Book of Old Ballads
by
Selected by Beverly Nichols

Part 4 out of 5



I hold thee out of thy witt:
All daye have I rydden on Brocke my mare,
And I am fasting yett.

"Go with me downe to Drayton Basset,
No daynties we will spare;
All daye shalt thou eate and drinke of the best,
And I will paye thy fare."

Gramercye for nothing, the tanner replyde,
Thou payest no fare of mine:
I trowe I've more nobles in my purse,
Than thou hast pence in thine.

God give thee joy of them, sayd the king,
And send them well to priefe.
The tanner wolde faine have beene away,
For he weende he had beene a thiefe.

What art thou, hee sayde, thou fine fellowe,
Of thee I am in great feare,
For the clothes, thou wearest upon thy back,
Might beseeme a lord to weare.

I never stole them, quoth our king,
I tell you, Sir, by the roode.
"Then thou playest, as many an unthrift doth,
And standest in midds of thy goode."

What tydinges heare you, sayd the kynge,
As you ryde farre and neare?
"I heare no tydinges, Sir, by the masse,
But that cowe-hides are deare."

"Cow-hides! cow-hides! what things are those?
I marvell what they bee?"
What, art thou a foole? the tanner reply'd;
I carry one under mee.

What craftsman art thou, said the king,
I pray thee tell me trowe.
"I am a barker, Sir, by my trade;
Nowe tell me what art thou?"

I am a poor courtier, Sir, quoth he,
That am forth of service worne;
And faine I wolde thy prentise bee,
Thy cunninge for to learne.

Marrye heaven forfend, the tanner replyde,
That thou my prentise were:
Thou woldst spend more good than I shold winne
By fortye shilling a yere.

Yet one thinge wolde I, sayd our king,
If thou wilt not seeme strange:
Thoughe my horse be better than thy mare,
Yet with thee I fain wold change.

"Why if with me thou faine wilt change,
As change full well maye wee,
By the faith of my bodye, thou proude fellowe
I will have some boot of thee."

That were against reason, sayd the king,
I sweare, so mote I thee:
My horse is better than thy mare,
And that thou well mayst see.

"Yea, Sir, but Brocke is gentle and mild,
And softly she will fare:
Thy horse is unrulye and wild, I wiss;
Aye skipping here and theare."

What boote wilt thou have? our king reply'd;
Now tell me in this stound.
"Noe pence, nor halfpence, by my faye,
But a noble in gold so round.

"Here's twentye groates of white moneye,
Sith thou will have it of mee."
I would have sworne now, quoth the tanner,
Thou hadst not had one pennie.

But since we two have made a change,
A change we must abide,
Although thou hast gotten Brocke my mare,
Thou gettest not my cowe-hide.

I will not have it, sayd the kynge,
I sweare, so mought I thee;
Thy foule cowe-hide I wolde not beare,
If thou woldst give it to mee.

The tanner hee tooke his good cowe-hide,
That of the cow was bilt;
And threwe it upon the king's sadelle,
That was soe fayrelye gilte.
"Now help me up, thou fine fellowe,
'Tis time that I were gone:
When I come home to Gyllian my wife,
Sheel say I am a gentilmon."

The king he tooke him up by the legge;
The tanner a f----- lett fall.
Nowe marrye, good fellowe, sayd the king,
Thy courtesye is but small.

When the tanner he was in the kinges sadelle,
And his foote in the stirrup was;
He marvelled greatlye in his minde,
Whether it were golde or brass.

But when the steede saw the cows taile wagge,
And eke the blacke cowe-horne;
He stamped, and stared, and awaye he ranne,
As the devill had him borne.

The tanner he pulld, the tanner he sweat,
And held by the pummil fast:
At length the tanner came tumbling downe;
His necke he had well-nye brast.

Take thy horse again with a vengeance, he sayd,
With mee he shall not byde.
"My horse wolde have borne thee well enoughe,
But he knewe not of thy cowe-hide.

Yet if againe thou faine woldst change,
As change full well may wee,
By the faith of my bodye, thou jolly tanner,
I will have some boote of thee."

What boote wilt thou have? the tanner replyd,
Nowe tell me in this stounde.
"Noe pence nor halfpence, Sir, by my faye,
But I will have twentye pound."

"Here's twentye groates out of my purse;
And twentye I have of thine:
And I have one more, which we will spend
Together at the wine."

