, and no pains have been spared by the editor in producing them, so far as may be, in their entirety.' —World.

'The second volume ... carries out the promise of the first.... Even after Professor Kittredge's compressed edition of Child, ... Mr. Sidgwick's work abundantly justifies its existence.' —Manchester Guardian.


Third Series. Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance

'I wadna gi'e ae wheeple of a whaup for a' the nichtingales in England.'

A. H. BULLEN 47 Great Russell Street London. MCMVI

'It is impossible that anything should be universally tasted and approved by a Multitude, tho' they are only the Rabble of a Nation, which hath not in it some peculiar Aptness to please and gratify the Mind of Man.'



Map to illustrate Border Ballads Frontispiece Preface vii Ballads in the Third Series ix

The Hunting of the Cheviot 1 The Battle of Otterburn 16 Johnie Armstrong 30 The Braes of Yarrow 34 The Twa Brothers 37 The Outlyer Bold 40 Mary Hamilton 44 Kinmont Willie 49 The Laird o' Logie 58 Captain Car 62 Sir Patrick Spence 68 Flodden Field 71 Dick o' the Cow 75 Sir Hugh in the Grime's Downfall 89 The Death of Parcy Reed 93 Bewick and Grahame 101 The Fire of Frendraught 112 Geordie 118 The Baron of Brackley 122 The Gipsy Laddie 129 Bessy Bell and Mary Gray 133 Sir James the Rose 135 Clyde's Water 140 Katharine Jaffray 145 Lizie Lindsay 148 The Gardener 153 John o' the Side 156 Jamie Douglas 164 Waly, waly gin love be bonny 168 The Heir of Linne 170 Earl Bothwell 177 Durham Field 181 The Battle of Harlaw 194 The Laird of Knottington 200 The Whummil Bore 204 Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight 206

Appendix— the Jolly Juggler 211 Index of Titles 217 Index of First Lines 219


Although a certain number of the ballads in this volume belong to England as much as to Scotland, the greater number are so intimately connected with Scottish history and tradition, that it would have been rash (to say the least) for a Southron to have ventured across the border unaided. It is therefore more than a pleasure to record my thanks to my friend Mr. A. Francis Steuart of Edinburgh, to whom I have submitted the proofs of these ballads. His extensive and peculiar knowledge of Scottish history and genealogy has been of the greatest service throughout.

I must also thank Mr. C. G. Tennant for assistance with the map given as frontispiece; and my unknown friend, Messrs. Constable's reader, has supplied valuable help in detail.

My self-imposed scheme of classification by subject-matter becomes no easier as the end of my task approaches. The Fourth Series will consist mainly of ballads of Robin Hood and other outlaws, including a few pirates. The projected class of 'Sea Ballads' has thus been split; Sir Patrick Spence, for example, appears in this volume. A few ballads defy classification, and will have to appear, if at all, in a miscellaneous section.

The labour of reducing to modern spelling several ballads from the seventeenth-century orthography of the Percy Folio is compensated, I hope, by the quaint and spirited result. These lively ballads are now presented for the first time in this popular form.

In The Jolly Juggler, given in the Appendix, I claim to have discovered a new ballad, which has not yet been treated as such, though I make bold to think Professor Child would have included it in his collection had he known of it. I trust that the publicity thus given to it will attract the attention of experts more competent than myself to annotate and illustrate it as it deserves.

F. S.


I have hesitated to use the term 'historical' in choosing a general title for the ballads in this volume, although, if the word can be applied to any popular ballads, it would be applied with most justification to a large number of these ballads of Scottish and Border tradition. 'Some ballads are historical, or at least are founded on actual occurrences. In such cases, we have a manifest point of departure for our chronological investigation. The ballad is likely to have sprung up shortly after the event, and to represent the common rumo[u]r of the time. Accuracy is not to be expected, and indeed too great historical fidelity in detail is rather a ground of suspicion than a certificate of the genuinely popular character of the piece.... Two cautionary observations are necessary. Since history repeats itself, the possibility and even the probability must be entertained that every now and then a ballad which had been in circulation for some time was adapted to the circumstances of a recent occurrence, and has come down to us only in such an adaptation. It is also far from improbable that many ballads which appear to have no definite localization or historical antecedents may be founded on fact, since one of the marked tendencies of popular narrative poetry is to alter or eliminate specific names of persons and places in the course of oral tradition.'[1]

[Footnote 1: Introduction (p. xvi) to English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited from the Collection of Francis James Child, by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge, 1905. This admirable condensation of Child's five volumes, issued since my Second Series, is enhanced by Professor Kittredge's Introduction, the best possible substitute for the gap left in the larger book by the death of Child before the completion of his task.]

Warned by these wise words, we may, perhaps, select the following ballads from the present volume as 'historical, or at least founded on actual occurrences.'

(i) This section, which we may call 'Historical,' includes The Hunting of the Cheviot, The Battle of Otterburn, Mary Hamilton, The Laird o' Logie, Captain Car, Flodden Field, The Fire of Frendraught, Bessy Bell and Mary Gray, Jamie Douglas, Earl Bothwell, Durham Field, The Battle of Harlaw, and Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight. Probably we should add The Death of Parcy Reed; possibly Geordie and The Gipsy Laddie. More doubtful still is Sir Patrick Spence; and The Baron of Brackley confuses two historical events.

(ii) From the above section I have eliminated those which may be separately classified as 'Border Ballads.' Sir Hugh in the Grime's Downfall seems to have some historical foundation, but Bewick and Grahame has none. A sub-section of 'Armstrong Ballads' forms a good quartet; Johnie Armstrong, Kinmont Willie, Dick o' the Cow, and John o' the Side.

(iii) In the purely 'Romantic' class we may place The Braes of Yarrow, The Twa Brothers, The Outlyer Bold, Clyde's Water, Katharine Jaffray, Lizie Lindsay, The Heir of Linne, and The Laird of Knottington.

(iv) There remain a lyrical ballad, The Gardener; a song, Waly, waly, gin love be bonny; and the nondescript Whummil Bore. The Appendix contains a ballad, The Jolly Juggler, which would have come more fittingly in the First Series, had I known of it in time.

In the general arrangement, however, the above classes have been mixed, in order that the reader may browse as he pleases.


A comparison of the first two ballads in this volume will show the latitude with which it is possible for an historical incident to be treated by tradition. The Battle of Otterburn was fought in 1388; but our two versions belong to the middle of the sixteenth century. The English Battle of Otterburn is the more faithful to history, and refers (35.2) to 'the cronykle' as authority. The Hunting of the Cheviot was in the repertory of Richard Sheale (see First Series, Introduction, xxvii), who ends his version in the regular manner traditional amongst minstrels. Also, we have the broadside Chevy Chase, which well illustrates the degradation of a ballad in the hands of the hack-writers; this may be seen in many collections of ballads.

Mary Hamilton has a very curious literary history. If, pendente lite, we may assume the facts to be as suggested, pp. 44-46, it illustrates admirably Professor Kittredge's warning, quoted above, that ballads already in circulation may be adapted to the circumstances of a recent occurrence. But the incidents—betrayal, child-murder, and consequent execution—cannot have been uncommon in courts, at least in days of old; and it is quite probable that an early story was adapted, first to the incident of 1563, and again to the Russian story of 1718. Perhaps we may remark in passing that it is a pity that so repugnant a story should be attached to a ballad containing such beautiful stanzas as the last four.

Captain Car is an English ballad almost contemporary with the Scottish incident which it records; and, from the fact of its including a popular burden, we may presume it was adapted to the tune. Bessy Bell and Mary Gray, which records a piece of Scottish news of no importance whatever, has become an English nursery rhyme. In Jamie Douglas an historical fact has been interwoven with a beautiful lyric. Indeed, the chances of corruption and contamination are infinite.


The long pathetic ballad of Bewick and Grahame is a link between the romantic ballads and the ballads of the Border, Sir Hugh in the Grime's Downfall connecting the Border ballads with the 'historical' ballads. The four splendid 'Armstrong ballads' also are mainly 'historical,' though Dick o' the Cow requires further elucidation. Kinmont Willie is under suspicion of being the work of Sir Walter Scott, who alone of all ballad-editors, perhaps, could have compiled a ballad good enough to deceive posterity. We cannot doubt the excellence of Kinmont Willie; but it would be tedious, as well as unprofitable, to collect the hundred details of manner, choice of words, and expression, which discredit the authenticity of the ballad.

John o' the Side has not, I believe, been presented to readers in its present shape before. It is one of the few instances in which the English version of a ballad is better than the Scottish.


The Braes o' Yarrow is a good example of the Scottish lyrical ballad, the continued rhyme being very effective. The Twa Brothers has become a game, and Lizie Lindsay a song. The Outlyer Bold is a title I have been forced to give to a version of the ballad best known as The Bonnie Banks o' Fordie; this, it is true, might have come more aptly in the First Series. So also Katharine Jaffray, which enlarges the lesson taught in The Cruel Brother (First Series, p. 76), and adds one of its own.

The Heir of Linne is another of the naive, delightful ballads from the Percy Folio, and in general style may be compared with The Lord of Learne in the Second Series (p. 182).


Little is to be said of The Gardener or The Whummil Bore, the former being almost a lyric, and the latter presumably a fragment. Waly, waly, is not a ballad at all, and is only included because it has become confused with Jamie Douglas.

The Jolly Juggler seems to be a discovery, and I commend it to the notice of those better qualified to deal with it. The curious fifth line added to each verse may be the work of some minstrel—a humorous addition to, or comment upon, the foregoing stanza. Certain Danish ballads exhibit this peculiarity, but I cannot find any Danish counterpart to the ballad in Prior's three volumes.


The Text here given is that of a MS. in the Bodleian Library (Ashmole 48) of about the latter half of the sixteenth century. It was printed by Hearne, and by Percy in the Reliques, and the whole MS. was edited by Thomas Wright for the Roxburghe Club in 1860. In this MS. The Hunting of the Cheviot is No. viii., and is subscribed 'Expliceth, quod Rychard Sheale.' Sheale is known to have been a minstrel of Tamworth, and it would appear that much of this MS. (including certain poems, no doubt his own) is in his handwriting—probably the book belonged to him. But the supposition that he was author of the Hunting of the Cheviot, Child dismisses as 'preposterous in the extreme.'

