A Collection of Ballads
Andrew Lang

Part 5 out of 5

I have hundreds two or three;

"And a hundred aker of good free land,
If you please it to see:
And Ile make you as good assurance of it,
As ever my father made me."

The sheriff he saddled his good palfrey,
And, with three hundred pound in gold,
Away he went with bold Robin Hood,
His horned beasts to behold.

Away then the sheriff and Robin did ride,
To the forrest of merry Sherwood;
Then the sheriff did say, "God bless us this day
From a man they call Robin Hood!"

But when a little farther they came,
Bold Robin he chanced to spy
A hundred head of good red deer,
Come tripping the sheriff full nigh.

"How like you my horn'd beasts, good master sheriff?
They be fat and fair for to see;"
"I tell thee, good fellow, I would I were gone,
For I like not thy company."

Then Robin set his horn to his mouth,
And blew but blasts three;
Then quickly anon there came Little John,
And all his company.

"What is your will, master?" then said Little John,
"Good master come tell unto me;"
"I have brought hither the sheriff of Nottingham
This day to dine with thee."

"He is welcome to me," then said Little John,
"I hope he will honestly pay;
I know he has gold, if it be but well told,
Will serve us to drink a whole day."

Then Robin took his mantle from his back,
And laid it upon the ground:
And out of the sheriffs portmantle
He told three hundred pound.

Then Robin he brought him thorow the wood,
And set him on his dapple gray;
"O have me commanded to your wife at home;"
So Robin went laughing away.



Mr. Child finds the first published version of "the grand old
ballad of Sir Patrick Spens," as Coleridge calls it, in Bishop
Percy's Reliques. Here the name is "Spence," and the middle rhyme-

"Haf owre, haf owre to Aberdour,"

is not of early date. The "Cork-heeled Shoon," too, cannot be
early, but ballads are subject, in oral tradition, to such modern
interpolations. The verse about the ladies waiting vainly is
anticipated in a popular song of the fourteenth century, on a
defeat of the noblesse in Flanders--

"Their ladies them may abide in bower and hall well long!"

If there be historical foundation for the ballad, it is probably a
blending of the voyage of Margaret, daughter of Alexander III., to
wed Eric, King of Norway, in 1281 (some of her escort were drowned
on their way home), with the rather mysterious death, or
disappearance, of Margaret's daughter, "The Maid of Norway," on her
voyage to marry the son of Edward I., in 1290. A woman, who
alleged that she was the Maid of Norway, was later burned at the
stake. The great number and variety of versions sufficiently
indicate the antiquity of this ballad, wherein exact history is not
to be expected.


From The Border Minstrelsy, Sir Walter Scott's latest edition of
1833: the copy in the edition of 1802 is less complete. The
gentle and joyous passage of arms here recorded, took place in
August 1388. We have an admirable account of Otterburn fight from
Froissart, who revels in a gallant encounter, fairly fought out
hand to hand, with no intervention of archery or artillery, and for
no wretched practical purpose. In such a combat the Scots, never
renowned for success at long bowls, and led by a Douglas, were
likely to prove victorious, even against long odds, and when taken
by surprise.

Choosing an advantage in the discordant days of Richard II., the
Scots mustered a very large force near Jedburgh, merely to break
lances on English ground, and take loot. Learning that, as they
advanced by the Carlisle route, the English intended to invade
Scotland by Berwick and the east coast, the Scots sent three or
four hundred men-at-arms, with a few thousand mounted archers and
pikemen, who should harry Northumberland to the walls of Newcastle.
These were led by James, Earl of Douglas, March, and Murray. In a
fight at Newcastle, Douglas took Harry Percy's pennon, which
Hotspur vowed to recover. The retreat began, but the Scots waited
at Otterburn, partly to besiege the castle, partly to abide
Hotspur's challenge. He made his attack at moonlight, with
overwhelming odds, but was hampered by a marsh, and incommoded by a
flank attach of the Scots. Then it came to who would pound
longest, with axe and sword. Douglas cut his way through the
English, axe in hand, and was overthrown, but his men protected his
body. The Sinclairs and Lindsay raised his banner, with his cry;
March and Dunbar came up; Hotspur was taken by Montgomery, and the
English were routed with heavy loss. Douglas was buried in Melrose
Abbey; very many years later the English defiled his grave, but
were punished at Ancram Moor. There is an English poem on the
fight of "about 1550"; it has many analogies with our Scottish
version, and, doubtless, ours descends from a ballad almost
contemporary. The ballad was a great favourite of Scott's. In a
severe illness, thinking of Lockhart, not yet his son-in-law, he

"My wound is deep, I fain would sleep,
Take thou the vanguard of the three."