The king set a bugle home to his mouthe,
And blewe both loude and shrille:
And soone came lords, and soone came knights,
Fast ryding over the hille.

Nowe, out alas! the tanner he cryde,
That ever I sawe this daye!
Thou art a strong thiefe, yon come thy fellowes Will beare my
cowe-hide away.

They are no thieves, the king replyde,
I sweare, soe mote I thee:
But they are the lords of the north countrey,
Here come to hunt with mee.

And soone before our king they came,
And knelt downe on the grounde:
Then might the tanner have beene awaye,
He had lever than twentye pounde.

A coller, a coller, here: sayd the king,
A coller he loud gan crye:
Then woulde he lever than twentye pound,
He had not beene so nighe.

A coller, a coller, the tanner he sayd,
I trowe it will breed sorrowe:
After a coller cometh a halter,
I trow I shall be hang'd to-morrowe.

Be not afraid, tanner, said our king;
I tell thee, so mought I thee,
Lo here I make thee the best esquire
That is in the North countrie.

For Plumpton-parke I will give thee,
With tenements faire beside:
'Tis worth three hundred markes by the yeare,
To maintaine thy good cowe-hide.

Gramercye, my liege, the tanner replyde,
For the favour thou hast me showne;
If ever thou comest to merry Tamworth,
Neates leather shall clout thy shoen.




[Illustration]

SIR PATRICK SPENS


The king sits in Dumferling toune,
Drinking the blude-reid wine:
O quhar will I get guid sailor,
To sail this schip of mine.

Up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sat at the kings richt kne:
Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor,
That sails upon the se.

The king has written a braid letter,
And signd it wi' his hand;
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the sand.

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

O quha is this has don this deid,
This ill deid don to me;
To send me out this time o' the zeir,
To sail upon the se.

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

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 com to harme.

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

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

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

Have owre, have owre to Aberdour,
It's fiftie fadom deip:
And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feit.




THE EARL OF MAR'S DAUGHTER


It was intill a pleasant time,
Upon a simmer's day,
The noble Earl of Mar's daughter
Went forth to sport and play.

As thus she did amuse hersell,
Below a green aik tree,
There she saw a sprightly doo
Set on a tower sae hie.

"O cow-me-doo, my love sae true,
If ye'll come down to me,
Ye 'se hae a cage o guid red gowd
Instead o simple tree:

"I'll put growd hingers roun your cage,
And siller roun your wa;
I'll gar ye shine as fair a bird
As ony o them a'."

But she hadnae these words well spoke,
Nor yet these words well said,
Till Cow-me-doo flew frae the tower
And lighted on her head.

Then she has brought this pretty bird
Hame to her bowers and ba,
And made him shine as fair a bird
As ony o them a'.

When day was gane, and night was come,
About the evening tide,
This lady spied a sprightly youth
Stand straight up by her side.

"From whence came ye, young man?" she said;
"That does surprise me sair;
My door was bolted right secure,
What way hae ye come here?"

"O had your tongue, ye lady fair,
Lat a' your folly be;
Mind ye not on your turtle-doo
Last day ye brought wi thee?"

"O tell me mair, young man," she said,
"This does surprise me now;
What country hae ye come frae?
What pedigree are you?"

"My mither lives on foreign isles,
She has nae mair but me;
She is a queen o wealth and state,
And birth and high degree.

"Likewise well skilld in magic spells,
As ye may plainly see,
And she transformd me to yon shape,
To charm such maids as thee.

"I am a doo the live-lang day,
A sprightly youth at night;
This aye gars me appear mair fair
In a fair maiden's sight.

"And it was but this verra day
That I came ower the sea;
Your lovely face did me enchant;
I'll live and dee wi thee."

"O Cow-me-doo, my luve sae true,
Nae mair frae me ye 'se gae;
That's never my intent, my luve,
As ye said, it shall be sae."

"O Cow-me-doo, my luve sae true,
It's time to gae to bed;"
"Wi a' my heart, my dear marrow,
It's be as ye hae said."

Then he has staid in bower wi her
For sax lang years and ane,
Till sax young sons to him she bare,
And the seventh she's brought hame.

But aye as ever a child was born
He carried them away,
And brought them to his mither's care,
As fast as he coud fly.

Thus he has staid in bower wi her
For twenty years and three;
There came a lord o high renown
To court this fair ladie.

