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The Return of the Dead - and Other Ballads
by Thomas J. Wise
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Transcribed from the 1913 Thomas J. Wise pamphlet by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org. Many thanks to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, UK, for kindly supplying the images from which this transcription was made.



THE RETURN OF THE DEAD AND OTHER BALLADS

BY GEORGE BORROW

LONDON: PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION 1913



THE RETURN OF THE DEAD

Swayne Dyring o'er to the island strayed; And were I only young again! He wedded there a lovely maid— To honied words we list so fain.

Together they lived seven years and more; And were I only young again! And seven fair babes to him she bore— To honied words we list so fain.

Then death arrived in luckless hour; And were I only young again! Then died the lovely lily flower— To honied words we list so fain.

The Swayne he has crossed the salt sea way, And were I only young again! And he has wedded another may— To honied words we list so fain.

And he that may to his home has brought; And were I only young again! But peevish was she, and with malice fraught— To honied words we list so fain.

And when she came to the castle gate, And were I only young again! The seven children beside it wait— To honied words we list so fain.

The children stood in sorrowful mood, And were I only young again! She spurned them away with her foot so rude— To honied words we list so fain.

Nor bread nor meat will she bestow; And were I only young again! Said "Hate ye shall have and the hunger throe"— To honied words we list so fain.

She took away the bolsters blue; And were I only young again! "Bare straw will serve for the like of you"— To honied words we list so fain.

Away she's ta'en the big wax light; And were I only young again! Said she "Ye shall lie in the murky night"— To honied words we list so fain.

The babies at night with hunger weep; And were I only young again! The woman heard that in the grave so deep— To honied words we list so fain.

To God's high throne such haste she made; And were I only young again! "O I must go to my babies' aid"— To honied words we list so fain.

She begged so loud, and she begged so long, And were I only young again! That at length consent from her God she wrung— To honied words we list so fain.

"But thou must return when the cock shall crow, And were I only young again! "No longer tarry must thou below"— To honied words we list so fain.

Then up she struck with her stark thigh bone, And were I only young again! And burst through wall and marble stone— To honied words we list so fain.

And when to the dwelling she drew nigh, And were I only young again! The hounds they yelled to the clouds so high— To honied words we list so fain.

And when to the castle gate she won, And were I only young again! Her eldest daughter stood there alone— To honied words we list so fain.

"Hail daughter mine, what dost thou here? And were I only young again! How fare thy brothers and sisters dear?"— To honied words we list so fain.

"O dame thou art no mother of mine, And were I only young again! For she was a lady fair and fine— To honied words we list so fain.

"A lady fine with cheeks so red, And were I only young again! But thou art pale as the sheeted dead"— To honied words we list so fain.

"O how should I be fine and sleek? And were I only young again! How else than pale should be my cheek?— To honied words we list so fain.

"And how should I be white and red? And were I only young again! Beneath the mould I've long been dead"— To honied words we list so fain.

And when she entered the high, high hall, And were I only young again! Drowned with tears stood the babies all— To honied words we list so fain.

The one she combed, the other she brushed, And were I only young again! The third she dandled, the fourth she hushed— To honied words we list so fain.

The fifth upon her breast she plac'd, And were I only young again! And allowed the babe of the breast to taste— To honied words we list so fain.

To her eldest daughter she turned her eye; And were I only young again! "Go call Swayne Dyring instantly"— To honied words we list so fain.

And when Swayne Dyring before her stood, And were I only young again! She spake to him thus in wrathful mood— To honied words we list so fain.

"I left behind both ale and bread; And were I only young again! My children with hunger are nearly dead— To honied words we list so fain.

"I left behind me bolsters blue; And were I only young again! Upon bare straw my babes I view— To honied words we list so fain.

"I left behind the big wax light; And were I only young again! My children lie in the murk at night— To honied words we list so fain.

"If again I'm forced to seek thee here, And were I only young again! Befall thee shall a fate so drear— To honied words we list so fain.

"But hark! the ruddy cock has crow'd, And were I only young again! The dead must return to their abode— To honied words we list so fain.

"I hear, I hear the black cock crow; And were I only young again! The gates of heaven are opening now— To honied words we list so fain.

The white cock claps his wings so wide, And were I only young again! No longer here I dare to bide"— To honied words we list so fain.

Each time the dogs began to yell, And were I only young again! They gave the children bread and ale— To honied words we list so fain.

As soon as they heard of the hounds the cry, And were I only young again! They feared the ghost was drawing nigh— To honied words we list so fain.

Whene'er the dogs were heard to rave, And were I only young again! They feared the woman had left her grave— To honied words we list so fain.



THE TRANSFORMED DAMSEL

I take my axe upon my back, To fell the tree I mean; Then came the man the wood who owned, And thrust his heft between.

"If thou hew down my father's grove, And me this damage do, If I but see thee fell the tree Thou dearly that shalt rue."