The other version, far better known as Chevy Chase, is that of the Percy Folio, published in the Reliques, and among the Pepys, Douce, Roxburghe, and Bagford collections of ballads. For the sake of differentiation this may be called the broadside form of the ballad, as it forms a striking example of the impairment of a traditional ballad when re-written for the broadside press. Doubtless it is the one known and commented on by Addison in his famous papers (Nos. 70 and 74) in the Spectator (1711), but it is not the one referred to by Sir Philip Sidney in his Apologie. Professor Child doubts if Sidney's ballad, 'being so evill apparelled in the dust and cobwebbes of that uncivill age,' is the traditional one here printed, which is scarcely the product of an uncivil age; more probably Sidney had heard it in a rough and ancient form, 'sung,' as he says, 'but by some blind crouder, with no rougher voyce than rude stile.' 'The Hunttis of the Chevet' is mentioned as one of the 'sangis of natural music of the antiquite' sung by the shepherds in The Complaynt of Scotland, a book assigned to 1549.

The Story.—The Hunting of the Cheviot is a later version of the Battle of Otterburn, and a less conscientious account thereof. Attempts have been made to identify the Hunting with the Battle of Piperden (or Pepperden) fought in 1436 between a Percy and a Douglas. But the present ballad is rather an unauthenticated account of an historical event, which made a great impression on the public mind. Of that, its unfailing popularity on both sides of the Border, its constant appearance in broadside form, and its inclusion in every ballad-book, give the best witness.

The notable deed of Witherington (stanza 54) has many parallels. All will remember the warrior who

'... when his legs were smitten off He fought upon his stumps.'

Tradition tells an identical story of 'fair maiden Lilliard' at the Battle of Ancrum Muir in 1545. Seneca mentions the feat. It occurs in the Percy Folio, Sir Graysteel (in Eger and Grine) fighting on one leg. Johnie Armstrong and Sir Andrew Barton both retire to 'bleed awhile' after being transfixed through the body. Finally, in an early saga, King Starkathr (Starkad) fights on after his head is cut off.


1. The Perse owt off Northombarlonde, and avowe to God mayd he That he wold hunte in the mowntayns off Chyviat within days thre, In the magger of doughte Dogles, and all that ever with him be.

2. The fattiste hartes in all Cheviat he sayd he wold kyll, and cary them away: 'Be my feth,' sayd the dougheti Doglas agayn, 'I wyll let that hontyng yf that I may.'

3. Then the Perse owt off Banborowe cam, with him a myghtee meany, With fifteen hondrith archares bold off blood and bone; the wear chosen owt of shyars thre.

4. This begane on a Monday at morn, in Cheviat the hillys so he; The chylde may rue that ys vn-born, it wos the mor pitte.

5. The dryvars thorowe the woodes went, for to reas the dear; Bomen byckarte vppone the bent with ther browd aros cleare.

6. Then the wyld thorowe the woodes went, on every syde shear; Greahondes thorowe the grevis glent, for to kyll thear dear.

7. This begane in Chyviat the hyls abone, yerly on a Monnyn-day; Be that it drewe to the oware off none, a hondrith fat hartes ded ther lay.

8. The blewe a mort vppone the bent, the semblyde on sydis shear; To the quyrry then the Perse went, to se the bryttlynge off the deare.

9. He sayd, 'It was the Duglas promys this day to met me hear; But I wyste he wolde faylle, verament;' a great oth the Perse swear.

10. At the laste a squyar off Northomberlonde lokyde at his hand full ny; He was war a the doughetie Doglas commynge, with him a myghtte meany.

11. Both with spear, bylle, and brande, yt was a myghtti sight to se; Hardyar men, both off hart nor hande, wear not in Cristiante.

12. The wear twenti hondrith spear-men good, withoute any feale; The wear borne along be the watter a Twyde, yth bowndes of Tividale.

13. 'Leave of the brytlyng of the dear,' he sayd, 'and to your boys lock ye tayk good hede; For never sithe ye wear on your mothars borne had ye never so mickle nede.'

14. The dougheti Dogglas on a stede, he rode alle his men beforne; His armor glytteryde as dyd a glede; a boldar barne was never born.

15. 'Tell me whos men ye ar,' he says, 'or whos men that ye be: Who gave youe leave to hunte in this Chyviat chays, in the spyt of myn and of me.'

16. The first mane that ever him an answear mayd, yt was the good lord Perse: 'We wyll not tell the whoys men we ar,' he says, 'nor whos men that we be; But we wyll hounte hear in this chays, in the spyt of thyne and of the.

17. 'The fattiste hartes in all Chyviat we have kyld, and cast to carry them away:' 'Be my troth,' sayd the doughete Dogglas agayn, 'therfor the ton of us shall de this day.'

18. Then sayd the doughte Doglas unto the lord Perse: 'To kyll alle thes giltles men, alas, it wear great pitte!

19. 'But, Perse, thowe art a lord of lande, I am a yerle callyd within my contre; Let all our men vppone a parti stande, and do the battell off the and of me.'

20. 'Nowe Cristes cors on his crowne,' sayd the lord Perse, 'who-so-ever ther-to says nay! Be my troth, doughtte Doglas,' he says, 'thow shalt never se that day.

21. 'Nethar in Ynglonde, Skottlonde, nar France, nor for no man of a woman born, But, and fortune be my chance, I dar met him, on man for on.'

22. Then bespayke a squyar off Northombarlonde, Richard Wytharyngton was his nam: 'It shall never be told in Sothe-Ynglonde,' he says, 'to Kyng Herry the Fourth for sham.

23. 'I wat youe byn great lordes twaw, I am a poor squyar of lande: I wylle never se my captayne fyght on a fylde, and stande my selffe and loocke on, But whylle I may my weppone welde, I wylle not fayle both hart and hande.'

24. That day, that day, that dredfull day! the first fit here I fynde; And youe wyll here any mor a the hountyng a the Chyviat, yet ys ther mor behynde.

... ... ...

25. The Yngglyshe men hade ther bowys yebent, ther hartes wer good yenoughe; The first off arros that the shote off, seven skore spear-men the sloughe.

26. Yet byddys the yerle Doglas vppon the bent, a captayne good yenoughe, And that was sene verament, for he wrought hom both woo and wouche.

27. The Dogglas partyd his ost in thre, lyk a cheffe cheften off pryde; With suar spears off myghtte tre, the cum in on every syde:

28. Thrughe our Yngglyshe archery gave many a wounde fulle wyde; Many a doughete the garde to dy, which ganyde them no pryde.

29. The Ynglyshe men let ther boys be, and pulde owt brandes that wer brighte; It was a hevy syght to se bryght swordes on basnites lyght.

30. Thorowe ryche male and myneyeple, many sterne the strocke done streght; Many a freyke that was fulle fre, ther undar foot dyd lyght.

31. At last the Duglas and the Perse met, lyk to captayns of myght and of mayne; The swapte togethar tylle the both swat with swordes that wear of fyn myllan.

32. Thes worthe freckys for to fyght, ther-to the wear fulle fayne, Tylle the bloode owte off thear basnetes sprente, as ever dyd heal or rayn.

33. 'Yelde the, Perse,' sayde the Doglas, 'and i feth I shalle the brynge Wher thowe shalte have a yerls wagis of Jamy our Skottish kynge.

34. 'Thou shalte have thy ransom fre, I hight the hear this thinge; For the manfullyste man yet art thowe that ever I conqueryd in filde fighttynge.'

35. 'Nay,' sayd the lord Perse, 'I tolde it the beforne, That I wolde never yeldyde be to no man of a woman born.'

36. With that ther cam an arrowe hastely, forthe off a myghtte wane; Hit hathe strekene the yerle Duglas in at the brest-bane.

37. Thorowe lyvar and longes bathe the sharpe arrowe ys gane, That never after in all his lyffe-days he spayke mo wordes but ane: That was, 'Fyghte ye, my myrry men, whyllys ye may, for my lyff-days ben gan.'

38. The Perse leanyde on his brande, and sawe the Duglas de; He tooke the dede mane by the hande, and sayd, 'Wo ys me for the!

39. 'To have savyde thy lyffe, I wolde have partyde with my landes for years thre, For a better man, of hart nare of hande, was nat in all the north contre.'

40. Off all that se a Skottishe knyght, was callyd Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry; He sawe the Duglas to the deth was dyght, he spendyd a spear, a trusti tre.

41. He rod uppone a corsiare throughe a hondrith archery: He never stynttyde, nar never blane, tylle he cam to the good lord Perse.

42. He set uppone the lorde Perse a dynte that was full soare; With a suar spear of a myghtte tre clean thorow the body he the Perse ber,

43. A the tothar syde that a man myght se a large cloth-yard and mare: Towe bettar captayns wear nat in Cristiante then that day slan wear ther.

44. An archar off Northomberlonde say slean was the lord Perse; He bar a bende bowe in his hand, was made off trusti tre.

45. An arow, that a cloth-yarde was lang, to the harde stele halyde he; A dynt that was both sad and soar he sat on Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry.

46. The dynt yt was both sad and sar, that he of Monggomberry sete; The swane-fethars that his arrowe bar with his hart-blood the wear wete.

47. Ther was never a freake wone foot wolde fle, but still in stour dyd stand, Heawyng on yche othar, whylle the myghte dre, with many a balfull brande.

48. This battell begane in Chyviat an owar befor the none. And when even-songe bell was rang, the battell was nat half done.

49. The tocke ... on ethar hande be the lyght off the mone; Many hade no strenght for to stande, in Chyviat the hillys abon.

50. Of fifteen hondrith archars of Ynglonde went away but seventi and thre; Of twenti hondrith spear-men of Skotlonde, but even five and fifti.

51. But all wear slayne Cheviat within; the hade no strengthe to stand on hy; The chylde may rue that ys unborne, it was the mor pitte.

52. Thear was slayne, withe the lord Perse, Sir Johan of Agerstone, Ser Rogar, the hinde Hartly, Ser Wyllyam, the bolde Hearone.

53. Ser Jorg, the worthe Loumle, a knyghte of great renowen, Ser Raff, the ryche Rugbe, with dyntes wear beaten dowene.

54. For Wetharryngton my harte was wo, that ever he slayne shulde be; For when both his leggis wear hewyne in to, yet he knyled and fought on hys kny.

55. Ther was slayne, with the dougheti Duglas, Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry, Ser Davy Lwdale, that worthe was, his sistar's son was he.

56. Ser Charls a Murre in that place, that never a foot wolde fle; Ser Hewe Maxwelle, a lorde he was, with the Doglas dyd he dey.

57. So on the morrowe the mayde them byears off birch and hasell so gray; Many wedous, with wepyng tears, cam to fache ther makys away.

58. Tivydale may carpe off care, Northombarlond may mayk great mon, For towe such captayns as slayne wear thear on the March-parti shall never be non.