But still his proffer she refused,
And a' his presents too;
Says, I'm content to live alane
Wi my bird, Cow-me-doo.

Her father sware a solemn oath
Amang the nobles all,
"The morn, or ere I eat or drink,
This bird I will gar kill."

The bird was sitting in his cage,
And heard what they did say;
And when he found they were dismist,
Says, Wae's me for this day!

"Before that I do langer stay,
And thus to be forlorn,
I'll gang unto my mither's bower,
Where I was bred and born."

Then Cow-me-doo took flight and flew
Beyond the raging sea,
And lighted near his mither's castle,
On a tower o gowd sae hie.

As his mither was wauking out,
To see what she coud see,
And there she saw her little son,
Set on the tower sae hie.

"Get dancers here to dance," she said,
"And minstrells for to play;
For here's my young son, Florentine,
Come here wi me to stay."

"Get nae dancers to dance, mither,
Nor minstrells for to play,
For the mither o my seven sons,
The morn's her wedding-day."

"O tell me, tell me, Florentine,
Tell me, and tell me true,
Tell me this day without a flaw,
What I will do for you."

"Instead of dancers to dance, mither,
Or minstrells for to play,
Turn four-and-twenty wall-wight men
Like storks in feathers gray;

"My seven sons in seven swans,
Aboon their heads to flee;
And I mysell a gay gos-hawk,
A bird o high degree."

Then sichin said the queen hersell,
"That thing's too high for me;"
But she applied to an auld woman,
Who had mair skill than she.

Instead o dancers to dance a dance,
Or minstrells for to play,
Four-and-twenty wall-wight men
Turnd birds o feathers gray;

Her seven sons in seven swans,
Aboon their heads to flee;
And he himsell a gay gos-hawk,
A bird o high degree.

This flock o birds took flight and flew
Beyond the raging sea,
And landed near the Earl Mar's castle,
Took shelter in every tree.

They were a flock o pretty birds,
Right comely to be seen;
The people viewed them wi surprise,
As they dancd on the green.

These birds ascended frae the tree
And lighted on the ha,
And at the last wi force did flee
Amang the nobles a'.

The storks there seized some o the men,
They coud neither fight nor flee;
The swans they bound the bride's best man
Below a green aik tree.

They lighted next on maidens fair,
Then on the bride's own head,
And wi the twinkling o an ee
The bride and them were fled.

There's ancient men at weddings been
For sixty years or more,
But sic a curious wedding-day
They never saw before.

For naething coud the companie do.
Nor naething coud they say
But they saw a flock o pretty birds
That took their bride away.

When that Earl Mar he came to know
Where his dochter did stay,
He signd a bond o unity,
And visits now they pay.




EDWARD, EDWARD.


Quhy dois zour brand sae drop wi' bluid,
Edward, Edward?
Quhy dois zour brand sae drop wi' bluid?
And quhy sae sad gang zee, O?
O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid,
Mither, mither:
O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid:
And I had nae mair bot hee, O.

Zour haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
Edward, Edward.
Zour haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
My deir son I tell thee, O.
O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
Mither, mither:
O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
That erst was sae fair and free, O.

Zour steid was auld, and ze hae gat mair,
Edward, Edward;
Zour steid was auld, and ze hae gat mair,
Sum other dule ze drie, O.
O, I hae killed my fadir deir,
Mither, mither:
O, I hae killed my fadir deir,
Alas! and wae is mee, O!

And quhatten penance wul ze drie for that,
Edward, Edward?
And quhatten penance will ze drie for that?
My deir son, now tell mee, O.
He set my feit in zonder boat,
Mither, mither:
He set my feit in zonder boat,
And He fare ovir the sea, O.

And quhat wul ze doe wi' zour towirs and zour ha',
Edward, Edward?
And quhat wul ze doe wi' zour towirs and zour ha',
That were sae fair to see, O?
He let thame stand til they doun fa',
Mither, mither:
He let thame stand til they doun fa',
For here nevir mair maun I bee, O.

And quhat wul ze leive to zour bairns and zour wife,
Edward, Edward?
And quhat wul ze leive to zour bairns and zour wife,
Quhan ze gang ovir the sea, O?
The warldis room, let thame beg throw life,
Mither, mither;
The warldis room, let thame beg throw life,
For thame nevir mair wul I see, O.

