Minstrelsy of the Scottish border (3rd ed) (1 of 3)
Walter Scott

Part 2 out of 6

enforce the claims of the church were usually attended by the most
scandalous disputes. A petty warfare was carried on for years, betwixt
James, abbot of Dryburgh, and the family of Halliburton of Mertoun, or
Newmains, who held some lands from that abbey. These possessions were,
under various pretexts, seized and laid waste by both parties; and
some bloodshed took place in the contest, betwixt the lay vassals
and their spiritual superior. The matter was, at length, thought of
sufficient importance to be terminated by a reference to his majesty;
whose decree arbitral, dated at Stirling, the 8th of May, 1535,
proceeds thus: "Whereas we, having been advised and knowing the said
gentlemen, the Halliburtons, to be leal and true honest men, long
servants unto the saide abbeye, for the saide landis, stout men at
armes, and goode borderers against Ingland; and doe therefore decree
and ordaine, that they sail be re-possess'd, and bruik and enjoy the
landis and steedings they had of the said abbeye, paying the use and
wonte: and that they sall be goode servants to the said venerabil
father, like as they and their predecessours were to the said
venerabil father, and his predecessours, and he a good master to
them[46]." It is unnecessary to detain the reader with other instances
of the discord, which prevailed anciently upon the borders, betwixt
the spiritual shepherd and his untractable flock.

[Footnote 45: These vassals resembled, in some degree, the Vidames in
France, and the Vogten, or Vizedomen, of the German abbeys; but the
system was never carried regularly into effect in Britain, and this
circumstance facilitated the dissolution of the religious houses.]

[Footnote 46: This decree was followed by a marriage betwixt the
abbot's daughter, Elizabeth Stewart, and Walter Halliburton, one of
the family of Newmains. But even this alliance did not secure peace
between the venerable father and his vassals. The offspring of the
marriage was an only daughter, named Elizabeth Halliburton. As this
young lady was her father's heir, the Halliburtons resolved that she
should marry one of her cousins, to keep her property in the clan. But
as this did not suit the views of the abbot, he carried off by
force the intended bride, and married her, at Stirling, to Alexander
Erskine, a brother of the laird of Balgony, a relation and follower
of his own. From this marriage sprung the Erskines of Shielfield.
This exploit of the abbot revived the feud betwixt him and
the Halliburtons, which only ended with the dissolution of the
abbey.--_MS. History of Halliburton Family, penes editorem_.]

The reformation was late of finding its way into the border wilds;
for, while the religious and civil dissentions were at the height in
1568, Drury writes to Cecil,--"Our trusty neighbours of Teviotdale are
holden occupied only to attend to the pleasure and calling of their
own heads, to make some diversion in this matter." The influence of
the reformed preachers, among the borders, seems also to have been but
small; for, upon all occasions of dispute with the kirk, James VI. was
wont to call in their assistance. _Calderwood_, p. 129.

We learn from a curious passage in the life of Richard Cameron,
a fanatical preacher during the time of what is called "the
persecution," that some of the borderers retained to a late period
their indifference about religious matters. After having been licensed
at Haughhead, in Teviotdale, he was, according to his biographer, sent
first to preach in Annandale. "He said, 'how can I go there? I know
what sort of people they are.' 'But,' Mr. Welch said, 'go your way,
Ritchie, and set the fire of hell to their tails.' He went; and, the
first day, he preached upon that text, _Home shall I put thee among
the children, &c_. In the application he said, 'Put you among the
children! the offspring of thieves and robbers! we have all heard of
Annandale thieves.' Some of them got a merciful cast that day,
and told afterwards, that it was the first field meeting they ever
attended, and that they went out of mere curiosity, to see a minister
preach in a tent, and people sit on the ground." _Life of Richard

[Footnote 47: This man was chaplain in the family of Sir Walter Scott
of Harden, who attended the meetings of the indulged presbyterians;
but Cameron, considering this conduct as a compromise with the foul
fiend Episcopacy, was dismissed from the family. He was slain in a
skirmish at Airdsmoss, bequeathing his name to the sect of fanatics,
still called Cameronians.]

Cleland, an enthusiastic Cameronian, lieutenant-colonel of the
regiment levied after the Revolution from among that wild and
fanatical sect, claims to the wandering preachers of his tribe
the merit of converting the borderers. He introduces a cavalier,
haranguing the Highlanders, and ironically thus guarding them against
the fanatic divines:

If their doctrine there get rooting,
Then, farewell theift, the best of booting,
And this ye see is very clear,
Dayly experience makes it appear;
For instance, lately on the borders,
Where there was nought but theft and murders,
Rapine, cheating, and resetting,
Slight of hand, fortunes getting,
Their designation, as ye ken,
Was all along the _Tacking Men_.
Now, rebels more prevails with words,
Then drawgoons does with guns and swords,
So that their bare preaching now
Makes the rush-bush keep the cow;
Better than Scots or English kings,
Could do by kilting them with strings.
Yea, those that were the greatest rogues,
Follows them over hills and bogues,
Crying for mercy and for preaching,
For they'll now hear no others teaching."

_Cleland's Poems_, 1697, p. 30.

The poet of the whigs might exaggerate the success of their teachers;
yet, it must be owned, that their doctrine of insubordination, joined
to their vagrant and lawless habits, was calculated strongly to
conciliate their border hearers.