Mr. Child thinks the command to

"yield to the bracken-bush"

unmartial. This does not seem a strong objection, in Froissart's
time. It is explained in an oral fragment--

"For there lies aneth yon bracken-bush
Wha aft has conquered mair than thee."

Mr. Child also thinks that the "dreamy dream" may be copied from
Hume of Godscroft. It is at least as probable that Godscroft
borrowed from the ballad which he cites. The embroidered gauntlet
of the Percy is in the possession of Douglas of Cavers to this day.


Burns's version, in Johnson's Museum (1792). Scott's version is
made up of this copy, Riddell's, Herd's, and oral recitations, and
contains feeble literary interpolations, not, of course, by Sir
Walter. The Complaint of Scotland (1549) mentions the "Tale of the
Young Tamlene" as then popular. It is needless here to enter into
the subject of Fairyland, and captures of mortals by Fairies: the
Editor has said his say in his edition of Kirk's Secret
Commonwealth. The Nereids, in Modern Greece, practise fairy
cantrips, and the same beliefs exist in Samoa and New Caledonia.
The metamorphoses are found in the Odyssey, Book iv., in the
winning of Thetis, the Nereid, or Fairy Bride, by Peleus, in a
modern Cretan fairy tale, and so on. There is a similar incident
in Penda Baloa, a Senegambian ballad (Contes Populaires de la
Senegambie, Berenger Ferand, Paris, 1885). The dipping of Tamlane
has precedents in Old Deccan Days, in a Hottentot tale by Bleek,
and in Les Deux Freres, the Egyptian story, translated by Maspero
(the Editor has already given these parallels in a note to Border
Ballads, by Graham R. Thomson). Mr. Child also cites Mannhardt,
"Wald und Feldkulte," ii. 64-70. Carterhaugh, the scene of the
ballad, is at the junction of Ettrick and Yarrow, between Bowhill
and Philiphaugh.


From The Border Minstrelsy; the original was derived from a lady
living near Erceldoune (Earlston), and from Mrs. Brown's MSS. That
Thomas of Erceldoune had some popular fame as a rhymer and
soothsayer as early as 1320-1350, seems to be established. As late
as the Forty Five, nay, even as late as the expected Napoleonic
invasion, sayings attributed to Thomas were repeated with some
measure of belief. A real Thomas Rymer of Erceldoune witnessed an
undated deed of Peter de Haga, early in the thirteenth century.
The de Hagas, or Haigs of Bemersyde, were the subjects of the
prophecy attributed to Thomas,

"Betide, betide, whate'er betide,
There will aye be a Haig in Bemersyde,"

and a Haig still owns that ancient chateau on the Tweed, which has
a singular set of traditions. Learmont is usually given as the
Erceldoune family name; a branch of the family owned Dairsie in
Fifeshire, and were a kind of hereditary provosts of St. Andrews.
If Thomas did predict the death of Alexander III., or rather report
it by dint of clairvoyance, he must have lived till 1285. The date
of the poem on the Fairy Queen, attributed to Thomas, is uncertain,
the story itself is a variant of "Ogier the Dane." The scene is
Huntly Bank, under Eildon Hill, and was part of the lands acquired,
at fantastic prices, by Sir Walter Scott. His passion for land was
really part of his passion for collecting antiquities. The theory
of Fairyland here (as in many other Scottish legends and witch
trials) is borrowed from the Pre-Christian Hades, and the Fairy
Queen is a late refraction from Persephone. Not to eat, in the
realm of the dead, is a regular precept of savage belief, all the
world over. Mr. Robert Kirk's Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns,
and Fairies may be consulted, or the Editor's Perrault, p. xxxv.
(Oxford, 1888). Of the later legends about Thomas, Scott gives
plenty, in The Border Minstrelsy. The long ancient romantic poem
on the subject is probably the source of the ballad, though a local
ballad may have preceded the long poem. Scott named the glen
through which the Bogle Burn flows to Chiefswood, "The Rhymer's


The date of the Martyrdom of Hugh is attributed by Matthew Paris to
1225. Chaucer puts a version in the mouth of his Prioress. No
doubt the story must have been a mere excuse for Jew-baiting. In
America the Jew becomes "The Duke" in a version picked up by Mr.
Newells, from the recitation of a street boy in New York. The
daughter of a Jew is not more likely than the daughter of a duke to
have been concerned in the cruel and blasphemous imitation of the
horrors attributed by Horace to the witch Canidia. But some such
survivals of pagan sorcery did exist in the Middle Ages, under the
influence of "Satanism."


Motherwell's version. One of many ballads on fratricide,
instigated by the mother: or inquired into by her, as the case may
be. "Edward" is another example of this gloomy situation.