And quhat wul ze leive to zour ain mither deir,
Edward, Edward?
And quhat wul ze leive to zour ain mither deir?
My deir son, now tell me, O.
The curse of hell frae me sail ze beir,
Mither, mither:
The curse of hell frae me sail ze beir,
Sic counseils ze gave to me, O.



KING LEIR & HIS THREE DAUGHTERS


King Leir once ruled in this land
With princely power and peace;
And had all things with hearts content,
That might his joys increase.
Amongst those things that nature gave,
Three daughters fair had he,
So princely seeming beautiful,
As fairer could not be.

So on a time it pleas'd the king
A question thus to move,
Which of his daughters to his grace
Could shew the dearest love:
For to my age you bring content,
Quoth he, then let me hear,
Which of you three in plighted troth
The kindest will appear.

To whom the eldest thus began;
Dear father, mind, quoth she,
Before your face, to do you good,
My blood shall render'd be:
And for your sake my bleeding heart
Shall here be cut in twain,
Ere that I see your reverend age
The smallest grief sustain.

And so will I, the second said;
Dear father, for your sake,
The worst of all extremities
I'll gently undertake:
And serve your highness night and day
With diligence and love;
That sweet content and quietness
Discomforts may remove.

In doing so, you glad my soul,
The aged king reply'd;
But what sayst thou, my youngest girl,
How is thy love ally'd?
My love (quoth young Cordelia then)
Which to your grace I owe,
Shall be the duty of a child,
And that is all I'll show.

And wilt thou shew no more, quoth he,
Than doth thy duty bind?
I well perceive thy love is small,
When as no more I find.
Henceforth I banish thee my court,
Thou art no child of mine;
Nor any part of this my realm
By favour shall be thine.

Thy elder sisters loves are more
Then well I can demand,
To whom I equally bestow
My kingdome and my land,
My pompal state and all my goods,
That lovingly I may
With those thy sisters be maintain'd
Until my dying day.

Thus flattering speeches won renown,
By these two sisters here;
The third had causeless banishment,
Yet was her love more dear:
For poor Cordelia patiently
Went wandring up and down,
Unhelp'd, unpity'd, gentle maid,
Through many an English town:

Untill at last in famous France
She gentler fortunes found;
Though poor and bare, yet she was deem'd
The fairest on the ground:
Where when the king her virtues heard,
And this fair lady seen,
With full consent of all his court
He made his wife and queen.

Her father king Leir this while
With his two daughters staid:
Forgetful of their promis'd loves,
Full soon the same decay'd;
And living in queen Ragan's court,
The eldest of the twain,
She took from him his chiefest means,
And most of all his train.

For whereas twenty men were wont
To wait with bended knee:
She gave allowance but to ten,
And after scarce to three;
Nay, one she thought too much for him;
So took she all away,
In hope that in her court, good king,
He would no longer stay.

Am I rewarded thus, quoth he,
In giving all I have
Unto my children, and to beg
For what I lately gave?
I'll go unto my Gonorell:
My second child, I know,
Will be more kind and pitiful,
And will relieve my woe.

Full fast he hies then to her court;
Where when she heard his moan
Return'd him answer, That she griev'd
That all his means were gone:
But no way could relieve his wants;
Yet if that he would stay
Within her kitchen, he should have
What scullions gave away.

When he had heard, with bitter tears,
He made his answer then;
In what I did let me be made
Example to all men.
I will return again, quoth he,
Unto my Ragan's court;
She will not use me thus, I hope,
But in a kinder sort.

Where when he came, she gave command
To drive him thence away:
When he was well within her court
(She said) he would not stay.
Then back again to Gonorell
The woeful king did hie,
That in her kitchen he might have
What scullion boy set by.

But there of that he was deny'd,
Which she had promis'd late:
For once refusing, he should not
Come after to her gate.
Thus twixt his daughters, for relief
He wandred up and down;
Being glad to feed on beggars food,
That lately wore a crown.

And calling to remembrance then
His youngest daughters words,
That said the duty of a child
Was all that love affords:
But doubting to repair to her,
Whom he had banish'd so,
Grew frantick mad; for in his mind
He bore the wounds of woe:

Which made him rend his milk-white locks,
And tresses from his head,
And all with blood bestain his cheeks,
With age and honour spread.
To hills and woods and watry founts
He made his hourly moan,
Till hills and woods and sensless things,
Did seem to sigh and groan.