But, though the church, in the border counties, attracted little
veneration, no part of Scotland teemed with superstitious fears and
observances more than they did. "The Dalesmen[48]," says Lesley,
"never count their beads with such earnestness as when they set out
upon a predatory expedition." Penances, the composition betwixt guilt
and conscience, were also frequent upon the borders. Of this we have
a record in many bequests to the church, and in some more lasting
monuments; such as the Tower of Repentance in Dumfries-shire,
and, according to vulgar tradition, the church of Linton[49], in
Roxburghshire. In the appendix to this introduction. No. IV., the
reader will find a curious league, or treaty of peace, betwixt two
hostile clans, by which the heads of each became bound to make the
four pilgrimages of Scotland, for the benefit of the souls of those
of the opposite clan, who had fallen in the feud. These were
superstitions, flowing immediately from the nature of the Catholic
religion: but there was, upon the border, no lack of others of a more
general nature. Such was the universal belief in spells, of which some
traces may yet remain in the wild parts of the country. These were
common in the time of the learned Bishop Nicolson, who derives
them from the time of the Pagan Danes. "This conceit was the more
heightened, by reflecting upon the natural superstition of our
borderers at this day, who were much better acquainted with, and
do more firmly believe, their old legendary stories, of fairies and
witches, than the articles of their creed. And to convince me, yet
farther, that they are not utter strangers to the black art of their
forefathers, I met with a gentleman in the neighbourhood, who shewed
me a book of spells, and magical receipts, taken, two or three days
before, in the pocket of one of our moss-troopers; wherein, among many
other conjuring feats, was prescribed, a certain remedy for an ague,
by applying a few barbarous characters to the body of the party
distempered. These, methought, were very near a-kin to Wormius's _Ram
Runer_, which, he says, differed wholly in figure and shape from the
common _runae_. For, though he tells us, that these _Ram Runer_ were
so called, _Eo quod molestias, dolores, morbosque hisce infligere
inimicis soliti sunt magi_; yet his great friend, Arng. Jonas, more
to our purpose, says, that--_His etiam usi sunt ad benefaciendum,
juvandum, medicandum tam animi quam corporis morbis; atque ad ipsos
cacodaemones pellendos et fugandos_. I shall not trouble you with a
draught of this spell, because I have not yet had an opportunity of
learning whether it may not be an ordinary one, and to be met
with, among others of the same nature, in Paracelsus, or Cornelius
Agrippa."--_Letter from Bishop Nicolson to Mr. Walker; vide Camden's
Britannia, Cumberland_. Even in the editor's younger days, he can
remember the currency of certain spells, for curing sprains, burns,
or dislocations, to which popular credulity ascribed unfailing
efficacy[50]. Charms, however, against spiritual enemies, were yet
more common than those intended to cure corporeal complaints. This
is not surprising, as a fantastic remedy well suited an imaginary

[Footnote 48: This small church is founded upon a little hill of sand,
in which no stone of the size of an egg is said to have been found,
although the neighbouring soil is sharp and gravelly. Tradition
accounts for this, by informing us, that the foundresses were two
sisters, upon whose account much blood had been spilt in that spot;
and that the penance, imposed on the fair causers of the slaughter,
was an order from the pope to sift the sand of the hill, upon which
their church was to be erected. This story may, perhaps, have some
foundation; for, in the church-yard was discovered a single grave,
containing no fewer than fifty skulls, most of which bore the marks of
having been cleft by violence.]

[Footnote 49: An epithet bestowed upon the borderers, from the names
of their various districts; as Tiviotdale, Liddesdale, Eskdale,
Ewsdale, Annandale, &c. Hence, an old ballad distinguishes the north
as the country,

"Where every river gives name to a dale,"

_Ex-ale-tation of Ale_.]

[Footnote 50: Among these may be reckoned the supposed influence
of Irish earth, in curing the poison of adders, or other venomous
reptiles.--This virtue is extended by popular credulity to the
natives, and even to the animals, of Hibernia. A gentleman, bitten by
some reptile, so as to occasion a great swelling, seriously assured
the editor, that he ascribed his cure to putting the affected finger
into the mouth of an Irish mare!]

There were, upon the borders, many consecrated wells, for resorting
to which the people's credulity is severely censured, by a worthy
physician of the seventeenth century; who himself believed in a
shower of living herrings having fallen near Dumfries. "Many run
superstitiously to other wells, and there obtain, as they imagine,
health and advantage; and there they offer bread and cheese, or money,
by throwing them into the well." In another part of the MS. occurs the
following passage. "In the bounds of the lands of Eccles, belonging to
a lyneage of the name of Maitland, there is a loch called the Dowloch,
of old resorted to with much superstition, as medicinal both for men
and beasts, and that with such ceremonies, as are _shrewdly_ suspected
to have been begun with witchcraft, and increased afterward by magical
directions: For, burying of a cloth, or somewhat that did relate to
the bodies of men and women, and a shackle, or teather, belonging to
cow or horse; and these being cast into the loch, if they did float,
it was taken for a good omen of recovery, and a part of the water
carried to the patient, though to remote places, without saluting
or speaking to any they met by the way; but, if they did sink, the
recovery of the party was hopeless. This custom was of late much
curbed and restrained; but since the discovery of many medicinal
fountains near to the place, the vulgar, holding that it may be as
medicinal as these are, at this time begin to re-assume their former
practice."--_Account of Presbytery of Penpont, in Macfarlane's MSS._