59. Word ys commen to Eddenburrowe, to Jamy the Skottishe kynge, That dougheti Duglas, lyff-tenant of the Marches, he lay slean Chyviot within.

60. His handdes dyd he weal and wryng, he sayd, 'Alas, and woe ys me! Such an othar captayn Skotland within,' he seyd, 'ye-feth shuld never be.'

61. Worde ys commyn to lovly Londone, till the fourth Harry our kynge, That lord Perse, leyff-tenante of the Marchis, he lay slayne Chyviat within.

62. 'God have merci on his solle,' sayde Kyng Harry, 'good lord, yf thy will it be! I have a hondrith captayns in Ynglonde,' he sayd, 'as good as ever was he: But, Perse, and I brook my lyffe, thy deth well quyte shall be.'

63. As our noble kynge mayd his avowe, lyke a noble prince of renowen, For the deth of the lord Perse he dyde the battell of Hombyll-down;

64. Wher syx and thritte Skottishe knyghtes on a day wear beaten down: Glendale glytteryde on ther armor bryght, over castille, towar, and town.

65. This was the hontynge off the Cheviat, that tear begane this spurn; Old men that knowen the grownde well yenoughe call it the battell of Otterburn.

66. At Otterburn begane this spurne uppone a Monnynday; Ther was the doughte Doglas slean, the Perse never went away.

67. Ther was never a tym on the Marche-partes sen the Doglas and the Perse met, But yt ys mervele and the rede blude ronne not, as the reane doys in the stret.

68. Ihesue Crist our balys bete, and to the blys vs brynge! Thus was the hountynge of the Chivyat: God send vs alle good endyng!

[Annotations: 1.5: 'magger' = maugre; i.e. in spite of. 2.4: 'let,' hinder. 3.2: 'meany,' band, company. 3.4: 'the' = they; so constantly, 'shyars thre'; the districts (still called shires) of Holy Island, Norham, and Bamborough. 5.3: 'byckarte,' i.e. bickered, attacked the deer. 6.1: 'wyld,' deer. 6.3: i.e. through the groves darted. 7.3: 'oware,' hour. 8.1: 'mort,' note of the bugle. 8.4: 'bryttlynge,' cutting up. 10.2: shaded his eyes with his hand. 12.2: 'feale,' fail. 12.4: 'yth,' in the. 13.2: 'boys,' bows. 14.3: 'glede,' glowing coal. 17.4: 'the ton,' one or other. 20.1: 'cors,' curse. 21.4: 'on,' one. 24.3: 'And,' If. 25.4: 'sloughe,' slew. 26.4: 'wouche,' evil. 29.4: 'basnites,' light helmets or skull-caps. 30.1: 'myneyeple,' = manople, a kind of long gauntlet. 30.3: 'freyke,' man. So 32.1, 47.1, etc. 31.4: 'myllan,' Milan steel. Cp. 'collayne,' Battle of Otterburn, 54.4 36.2: 'wane.' One arrow out of a large number.—Skeat. 38.3: Addison compared (Vergil, Aen. x. 823):— 'Ingemuit miserans graviter dextramque tetendit,' etc. 41.3: 'blane,' lingered. 44.2: 'say,' saw. 45.2: i.e. till the point reached the wood of the bow. 47.3: 'whylle the myghte dre' = while they might dree, as long as they could hold. 53.1: 'Loumle,' Lumley; previously printed Louele (= Lovel). 57.4: 'makys,' mates, husbands. 58.4: 'March-parti,' the Border; so 'the Marches,' 59.3 60.1: 'weal,' clench(?). 63.4: The battle of Homildon Hill, near Wooler, Northumberland, was fought in 1402. See 1 King Henry IV., Act I. sc. i. 65.2: 'spurn' = kick(?): Child suggests the reading:—'That ear [= e'er] began this spurn!' as a lament. But the whole meaning is doubtful. 67.4: as the rain does. 68.1: 'our balys bete,' our misfortunes relieve.]


The Text is given mainly from the Cotton MS., Cleopatra C. iv. (circa 1550). It was printed by Percy in the fourth edition of the Reliques; in the first edition he gave it from Harleian MS. 293, which text also is made use of here. A separate Scottish ballad was popular at least as early as 1549, and arguments to prove that it was derived from the English ballad are as inconclusive as those which seek to prove the opposite.

The Story.—The battle of Otterburn was fought on Wednesday, August 19, 1388. The whole story is given elaborately by Froissart, in his usual lively style, but is far too long to be inserted here. It may, however, be condensed as follows.

The great northern families of Neville and Percy being at variance owing to the quarrels of Richard II. with his uncles, the Scots took the advantage of preparing a raid into England. Earl Percy, hearing of this, collected the Northumbrian powers; and, unable to withstand the force of the Scots, determined to make a counter-raid on the east or west of the border, according as the Scots should cross. The latter, hearing of the plan through a spy, foiled it by dividing their army into two parts, the main body under Archibald Douglas being directed to Carlisle. Three or four hundred picked men-at-arms, with two thousand archers and others, under James, Earl of Douglas, Earl of March and Dunbar, and the Earl of Murray, were to aim at Newcastle, and burn and ravage the bishopric of Durham. With the latter alone we are now concerned.

With his small army the Earl of Douglas passed rapidly through Northumberland, crossed the Tyne near Brancepeth, wasted the country as far as the gates of Durham, and returned to Newcastle as rapidly as they had advanced. Several skirmishes took place at the barriers of the town: and in one of these Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur) was personally opposed to Douglas. After an obstinate struggle the Earl won the pennon of the English leader, and boasted that he would carry it to Scotland, and set it high on his castle of Dalkeith. 'That,' cried Hotspur, 'no Douglas shall ever do, and ere you leave Northumberland you shall have small cause to boast.' 'Your pennon,' answered Douglas, 'shall this night be placed before my tent; come and win it if you can.' But the Scots were suffered to retreat without any hostile attempts on the part of the English, and accordingly, after destroying the tower of Ponteland, they came on the second day to the castle of Otterburn, situated in Redesdale, about thirty-two miles from Newcastle. The rest may be read in the ballad.

'Of all the battayles,' says Froissart, 'that I have made mention of here before, in all thys hystorye, great or small, thys battayle was one of the sorest, and best foughten, without cowards or faint hertes: for ther was nother knyght nor squyre but that dyde hys devoyre, and fought hand to hand.'


1. Yt fell abowght the Lamasse tyde, Whan husbondes Wynnes ther haye, The dowghtye Dowglasse bowynd hym to ryde, In Ynglond to take a praye.

2. The yerlle of Fyffe, wythowghten stryffe, He bowynd hym over Sulway; The grete wolde ever to-gether ryde; That raysse they may rewe for aye.

3. Over Hoppertope hyll they cam in, And so down by Rodclyffe crage; Vpon Grene Lynton they lyghted dowyn, Styrande many a stage.

4. And boldely brente Northomberlond, And haryed many a towyn; They dyd owr Ynglyssh men grete wrange, To battell that were not bowyn.

5. Than spake a berne vpon the bent, Of comforte that was not colde, And sayd, 'We have brente Northomberlond, We have all welth in holde.

6. 'Now we have haryed all Bamborowe schyre, All the welth in the world have wee; I rede we ryde to Newe Castell, So styll and stalworthlye.'

7. Vpon the morowe, when it was day, The standerds schone full bryght; To the Newe Castell the toke the waye, And thether they cam full ryght.

8. Syr Henry Perssy laye at the New Castell, I tell yow wythowtten drede; He had byn a march-man all hys dayes, And kepte Barwyke upon Twede.

9. To the Newe Castell when they cam, The Skottes they cryde on hyght, 'Syr Hary Perssy, and thow byste within, Com to the fylde, and fyght.

10. 'For we have brente Northomberlonde, Thy erytage good and ryght, And syne my logeyng I have take, Wyth my brande dubbyd many a knyght.'

11. Syr Harry Perssy cam to the walles, The Skottyssch oste for to se, And sayd, 'And thow hast brente Northomberlond, Full sore it rewyth me.

12. 'Yf thou hast haryed all Bamborowe schyre, Thow hast done me grete envye; For the trespasse thow hast me done, The tone of vs schall dye.'

13. 'Where schall I byde the?' sayd the Dowglas, 'Or where wylte thow com to me?' 'At Otterborne, in the hygh way, Ther mast thow well logeed be.

14. 'The roo full rekeles ther sche rinnes, To make the game and glee; The fawken and the fesaunt both, Amonge the holtes on hye.

15. 'Ther mast thow haue thy welth at wyll, Well looged ther mast be; Yt schall not be long or I com the tyll,' Sayd Syr Harry Perssye.

16. 'Ther schall I byde the,' sayd the Dowglas, 'By the fayth of my bodye': 'Thether schall I com,' sayd Syr Harry Perssy, 'My trowth I plyght to the.'

17. A pype of wyne he gaue them over the walles, For soth as I yow saye; Ther he mayd the Dowglasse drynke, And all hys ost that daye.

18. The Dowglas turnyd hym homewarde agayne, For soth withowghten naye; He toke his logeyng at Oterborne, Vpon a Wedynsday.

19. And ther he pyght hys standerd dowyn, Hys gettyng more and lesse, And syne he warned hys men to goo To chose ther geldynges gresse.

20. A Skottysshe knyght hoved vpon the bent, A wache I dare well saye; So was he ware on the noble Perssy In the dawnyng of the daye.

21. He prycked to hys pavyleon-dore, As faste as he myght ronne; 'Awaken, Dowglas,' cryed the knyght, 'For hys love that syttes in trone.

22. 'Awaken, Dowglas,' cryed the knyght, 'For thow maste waken wyth wynne; Yender haue I spyed the prowde Perssye, And seven stondardes wyth hym.'

23. 'Nay by my trowth,' the Dowglas sayed, 'It ys but a fayned taylle; He durst not loke on my brede banner For all Ynglonde so haylle.

24. 'Was I not yesterdaye at the Newe Castell, That stondes so fayre on Tyne? For all the men the Perssy had, He coude not garre me ones to dyne.'

25. He stepped owt at his pavelyon-dore, To loke and it were lesse: 'Araye yow, lordynges, one and all, For here begynnes no peysse.

26. 'The yerle of Mentaye, thow arte my eme, The fowarde I gyve to the: The yerlle of Huntlay, cawte and kene, He schall be wyth the.

27. 'The lorde of Bowghan, in armure bryght, On the other hand he schall be; Lord Jhonstoune and Lorde Maxwell, They to schall be with me.

28. 'Swynton, fayre fylde vpon your pryde! To batell make yow bowen Syr Davy Skotte, Syr Water Stewarde, Syr Jhon of Agurstone!'