"The cock doth craw, the day doth daw,"

having a middle rhyme, can scarcely be of extreme antiquity.
Probably, in the original poem, the dead return to rebuke the
extreme grief of the Mother, but the poem is perhaps really more
affecting in the absence of a didactic motive. Scott obtained it
from an old woman in West Lothian. Probably the reading "fashes,"
(troubles), "in the flood" is correct, not "fishes," or "freshes."
The mother desires that the sea may never cease to be troubled till
her sons return (verse 4, line 2). The peculiar doom of women dead
in child-bearing occurs even in Aztec mythology.


From the third volume of Border Minstrelsy, derived by Charles
Kirkpatrick Sharpe from a traditional version. The English
version, "Three Ravens," was published in Melismata, by T.
Ravensworth (1611). In Scots, the lady "has ta'en another mate"
his hawk and hound have deserted the dead knight. In the English
song, the hounds watch by him, the hawks keep off carrion birds, as
for the lady--

"She buried him before the prime,
She was dead herselfe ere evensong time."

Probably the English is the earlier version.


Huntly had a commission to apprehend the Earl, who was in the
disgrace of James VI. Huntly, as an ally of Bothwell, asked him to
surrender at Donibristle, in Fife; he would not yield to his
private enemy, the house was burned, and Murray was slain, Huntly
gashing his face. "You have spoiled a better face than your own,"
said the dying Earl (1592). James Melville mentions contemporary
ballads on the murder. Ramsay published the ballad in his Tea
Table Miscellany, and it is often sung to this day.


First known as published in Border Minstrelsy (1802). The
apparition of the lover is borrowed from "Sweet Willie's Ghost."
The evasions practised by the lady, and the austerities vowed by
her have many Norse, French, and Spanish parallels in folk-poetry.
Scott's version is "made up" from several sources, but is, in any
case, verse most satisfactory as poetry.


From Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany, a curiously composite gathering
of verses. There is a verse, obviously a variant, in a sixteenth
century song, cited by Leyden. St. Anthon's Well is on a hill
slope of Arthur's Seat, near Holyrood. Here Jeanie Deans trysted
with her sister's seducer, in The Heart of Midlothian. The Cairn
of Nichol Mushat, the wife-murderer, is not far off. The ruins of
Anthony's Chapel are still extant.


There are French and Romaic variants of this ballad. "Lochroyal,"
where the ballad is localized, is in Wigtownshire, but the
localization varies. The "tokens" are as old as the Return of
Odysseus, in the Odyssey: his token is the singular construction
of his bridal bed, attached by him to a living tree-trunk. A
similar legend occurs in Chinese. See Gerland's Alt-Giechische


A made-up copy from Scott's edition of 1833. This ballad has
caused a great deal of controversy. Queen Mary had no Mary
Hamilton among her Four Maries. No Marie was executed for child-
murder. But we know, from Knox, that ballads were recited against
the Maries, and that one of the Mary's chamberwomen was hanged,
with her lover, a pottinger, or apothecary, for getting rid of her
infant. These last facts were certainly quite basis enough for a
ballad, the ballad echoing, not history, but rumour, and rumour
adapted to the popular taste. Thus the ballad might have passed
unchallenged, as a survival, more or less modified in time, of
Queen Mary's period. But in 1719 a Mary Hamilton, a Maid of
Honour, of Scottish descent, was executed in Russia, for
infanticide. Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe conceived that this affair
was the origin of the ballad, and is followed by Mr. Child.

We reply (1) The ballad has almost the largest number of variants
on record. This is a proof of antiquity. Variants so many,
differing in all sorts of points, could not have arisen between
1719, and the age of Burns, who quotes the poem.

(2) This is especially improbable, because, in 1719, the old vein
of ballad poetry had run dry, popular song had chosen other forms,
and no literary imitator could have written Mary Hamilton in 1719.

(3) There is no example of a popular ballad in which a
contemporary event, interesting just because it is contemporary, is
thrown back into a remote age.

(4) The name, Mary Hamilton, is often NOT given to the heroine in
variants of the ballad. She is of several names and ranks in the

(5) As Mr. Child himself remarked, the "pottinger" of the real
story of Queen Mary's time occurs in one variant. There was no
"pottinger" in the Russian affair.

All these arguments, to which others might be added, seem fatal to
the late date and modern origin of the ballad, and Mr. Child's own
faith in the hypothesis was shaken, if not overthrown.