"O let me hew this single tree, Nor to resist me seek; Unless I yonder bird obtain With grief my heart will break."

"Now list thou fair and gallant swain, To me incline thine ear! Thou ne'er wilt yonder bird obtain Unless some bait thou bear."

From off my breast the bait I cut, And hung it on the bough: The breast it bled, the bait it reeked, Mine is the birdie now.

Down flew the lovely little bird, Fluttering its wings o'erjoyed; It seemed to smile as if the guile It knew that I employed.

It clawed and picked so hastily, So well did smack the bait; And still the more it seemed to please The more the birdie ate.

Down flew the lovely little bird, Alighting on the sand; The loveliest damsel she became, And gave the youth her hand.



THE FORCED CONSENT

Within her own fair castelaye There goes a damsel bright; A whole year's tide for her has sighed A young and handsome knight.

"Now do thou hear, thou beauteous maid, Could I thy troth obtain, Then thou shouldst tread on silk outspread, And ne'er on the earth again.

And do thou hear, my lovely maid, My wedded lady be, And the slightest care thou shalt not bear If I can save it thee."

"I've vowed an oath to Mary maid, And to keep it is my plan; Ne'er live will I beneath the sky With any sinful man.

"Here with my seven brothers bold To-morrow I will come; Yourself array in costly way, For you must follow us home."

It was the young and handsome knight, He out of the doorway springs; And he in haste the Runes has traced, And them on her lap she flings.

And so he cast the magic Rune The maiden's dress below; Then beat her heart, and blood did start From her finger nails I trow.

"If thou with thy seven brothers bold To-morrow here wilt come, Myself I'll array in costly way And follow ye to your home."

The very next morn, the very next morn, When rose the sun in gold, Full three times ten bold knightly men Were waiting on the wold.

Full three times ten bold knightly men, On a bonny grey steed each one; With silk so white was the courser dight Which the maid should ride upon.

But what think ye that maiden did Ere mounting on her horse? A draught she drank of poison rank, Thought death her wisest course.

Through the shallow streams they dashed their steeds, Through the deep their steeds they swam; And ever and anon the maid would groan, "How dreadfully ill I am."

And when they came to the house of the knight, Where the bridal kept should be; Spread out on the earth was silk of worth, And gold so red of blee.

"Now thou may'st see, my lady love, That I my promise hold; Now thou dost tread on silk outspread, And not on the earth so cold."

"There's spread enough of the silken stuff, And plenty of gold is strown; But better I ween in heaven sheen With our Father God to wone."

Then they led her to the high, high hall, And in scarlet her array'd; But their joy was brief, soon came their grief, She died alack a maid!

Thanks be to him the youthful knight, No truer e'er was seen; He built her a grave in the church, and gave The churchmen farms fifteen.

Then as he stood by the maiden's grave, The gallant young noble cried: "O would to God beneath the sod I were lying by her side!"



INGEBORG'S DISGUISE

Such handsome court clothes the proud Ingeborg buys, Says she "I'll myself as a courtier disguise."

Proud Ingeborg hastens her steed to bestride, Says she "I'll away with the King to reside."

"Thou gallant young King to my speech lend an ear, Hast thou any need of my services here?"

"O yes, my sweet lad, of a horseboy I've need, If there were but stable room here for his steed.

"But thy steed in the stall with my own can be tied, And thou 'neath the linen shalt sleep by my side."

Three years in the palace good service she wrought, That she was a woman no one ever thought.

She filled for three years of a horse-boy the place, And the steeds of the monarch she drove out to graze.

She led for three years the King's steeds to the brook, For else than a youth no one Ingeborg took.

Proud Ingeborg knows how to make the dames gay, She also can sing in such ravishing way.

The hair on her head is like yellow spun gold, To her beauty the heart of the prince was not cold.

But at length up and down in the palace she strayed, Her colour and hair began swiftly to fade.

What eye has seen ever so wondrous a case? The boy his own spurs to his heel cannot brace.

The horse-boy is brought to so wondrous a plight, To draw his own weapon he has not the might.

The son of the King to five damsels now sends, And Ingeborg fair to their care he commends.

Proud Ingeborg took they and wrapped in their weed, And to the stone chamber with her they proceed.

Upon the blue cushions they Ingeborg laid, Where light of two beautiful sons she is made.

Then in came the prince, smiled the babies to view: "'Tis not every horse-boy can bear such a two."

He patted her soft on her cheek sleek and fair: "Forget my heart's dearest all sorrow and care."

He placed the gold crown on her temples I ween: "With me shalt thou live as my wife and my Queen."



SONG

I've pleasure not a little A dancing youth to see, Nor less—one single tittle— An old man full of glee.

To dance I ever glory With those of youthful mien; It shows, although I'm hoary In hair, my mind is green.

* * * * *

LONDON: Printed for THOMAS J. WISE, Hampstead, N.W. Edition limited to Thirty copies.

THE END

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