Even thus possest with discontents,
He passed o're to France,
In hopes from fair Cordelia there,
To find some gentler chance;
Most virtuous dame! which when she heard,
Of this her father's grief,
As duty bound, she quickly sent
Him comfort and relief:
And by a train of noble peers,
In brave and gallant sort,
She gave in charge he should be brought
To Aganippus' court;
Whose royal king, with noble mind
So freely gave consent,
To muster up his knights at arms,
To fame and courage bent.

And so to England came with speed,
To repossesse king Leir
And drive his daughters from their thrones
By his Cordelia dear.
Where she, true-hearted noble queen,
Was in the battel slain;
Yet he, good king, in his old days,
Possest his crown again.

But when he heard Cordelia's death,
Who died indeed for love
Of her dear father, in whose cause
She did this battle move;
He swooning fell upon her breast,
From whence he never parted:
But on her bosom left his life,
That was so truly hearted.

The lords and nobles when they saw
The end of these events,
The other sisters unto death
They doomed by consents;
And being dead, their crowns they left
Unto the next of kin:
Thus have you seen the fall of pride,
And disobedient sin.




[Illustration]

HYND HORN


"Hynde Horn's bound, love, and Hynde Horn's free;
Whare was ye born? or frae what cuntrie?"

"In gude greenwud whare I was born,
And all my friends left me forlorn.

"I gave my love a gay gowd wand,
That was to rule oure all Scotland.

"My love gave me a silver ring,
That was to rule abune aw thing.

"Whan that ring keeps new in hue,
Ye may ken that your love loves you.

"Whan that ring turns pale and wan,
Ye may ken that your love loves anither man."

He hoisted up his sails, and away sailed he
Till he cam to a foreign cuntree.

Whan he lookit to his ring, it was turnd pale and wan;
Says, I wish I war at hame again.

He hoisted up his sails, and hame sailed he
Until he cam till his ain cuntree.

The first ane that he met with,
It was with a puir auld beggar-man.

"What news? what news, my puir auld man?
What news hae ye got to tell to me?"

"Na news, na news," the puir man did say,
"But this is our queen's wedding-day."

"Ye'll lend me your begging-weed,
And I'll lend you my riding-steed."
"My begging-weed is na for thee,
Your riding-steed is na for me."

He has changed wi the puir auld beggar-man.

"What is the way that ye use to gae?
And what are the words that ye beg wi?"

"Whan ye come to yon high hill,
Ye'll draw your bent bow nigh until.

"Whan ye come to yon town-end,
Ye'll lat your bent bow low fall doun.

"Ye'll seek meat for St Peter, ask for St Paul,
And seek for the sake of your Hynde Horn all.

"But tak ye frae nane o them aw
Till ye get frae the bonnie bride hersel O."

Whan he cam to yon high hill,
He drew his bent bow nigh until.

And when he cam to yon toun-end,
He loot his bent bow low fall doun.

He sought for St Peter, he askd for St Paul,
And he sought for the sake of his Hynde Horn all.

But he took na frae ane o them aw
Till he got frae the bonnie bride hersel O.

The bride cam tripping doun the stair,
Wi the scales o red gowd on her hair.

Wi a glass o red wine in her hand,
To gie to the puir beggar-man.

Out he drank his glass o wine,
Into it he dropt the ring.

"Got ye't by sea, or got ye't by land,
Or got ye't aff a drownd man's hand?"

"I got na't by sea, I got na't by land,
Nor gat I it aff a drownd man's hand;

"But I got it at my wooing,
And I'll gie it to your wedding."

"I'll tak the scales o gowd frae my head,
I'll follow you, and beg my bread.

"I'll tak the scales o gowd frae my hair,
I'll follow you for evermair."

She has tane the scales o gowd frae her head,
She's followed him, to beg her bread.

She has tane the scales o gowd frae her hair,
And she has followd him evermair.

Atween the kitchen and the ha,
There he loot his cloutie cloak fa.

The red gowd shined oure them aw,
And the bride frae the bridegroom was stown awa.




JOHN BROWN'S BODY


Old John Brown's body lies a mould'ring in the grave,
Because he fought for Freedom and the stricken Negro slave;
Old John Brown's body lies a mould'ring in the grave,
But his soul is marching on.

_Chorus_

Glory, glory, Hallelujah!
Glory, glory, Hallelujah!
Glory, glory, Hallelujah!
His soul is marching on.