From The Border Minstrelsy. The account in Satchells has either
been based on the ballad, or the ballad is based on Satchells.
After a meeting, on the Border of Salkeld of Corby, and Scott of
Haining, Kinmont Willie was seized by the English as he rode home
from the tryst. Being "wanted," he was lodged in Carlisle Castle,
and this was a breach of the day's truce. Buccleugh, as warder,
tried to obtain Willie's release by peaceful means. These failing,
Buccleugh did what the ballad reports, April 13, 1596. Harden and
Goudilands were with Buccleugh, being his neighbours near
Branxholme. Dicky of Dryhope, with others, Armstrongs, was also
true to the call of duty. A few verses in the ballad are clearly
by aut Gualterus aut diabolus, and none the worse for that.
Salkeld, of course, was not really slain; and, if the men were
"left for dead," probably they were not long in that debatable
condition. In the rising of 1745 Prince Charlie's men forded Eden
as boldly as Buccleuch, the Prince saving a drowning Highlander
with his own hand.


Scott, for once, was wrong in his localities. The Dodhead of the
poem is NOT that near Singlee, in Ettrick, but a place of the same
name, near Skelfhill, on the southern side of Teviot, within three
miles of Stobs, where Telfer vainly seeks help from Elliot. The
other Dodhead is at a great distance from Stobs, up Borthwick
Water, over the tableland, past Clearburn Loch and Buccleugh, and
so down Ettrick, past Tushielaw. The Catslockhill is not that on
Yarrow, near Ladhope, but another near Branxholme, whence it is no
far cry to Branxholme Hall. Borthwick Water, Goudilands (below
Branxholme), Commonside (a little farther up Teviot), Allanhaugh,
and the other places of the Scotts, were all easily "warned."
There are traces of a modern hand in this excellent ballad. The
topography is here corrected from MS. notes in a first edition of
the Minstrelsy, in the library of Mr. Charles Grieve at Branxholme'
Park, a scion of "auld Jock Grieve" of the Coultart Cleugh. Names
linger long in pleasant Teviotdale.


The ballad has Norse analogues, but is here localized on the
Douglas Burn, a tributary of Yarrow on the left bank. The St.
Mary's Kirk would be that now ruinous, on St. Mary's Loch, the
chapel burned by the Lady of Branxholme when she

"gathered a band
Of the best that would ride at her command,"

in the Lay of the Last Minstrel. The ancient keep of Blackhouse on
Douglas Burn may have been the home of the heroine, if we are to


Herd got this tragic ballad from a milkmaid, in 1771. Mr. Child
quotes a verse parallel, preserved in Faroe, and in the Icelandic.
There is a similar incident in the cycle of Kullervo, in the
Finnish Kalevala. Scott says that similar tragedies are common in
Scotch popular poetry; such cases are "Lizzie Wan," and "The King's
Dochter, Lady Jean." A sorrow nearly as bitter occurs in the
French "Milk White Dove": a brother kills his sister,
metamorphosed into a white deer. "The Bridge of Death" (French)
seems to hint at something of the same kind; or rather the Editor
finds that he has arbitrarily read "The Bonny Hind" into "Le Pont
des Morts," in Puymaigre's Chants Populaires du Pays Messin, p. 60.
(Ballads and Lyrics of Old France, p. 63)


This is the original of the Cockney Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman,
illustrated by Cruikshank, and by Thackeray. There is a vast
number of variants, evidence to the antiquity of the story. The
earliest known trace is in the familiar legend of the Saracen lady,
who sought and found her lover, Gilbert Becket, father of Thomas a
Becket, in London (see preface to Life of Becket, or Beket), Percy
Society, 1845. The date may be circ. 1300. The kind of story, the
loving daughter of the cruel captor, is as old as Medea and Jason,
and her search for her lover comes in such Marchen as "The Black
Bull o' Norraway." No story is more widely diffused (see A Far
Travelled Tale, in the Editor's Custom and Myth). The appearance
of the "True Love," just at her lover's wedding, is common in the
Marchen of the world, and occurs in a Romaic ballad, as well as in
many from Northern Europe. The "local colour"--the Moor or
Saracen--is derived from Crusading times, perhaps. Motherwell
found the ballad recited with intervals of prose narrative, as in
Aucassin and Nicolette. The notes to Cruikshank's Loving Ballad
are, obviously, by Thackeray.


Lord Airly's houses were destroyed by Argyll, representing the
Covenanters, and also in pursuance of a private feud, in 1639, or
1640. There are erroneous versions of this ballad, in which
Lochiel appears, and the date is, apparently, transferred to 1745.
Montrose, in his early Covenanting days, was not actually concerned
in the burning of the Bonnie House, which he, when a Royalist,
revenged on the possessions of "gleyed Argyll." The reference to
"Charlie" is out of keeping; no one, perhaps, ever called Charles
I. by that affectionate name. Lady Ogilvie had not the large
family attributed to her: her son, Lord Ogilvie, escaped from
prison in the Castle of St. Andrews, after Philiphaugh. A Lord
Ogilvie was out in 1745; and, later, had a regiment in the French
Service. Few families have a record so consistently loyal.