29. The Perssy cam byfore hys oste, Wych was ever a gentyll knyght; Vpon the Dowglas lowde can he crye, 'I wyll holde that I haue hyght.

30. 'For thou haste brente Northomberlonde, And done me grete envye; For thys trespasse thou hast me done, The tone of vs schall dye.'

31. The Dowglas answerde hym agayne, Wyth grett wurdes vpon hye, And sayd, 'I have twenty agaynst thy one, Byholde, and thou maste see.'

32. Wyth that the Perssy was grevyd sore, For soth as I yow saye: He lyghted dowyn vpon his foote, And schoote hys horsse clene awaye.

33. Every man sawe that he dyd soo, That ryall was ever in rowght; Every man schoote hys horsse hym froo, And lyght hym rowynde abowght.

34. Thus Syr Hary Perssye toke the fylde, For soth as I yow saye; Jhesu Cryste in hevyn on hyght Dyd helpe hym well that daye.

35. But nyne thowzand, ther was no moo, The cronykle wyll not layne; Forty thowsande of Skottes and fowre That day fowght them agayne.

36. But when the batell byganne to joyne, In hast ther cam a knyght; The letters fayre furth hath he tayne, And thus he sayd full ryght:

37. 'My lorde your father he gretes yow well, Wyth many a noble knyght; He desyres yow to byde That he may see thys fyght.

38. 'The Baron of Grastoke ys com out of the west, With hym a noble companye; All they loge at your fathers thys nyght, And the batell fayne wolde they see.'

39. 'For Jhesus love,' sayd Syr Harye Perssy, 'That dyed for yow and me, Wende to my lorde my father agayne, And saye thow sawe me not wyth yee.

40. 'My trowth ys plyght to yonne Skottysh knyght, It nedes me not to layne, That I schalde byde hym upon thys bent, And I have hys trowth agayne.

41. 'And if that I weynde of thys growende, For soth, onfowghten awaye, He wolde me call but a kowarde knyght In hys londe another daye.

42. 'Yet had I lever to be rynde and rente, By Mary, that mykkel maye, Then ever my manhood schulde be reprovyd Wyth a Skotte another daye.

43. 'Wherefore schote, archars, for my sake, And let scharpe arowes flee: Mynstrell, playe up for your waryson, And well quyt it schall bee.

44. 'Every man thynke on hys trewe-love, And marke hym to the Trenite; For to God I make myne avowe Thys day wyll I not flee.'

45. The blodye harte in the Dowglas armes, Hys standerde stood on hye, That every man myght full well knowe; By syde stode starres thre.

46. The whyte lyon on the Ynglyssh perte, For soth as I yow sayne, The lucettes and the cressawntes both; The Skottes faught them agayne.

47. Vpon Sent Androwe lowde can they crye, And thrysse they schowte on hyght, And syne merked them one owr Ynglysshe men, As I haue tolde yow ryght.

48. Sent George the bryght, owr ladyes knyght, To name they were full fayne: Owr Ynglyssh men they cryde on hyght, And thrysse the schowtte agayne.

49. Wyth that scharpe arowes bygan to flee, I tell yow in sertayne; Men of armes byganne to joyne, Many a dowghty man was ther slayne.

50. The Perssy and the Dowglas mette, That ether of other was fayne; They swapped together whyll that the swette, Wyth swordes of fyne collayne:

51. Tyll the bloode from ther bassonnettes ranne, As the roke doth in the rayne; 'Yelde the to me,' sayd the Dowglas, 'Or elles thow schalt be slayne.

52. 'For I see by thy bryght bassonet, Thow arte sum man of myght; And so I do by thy burnysshed brande; Thow arte an yerle, or elles a knyght.'

53. 'By my good faythe,' sayd the noble Perssye, 'Now haste thou rede full ryght; Yet wyll I never yelde me to the, Whyll I may stonde and fyght.'

54. They swapped together whyll that they swette, Wyth swordes scharpe and long; Ych on other so faste thee beette, Tyll ther helmes cam in peyses dowyn.

55. The Perssy was a man of strenghth, I tell yow, in thys stounde; He smote the Dowglas at the swordes length That he fell to the growynde.

56. The sworde was scharpe, and sore can byte, I tell yow in sertayne; To the harte he cowde hym smyte, Thus was the Dowglas slayne.

57. The stonderdes stode styll on eke a syde, Wyth many a grevous grone; Ther the fowght the day, and all the nyght, And many a dowghty man was slayne.

58. Ther was no freke that ther wolde flye, But styffely in stowre can stond, Ychone hewyng on other whyll they myght drye, Wyth many a bayllefull bronde.

59. Ther was slayne vpon the Skottes syde, For soth and sertenly, Syr James a Dowglas ther was slayne, That day that he cowde dye.

60. The yerlle of Mentaye he was slayne, Grysely groned upon the growynd; Syr Davy Skotte, Syr Water Stewarde, Syr Jhon of Agurstoune.

61. Syr Charlles Morrey in that place, That never a fote wold flee; Syr Hewe Maxwell, a lord he was, Wyth the Dowglas dyd he dye.

62. Ther was slayne upon the Skottes syde, For soth as I yow saye, Of fowre and forty thowsande Scottes Went but eyghtene awaye.

63. Ther was slayne upon the Ynglysshe syde, For soth and sertenlye, A gentell knyght, Syr Jhon Fechewe, Yt was the more pety.

64. Syr James Hardbotell ther was slayne, For hym ther hartes were sore; The gentyll Lovell ther was slayne, That the Perssys standerd bore.

65. Ther was slayne upon the Ynglyssh perte, For soth as I yow saye, Of nyne thowsand Ynglyssh men Fyve hondert cam awaye.

66. The other were slayne in the fylde; Cryste kepe ther sowlles from wo! Seyng ther was so fewe fryndes Agaynst so many a foo.

67. Then on the morne they mayde them beerys Of byrch and haysell graye; Many a wydowe, wyth wepyng teyres, Ther makes they fette awaye.

68. Thys fraye bygan at Otterborne, Bytwene the nyght and the day; Ther the Dowglas lost hys lyffe, And the Perssy was lede awaye.

69. Then was ther a Scottysh prisoner tayne, Syr Hewe Mongomery was hys name; For soth as I yow saye, He borowed the Perssy home agayne.

70. Now let us all for the Perssy praye To Jhesu most of myght, To bryng hys sowlle to the blysse of heven, For he was a gentyll knyght.

[Annotations: 1.3: 'bowynd,' hied. 2.4: 'raysse,' raid. 3.: 'Hoppertope,' Ottercap (now Ottercaps) Hill, in the parish of Kirk Whelpington, Tynedale Ward, Northumberland. 'Rodclyffe crage' (now Rothby Crags), a cliff near Rodeley, south-east of Ottercap. 'Grene Lynton,' a corruption of Green Leyton, south-east of Rodely.—Percy. 5.1: 'berne,' man. 8.1: Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur), killed at Shrewsbury fifteen years after Otterburn. 8.3: 'march-man,' borderer. Percy is said to have been appointed Governor of Berwick and Warden of the Marches in 1385. 12.4: 'The tone,' one or other. 14.1: 'I have harde say that Chivet Hills stretchethe XX miles. Theare is greate plente of Redde Dere, and Roo Bukkes.' —Leland's Itinerary. 15.3: 'the tyll' = thee till, to thee. 19.1: 'pyght,' fixed. 22.2: 'wynne,' pleasure. 24.4: i.e. he could not give me my fill (of defeat). 25.2: i.e. to see if it were false. 26.1: 'eme,' uncle. 26.3: 'cawte,' wary. 29.4: 'hyght,' promised. 32.4: 'schoote,' dismissed. 33.2: i.e. who was ever royal among the rout. 35.2: 'layne,' lie; so 40.2 41.1: i.e. if I wend off this ground. 42.1: i.e. I had rather be flayed. 43.3: 'waryson,' reward. 44.2: 'marke hym,' commit himself (by signing the cross). 50.4: 'collayne,' of Cologne steel. Cp. 'myllan,' Hunting of the Cheviot, 31.4 51.2: 'roke,' reek, vapour. 55.2: 'stounde,' moment of time, hour. 58.3: 'drye' = dree, endure. 60.2: 'grysely,' frightfully, grievously. 67.4: 'makes,' mates. 69.4: 'borowed,' ransomed, set free.]


The Text is taken from Wit Restor'd, 1658, where it is called A Northern Ballet. From the same collection comes the version of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard given in First Series, p. 19. The version popularly known as Johnny Armstrong's Last Good-Night, so dear to Goldsmith, and sung by the Vicar of Wakefield, is a broadside found in most of the well-known collections.

The Story of the ballad has the authority of more than one chronicle, and is attributed to the year 1530. James V., in spite of the promise 'to doe no wrong' in his large and long letter, appears to have been incensed at the splendour of 'Jonne's' retinue. It seems curious that the outlaw should have been a Westmoreland man; but the Cronicles of Scotland say that 'from the Scots border to Newcastle of England, there was not one, of whatsoever estate, but paid to this John Armstrong a tribute, to be free of his cumber, he was so doubtit in England.' Jonne's offer in the stanza 16.3,4, may be compared to the similar feat of Sir Andrew Barton.


1. There dwelt a man in faire Westmerland, Jonne Armestrong men did him call, He had nither lands nor rents coming in, Yet he kept eight score men in his hall.

2. He had horse and harness for them all, Goodly steeds were all milke-white; O the golden bands an about their necks, And their weapons, they were all alike.

3. Newes then was brought unto the king That there was sicke a won as hee, That lived lyke a bold out-law, And robbed all the north country.

4. The king he writt an a letter then, A letter which was large and long; He signed it with his owne hand, And he promised to doe him no wrong.

5. When this letter came Jonne untill, His heart it was as blyth as birds on the tree: 'Never was I sent for before any king, My father, my grandfather, nor none but mee.

6. 'And if wee goe the king before, I would we went most orderly; Every man of you shall have his scarlet cloak, Laced with silver laces three.

7. 'Every won of you shall have his velvett coat, Laced with sillver lace so white; O the golden bands an about your necks, Black hatts, white feathers, all alyke.'

8. By the morrow morninge at ten of the clock, Towards Edenburough gon was hee, And with him all his eight score men; Good lord, it was a goodly sight for to see!

9. When Jonne came befower the king, He fell downe on his knee; 'O pardon, my soveraine leige,' he said, 'O pardon my eight score men and mee.'

10. 'Thou shalt have no pardon, thou traytor strong, For thy eight score men nor thee; For to-morrow morning by ten of the clock, Both thou and them shall hang on the gallow-tree.'