The idea, that the spirits of the deceased return to haunt the place,
where on earth they have suffered or have rejoiced, is, as Dr. Johnson
has observed, common to the popular creed of all nations The just and
noble sentiment, implanted in our bosoms by the Deity, teaches us,
that we shall not slumber for ever, as the beasts that perish.--Human
vanity, or credulity, chequers, with its own inferior and base
colours, the noble prospect, which is alike held out to us by
philosophy and by religion. We feel, according to the ardent
expression of the poet, that we shall not wholly die; but from hence
we vainly and weakly argue, that the same scenes, the same passions,
shall delight and actuate the disembodied spirit, which affected it
while in its tenement of clay. Hence the popular belief, that the
soul haunts the spot where the murdered body is interred; that its
appearances are directed to bring down vengeance on its murderers; or
that, having left its terrestrial form in a distant clime, it glides
before its former friends, a pale spectre, to warn them of its
decease. Such tales, the foundation of which is an argument from our
present feelings to those of the spiritual world, form the broad
and universal basis of the popular superstition regarding departed
spirits; against which reason has striven in vain, and universal
experience has offered a disregarded testimony. These legends are
peculiarly acceptable to barbarous tribes; and, on the borders,
they were received with most unbounded faith. It is true, that these
supernatural adversaries were no longer opposed by the sword and
battle-axe, as among the unconverted Scandinavians. Prayers, spells,
and exorcisms, particularly in the Greek and Hebrew languages, were
the weapons of the borderers, or rather of their priests and cunning
men, against their aerial enemy[51]. The belief in ghosts, which has
been well termed the last lingering phantom of superstition, still
maintains its ground upon the borders.

[Footnote 51: One of the most noted apparitions is supposed to haunt
Spedlin's castle, near Lochmaben, the ancient baronial residence
of the Jardines of Applegirth. It is said, that, in exercise of his
territorial jurisdiction, one of the ancient lairds had imprisoned, in
the _Massy More_, or dungeon of the castle, a person named Porteous.
Being called suddenly to Edinburgh, the laird discovered, as he
entered the West Port, that he had brought along with him the key of
the dungeon. Struck with the utmost horror, he sent back his servant
to relieve the prisoner; but it was too late. The wretched being was
found lying upon the steps descending from the door of the vault,
starved to death. In the agonies of hunger, he had gnawed the flesh
from one of his arms. That his spectre should haunt the castle was a
natural consequence of such a tragedy. Indeed, its visits became so
frequent, that a clergyman of eminence was employed to exorcise it.
After a contest of twenty-four hours, the man of art prevailed so far
as to confine the goblin to the _Massy More_ of the castle, where its
shrieks and cries are still heard. A part, at least, of the spell,
depends upon the preservation of the ancient black-lettered bible,
employed by the exorcist. It was some years ago thought necessary
to have this bible re-bound; but, as soon as it was removed from the
castle, the spectre commenced his nocturnal orgies, with ten-fold
noise; and it is verily believed that he would have burst from his
confinement, had not the sacred volume been speedily replaced.

A Mass John Scott, minister of Peebles, is reported to have been the
last renowned exorciser, and to have lost his life in a contest with
an obstinate spirit. This was owing to the conceited rashness of a
young clergyman, who commenced the ceremony of laying the ghost before
the arrival of Mass John. It is the nature, it seems, of spirits
disembodied, as well as embodied, to increase in strength and
presumption, in proportion to the advantages which they may gain over
the opponent. The young clergyman losing courage, the horrors of the
scene were increased to such a degree, that, as Mass John approached
the house in which it passed, he beheld the slates and tiles flying
from the roof, as if dispersed by a whirlwind. At his entry, he
perceived all the wax-tapers (the most essential instruments of
conjuration) extinguished, except one, which already burned blue in
the socket. The arrival of the experienced sage changed the scene: he
brought the spirit to reason; but, unfortunately, while addressing a
word of advice or censure to his rash brother, he permitted the ghost
to obtain the _last word_; a circumstance which, in all colloquies of
this nature, is strictly to be guarded against. This fatal oversight
occasioned his falling into a lingering disorder, of which he never

A curious poem, upon the laying of a ghost, forms article No. V. of
the Appendix.]

It is unnecessary to mention the superstitious belief in witchcraft,
which gave rise to so much cruelty and persecution during the
seventeenth century. There were several executions upon the borders
for this imaginary crime, which was usually tried, not by the ordinary
judges, but by a set of country gentlemen, acting under commission
from the privy council[52].

[Footnote 52: I have seen, _penes_ Hugh Scott, Esq. of Harden, the
record of the trial of a witch, who was burned at Ducove. She was
tried in the manner above mentioned.]

Besides these grand articles of superstitious belief, the creed of
the borderers admitted the existence of sundry classes of subordinate
spirits, to whom were assigned peculiar employments. The chief of
these were the Fairies, concerning whom the reader will find a long
dissertation, in Volume Second. The Brownie formed a class of beings,
distinct in habit and disposition from the freakish and mischievous
elves. He was meagre, shaggy, and wild in his appearance. Thus,
Cleland, in his satire against the Highlanders, compares them to

"Faunes, or _Brownies_, if ye will,
Or satyres come from Atlas hill."

In the day time, he lurked in remote recesses of the old houses which
he delighted to haunt; and, in the night, sedulously employed himself
in discharging any laborious task which he thought might be acceptable
to the family, to whose service he had devoted himself. His name is
probably derived from the _Portuni_, whom Gervase of Tilbury describes
thus: "_Ecce enim in Anglia daemones quosdam habent, daemones, inquam,
nescio dixerim, an secretae et ignotae generationis effigies, quos
Galli Neptunos, Angli Portunos nominant. Istis insitum est quod
simplicitatem fortunatonum_ _colonorum amplectuntur, et cum nocturnas
propter domesticas operas agunt vigilias, subito clausis januis ad
ignem califiunt, et ranunculus ex sinu projectas, prunis impositas
concedunt, senili vultu, facie corrugata, statura pusilli, dimidium
pollicis non habentes. Panniculis consertis induuntur, et si quid
gestandum in domo fuerit, aut onerosi opens agendum, ad operandum se
jungunt citius humana facilitate expediunt. Id illis insitum est, ut
obsequi possint et obesse non possint_."--Otia. Imp. p. 980. In every
respect, saving only the feeding upon frogs, which was probably
an attribute of the Gallic spirits alone, the above description
corresponds with that of the Scottish Brownie. But the latter,
although, like Milton's lubbar fiend, he loves to stretch himself
by the fire[53], does not drudge from the hope of recompence. On the
contrary, so delicate is his attachment, that the offer of reward,
but particularly of food, infallibly occasions his disappearance for
ever[54]. We learn from Olaus Magnus, that spirits, somewhat similar
in their operations to the Brownie, were supposed to haunt the Swedish
mines. The passage, in the translation of 1658, runs thus: "This
is collected in briefe, that in northerne kingdomes there are great
armies of devils, that have their services, which they perform with
the inhabitants of these countries: but they are most frequent in
rocks and mines, where they break, cleave, and make them hollow: which
also thrust in pitchers and buckets, and carefully fit wheels and
screws, whereby they are drawn upwards; and they shew themselves to
the labourers, when they list, like phantasms and ghosts." It seems no
improbable conjecture, that the Brownie is a legitimate descendant of
the _Lar Familiaris_ of the ancients.