He was a noble martyr, was Old John Brown the true;
His little patriot band into a noble army grew;
He was a noble martyr, was Old John Brown the true,
And his soul is marching on.

'Twas not till John Brown lost his life, arose in all its might,
The army of the Union men that won the fearful fight;
But tho' the glad event, oh! it never met his sight,
Still his soul is marching on.

John Brown is now a soldier in that heavenly land above,
Where live the happy spirits in their harmony and love,
John Brown is now a soldier in that heavenly land above,
And his soul is marching on.



TIPPERARY


Up to mighty London came an Irishman one day,
As the streets are paved with gold, sure everyone was gay;
Singing songs of Piccadilly, Strand and Leicester Square,
Till Paddy got excited, then he shouted to them there:--

_Chorus_

"It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go;
It's a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know!
Good-bye Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square,
It's a long, long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there!"

Paddy wrote a letter to his Irish Molly O',
Saying, "Should you not receive it, write and let me know!
"If I make mistakes in 'spelling,' Molly dear,' said he,
"Remember it's the pen that's bad, don't lay the blame on me."

Molly wrote a neat reply to Irish Paddy O',
Saying, "Mike Maloney wants to marry me, and so
Leave the Strand and Piccadilly, or you'll be to blame,
For love has fairly drove me silly--hoping you're the same!"




THE BAILIFF'S DAUGHTER OF ISLINGTON


There was a youthe, and a well-beloved youthe,
And he was a squires son:
He loved the bayliffes daughter deare,
That lived in Islington.

Yet she was coye, and would not believe
That he did love her soe,
Noe nor at any time would she
Any countenance to him showe.

But when his friendes did understand
His fond and foolish minde,
They sent him up to faire London
An apprentice for to binde.

And when he had been seven long yeares,
And never his love could see:
Many a teare have I shed for her sake,
When she little thought of mee.

Then all the maids of Islington
Went forth to sport and playe,
All but the bayliffes daughter deare;
She secretly stole awaye.

She pulled off her gowne of greene,
And put on ragged attire,
And to faire London she would goe
Her true love to enquire.

And as she went along the high road,
The weather being hot and drye,
She sat her downe upon a green bank,
And her true love came riding bye.

She started up, with a colour soe redd,
Catching hold of his bridle-reine;
One penny, one penny, kind Sir, she sayd,
Will ease me of much paine.

Before I give you one penny, sweet-heart,
Praye tell me where you were borne:
At Islington, kind Sir, sayd shee,
Where I have had many a scorne.

I prythee, sweet-heart, then tell to mee,
O tell me, whether you knowe
The bayliffes daughter of Islington:
She is dead, Sir, long agoe.

If she be dead, then take my horse,
My saddle and bridle also;
For I will into some far countrye,
Where noe man shall me knowe.

O staye, O staye, thou goodlye youthe,
She standeth by thy side;
She is here alive, she is not dead,
And readye to be thy bride.

O farewell griefe, and welcome joye,
Ten thousand times therefore;
For nowe I have founde mine owne true love,
Whom I thought I should never see more.




THE THREE RAVENS


There were three rauens sat on a tree,
Downe a downe, hay down, hay downe
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
With a downe
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be
With a downe derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe

The one of them said to his mate,
"Where shall we our breakefast take?"

"Downe in yonder greene field,
There lies a knight slain vnder his shield.

"His hounds they lie downe at his feete,
So well they can their master keepe.

"His haukes they flie so eagerly,
There's no fowle dare him come nie."

Downe there comes a fallow doe,
As great with yong as she might goe.

She lift up his bloudy hed,
And kist his wounds that were so red.

She got him up upon her backe,
And carried him to earthen lake.

She buried him before the prime,
She was dead herselfe ere even-song time.

God send every gentleman,
Such haukes, such hounds, and such a leman.



THE GABERLUNZIE MAN


The pauky auld Carle come ovir the lee
Wi' mony good-eens and days to mee,
Saying, Good wife, for zour courtesie,
Will ze lodge a silly poor man?
The night was cauld, the carle was wat,
And down azont the ingle he sat;
My dochtors shoulders he gan to clap,
And cadgily ranted and sang.

O wow! quo he, were I as free,
As first when I saw this countrie,
How blyth and merry wad I bee!
And I wad nevir think lang.
He grew canty, and she grew fain;
But little did her auld minny ken
What thir slee twa togither were say'n,
When wooing they were sa thrang.