11. But Jonne looked over his left shoulder, Good Lord, what a grevious look looked hee! Saying, 'Asking grace of a graceles face— Why there is none for you nor me.'

12. But Jonne had a bright sword by his side, And it was made of the mettle so free, That had not the king stept his foot aside, He had smitten his head from his faire bodde.

13. Saying, 'Fight on, my merry men all, And see that none of you be taine; For rather than men shall say we were hange'd, Let them report how we were slaine.'

14. Then, God wott, faire Eddenburrough rose, And so besett poore Jonne rounde, That fowerscore and tenn of Jonne's best men Lay gasping all upon the ground.

15. Then like a mad man Jonne laide about, And like a mad man then fought hee, Untill a falce Scot came Jonne behinde, And runn him through the faire boddee.

16. Saying, 'Fight on, my merry men all, And see that none of you be taine; For I will stand by and bleed but awhile, And then will I come and fight againe.'

17. Newes then was brought to young Jonne Armestrong As he stood by his nurse's knee, Who vowed if ere he live'd for to be a man, O' the treacherous Scots reveng'd hee'd be.


The Text was communicated to Percy by Dr. Robertson of Edinburgh, but it did not appear in the Reliques.

In 9.1, 'Then' is doubtless an interpolation, as are the words 'Now Douglas' in 11.1 But on the whole it is the best text of the fifteen or twenty variants.

The Story.—James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott referred the ballad to two different sources, the former legendary, and the latter historical. It has always been very popular in Scotland, and besides the variants there are in existence several imitations, such as the well-known poem of William Hamilton, 'Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride.' This was printed in vol. ii. of Percy's Reliques.

About half the known variants make the hero and heroine man and wife, the other half presenting them as unmarried lovers.


1. 'I dreamed a dreary dream this night, That fills my heart wi' sorrow; I dreamed I was pouing the heather green Upon the braes of Yarrow.

2. 'O true-luve mine, stay still and dine, As ye ha' done before, O;' 'O I'll be hame by hours nine, And frae the braes of Yarrow.'

3. 'I dreamed a dreary dream this night, That fills my heart wi' sorrow; I dreamed my luve came headless hame, O frae the braes of Yarrow!

4. 'O true-luve mine, stay still and dine. As ye ha' done before, O;' 'O I'll be hame by hours nine, And frae the braes of Yarrow.'

5. 'O are ye going to hawke,' she says, 'As ye ha' done before, O? Or are ye going to wield your brand, Upon the braes of Yarrow?'

6. 'O I am not going to hawke,' he says, 'As I have done before, O, But for to meet your brother John, Upon the braes of Yarrow.'

7. As he gaed down yon dowy den, Sorrow went him before, O; Nine well-wight men lay waiting him, Upon the braes of Yarrow.

8. 'I have your sister to my wife, Ye think me an unmeet marrow! But yet one foot will I never flee Now frae the braes of Yarrow.'

9. Then four he kill'd and five did wound, That was an unmeet marrow! And he had weel nigh wan the day Upon the braes of Yarrow.

10. But a cowardly loon came him behind, Our Lady lend him sorrow! And wi' a rappier pierced his heart, And laid him low on Yarrow.

11. Now Douglas to his sister's gane, Wi' meikle dule and sorrow: 'Gae to your luve, sister,' he says, 'He's sleeping sound on Yarrow.'

12. As she went down yon dowy den, Sorrow went her before, O; She saw her true-love lying slain Upon the braes of Yarrow.

13. She swoon'd thrice upon his breist That was her dearest marrow; Said, 'Ever alace, and wae the day Thou went'st frae me to Yarrow!'

14. She kist his mouth, she kaimed his hair, As she had done before, O; She wiped the blood that trickled doun Upon the braes of Yarrow.

15. Her hair it was three quarters lang, It hang baith side and yellow; She tied it round her white hause-bane, And tint her life on Yarrow.

[Annotations: 7.1: 'dowy,' dreary. 7.3: 'well-wight,' brave, sturdy. 13.: Apparently Percy's invention. 14.3: 'wiped': Child suggests the original word was 'drank.' 15.2: 'side,' long. 15.3: 'hause-bane,' neck.]


The Text is from Sharpe's Ballad Book (1823). Scott included no version of this ballad in his Minstrelsy; but Motherwell and Jamieson both had traditional versions. Motherwell considered it essential that the deadly wound should be accidental; but it is far more typical of a ballad-hero that he should lose his temper and kill his brother; and, as Child points out, it adds to the pathetic generosity of the slain brother in providing excuses for his absence to be made to his father, mother, and sister.

The Story.—Motherwell and Sharpe were more or less convinced that the ballad was founded on an accident that happened in 1589 to a Somerville, who was killed by his brother's pistol going off.

This ballad is still in circulation in the form of a game amongst American children—the last state of more than one old ballad otherwise extinct.


1. There were twa brethren in the north, They went to the school thegither; The one unto the other said, 'Will you try a warsle afore?'

2. They warsled up, they warsled down, Till Sir John fell to the ground, And there was a knife in Sir Willie's pouch, Gied him a deadlie wound.

3. 'Oh brither dear, take me on your back, Carry me to yon burn clear, And wash the blood from off my wound, And it will bleed nae mair.'

4. He took him up upon his back, Carried him to yon burn clear, And washd the blood from off his wound, But aye it bled the mair.

5. 'Oh brither dear, take me on your back, Carry me to yon kirk-yard, And dig a grave baith wide and deep, And lay my body there.'

6. He's taen him up upon his back, Carried him to yon kirk-yard, And dug a grave baith deep and wide, And laid his body there.

7. 'But what will I say to my father dear, Gin he chance to say, Willie, whar's John?' 'Oh say that he's to England gone, To buy him a cask of wine.'

8. 'And what will I say to my mother dear, Gin she chance to say, Willie, whar's John?' 'Oh say that he's to England gone, To buy her a new silk gown.'

9. 'And what will I say to my sister dear, Gin she chance to say, Willie, whar's John?' 'Oh say that he's to England gone, To buy her a wedding ring.'

10. 'But what will I say to her you lo'e dear, Gin she cry, Why tarries my John?' 'Oh tell her I lie in Kirk-land fair, And home again will never come.'

[Annotations: 1.4: 'warsle,' wrestle.]


The Text is taken from Motherwell's MS., which contains two versions; Motherwell printed a third in his Minstrelsy,—Babylon; or, The Bonnie Banks o' Fordie. Kinloch called the ballad the Duke of Perth's Three Daughters. As the following text has no title, I have ventured to give it one. 'Outlyer' is, of course, simply 'a banished man.'

The Story is much more familiar in all the branches of the Scandinavian race than in England or Scotland. In Denmark it appears as Herr Truels' Daughters or Herr Thor's Children; in Sweden as Herr Tores' Daughters. Iceland and Faroe give the name as Torkild or Thorkell.

The incidents related in this ballad took place (i) in Scotland on the bonnie banks o' Fordie, near Dunkeld; (ii) in Sweden in five or six different places; and (iii) in eight different localities in Denmark.


1. There were three sisters, they lived in a bower, Sing Anna, sing Margaret, sing Marjorie The youngest o' them was the fairest flower. And the dew goes thro' the wood, gay ladie

2. The oldest of them she's to the wood gane, To seek a braw leaf and to bring it hame.

3. There she met with an outlyer bold, Lies many long nights in the woods so cold.

4. 'Istow a maid, or istow a wife? Wiltow twinn with thy maidenhead, or thy sweet life?'

5. 'O kind sir, if I hae't at my will, I'll twinn with my life, keep my maidenhead still.'

6. He's taen out his wee pen-knife, He's twinned this young lady of her sweet life.

7. He wiped his knife along the dew; But the more he wiped, the redder it grew.

8. The second of them she's to the wood gane, To seek her old sister, and to bring her hame.

9. There she met with an outlyer bold, Lies many long nights in the woods so cold.

10. 'Istow a maid, or istow a wife? Wiltow twinn with thy maidenhead, or thy sweet life?'

11. 'O kind sir, if I hae't at my will, I'll twinn with my life, keep my maidenhead still.'

12. He's taen out his wee pen-knife, He's twinned this young lady of her sweet life.

13. He wiped his knife along the dew; But the more he wiped, the redder it grew.

14. The youngest o' them she's to the wood gane, To seek her two sisters, and to bring them hame.

15. There she met with an outlyer bold, Lies many long nights in the woods so cold.

16. 'Istow a maid, or istow a wife? Wiltow twinn with thy maidenhead, or thy sweet life?'

17. 'If my three brethren they were here, Such questions as these thou durst nae speer.'

18. 'Pray, what may thy three brethren be, That I durst na mak' so bold with thee?'

19. 'The eldest o' them is a minister bred, He teaches the people from evil to good.

20. 'The second o' them is a ploughman good, He ploughs the land for his livelihood.

21. 'The youngest of them is an outlyer bold, Lies many a long night in the woods so cold.'

22. He stuck his knife then into the ground, He took a long race, let himself fall on.

[Annotations: 4.1: 'Istow,' art thou. 4.2: 'twinn with,' part with. 17.2: 'speer,' ask.]


The Text given here is from Sharpe's Ballad Book (1824). Professor Child collected and printed some twenty-eight variants and fragments, of which none is entirely satisfactory, as regards the telling of the story. The present text will suit our purpose as well as any other, and it ends impressively with the famous pathetic verse of the four Maries.

The Story.—Lesley in his History of Scotland (1830) says that when Mary Stuart was sent to France in 1548, she had in attendance 'sundry gentlewomen and noblemen's sons and daughters, almost of her own age, of the which there were four in special of whom everyone of them bore the same name of Mary, being of four sundry honourable houses, to wit, Fleming, Livingston, Seton, and Beaton of Creich.' The four Maries were still with the Queen in 1564. Hamilton and Carmichael appear in the ballad in place of Fleming and Livingston.

Scott attributed the origin of the ballad to an incident related by Knox in his History of the Reformation: in 1563 or 1564 a Frenchwoman was seduced by the Queen's apothecary, and the babe murdered by consent of father and mother. But the cries of a new-born babe had been heard; search was made, and both parents were 'damned to be hanged upon the public street of Edinburgh.'

In 1824, in his preface to the Ballad Book, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe produced a similar story from the Russian court. In 1885 this story was retold from authentic sources as follows. After the marriage of one of the ministers of Peter the Great's father with a Hamilton, the Scottish family ranked with the Russian aristocracy. The Czar Peter required that all his Empress Catharine's maids-of-honour should be remarkably handsome; and Mary Hamilton, a niece, it is supposed, of the above minister's wife, was appointed on account of her beauty. This Mary Hamilton had an amour with one Orlof, an aide-de-camp to the Czar; a murdered babe was found, the guilt traced to Mary, and she and Orlof sent to prison in April 1718. Orlof was afterwards released; Mary Hamilton was executed on March 14, 1719.