[Footnote 53:

--how the drudging goblin swet,
To earn the cream-bowl, duly set;
When, in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail had thresh'd the corn,
That ten day-lab'rers could not end;
Then lies him down the lubbar fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And, crop-full, out of doors he flings,
E'er the first cock his matin rings.


When the menials in a Scottish family protracted their vigils around
the kitchen fire, Brownie, weary of being excluded from the midnight
hearth, sometimes appeared at the door, seemed to watch their
departure, and thus admonished them--"Gang a' to your beds, sirs, and
dinna put out the wee _grieshoch_ (embers)."]

[Footnote 54: It is told of a Brownie, who haunted a border family,
now extinct, that the lady having fallen unexpectedly in labour, and
the servant, who was ordered to ride to Jedburgh for the _sage femme_,
shewing no great alertness in setting out, the familiar spirit slipt
on the great-coat of the lingering domestic, rode to the town on the
laird's best horse, and returned with the mid-wife _en croupe_. Daring
the short space of his absence, the Tweed, which they must necessarily
ford, rose to a dangerous height. Brownie, who transported his charge
with all the rapidity of the ghostly lover of _Lenore_, was not to be
stopped by this obstacle. He plunged in with the terrified old lady,
and landed her in safety where her services were wanted. Having put
the horse into the stable (where it was afterwards found in a woeful
plight), he proceeded to the room of the servant, whose duty he had
discharged; and, finding him just in the act of drawing on his
boots, he administered to him a most merciless drubbing with his own
horse-whip. Such an important service excited the gratitude of the
laird; who, understanding that Brownie had been heard to express a
wish to have a green coat, ordered a vestment of that colour to be
made, and left in his haunts. Brownie took away the green coat, but
never was seen more. We may suppose, that, tired of his domestic
drudgery, he went in his new livery to join the fairies.--_See
Appendix_, No. VI.

The last Brownie, known in Ettrick forest, resided in Bodsbeck, a wild
and solitary spot, where he exercised his functions undisturbed, till
the scrupulous devotion of an old lady induced her to _hire him away_,
as it was termed, by placing in his haunt a porringer of milk and a
piece of money. After receiving this hint to depart, he was heard the
whole night to howl and cry, "Farewell to bonny Bodsbeck!" which he
was compelled to abandon for ever.]

A being, totally distinct from those hitherto mentioned, is the Bogle,
or Goblin; a freakish spirit, who delights rather to perplex and
frighten mankind; than either to serve, or seriously to hurt, them.
This is the _Esprit Follet_ of the French; and _Puck_, or _Robin
Goodfellow_, though enlisted by Shakespeare among the fairy band of
_Oberon_, properly belongs to this class of phantoms. _Shellycoat_,
a spirit, who resides in the waters, and has given his name to many a
rock and stone upon the Scottish coast, belongs also to the class
of bogles[55]. When he appeared, he seemed to be decked with marine
productions, and, in particular with shells, whose clattering
announced his approach. From this circumstance he derived his name. He
may, perhaps, be identified with the goblin of the northern English,
which, in the towns and cities, Durham and Newcastle for example
had the name of _Barquest_; but, in the country villages, was more
frequently termed _Brag_. He usually ended his mischievous frolics
with a horse-laugh.

[Footnote 55: One of his pranks is thus narrated: Two men, in a very
dark night, approaching the banks of the Ettrick, heard a doleful
voice from its waves repeatedly exclaim--"Lost! lost!"--They followed
the sound, which seemed to be the voice of a drowning person, and, to
their infinite astonishment, they found that it ascended the river.
Still they continued, during a long and tempestuous night, to follow
the cry of the malicious sprite; and arriving, before morning's dawn,
at the very sources of the river, the voice was now heard descending
the opposite side of the mountain in which they arise. The fatigued
and deluded travellers now relinquished the pursuit; and had no sooner
done so, than they heard Shellycoat applauding, in loud bursts of
laughter, his successful roguery. The spirit was supposed particularly
to haunt the old house of Gorrinberry, situated on the river
Hermitage, in Liddesdale.]

_Shellycoat_ must not be confounded with _Kelpy_, a water spirit also,
but of a much more powerful and malignant nature. His attributes have
been the subject of a poem in Lowland Scottish, by the learned
Dr. Jamieson of Edinburgh, which adorns the third volume of this
collection. Of _Kelpy_, therefore, it is unnecessary to say any thing
at present.