The abductors of the widowed young heiress of Edenhelly were Rob's
sons, Robin Oig, who went through a form of marriage with the girl,
and James Mohr, a good soldier, but a double-dyed spy and
scoundrel. Robin Oig was hanged in 1753. James Mohr, a detected
traitor to Prince Charles, died miserably in Paris, in 1754.
Readers of Mr. Stevenson's Catriona know James well; information as
to his villanies is extant in Additional MSS. (British Museum).
This is probably the latest ballad in the collection. It occurs in
several variants, some of which, copied out by Burns, derive thence
a certain accidental interest. In Mr. Stevenson's Catriona, the
heroine of that name takes a thoroughly Highland view of the
abduction. Robin Oig, in any case, was "nane the waur o' a
hanging," for he shot a Maclaren at the plough-tail, before the
Forty-Five. The trial of these sons of Alpen was published shortly
after Scott's Rob Roy.


Fought on July 27, 1689. NOT on the haugh near the modern road by
the railway, but higher up the hill, in the grounds of Urrard
House. Two shelter trenches, whence Dundee's men charged, are
still visible, high on the hillside above Urrand. There is said,
by Mr. Child, to have been a contemporary broadside of the ballad,
which is an example of the evolution of popular ballads from the
old traditional model. There is another song, by, or attributed
to, Burns, and of remarkable spirit and vigour.


From The Border Minstrelsy Scott says that these are the original
words of the tune of "Allan Water," and that he has added two
verses from a variant with a fortunate conclusion. "Allan Water"
is a common river name; the stream so called joins Teviot above
Branxholme. Annan is the large stream that flows into the Solway
Frith. The Gate-slack, in Annandale, fixes the locality.


This curious poem is taken from the reprint of Charles Kirkpatrick
Sharpe's tiny Ballad Book, itself now almost introuvable. It does
not, to the Editor's knowledge, occur elsewhere, but is probably
authentic. The view of the Faery Queen is more pleasing and
sympathetic than usual. Why mortal women were desired as nurses
(except to attend on stolen mortal children, kept to "pay the Kane
to hell") is not obvious. Irish beliefs are precisely similar; in
England they are of frequent occurrence.


Armstrang of Gilnockie was a brother of the laird of Mangertoun.
He had a kind of Robin Hood reputation on the Scottish Border, as
one who only robbed the English. Pitscottie's account of his
slaying by James V. (1529) reads as if the ballad were his
authority, and an air for the subject is mentioned in the Complaint
of Scotland. In Sir Herbert Maxwell's History of Dumfries and
Galloway is an excellent account of the historical facts of the


Founded on an event in the wars between Kingsmen and Queensmen, in
the minority of James VI., while Queen Mary was imprisoned in
England. "Edom" was Adam Gordon of Auchindown, brother of Huntley,
and a Queen's man. He, by his retainer, Car, or Ker, burned Towie
House, a seat of the Forbes's. Ker recurs in the long and more or
less literary ballad of The Battle of Balrinnes. In variants the
localities are much altered, and, in one version, the scene is
transferred to Ayrshire, and Loudoun Castle. All the ballads of
fire-raising, a very usual practice, have points in common, and
transference was easy.


Tradition has confused the heroine of this piece with the wife of
Bothwelhaugh, who slew the Regent Murray. That his motive was not
mere political assassination, but to avenge the ill-treatment and
death of his wife, seems to be disproved by Maidment. The affair,
however, is still obscure. This deserted Lady Anne of the ballad
was, in fact, not the wife of Bothwelhaugh, but the daughter of the
Bishop of Orkney; her lover is said to have been her cousin,
Alexander Erskine, son of the Earl of Mar. Part of the poem (Mr.
Child points out) occurs in Broome's play, The Northern Lass
(1632). Though a popular favourite, the piece is clearly of
literary origin, and has been severely "edited" by a literary hand.
This version is Allan Ramsay's.


A Liddesdale chant. Jock flourished about 1550-1570, and is
commemorated as a receiver by Sir Richard Maitland in a poem often
quoted. The analogies of this ballad with that of "Kinmont Willie"
are very close. The reference to a punch-bowl sounds modern, and
the tale is much less plausible than that of "Kinmont Willie,"
which, however, bears a few obvious marks of Sir Walter's own hand.
A sceptical editor must choose between two theories: either Scott
of Satchells founded his account of the affair of "Kinmont Willie"
on a pre-existing ballad of that name, or the ballad printed by
Scott is based on the prose narrative of Scott of Satchells. The
former hypothesis, everything considered, is the more probable.


Published in Percy's Reliques, from a Scotch manuscript, "with some
corrections." The situation, with various differences in detail
and conclusion, is popular in Norse and Romaic ballads, and also in
many Marchen of the type of The Black Bull of Norraway.