And O! quo he, ann ze were as black,
As evir the crown of your dadyes hat,
Tis I wad lay thee by my backe,
And awa wi' me thou sould gang.
And O! quoth she, ann I were as white,
As evir the snaw lay on the dike,
Ild dead me braw, and lady-like,
And awa with thee Ild gang.

Between them twa was made a plot;
They raise a wee before the cock,
And wyliely they shot the lock,
And fast to the bent are they gane.
Up the morn the auld wife raise,
And at her leisure put on her claiths,
Syne to the servants bed she gaes
To speir for the silly poor man.

She gaed to the bed, whair the beggar lay,
The strae was cauld, he was away,
She clapt her hands, cryd, Dulefu' day!
For some of our geir will be gane.
Some ran to coffer, and some to kist,
But nought was stown that could be mist.
She dancid her lane, cryd, Praise be blest,
I have lodgd a leal poor man.

Since naithings awa, as we can learn,
The kirns to kirn, and milk to earn,
Gae butt the house, lass, and waken my bairn,
And bid her come quickly ben.
The servant gaed where the dochter lay,
The sheets was cauld, she was away,
And fast to her goodwife can say,
Shes aff with the gaberlunzie-man.

O fy gar ride, and fy gar rin,
And haste ze, find these traitors agen;
For shees be burnt, and hees be slein,
The wearyfou gaberlunzie-man.
Some rade upo horse, some ran a fit
The wife was wood, and out o' her wit;
She could na gang, nor yet could sit,
But ay did curse and did ban.

Mean time far hind out owre the lee,
For snug in a glen, where nane could see,
The twa, with kindlie sport and glee
Cut frae a new cheese a whang.
The priving was gude, it pleas'd them baith,
To lo'e her for ay, he gae her his aith.
Quo she, to leave thee, I will laith,
My winsome gaberlunzie-man.

O kend my minny I were wi' zou,
Illfardly wad she crook her mou,
Sic a poor man sheld nevir trow,
Aftir the gaberlunzie-mon.
My dear, quo he, zee're zet owre zonge;
And hae na learnt the beggars tonge,
To follow me frae toun to toun,
And carrie the gaberlunzie on.

Wi' kauk and keel, Ill win zour bread,
And spindles and whorles for them wha need,
Whilk is a gentil trade indeed
The gaberlunzie to carrie--o.
Ill bow my leg and crook my knee,
And draw a black clout owre my ee,
A criple or blind they will cau me:
While we sail sing and be merrie--o.




THE WIFE OF USHER'S WELL


There lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And sent them oer the sea.

They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely ane,
Whan word came to the carline wife
That her three sons were gane.

They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely three,
Whan word came to the carlin wife
That her sons she'd never see.

"I wish the wind may never cease,
Nor fashes in the flood,
Till my three sons come hame to me,
In earthly flesh and blood."

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife's three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
Nor yet in ony sheugh;
But at the gates o Paradise,
That birk grew fair eneugh.

* * * * *

"Blow up the fire, my maidens,
Bring water from the well;
For a' my house shall feast this night,
Since my three sons are well."

And she has made to them a bed,
She's made it large and wide,
And she's taen her mantle her about,
Sat down at the bed-side.

* * * * *

Up then crew the red, red cock,
And up and crew the gray;
The eldest to the youngest said,
'Tis time we were away.

The cock he hadna crawd but once,
And clappd his wings at a',
When the youngest to the eldest said,
Brother, we must awa.

"The cock doth craw, the day doth daw,
The channerin worm doth chide;
Gin we be mist out o our place,
A sair pain we maun bide.

"Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
Fareweel to barn and byre!
And fare ye weel, the bonny lass
That kindles my mother's fire!"




THE LYE


Goe, soule, the bodies guest,
Upon a thanklesse arrant;
Feare not to touche the best,
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Goe, since I needs must dye,
And give the world the lye.

Goe tell the court, it glowes
And shines like rotten wood;
Goe tell the church it showes
What's good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lye.

Tell potentates they live
Acting by others actions;
Not lov'd unlesse they give,
Not strong but by their factions;
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lye.

Tell men of high condition,
That rule affairs of state,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practise onely hate;
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lye.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who in their greatest cost
Seek nothing but commending;
And if they make reply,
Spare not to give the lye.

Tell zeale, it lacks devotion;
Tell love, it is but lust;
Tell time, it is but motion;
Tell flesh, it is but dust;
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lye.