Of all these classes of spirits it may be, in general observed, that
their attachment was supposed to be local, and not personal. They
haunted the rock, the stream, the ruined castle, without regard to
the persons or families to whom the property belonged. Hence, they
differed entirely from that species of spirits, to whom, in the
Highlands, is ascribed the guardianship, or superintendance of a
particular clan, or family of distinction; and who, perhaps yet more
than the Brownie, resemble the classic household gods. Thus, in an
MS. history of Moray, we are informed, that the family of Gurlinbeg
is haunted by a spirit, called _Garlin Bodacher_; that of the baron of
Kinchardin, by _Lamhdearg_[56], or Red-hand, a spectre, one of whose
hands is as red as blood; that of Tullochgorm, by _May Moulach_, a
female figure, whose left hand and arm were covered with hair, who is
also mentioned in _Aubrey's Miscellanies_, pp. 211, 212, as a familiar
attendant upon the elan Grant. These superstitions were so ingrafted
in the popular creed, that the clerical synods and presbyteries were
wont to take cognizance of them[57].

[Footnote 56: The following notice of Lamhdearg occurs in another
account of Strathspey, _apud_ Macfarlane's MSS.:--"There is much talke
of a spirit called _Ly-erg_, who frequents the Glenmore. He appears
with a red hand, in the habit of a souldier, and challenges men to
fight with him; as lately as 1669, he fought with three brothers, one
after another, who immediately died thereafter."]

[Footnote 57: There is current, in some parts of Germany, a fanciful
superstition concerning the _Stille Volke_, or silent people. These
they suppose to be attached to houses of eminence, and to consist of
a number, corresponding to that of the mortal family, each person of
which has thus his representative amongst these domestic spirits. When
the lady of the family has a child, the queen of the silent people
is delivered in the same moment. They endeavour to give warning
when danger approaches the family, assist in warding it off, and
are sometimes seen to weep and wring their hands, before inevitable

Various other superstitions, regarding magicians, spells, prophecies,
&c., will claim our attention in the progress of this work. For the
present, therefore taking the advice of an old Scottish rhymer, let us

"Leave bogles, brownies, gyre carlinges, and ghaists[58]."

[Footnote 58: So generally were these tales of _diablerie_ believed,
that one William Lithgow, a _bon vivant_, who appears to have been
a native, or occasional inhabitant, of Melrose, is celebrated by the
pot-companion who composed his elegy, because

He was good company at jeists.
And wanton when he came to feists,
He scorn'd the converse of great beasts,
O'er a sheep's head;
_He laugh'd at stones about ghaists_;
Blythe Willie's dead!

_Watson's Scotish Poems_, Edin. 1706.]

_Flyting of Polwart and Montgomery_.

The domestic economy of the borderers next engages our attention. That
the revenue of the chieftain should be expended in rude hospitality,
was the natural result of his situation. His wealth consisted chiefly
in herds of cattle, which were consumed by the kinsmen, vassals, and
followers, who aided him to acquire and to protect them[59]. We
learn from Lesley, that the borderers were temperate in the use of
intoxicating liquors, and we are therefore left to conjecture how they
occupied the time, when winter, or when accident, confined them to
their habitations. The little learning, which existed in the middle
ages, glimmered a dim and a dying flame in the religious houses;
and even in the sixteenth century, when its beams became more widely
diffused, they were far from penetrating the recesses of the border
mountains. The tales of tradition, the song, with the pipe or harp of
the minstrel, were probably the sole resources against _ennui_, during
the short intervals of repose from military adventure.

[Footnote 59: We may form some idea of the stile of life maintained
by the border warriors, from the anecdotes, handed down by tradition,
concerning Walter Scott of Harden, who flourished towards the
middle of the sixteenth century. This ancient laird was a renowned
freebooter, and used to ride with a numerous band of followers. The
spoil, which they carried off from England, or from their neighbours,
was concealed in a deep and impervious glen, on the brink of which the
old tower of Harden was situated. From thence the cattle were brought
out, one by one, as they were wanted, to supply the rude and plentiful
table of the laird. When the last bullock was killed and devoured, it
was the lady's custom to place on the table a dish, which, on being
uncovered, was found to contain a pair of clean spurs; a hint to the
riders, that they must shift for their next meal. Upon one occasion,
when the village herd was driving out the cattle to pasture, the old
laird heard him call loudly _to drive out Harden's cow_. "_Harden's
cow!_" echoed the affronted chief--"Is it come to that pass? by my
faith they shall sune say Harden's _kye_ (cows)." Accordingly, he
sounded his bugle, mounted his horse, set out with his followers,
and returned next day with "_a bow of kye, and a bussen'd_ (brindled)
_bull_." On his return with this gallant prey, he passed a very large
hay-stack. It occurred to the provident laird, that this would be
extremely convenient to fodder his new stock of cattle; but as no
means of transporting it occurred, he was fain to take leave of it
with this apostrophe, now proverbial: "By my soul, had ye but four
feet, ye should not stand lang there." In short, as Froissard says of
a similar class of feudal robbers, nothing came amiss to them, that
was not _too heavy, or too hot_. The same mode of house-keeping
characterized most border families on both sides. An MS. quoted in
_History of Cumberland_, p. 466, concerning the Graemes of Netherby,
and others of that clan, runs thus: "They were all stark moss-troopers
and arrant thieves: both to England and Scotland outlawed: yet
sometimes connived at, because they gave intelligence forth of
Scotland, and would raise 400 horse at any time, upon a raid of the
English into Scotland." A saying is recorded of a mother to her son
(which is now become proverbial), "_Ride Rouly_ (Rowland), _hough's
i' the pot_;" that is, the last piece of beef was in the pot, and
therefore it was high time for him to go and fetch more. To such men
might with justice be applied the poet's description of the Cretan
warrior; translated by my friend, Dr. Leyden.

My sword, my spear, my shaggy shield,
With these I till, with these I sow;
With these I reap my harvest field,
The only wealth the Gods bestow.
With these I plant the purple vine,
With these I press the luscious wine.