From The Border Minstrelsy. There are Danish, Swedish, Dutch, and
German versions, and the theme enters artistic poetry as early as
Marie de France (Le Lai del Freisne). In Scotch the Earl of Wemyss
is a recent importation: the earldom dates from 1633. Of course
this process of attaching a legend or Marchen to a well-known name,
or place, is one of the most common in mythological evolution, and
by itself invalidates the theory which would explain myths by a
philological analysis of the proper names in the tale. These may
not be, and probably are not, the original names.


From The Border Minstrelsy. Scott thought that the hero was Walter
Scott, third son of Thirlestane, slain by Scott of Tushielaw. The
"monument" (a standing stone near Yarrow) is really of a very
early, rather Post-Roman date, and refers to no feud of
Thirlestane, Oakwood, Kirkhope, or Tushielaw. The stone is not far
from Yarrow Krik, near a place called Warrior's Rest. Hamilton of
Bangour's version is beautiful and well known. Quite recently a
very early interment of a corpse, in the curved position, was
discovered not far from the standing stone with the inscription.
Ballad, stone, and interment may all be distinct and separate.


From Motherwell's Minstrelsy. The authenticity of the ballad is
dubious, but, if a forgery, it is a very skilled one for the early
nineteenth century. Poets like Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Rossetti, and
Mrs. Marriot Watson have imitated the genuine popular ballad, but
never so closely as the author of "Sir Roland."


From the Jamieson-Brown MS., originally written out by Mrs. Brown
in 1783: Sir Waiter made changes in The Border Minstrelsy. The
ballad is clearly a composite affair. Robert Chambers regarded
Mrs. Brown as the Mrs. Harris of ballad lore, but Mr. Norval
Clyne's reply was absolutely crushing and satisfactory.


Fought on July 24, 1411. This fight broke the Highland force in
Scotland. The first version is, of course, literary, perhaps a
composition of 1550, or even earlier. The second version is
traditional, and was procured by Aytoun from Lady John Scott,
herself the author of some beautiful songs. But the best ballad on
the Red Harlaw is that placed by Scott in the mouth of Elspeth, in
The Antiquary. This, indeed, is beyond all rivalry the most
splendid modern imitation of the ancient popular Muse.


A great favourite of Scott's, who heard it sung at Miss
Edgeworth's, during his tour in Ireland (1825). One verse recurs
in a Jacobite chant, probably of 1745-1760, but the bibliography of
Jacobite songs is especially obscure.


From the Border Minstrelsy. The ideas are mainly pre-Christian;
the Brig o' Dread occurs in Islamite and Iroquois belief, and in
almost all mythologies the souls have to cross a River. Music for
this dirge is given in Mr. Harold Boulton's and Miss Macleod's
Songs of the North.


This version was taken down by Sir Walter Scott from his mother's
recitation, for Jamieson's book of ballads. Jamieson later
quarrelled bitterly with Sir Walter, as letters at Abbotsford
prove. A variant is given by Kinloch, and a longer, less poetical,
but more historically accurate version is given by Buchan. The
House of Waristoun is, or lately was, a melancholy place hanging
above a narrow lake, in the northern suburbs of Edinburgh, near the
Water of Leith. Kincaid was the name of the Laird; according to
Chambers, the more famous lairds of Covenanting times were
Johnstons. Kincaid is said to have treated his wife cruelly,
wherefore she, or her nurse, engaged one Robert Weir, an old
servant of her father (Livingstone of Dunipace), to strangle the
unhappy man in his own bedroom (July 2, 1600). The lady was
beheaded, the nurse was burned, and, later, Weir was also executed.
The line

"I wish that ye may sink for sin"

occurs in an earlier ballad on Edinburgh Castle--

"And that all for the black dinner
Earl Douglas got therein."


From Herd's MS. Versions occur in Polish, German, Magyar,
Portuguese, Scandinavian, and in French. The ballad is here
localised on the Carrick coast, near Girvan. The lady is called a
Kennedy of Culzean. Prof. Bugge regards this widely diffused
ballad as based on the Apocryphal legend of Judith and Holofernes.
If so, the legend is diablement change en route. More probably the
origin is a Marchen of a kind of Rakshasa fatal to women. Mr.
Child has collected a vast mass of erudition on the subject, and by
no means acquiesces in Prof. Bugge's ingenious hypothesis.


From Pinkerton's Scottish Ballads. The event narrated is a legend
of the house of Cassilis (Kennedy), but is wholly unhistorical.
"Sir John Faa," in the fable, is aided by Gypsies, but, apparently,
is not one of the Earls of Egypt, on whom Mr. Crockett's novel, The
Raiders, may be consulted. The ballad was first printed, as far as
is known, in Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany.