Professor Child, in printing this ballad in 1889, considered the details of the Russian story[1] (most of which I have omitted) to be so closely parallel to the Scottish ballad, that he was convinced that the later story was the origin of the ballad, and that the ballad-maker had located it in Mary Stuart's court on his own responsibility. In September 1895 Mr. Andrew Lang contributed the results of his researches concerning the ballad to Blackwood's Magazine, maintaining that the ballad must have arisen from the 1563 story, as it is too old and too good to have been written since 1718. Balancing this improbability—that the details of a Russian court scandal of 1718 should exactly correspond to a previously extant Scottish ballad—against the improbability of the eighteenth century producing such a ballad, Child afterwards concluded the latter to be the greater. The coincidence is undoubtedly striking; but neither the story nor the name are uncommon.

[Footnote 1: See Waliszewski's Peter the Great (translated by Lady Mary Loyd), vol. i. p. 251. London, 1897.]

It is, of course, possible that the story is older than 1563—it should not be difficult to find more than one instance—and that it was first adapted to the 1563 incident and afterwards to the Russian scandal, the two versions being subsequently confused. But there is no evidence for this.


1. Word's gane to the kitchen, And word's gane to the ha', That Marie Hamilton gangs wi' bairn To the hichest Stewart of a'.

2. He's courted her in the kitchen, He's courted her in the ha', He's courted her in the laigh cellar, And that was warst of a'.

3. She's tyed it in her apron And she's thrown it in the sea; Says, 'Sink ye, swim ye, bonny wee babe, You'll ne'er get mair o' me.'

4. Down then cam the auld queen, Goud tassels tying her hair: 'O Marie, where's the bonny wee babe That I heard greet sae sair?'

5. 'There was never a babe intill my room, As little designs to be; It was but a touch o' my sair side, Come o'er my fair bodie.'

6. 'O Marie, put on your robes o' black, Or else your robes o' brown, For ye maun gang wi' me the night, To see fair Edinbro' town.'

7. 'I winna put on my robes o' black, Nor yet my robes o' brown; But I'll put on my robes o' white, To shine through Edinbro' town.'

8. When she gaed up the Cannogate, She laugh'd loud laughters three; But whan she cam down the Cannogate The tear blinded her ee.

9. When she gaed up the Parliament stair, The heel cam aff her shee; And lang or she cam down again She was condemn'd to dee.

10. When she cam down the Cannogate, The Cannogate sae free, Many a ladie look'd o'er her window, Weeping for this ladie.

11. 'Ye need nae weep for me,' she says, 'Ye need nae weep for me; For had I not slain mine own sweet babe, This death I wadna dee.

12. 'Bring me a bottle of wine,' she says, 'The best that e'er ye hae, That I may drink to my weil-wishers, And they may drink to me.

13. 'Here's a health to the jolly sailors, That sail upon the main; Let them never let on to my father and mother But what I'm coming hame.

14. 'Here's a health to the jolly sailors, That sail upon the sea; Let them never let on to my father and mother That I cam here to dee.

15. 'Oh little did my mother think, The day she cradled me, What lands I was to travel through, What death I was to dee.

16. 'Oh little did my father think, The day he held up me, What lands I was to travel through, What death I was to dee.

17. 'Last night I wash'd the queen's feet, And gently laid her down; And a' the thanks I've gotten the nicht To be hang'd in Edinbro' town!

18. 'Last nicht there was four Maries, The nicht there'll be but three; There was Marie Seton, and Marie Beton, And Marie Carmichael, and me.'


The Text.—There is only one text of this ballad, and that was printed by Scott in the Minstrelsy from 'tradition in the West Borders'; he adds that 'some conjectural emendations have been absolutely necessary,' a remark suspicious in itself; and such modernities as the double rhymes in 26.3, 28.3, etc., do not restore confidence.

The Story.—The forcible entry into Carlisle Castle and the rescue of William Armstrong, called Will of Kinmouth, took place on April 13, 1596; but Kinmont Willie was notorious as a border thief at least as early as 1584.

The events leading up to the beginning of the ballad were as follow: 'The keen Lord Scroop' was Warden of the West-Marches of England, and 'the bauld Buccleuch' (Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm, or 'Branksome Ha',' 8.2) was the Keeper of Liddesdale. To keep a periodical day of truce, these two sent their respective deputies, the 'fause Sakelde' (or Salkeld) and a certain Robert Scott. In the latter's company was Kinmont Willie. Business being concluded, Kinmont Willie took his leave, and made his way along the Scottish side of the Liddel river, which at that point is the boundary between England and Scotland. The English deputy and his party spied him from their side of the stream; and bearing an ancient grudge against him as a notorious cattle-lifter and thief, they pursued and captured him, and he was placed in the castle of Carlisle.

This brings us to the ballad. 'Hairibee' (1.4) is the place of execution at Carlisle. The 'Liddel-rack' in 3.4 is a ford over the Liddel river. Branxholm, the Keeper's Hall (8.2) and Stobs (16.4) are both within a few miles of Hawick.

The remark in 16.2 appears to be untrue: the party that accompanied Buccleuch certainly contained several Armstrongs, including four sons of Kinmont Willie, and 'Dickie of Dryhope' (24.3) was also of that ilk; as well as two Elliots, though not Sir Gilbert, and four Bells. 'Red Rowan' was probably a Forster.

The tune blown on the Warden's trumpets (31.3,4) is said to be a favourite song in Liddesdale. See Chambers's Book of Days, i. 200.


1. O have ye na heard o' the fause Sakelde? O have ye na heard o' the keen Lord Scroop? How they hae taen bauld Kinmont Willie, On Hairibee to hang him up?

2. Had Willie had but twenty men, But twenty men as stout as he, Fause Sakelde had never the Kinmont taen, Wi' eight score in his companie.

3. They band his legs beneath the steed, They tied his hands behind his back; They guarded him, fivesome on each side, And they brought him ower the Liddel-rack.

4. They led him thro' the Liddel-rack, And also thro' the Carlisle sands; They brought him to Carlisle castell, To be at my Lord Scroop's commands.

5. 'My hands are tied, but my tongue is free, And whae will dare this deed avow? Or answer by the Border law? Or answer to the bauld Buccleuch!'

6. 'Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver! There's never a Scot shall set ye free; Before ye cross my castle-yate, I trow ye shall take farewell o' me.'

7. 'Fear na ye that, my lord,' quo' Willie; 'By the faith o' my body, Lord Scroop,' he said, 'I never yet lodged in a hostelrie, But I paid my lawing before I gaed.'

8. Now word is gane to the bauld Keeper, In Branksome Ha' where that he lay, That Lord Scroop has taen the Kinmont Willie, Between the hours of night and day.

9. He has taen the table wi' his hand, He garr'd the red wine spring on hie; 'Now Christ's curse on my head,' he said, 'But avenged of Lord Scroop I'll be!

10. 'O is my basnet a widow's curch, Or my lance a wand of the willow-tree, Or my arm a ladye's lilye hand, That an English lord should lightly me?

11. 'And have they taen him, Kinmont Willie, Against the truce of Border tide, And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch Is keeper here on the Scottish side?

12. 'And have they e'en taen him, Kinmont Willie, Withouten either dread or fear, And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch Can back a steed, or shake a spear?

13. 'O were there war between the lands, As well I wot that there is none, I would slight Carlisle castell high, Tho' it were builded of marble stone.

14. 'I would set that castell in a low, And sloken it with English blood; There's nevir a man in Cumberland Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.

15. 'But since nae war's between the lands, And there is peace, and peace should be, I'll neither harm English lad or lass, And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!'

16. He has call'd him forty marchmen bauld, I trow they were of his ain name, Except Sir Gilbert Elliot, call'd The Laird of Stobs, I mean the same.

17. He has call'd him forty marchmen bauld, Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch, With spur on heel, and splent on spauld, And gleuves of green, and feathers blue.

18. They were five and five before them a', Wi' hunting-horns and bugles bright; And five and five came wi' Buccleuch, Like Warden's men, arrayed for fight.

19. And five and five like a mason-gang, That carried the ladders lang and hie; And five and five like broken men; And so they reached the Woodhouselee.

20. And as we cross'd the Bateable Land, When to the English side we held, The first o' men that we met wi', Whae should it be but fause Sakelde!

21. 'Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?' Quo' fause Sakelde; 'come tell to me!' 'We go to hunt an English stag, Has trespass'd on the Scots countrie.'

22. 'Where be ye gaun, ye marshal-men?' Quo' fause Sakelde; 'come tell me true!' 'We go to catch a rank reiver, Has broken faith wi' the bauld Buccleuch.

23. 'Where are ye gaun, ye mason-lads, Wi' a' your ladders lang and hie?' 'We gang to herry a corbie's nest, That wons not far frae Woodhouselee.'

24. 'Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?' Quo' fause Sakelde; 'come tell to me!' Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band, And the nevir a word o' lear had he.

25. 'Why trespass ye on the English side? Row-footed outlaws, stand!' quo' he; The neer a word had Dickie to say, Sae he thrust the lance thro' his fause bodie.

26. Then on we held for Carlisle toun, And at Staneshaw-bank the Eden we cross'd; The water was great, and meikle of spait, But the nevir a horse nor man we lost.

27. And when we reach'd the Staneshaw-bank, The wind was rising loud and hie; And there the laird garr'd leave our steeds, For fear that they should stamp and nie.

28. And when we left the Staneshaw-bank, The wind began full loud to blaw; But 'twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet, When we came beneath the castel-wa'.

29. We crept on knees, and held our breath, Till we placed the ladders against the wa'; And sae ready was Buccleuch himsell To mount the first before us a'.

30. He has taen the watchman by the throat, He flung him down upon the lead: 'Had there not been peace between our lands, Upon the other side thou hadst gaed.

31. 'Now sound out, trumpets!' quo' Buccleuch; 'Let's waken Lord Scroop right merrilie!' Then loud the Warden's trumpets blew 'Oh whae dare meddle wi' me?'

32. Then speedilie to wark we gaed, And raised the slogan ane and a', And cut a hole thro' a sheet of lead, And so we wan to the castel-ha'.

33. They thought King James and a' his men Had won the house wi' bow and spear; It was but twenty Scots and ten, That put a thousand in sic a stear!