My sword, my spear, my shaggy shield,
They make me lord of all below;
For he who dreads the lance to wield,
Before my shaggy shield must bow.
His lands, his vineyards, must resign;
And all that cowards have is mine.

_Hybrias (ap. Athenaeum)_.]

This brings us to the more immediate subject of the present

Lesley, who dedicates to the description of border manners a chapter,
which we have already often quoted, notices particularly the taste of
the marchmen for music and ballad poetry. "_Placent admodum sibi sua
musica, et rythmicis suis cantionibus, quas de majorum suorum gestis,
aut ingeniosis predandi precandive stratagematis ipsi confingunt_.
"--Leslaeus, _in capitulo de moribus eorum, qui Scotiae limites
Angliam versus incolunt_. The more rude and wild the state of society,
the more general and violent is the impulse received from poetry and
music. The muse, whose effusions are the amusement of a very small
part of a polished nation, records, in the lays of inspiration, the
history the laws, the very religion, of savages.--Where the pen and
the press are wanting, the low of numbers impresses upon the memory
of posterity, the deeds and sentiments of their forefathers. Verse is
naturally connected with music; and, among a rude people, the union
is seldom broken. By this natural alliance, the lays, "steeped in
the stream of harmony," are more easily retained by the reciter, and
produce upon his audience a more impressive effect. Hence, there
has hardly been found to exist a nation so brutishly rude, as not to
listen with enthusiasm to the songs of their bards, recounting
the exploits of their forefathers, recording their laws and moral
precepts, or hymning the praises of their deities. But, where the
feelings are frequently stretched to the highest pitch, by the
vicissitudes of a life of danger and military adventure, this
predisposition of a savage people, to admire their own rude poetry and
music, is heightened, and its tone becomes peculiarly determined. It
is not the peaceful Hindu at his loom, it is not the timid Esquimaux
in his canoe, whom we must expect to glow at the war song of Tyrtaeus.
The music and the poetry of each country must keep pace with their
usual tone of mind, as well as with the state of society.

The morality of their compositions is determined by the same
circumstances. Those themes are necessarily chosen by the bard, which
regard the favourite exploits of the hearers; and he celebrates only
those virtues, which from infancy he has been taught to admire. Hence,
as remarked by Lesley, the music and songs of the borders were of
a military nature, and celebrated the valour and success of their
predatory expeditions. Razing, like Shakespeare's pirate, the eighth
commandment from the decalogue, the minstrels praised their chieftains
for the very exploits, against which the laws of the country denounced
a capital doom.--An outlawed freebooter was to them a more interesting
person, than the King of Scotland exerting his power to punish his
depredations; and, when the characters are contrasted, the latter is
always represented as a ruthless and sanguinary tyrant.--Spenser's
description of the bards of Ireland applies in some degree, to our
ancient border poets. "There is, among the Irish, a certain kinde
of people, called bardes, which are to them instead of poets; whose
profession is to set forth the praises or dispraises of men, in their
poems or rhymes; the which are had in such high regard or esteem
amongst them, that none dare displease them, for fear of running into
reproach through their offence, and to be made infamous in the mouths
of all men; for their verses are taken up with a general applause,
and usually sung at all feasts and meetings, by certain other persons,
whose proper function that is, who also receive, for the same, great
rewardes and reputation amongst them." Spenser, having bestowed due
praise upon the poets, who sung the praises of the good and virtuous,
informs us, that the bards, on the contrary, "seldom use to chuse unto
themselves the doings of good men for the arguments of their poems;
but whomsoever they finde to be most licentious of life, most bold and
lawless in his doings, most dangerous and desperate in all parts of
disobedience, and rebellious disposition, him they set up and glorify
in their rhythmes; him they praise to the people, and to young men
make an example to follow."--_Eudoxus_--"I marvail what kind of
speeches they can find, or what faces they can put on, to praise such
bad persons, as live so lawlessly and licentiously upon stealths and
spoyles, as most of them do; or how they can think, that any good
mind will applaud or approve the same." In answer to this question,
_Irenaeus_, after remarking the giddy and restless disposition of the
ill educated youth of Ireland, which made them prompt to receive evil
counsel, adds, that such a person, "if he shall find any to praise
him, and to give him any encouragement, as those bards and rhythmers
do, for little reward, or a share of a stolen cow[60], then waxeth he
most insolent, and half-mad, with the love of himself and his own lewd
deeds. And as for words to set forth such lewdness, it is not hard for
them to give a goodly and painted show thereunto, borrowed even from
the praises which are proper to virtue itself. As of a most notorious
thief, and wicked outlaw, which had lived all his life-time of spoils
and robberies, one of their bardes, in his praise, will say, 'that he
was none of the idle milk-sops that was brought up by the fire-side,
but that most of his days he spent in arms and valiant enterprizes;
that he never did eat his meat, before he had won it with his sword;
that he lay not all night slugging in his cabin under his mantle, but
used commonly to keep others waking to defend their lives, and did
light his candle at the flames of their houses to lead him in the
darkness; that the day was his night, and the night his day; that he
loved not to be long wooing of wenches to yield to him; but, where
he came, he took by force the spoil of other men's love, and left but
lamentations to their lovers; that his music was not the harp, nor
lays of love, but the cries of people, and clashing of armour; and,
finally, that he died, not bewailed of many, but made many wail when
he died, that dearly bought his death.' Do not you think, Eudoxus,
that many of these praises might be applied to men of best deserts?
Yet, are they all yielded to a most notable traitor, and amongst some
of the Irish not smally accounted of."--_State of Ireland_. The same
concurrence of circumstances, so well pointed out by Spenser, as
dictating the topics of the Irish bards, tuned the border harps to the
praise of an outlawed Armstrong, or Murray.