The hero recurs in Jock o' the Side, and Jock o' the Mains is an
historical character, that is, finds mention in authentic records,
as Scott points out. The Armstrongs were deported in great
numbers, as "an ill colony," to Ulster, by James I. Sir Herbert
Maxwell's History of Dumfries and Galloway may be consulted for
these and similar reivers.


A version of "Binnorie." The ballad here ends abruptly; doubtless
the fiddler made fiddle-strings of the lady's hair, and a fiddle of
her breast-bone, while the instrument probably revealed the cruelty
of the sister. Other extant versions are composite or
interpolated, so this fragment (Sharpe's) has been preferred in
this place.


Taken by Percy from a piece in the Pepys Collection. The girl
warrior is a favourite figure in popular romance. Often she slays
a treacherous lover, as in Billy Taylor. Nothing is known of Mary
Ambree as an historical personage; she may be as legendary as fair
maiden Lilias, of Liliarid's Edge, who "fought upon her stumps."
In that case the local name is demonstrably earlier than the
mythical Lilias, who fought with such tenacity.


Jamieson gave this ballad from a manuscript, altering the spelling
in conformity with Scots orthography. Mr. Child prints the
manuscript; here Jamieson's more familiar spelling is retained.
The idea of the romance occurs in a Romaic Marchen, but, in place
of the Queen of Faery, a more beautiful girl than the sorceress
(Nereid in Romaic), restores the youth to his true shape. Mr.
Child regarded the tale as "one of the numerous wild growths" from
Beauty and the Beast. It would be more correct to say that Beauty
and the Beast is a late, courtly, French adaptation and
amplification of the original popular "wild growth" which first
appears (in literary form) as Cupid and Psyche, in Apuleius.
Except for the metamorphosis, however, there is little analogy in
this case. The friendly act of the Fairy Queen is without parallel
in British Folklore, but Mr. Child points out that the Nereid
Queen, in Greece, is still as kind as Thetis of old, not a
sepulchral siren, the shadow of the pagan "Fairy Queen Proserpina,"
as Campion calls her.


From Percy's Folio Manuscript. There is a cognate Greek epigram--

[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]


This, though probably not the most authentic, is decidedly the most
pleasing version; it is from Mackay's collection, perhaps from his


Percy got this piece from Lord Hailes, with pseudo-antiquated
spelling. Mr. Swinburne has published a parallel ballad "From the
Finnish." There are a number of parallel ballads on Cruel
Brothers, and Cruel Sisters, such as Son Davie, which may be
compared. Fratricides and unconscious incests were motives dear to
popular poetry.


From the Border Minstrelsy. That corpses MIGHT begin to "thraw,"
if carelessly watched, was a prevalent superstition. Scott gives
an example: the following may be added, as less well known. The
watchers had left the corpse alone, and were dining in the
adjoining room, when a terrible noise was heard in the chamber of
death. None dared enter; the minister was sent for, and passed
into the room. He emerged, asked for a pair of tongs, and
returned, bearing in the tongs A BLOODY GLOVE, and the noise
ceased. He always declined to say what he had witnessed.
Ministers were exorcists in the last century, and the father of
James Thomson, the poet, died suddenly in an interview with a
guest, in a haunted house. The house was pulled down, as being


From The Border Minstrelsy. This ballad is inserted, not for its
merit, still less for its authenticity, but for the problem of its
puzzling history. Scott certainly got it from the mother of the
Ettrick Shepherd, in 1801. The Shepherd's father had been a grown-
up man in 1745, and his mother was also of a great age, and
unlikely to be able to learn a new-forged ballad by heart. The
Shepherd himself (then a most unsophisticated person) said, in a
letter of June 30, 1801, that he was "surprized to hear this song
is suspected by some to be a modern forgery; the contrary will be
best proved by most of the old people, here about, having a great
part of it by heart." The two last lines of verse seven were,
confessedly, added by Hogg, to fill a lacuna. They are especially
modern in style. Now thus to fill up sham lacunae in sham ballads
of his own, with lines manifestly modern, was a favourite trick of
Surtees of Mainsforth. He used the device in "Barthram's Dirge,"
which entirely took in Sir Walter, and was guilty of many other
supercheries, especially of the "Fray of Suport Mill." Could the
unlettered Shepherd, fond of hoaxes as he was, have invented this
stratagem, sixteen years before he joined the Blackwood set? And
is it conceivable that his old mother, entering into the joke,
would commit her son's fraudulent verses to memory, and recite them
to Sir Walter as genuine tradition? She said to Scott, that the
ballad "never was printed i' the world, for my brothers and me
learned it and many mae frae auld Andrew Moore, and he learned it
frae auld Baby Mettlin" (Maitland?) "wha was housekeeper to the
first laird o' Tushilaw." (On Ettrick, near Thirlestane. She
doubtless meant the first of the Andersons of Tushielaw, who
succeeded the old lairds, the Scotts.) "She was said to hae been
another or a guid ane, and there are many queer stories about
hersel', but O, she had been a grand singer o' auld songs an'
ballads." (Hogg's Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott, p. 61,