34. Wi' coulters and wi' forehammers, We garr'd the bars bang merrilie, Untill we came to the inner prison, Where Willie o' Kinmont he did lie.

35. And when we cam to the lower prison, Where Willie o' Kinmont he did lie: 'O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie, Upon the morn that thou's to die?'

36. 'O I sleep saft, and I wake aft, It's lang since sleeping was fleyed frae me; Gie my service back to my wyfe and bairns, And a' gude fellows that speer for me.'

37. Then Red Rowan has hente him up, The starkest man in Teviotdale: 'Abide, abide now, Red Rowan, Till of my Lord Scroop I take farewell.

38. 'Farewell, farewell, my gude Lord Scroop! My gude Lord Scroop, farewell!' he cried; 'I'll pay you for my lodging-maill When first we meet on the border-side.'

39. Then shoulder high, with shout and cry, We bore him down the ladder lang; At every stride Red Rowan made, I wot the Kinmont's airns play'd clang.

40. 'O mony a time,' quo' Kinmont Willie, 'I have ridden horse baith wild and wood; But a rougher beast than Red Rowan I ween my legs have ne'er bestrode.

41. 'And mony a time,' quo' Kinmont Willie, 'I've pricked a horse out oure the furs; But since the day I backed a steed, I never wore sic cumbrous spurs.'

42. We scarce had won the Staneshaw-bank, When a' the Carlisle bells were rung, And a thousand men, in horse and foot, Cam' wi' the keen Lord Scroop along.

43. Buccleuch has turned to Eden Water, Even where it flow'd frae bank to brim, And he has plunged in wi' a' his band, And safely swam them thro' the stream.

44. He turned him on the other side, And at Lord Scroop his glove flung he: 'If ye like na my visit in merry England, In fair Scotland come visit me!'

45. All sore astonished stood Lord Scroop, He stood as still as rock of stane; He scarcely dared to trew his eyes, When thro' the water they had gane.

46. 'He is either himsell a devil frae hell, Or else his mother a witch maun be; I wad na have ridden that wan water For a' the gowd in Christentie.'

[Annotations: 6.1: 'haud,' hold: 'reiver,' robber. 7.4: 'lawing,' reckoning. 10.1: 'basnet,' helmet: 'curch,' kerchief. 10.4: 'lightly,' insult. 13.3: 'slight,' destroy. 14.1: 'low,' fire. 17.3: 'splent on spauld,' plate-armour on their shoulders. 19.3: 'broken men,' outlaws. 24.4: 'lear,' information. 25.2: 'Row,' rough. 26.3: 'spait,' flood. 33.4: 'stear,' stir, disturbance. 34.1: 'forehammers,' sledge-hammers. 38.3: 'maill,' rent. 45.3: 'trew,' believe.]


The Text is that of Scott's Minstrelsy, which was repeated in Motherwell's collection, with the insertion of one stanza, obtained from tradition, between Scott's 2 and 3.

The Story as told in this variant of the ballad is remarkably true to the historical facts.

The Laird was John Wemyss, younger of Logie, a gentleman-in-waiting to King James VI. of Scotland, and an adherent of the notorious Francis Stuart, Earl of Bothwell. After the failure of the two rash attempts of Bothwell upon the King's person—the former at Holyrood House in 1591 and the second at Falkland in 1592—the Earl persuaded the Laird of Logie and the Laird of Burleigh to join him in a third attempt, which was fixed for the 7th or 9th of August 1592; but the King got wind of the affair, and the two Lairds were seized by the Duke of Lennox and 'committed to ward within Dalkeith.'

The heroine of the ballad was a Danish maid-of-honour to James's Queen; her name is variously recorded as Margaret Vinstar, Weiksterne, Twynstoun, or Twinslace. 'Carmichael' was Sir John Carmichael, appointed captain of the King's guard in 1588.

The ballad stops short at the escape of the lovers by ship. But history relates that the young couple were befriended by the Queen, who refused to comply with the King's demand that May Margaret should be dismissed. Eventually both were received into favour again, though the Laird of Logie was constantly in political trouble. He died in 1599. (See a paper by A. Francis Steuart in The Scots Magazine for October 1899, p. 387.)


1. I will sing, if ye will hearken, If ye will hearken unto me; The king has ta'en a poor prisoner, The wanton laird o' young Logie.

2. Young Logie's laid in Edinburgh chapel, Carmichael's the keeper o' the key; And May Margaret's lamenting sair, A' for the love of Young Logie.

3. 'Lament, lament na, May Margaret, And of your weeping let me be, For ye maun to the king himsell, To seek the life of Young Logie.'

4. May Margaret has kilted her green cleiding, And she has curl'd back her yellow hair; 'If I canna get Young Logie's life, Farewell to Scotland for evermair!'

5. When she came before the king, She knelit lowly on her knee; 'O what's the matter, May Margaret? And what needs a' this courtesie?'

6. 'A boon, a boon, my noble liege, A boon, a boon, I beg o' thee! And the first boon that I come to crave, Is to grant me the life o' Young Logie.'

7. 'O na, O na, May Margaret, Forsooth, and so it mauna be; For a' the gowd o' fair Scotland Shall not save the life o' Young Logie.'

8. But she has stown the king's redding-kaim, Likewise the queen her wedding knife; And sent the tokens to Carmichael, To cause Young Logie get his life.

9. She sent him a purse o' the red gowd, Another o' the white monie; She sent him a pistol for each hand, And bade him shoot when he gat free.

10. When he came to the Tolbooth stair, There he let his volley flee; It made the king in his chamber start, E'en in the bed where he might be.

11. 'Gae out, gae out, my merrymen a', And bid Carmichael come speak to me, For I'll lay my life the pledge o' that, That yon's the shot o' Young Logie.'

12. When Carmichael came before the king, He fell low down upon his knee; The very first word that the king spake, Was 'Where's the laird of Young Logie?'

13. Carmichael turn'd him round about, I wat the tear blinded his eye; 'There came a token frae your grace, Has ta'en away the laird frae me.'

14. 'Hast thou play'd me that, Carmichael? And hast thou play'd me that?' quoth he; 'The morn the Justice Court's to stand, And Logie's place ye maun supplie.'

15. Carmichael's awa to Margaret's bower, Even as fast as he may dree; 'O if Young Logie be within, Tell him to come and speak with me.'

16. May Margaret turn'd her round about, I wat a loud laugh laughed she; 'The egg is chipp'd, the bird is flown, Ye'll see nae mair of Young Logie.'

17. The tane is shipped at the pier of Leith, The tother at the Queen's Ferrie; And she's gotten a father to her bairn, The wanton laird of Young Logie.

[Annotations: 8.1: 'redding-kaim,' dressing-comb.]


The Text is from a Cottonian MS. of the sixteenth century in the British Museum (Vesp. A. xxv. fol. 178). It is carelessly written, and words are here and there deleted and altered. I have allowed myself the liberty of choosing readings from several alternatives or possibilities.

The Story.—There seems to be no doubt that this ballad is founded upon an historical incident of 1571. The Scottish variants are mostly called Edom o' Gordon, i.e. Adam Gordon, who was brother to George Gordon, Earl of Huntly. Adam was a bold soldier; and, his clan being at variance with the Forbeses—on religious grounds,—he encountered them twice in the autumn of 1571, and inflicted severe defeat on them at the battles of Tuiliangus and Crabstane. In November he approached the castle of Towie, a stronghold of the Forbes clan; but the lady occupying it obstinately refused to yield it up, and it was burnt to the ground.

It is not clear whether the responsibility of giving the order to fire the castle attaches to Adam Gordon or to Captain Car or Ker, who was Adam's right-hand man. But when all is said on either side, it is irrational, as Child points out, to apply modern standards of morality or expediency to sixteenth-century warfare. It is curious that this text, almost contemporary with the occurrence which gave rise to the ballad, should be wholly concerned with Captain Car and make no mention of Adam Gordon.

For the burden, see Chappell Popular Music of the Olden Time, i. 226.


1. It befell at Martynmas, When wether waxed colde, Captaine Care said to his men, 'We must go take a holde.'

Syck, sicke, and to-towe sike, And sicke and like to die; The sikest nighte that ever I abode, God lord have mercy on me!

2. 'Haille, master, and wether you will, And wether ye like it best;' 'To the castle of Crecrynbroghe, And there we will take our reste.'

3. 'I knowe wher is a gay castle, Is builded of lyme and stone; Within their is a gay ladie, Her lord is riden and gone.'

4. The ladie she lend on her castle-walle, She loked upp and downe; There was she ware of an host of men, Come riding to the towne.

5. 'Se yow, my meri men all, And se yow what I see? Yonder I see an host of men, I muse who they bee.'

6. She thought he had ben her wed lord, As he com'd riding home; Then was it traitur Captaine Care The lord of Ester-towne.

7. They wer no soner at supper sett, Then after said the grace, Or Captaine Care and all his men Wer lighte aboute the place.

8. 'Gyve over thi howsse, thou lady gay, And I will make the a bande; To-nighte thou shall ly within my armes, To-morrowe thou shall ere my lande.'

9. Then bespacke the eldest sonne, That was both whitt and redde: 'O mother dere, geve over your howsse, Or elles we shalbe deade.'

10. 'I will not geve over my hous,' she saithe, 'Not for feare of my lyffe; It shalbe talked throughout the land, The slaughter of a wyffe.'

11. 'Fetch me my pestilett, And charge me my gonne, That I may shott at yonder bloddy butcher, The lord of Easter-towne.'

12. Styfly upon her wall she stode, And lett the pellettes flee; But then she myst the blody bucher, And she slew other three.

13. ['I will] not geve over my hous,' she saithe, 'Netheir for lord nor lowne; Nor yet for traitour Captain Care, The lord of Easter-towne.

14. 'I desire of Captine Care And all his bloddye band, That he would save my eldest sonne, The eare of all my lande.'

15. 'Lap him in a shete,' he sayth, 'And let him downe to me, And I shall take him in my armes, His waran shall I be.'

16. The captayne sayd unto him selfe: Wyth sped, before the rest, He cut his tonge out of his head, His hart out of his breast.

17. He lapt them in a handkerchef, And knet it of knotes three, And cast them over the castell-wall, At that gay ladye.

18. 'Fye upon the, Captayne Care, And all thy bloddy band! For thou hast slayne my eldest sonne, The ayre of all my land.'

19. Then bespake the yongest sonne, That sat on the nurse's knee, Sayth, 'Mother gay, geve over your house; It smoldereth me.'

20. 'I wold geve my gold,' she saith, 'And so I wolde my ffee, For a blaste of the westryn wind, To dryve the smoke from thee.