[Footnote 60: The reward of the Welch bards, and perhaps of those upon
the border, was very similar. It was enacted by Howel Dha, that if
the king's bard played before a body of warriors, upon a predatory
excursion, be should receive, in recompence, the best cow which the
party carried off.--_Leges Walliae_, I. 1. cap. 19.]

For similar reasons, flowing from the state of society, the reader
must not expect to find, in the border ballads, refined sentiment,
and, far less, elegant expression; although the stile of such
compositions has, in modern hands, been found highly susceptible of
both. But passages might be pointed out, in which the rude minstrel
has melted in natural pathos, or risen into rude energy. Even
where these graces are totally wanting, the interest of the stories
themselves, and the curious picture of manners, which they frequently
present, authorise them to claim some respect from the public. But
it is not the editor's present intention to enter upon a history of
border poetry; a subject of great difficulty, and which the extent
of his information does not as yet permit him to engage in. He
will, therefore, now lay before the reader the plan of the present
publication; pointing out the authorities from which his materials are
derived and slightly noticing the nature of the different classes into
which he has arranged them.

The MINSTRELSY of the SCOTTISH BORDER contains Three Classes of Poems:


The Historical Ballad relates events, which we either know actually
to have taken place, or which, at least, making due allowance for the
exaggerations of poetical tradition, we may readily conceive to have
had some foundation in history. For reasons already mentioned, such
ballads were early current upon the border. Barbour informs us, that
he thinks it unnecessary to rehearse the account of a victory, gained
in Eskdale over the English, because

--Whasa liks, thai may her
Young women, when thai will play,
Syng it among thaim ilk day.--

_The Bruce_, Book XVI.

Godscroft also, in his History of the House of Douglas, written in the
reign of James VI., alludes more than once to the ballads current upon
the border, in which the exploits of those heroes were celebrated.
Such is the passage, relating to the death of William Douglas, Lord of
Liddesdale, slain by the Earl of Douglas, his kinsman, his godson,
and his chief[61]. Similar strains of lamentation were poured by the
border poets over the tomb of the Hero of Otterbourne; and over the
unfortunate youths, who were dragged to an ignominious death, from
the very table at which they partook of the hospitality of their
sovereign. The only stanza, preserved of this last ballad, is
uncommonly animated--

Edinburgh castle, towne and toure,
God grant thou sink for sinne!
And that even for the black dinoure,
Erl Douglas gat therein.

Who will not regret, with the editor, that compositions of such
interest and antiquity should be now irrecoverable? But it is the
nature of popular poetry, as of popular applause, perpetually to shift
with the objects of the time; and it is the frail chance of recovering
some old manuscript, which can alone gratify our curiosity regarding
the earlier efforts of the border muse. Some of her later strains,
composed during the sixteenth century, have survived even to the
present day; but the recollection of them has, of late years, become
like that of "a tale which was told." In the sixteenth century, these
northern tales appear to have been popular even in London; for the
learned Mr. Ritson has obligingly pointed out to me the following
passages, respecting the noted ballad of _Dick o' the Cow_ (p. 157);
"Dick o' the Cow, that mad demi-lance northern borderer, who plaid his
prizes with the lord Jockey so bravely."--Nashe's _Have with you to
Saffren-Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up_.--1596, 4to. _Epistle
Dedicatorie_, _sig._ A. 2. 6. And in a list of books, printed for, and
sold by, P. Brocksby (1688), occurs "Dick-a-the-Cow, containing north
country songs[62]." Could this collection have been found, it would
probably have thrown much light on the present publication: but
the editor has been obliged to draw his materials chiefly from oral

[Footnote 61: "The Lord of Liddisdale being at his pastime, hunting in
Ettrick forest, is beset by William, Earl of Douglas, and such as he
had ordained for the purpose, and there asailed, wounded, and slain,
beside Galsewood, in the year 1353, upon a jealousy that the earl had
conceived of him with his lady, as the report goeth; for so sayeth the
old song,

"The countess of Douglas out of her bower she came,
And loudly there that she did call--
It is for the Lord of Liddisdale,
That I let all these tears down fall."

"The song also declareth, how she did write her love-letters to
Liddisdale, to dissuade him from that hunting. It tells likewise the
manner of the taking of his men, and his own killing at Galsewood;
and how he was carried the first night to Linden kirk, a mile from
Selkirk, and was buried in the abbey of Melrose."--_Godscroft_, Vol.
I. p. 144, Ed. 1743.

Some fragments of this ballad are still current, and will be found in
the ensuing work.]

[Footnote 62: The Selkirkshire ballad of _Tamlane_ seems also to
have been well known in England. Among the popular heroes of romance,
enumerated in the introduction to the history of "_Tom Thumbe_,"
(London, 1621, bl. letter), occurs "Tom a Lin, the devil's supposed
bastard." There is a parody upon the same ballad in the "_Pinder of
Wakefield_" (London, 1621).]

Something may be still found in the border cottages resembling the
scene described by Pennycuik.

On a winter's night, my grannam spinning,
To mak a web of good Scots linnen;
Her stool being placed next to the chimley,
(For she was auld, and saw right dimly,)
My lucky dad, an honest whig,
Was telling tales of Bothwell-brigg;
He could not miss to mind the attempt,
For he was sitting pu'ing hemp;
My aunt, whom' nane dare say has no grace,
Was reading on the Pilgrim's Progress;
The meikle tasker, Davie Dallas,
Was telling blads of William Wallace;
My mither bade her second son say,
What he'd by heart of Davie Lindsay;
Our herd, whom all folks hate that knows him,
Was busy hunting in his bosom;

* * * * *

The bairns, and oyes, were all within doors;}
The youngest of us chewing cinders,}
And all the auld anes telling wonders.}

_Pennycuik's Poems_, p. 7.