"Maitland upon auld beird gray" is mentioned by Gawain Douglas, in
his Palice of Honour, which the Shepherd can hardly have read, and
Scott identified this Maitland with the ancestor of Lethington; his
date was 1250-1296. On the whole, even the astute Shepherd, in his
early days of authorship, could hardly have laid a plot so
insidious, and the question of the authenticity and origin of the
ballad (obvious interpolations apart) remains a mystery. Who could
have forged it? It is, as an exercise in imitation, far beyond
Hardyknute, and at least on a level with Sir Roland. The
possibility of such forgeries is now very slight indeed, but
vitiates early collections.

If we suspect Leyden, who alone had the necessary knowledge of
antiquities, we are still met by the improbability of old Mrs. Hogg
being engaged in the hoax. Moreover, Leyden was probably too keen
an antiquary to take part in one of the deceptions which Ritson
wished to punish so severely. Mr. Child expresses his strong and
natural suspicions of the authenticity of the ballad, and Hogg is,
certainly, a dubious source. He took in Jeffrey with the song of
"Donald Macgillavray," and instantly boasted of his triumph. He
could not have kept his secret, after the death of Scott. These
considerations must not be neglected, however suspicious "Auld,
Maitland" may appear.


From Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland. There are
Elizabethan references to the poem, and a twelfth century romance
turns on the main idea of sleep magically induced. The lover
therein is more fortunate than the hero of the ballad, and,
finally, overcomes the spell. The idea recurs in the Norse poetry.


Scott took this ballad from Mrs. Brown's celebrated Manuscript.
The kind of spell indicated was practised by Hera upon Alcmena,
before the birth of Heracles. Analogous is the spell by binding
witch-knots, practised by Simaetha on her lover, in the second
Idyll of Theocritus. Montaigne has some curious remarks on these
enchantments, explaining their power by what is now called
"suggestion." There is a Danish parallel to "Willie's Ladye,"
translated by Jamieson.


There is plentiful "learning" about Robin Hood, but no real
knowledge. He is first mentioned in literature, as the subject of
"rhymes," in Piers Plowman (circ. 1377). As a topic of ballads he
must be much older than that date. In 1439 his name was a synonym
for a bandit. Wyntoun, the Scots chronicler, dates the outlaw in
the time of Edward I. Major, the Scots philosopher and master of
John Knox, makes a guess (taken up by Scott in Ivanhoe) as the
period of Richard I. Kuhn seeks to show that Hood is a survival of
Woden, or of his Wooden, "wooden horse" or hobby horse. The Robin
Hood play was parallel with the May games, which, as Mr. Frazer
shows in his Golden Bough, were really survivals of a world-wide
religious practice. But Robin Hood need not be confused with the
legendary May King. Mr. Child judiciously rejects these
mythological conjectures, based, as they are, on far-fetched
etymologies and analogies. Robin is an idealized bandit, reiver,
or Klepht, as in modern Romaic ballads, and his adventures are
precisely such as popular fancy everywhere attaches to such popular
heroes. An historical Robin there may have been, but premit nox


This copy follows in Mr. Child's early edition, "from the second
edition of Ritson's Robin Hood, as collated by Sir Frederic
Madden." It is conjectured to be "possibly as old as the reign of
Edward II." That the murder of a monk should be pardoned in the
facile way described is manifestly improbable. Even in the lawless
Galloway of 1508, McGhie of Phumpton was fined six merks for
"throwing William Schankis, monk, from his horse." (History of
Dumfries and Galloway, by Sir Herbert Maxwell, p. 155.)


Published by Ritson, from a Cambridge MS., probably of the reign of
Henry VII.


Published by Ritson, from a Black Letter copy in the collection of
Anthony Wood, the Oxford antiquary.


{1} See Pitcairn, Case of Alison Pearson, 1586.

{2} Translated in Ballads and Lyrics of Old France.--A. L.

{3} "Kinnen," rabbits.

{4} "Nicher," neigh.

{5} "Gilt," gold.

{6} "Dow," are able to.

{7} "Ganging," going.

{8} "Targats", tassels.

{9} "Blink sae brawly," glance so bravely.

{10} "Fechting," fighting.

{11} "Kirsty," Christopher.

{12} "Hald," hold.

{13} "Reek," smoke.

{14} "Freits," omens.

{15} "Wighty," valiant.

{16} "Wroken," revenged.

{17} "Mudie," bold.


Back to Full Books