Tell age, it daily wasteth;
Tell honour, how it alters:
Tell beauty, how she blasteth;
Tell favour, how she falters;
And as they shall reply,
Give each of them the lye.

Tell wit, how much it wrangles
In tickle points of nicenesse;
Tell wisedome, she entangles
Herselfe in over-wisenesse;
And if they do reply,
Straight give them both the lye.

Tell physicke of her boldnesse;
Tell skill, it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law, it is contention;
And as they yield reply,
So give them still the lye.

Tell fortune of her blindnesse;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindnesse;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they dare reply,
Then give them all the lye.

Tell arts, they have no soundnesse,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schooles, they want profoundnesse;
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schooles reply.
Give arts and schooles the lye.

Tell faith, it's fled the citie;
Tell how the countrey erreth;
Tell, manhood shakes off pitie;
Tell, vertue least preferreth:
And, if they doe reply,
Spare not to give the lye.

So, when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing,
Although to give the lye
Deserves no less than stabbing,
Yet stab at thee who will,
No stab the soule can kill.




THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL


I.


He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
_"That fellow's got to swing."_

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

* * * * *

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
Into an empty space.

He does not sit with silent men
Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
Fingering a watch whose little ticks
Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not feel that sickening thirst
That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves
Comes through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the anguish of his soul
Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
Through a little roof of glass:
He does not pray with lips of clay
For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
The kiss of Caiaphas.


II


Six weeks the guardsman walked the yard
In the suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
Its ravelled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling
In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
The man who had to swing.

For strange it was to see him pass
With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.

* * * * *

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer's collar take
His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
In the black dock's dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
For weal or woe again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men we were:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.


III.


In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,
And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called,
And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
The hangman's day was near.

But why he said so strange a thing
No warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips
And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
Pent up in Murderer's Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
Could help a brother's soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devil's Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And I trembled as I groped my way
Into my numbered tomb.

* * * * *

That night the empty corridors
Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watchers watched him as he slept,
And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
With a hangman close at hand.

But there is no sleep when men must weep
Who never yet have wept:
So we--the fool, the fraud, the knave--
That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
Another's terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another's guilt!
For, right, within, the Sword of Sin
Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
For the blood we had not spilt.

The warders with their shoes of felt
Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
Mad mourners of a corse!
The troubled plumes of midnight shook
The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
Was the savour of Remorse.

* * * * *

The grey cock crew, the red cock crew,
But never came the day:
And crooked shapes of Terror crouched,
In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
Like travellers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
They trod a saraband:
And the damned grotesques made arabesques,
Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
For they sang to wake the dead.

_"Oho!" they cried, "The world is wide,
But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
In the secret House of Shame."_

No things of air these antics were,
That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
Some wheeled in smirking pairs;
With the mincing step of a demirep
Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning steel
We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars,
Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
God's dreadful dawn was red.

At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,
At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
Had entered in to kill.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
Are all the gallows' need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or to give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.

For Man's grim Justice goes its way,
And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man's heart beat thick and quick,
Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marches hear
From some leper in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman's snare
Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.


IV


There is no chapel on the day
On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
And then they rang the bell,
And the warders with their jingling keys
Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God's sweet air we went,
But not in wonted way,
For this man's face was white with fear,
And that man's face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
We prisoners called the sky,
And at every happy cloud that passed
In such strange freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived,
Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,
And makes it bleed in vain!

* * * * *

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
And through each hollow mind
The Memory of dreadful things
Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
And Terror crept behind.

* * * * *

The warders strutted up and down,
And watched their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were spick and span,
And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at,
By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
And the soft flesh by day,
It eats the flesh and bone by turns,
But it eats the heart alway.

* * * *

For three long years they will not sow
Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer's heart would taint
Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God's kindly earth
Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
Christ brings His will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
May bloom in prison-air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
A common man's despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard
That God's Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit may not walk by night
That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may but weep that lies
In such unholy ground.

He is at peace-this wretched man--
At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
They did not even toll
A requiem that might have brought
Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
And hid him in a hole.

The warders stripped him of his clothes,
And gave him to the flies:
They mocked the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
In which the convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.


V


I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

This too I know--and wise it were
If each could know the same--
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
Ever should look upon!

* * * * *

The vilest deeds like poison weeds,
Bloom well in prison-air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.

For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.



 


Back to Full Books