21. 'Fy upon the, John Hamleton, That ever I paid the hyre! For thou hast broken my castle-wall, And kyndled in the ffyre.'

22. The lady gate to her close parler, The fire fell aboute her head; She toke up her children thre, Seth, 'Babes, we are all dead.'

23. Then bespake the hye steward, That is of hye degree; Saith, 'Ladie gay, you are in close, Wether ye fighte or flee.'

24. Lord Hamleton drem'd in his dream, In Carvall where he laye, His halle were all of fyre, His ladie slayne or daye.

25. 'Busk and bowne, my mery men all, Even and go ye with me; For I drem'd that my hall was on fyre, My lady slayne or day.'

26. He buskt him and bown'd hym, And like a worthi knighte; And when he saw his hall burning, His harte was no dele lighte.

27. He sett a trumpett till his mouth, He blew as it ples'd his grace; Twenty score of Hamlentons Was light aboute the place.

28. 'Had I knowne as much yesternighte As I do to-daye, Captaine Care and all his men Should not have gone so quite.

29. 'Fye upon the, Captaine Care, And all thy blody bande! Thou haste slayne my lady gay, More wurth then all thy lande.

30. 'If thou had ought eny ill will,' he saith, 'Thou shoulde have taken my lyffe, And have saved my children thre, All and my lovesome wyffe.'

[Annotations: Burden.1: 'to-towe' = too-too. 8.2: 'bande,' bond, compact. 8.4: 'ere,' plough. 11.1: 'pestilett,' pistolet. 14.4: 'eare,' and 18.4 'ayre,' both = heir. 25.1: 'Busk and bowne,' make ready. 26.4:'no dele,' in no way. Cf. somedele, etc. 28.4: 'quite,' acquitted, unpunished. 30.1: 'ought,' owed.]


The Text is taken from Percy's Reliques (1765), vol. i. p. 71, 'given from two MS. copies, transmitted from Scotland.' Herd had a very similar ballad, which substitutes a Sir Andrew Wood for the hero. The version of this ballad printed in most collections is that of Scott's Minstrelsy, Sir Patrick Spens being the spelling adopted.[1] Scott compounded his ballad of two manuscript copies and a few verses from recitation, but the result is of unnecessary length.

[Footnote 1: Coleridge, however, wrote of the 'grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence.']

The Story.—Much labour has been expended upon the question whether this ballad has an historical basis or not. From Percy's ballad—the present text—we can gather that Sir Patrick Spence was chosen by the king to convey something of value to a certain destination; and later versions tell us that the ship is bound for Norway, the object of the voyage being either to bring home the king of Norway's daughter, or the Scottish king's daughter, or to take out the Scottish king's daughter to be queen in Norway. The last variation can be supported by history, Margaret, daughter of Alexander III. of Scotland, being married in 1281 to Erik, king of Norway. Many of the knights and nobles who accompanied her to Norway were drowned on the voyage home.

However, we need not elaborate our researches in the attempt to prove that the ballad is historical. It is certainly of English and Scottish origin, and has no parallels in the ballads of other lands. 'Haf owre to Aberdour,' i.e. halfway between Aberdour in Buchan and the coast of Norway, lies the island of Papa Stronsay, on which there is a tumulus called 'the Earl's Knowe' (knoll); but the tradition, that this marks the grave of Sir Patrick Spence, is in all probability a modern invention.


1. The king sits in Dumferling toune, Drinking the blude-reid wine: 'O whar will I get [a] guid sailor, To sail this schip of mine?'

2. Up and spak an eldern knicht, Sat at the king's richt kne: 'Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor That sails upon the se.'

3. The king has written a braid letter, And sign'd it wi' his hand, And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence, Was walking on the sand.

4. The first line that Sir Patrick red, A loud lauch lauched he; The next line that Sir Patrick red, The teir blinded his ee.

5. 'O wha is this has done this deid, This ill deid don to me, To send me out this time o' the yeir, To sail upon the se!

6. 'Mak haste, mak haste, my mirry men all, Our guid schip sails the morne:' 'O say na sae, my master deir, Fir I feir a deadlie storme.

7. 'Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone Wi' the auld moone in hir arme, And I feir, I feir, my deir master, That we will cum to harme.'

8. O our Scots nobles wer richt laith To weet their cork-heil'd schoone; Bot lang owre a' the play wer play'd, Thair hats they swam aboone.

9. O lang, lang may their ladies sit Wi' thair fans into their hand Or eir they se Sir Patrick Spence Cum sailing to the land.

10. O lang, lang may the ladies stand, Wi' thair gold kerns in their hair, Waiting for thair ain deir lords, For they'll se thame na mair.

11. Haf owre, haf owre to Aberdour, It's fiftie fadom deip, And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence, Wi' the Scots lords at his feit.

[Annotations: 1.1: 'Dumferling,' i.e. Dunfermline, on the north side of the Firth of Forth.]


The Text is from Thomas Deloney's Pleasant History of John Winchcomb,[1] the eighth edition of which, in 1619, is the earliest known. 'In disgrace of the Soots,' says Deloney, 'and in remembrance of the famous atchieved historie, the commons of England made this song, which to this day is not forgotten of many.' I suspect it was Deloney himself rather than the commons of England who made this song. A variant is found in Additional MS. 32,380 in the British Museum—a statement which might be of interest if it were not qualified by the addition 'formerly in the possession of J. Payne Collier.' That egregious antiquary took the pains to fill the blank leaves of a sixteenth-century manuscript with ballads either copied from their original sources, as this from Deloney, or forged by Collier himself; he then made a transcript in his own handwriting (Add. MS. 32,381), and finally printed selections. In the present ballad he has inserted two or three verses of his own; otherwise the changes from Deloney's ballad are slight.

[Footnote 1: Reprinted from the ninth edition of 1633 by J. O. Halliwell [-Phillipps], 1859, where the ballad appears on pp. 48-9. Deloney's book was licensed in 1597.]

A very long ballad on the same subject is in the Percy Folio, and similar copies in Harleian MSS. 293 and 367. Another is 'Scotish Field,' also in the Percy Folio.

The Story.—Lesley says in his History, 'This battle was called the Field of Flodden by the Scotsmen and Brankston [Bramstone, 8.3] by the Englishmen, because it was stricken on the hills of Flodden beside a town called Brankston; and was stricken the ninth day of September, 1513.'

The ballad follows history closely. 'Lord Thomas Howard' (6.1), uncle to the queen, escorted her to Scotland in 1503: 'This is ground enough,' says Child, 'for the ballad's making him her chamberlain ten years later.'

'Jack with a feather' (12.1) is a contemptuous phrase directed at King James's rashness.


1. King Jamie hath made a vow, Keep it well if he may! That he will be at lovely London Upon Saint James his day.

2. 'Upon Saint James his day at noon, At fair London will I be, And all the lords in merry Scotland, They shall dine there with me.'

3. Then bespake good Queen Margaret, The tears fell from her eye: 'Leave off these wars, most noble king, Keep your fidelity.

4. 'The water runs swift and wondrous deep, From bottom unto the brim; My brother Henry hath men good enough; England is hard to win.'

5. 'Away,' quoth he, 'with this silly fool! In prison fast let her lie: For she is come of the English blood, And for those words she shall die.'

6. With that bespake Lord Thomas Howard, The queen's chamberlain that day: 'If that you put Queen Margaret to death, Scotland shall rue it alway.'

7. Then in a rage King James did say, 'Away with this foolish mome! He shall be hanged, and the other be burned, So soon as I come home.'

8. At Flodden Field the Scots came in, Which made our English men fain; At Bramstone Green this battle was seen, There was King Jamie slain.

9. Then presently the Scots did fly, Their cannons they left behind; Their ensigns gay were won all away, Our soldiers did beat them blind.

10. To tell you plain, twelve thousand were slain That to the fight did stand, And many prisoners took that day, The best in all Scotland.

11. That day made many [a] fatherless child, And many a widow poor, And many a Scottish gay lady Sat weeping in her bower.

12. Jack with a feather was lapt all in leather, His boastings were all in vain; He had such a chance, with a new morrice dance, He never went home again.

[Annotations: 7.2: 'Mome,' dolt.]


The Text is a combination of three, but mainly from a text which seems to have been sent to Percy in 1775. The other two are from Scottish tradition of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I have made a few changes in spelling only. The ballad was certainly known before the end of the sixteenth century, as Thomas Nashe refers to it in 1596:—'Dick of the Cow, that mad Demilance Northren Borderer, who plaid his prizes with the Lord Iockey so brauely' (Nashe 's Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow, iii. p. 5). Dick at the Caw occurs in a list of 'penny merriments' printed for, and sold by, Philip Brooksby, about 1685.

The Story is yet another of the Border ballads of the Armstrongs and Liddesdale, and tells itself in an admirable way.

The 'Cow,' of course, cannot refer to cattle, as the word would be 'Kye': possibly it means 'broom,' or the hut in which he lived. See Murray's Dictionary, and cp. 9.3

'Billie' means 'brother'; hence the quaint 'billie Willie.' It is the same word as 'bully,' used of Bottom the Weaver, which also occurs in the ballad of Bewick and Grahame, 5.2 (see p. 102 of this volume).


1. Now Liddisdale has long lain in, Fa la There is no rideing there at a'; Fa la Their horse is growing so lidder and fatt That are lazie in the sta'. Fa la la didle

2. Then Johne Armstrang to Willie can say, 'Billie, a rideing then will we; England and us has been long at a feed; Perhaps we may hitt of some bootie.

3. Then they're com'd on to Hutton Hall, They rade that proper place about; But the laird he was the wiser man, For he had left nae gear without.

4. Then he had left nae gear to steal, Except six sheep upon a lee; Says Johnie, 'I'de rather in England die, Before their six sheep goed to Liddisdale with me.

5. 'But how cal'd they the man we last with mett, Billie, as we came over the know?' 'That same he is an innocent fool, And some men calls him Dick o' the Cow.'

6. 'That fool has three as good kyne of his own As is in a' Cumberland, billie,' quoth he; 'Betide my life, betide my death, These three kyne shal go to Liddisdaile with me.'

7. Then they're com'd on to the poor fool's house, And they have broken his wals so wide; They have loos'd out Dick o' the Cow's kyne three, And tane three co'erlets off his wife's bed.

8. Then on the morn, when the day grew light, The shouts and crys rose loud and high; 'Hold thy tongue, my wife,' he says, 'And of thy crying let me bee.

9. 'Hald thy tongue, my wife,' he says, 'And of thy crying let me bee, And ay that where thou wants a kow, Good sooth that I shal bring thee three.'

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