The causes of the preservation of these songs have either entirely
ceased, or are gradually decaying Whether they were originally the
composition of minstrels, professing the joint arts of poetry
and music; or whether they were the occasional effusions of some
self-taught bard; is a question into which I do not here mean to
enquire. But it is certain, that, till a very late period, the pipers,
of whom there was one attached to each border town of note, and whose
office was often hereditary, were the great depositaries of oral,
and particularly of poetical, tradition. About spring time, and after
harvest, it was the custom of these musicians to make a progress
through a particular district of the country. The music and the tale
repaid their lodging, and they were usually gratified with a donation
of seed corn[63]. This order of minstrels is alluded to in the comic
song of _Maggy Lauder_, who thus addresses a piper--

"Live ye upo' the border?"

By means of these men, much traditional poetry was preserved,
which must otherwise have perished. Other itinerants, not professed
musicians, found their welcome to their night's quarters readily
insured by their knowledge in legendary lore. John Graeme, of Sowport,
in Cumberland, commonly called _The Long Quaker_[64], a person of this
latter description, was very lately alive; and several of the songs,
now published, have been taken down from his recitation. The shepherds
also, and aged persons, in the recesses of the border mountains,
frequently remember and repeat the warlike songs of their fathers.
This is more especially the case in what are called the South
Highlands, where, in many instances, the same families have occupied
the same possessions for centuries.

[Footnote 63: These town pipers, an institution of great antiquity
upon the borders, were certainly the last remains of the minstrel
race. Robin Hastie, town-piper of Jedburgh, perhaps the last of the
order, died nine or ten years ago: his family was supposed to have
held the office for about three centuries. Old age had rendered Robin
a wretched performer; but he knew several old songs and tunes, which
have probably died along with him. The town-pipers received a livery
and salary from the community to which they belonged; and, in some
burghs, they had a small allotment of land, called the Piper's Croft.
For further particulars regarding them, see _Introduction to Complaynt
of Scotland_, Edinburgh, 1801, p. 142.]

[Footnote 64: This person, perhaps the last of our professed ballad
reciters, died since the publication of the first edition of this
work. He was by profession an itinerant cleaner of clocks and watches;
but, a stentorian voice, and tenacious memory, qualified him eminently
for remembering accurately, and reciting with energy, the border
gathering songs and tales of war. His memory was latterly much
impaired; yet, the number of verses which he could pour forth, and
the animation of his tone and gestures, formed a most extraordinary
contrast to his extreme feebleness of person, and dotage of mind.]

It is chiefly from this latter source that the editor has drawn his
materials, most of which were collected, many years ago, during his
early youth. But he has been enabled, in many instances, to supply
and correct the deficiencies of his own copies, from a collection of
border songs, frequently referred to in the work, under the title of
_Glenriddell's MS_. This was compiled, from various sources, by the
late Mr. Riddell, of Glenriddel, a sedulous border antiquary, and,
since his death, has become the property of Mr. Jollie, bookseller
at Carlisle; to whose liberality the editor owes the use of it, while
preparing this work for the press. No liberties have been taken,
either with the recited or written copies of these ballads, farther
than that, where they disagreed, which is by no means unusual, the
editor, in justice to the author, has uniformly preserved what seemed
to him the best, or most poetical, reading of the passage. Such
discrepancies must very frequently occur, wherever poetry is preserved
by oral tradition; for the reciter, making it a uniform principle to
proceed at all hazards, is very often, when his memory fails him, apt
to substitute large portions from some other tale, altogether distinct
from that which he has commenced. Besides, the prejudices of clans
and of districts have occasioned variations in the mode of telling
the same story. Some arrangement was also occasionally necessary, to
recover the rhyme, which was often, by the ignorance of the reciters,
transposed, or thrown into the middle of the line. With these
freedoms, which were essentially necessary to remove obvious
corruptions, and fit the ballads for the press, the editor presents
them to the public, under the complete assurance, that they carry with
them the most indisputable marks of their authenticity.

The same observations apply to the Second Class, here termed ROMANTIC
BALLADS; intended to comprehend such legends as are current upon the
border, relating to fictitious and marvellous adventures Such were
the tales, with which the friends of Spenser strove to beguile his

"Some told of ladies, and their paramours;
Some of brave knights, and their renowned squires;
Some of the fairies, and their strange attires,
And some of giants, hard to be believed."

These, carrying with them a general, and not merely a local, interest,
are much more extensively known among the peasantry of Scotland than
the border-raid ballads, the fame of which is in general confined to
the mountains where they were originally composed. Hence, it has been
easy to collect these tales of romance, to a number much greater than
the editor has chosen to insert in this publication[65]. With this
class are now intermingled some lyric pieces, and some ballads, which,
though narrating real events, have no direct reference to border
history or manners. To the politeness and liberality of Mr. Herd, of
Edinburgh, the editor of the first classical collection of Scottish
songs and ballads (Edinburgh, 1774, 2 vols.), the editor is indebted
for the use of his MSS., containing songs and ballads, published and
unpublished, to the number of ninety and upwards. To this collection
frequent references are made, in the course of the following pages.
Two books of ballads, in MS., have also been communicated to me, by my
learned and respected friend, Alexander Fraser Tytler, Esq[66]. I take
the liberty of transcribing Mr. Tytler's memorandum respecting the
manner in which they came into his hands. "My father[67] got the
following songs from an old friend, Mr. Thomas Gordon, professor
of philosophy, King's College, Aberdeen. The following extract of a
letter of the professor to me, explains how he came by them:--"An
aunt of my children, Mrs Farquhar, now dead, who was married to the
proprietor of a small estate, near the sources of the Dee, in Braemar,
a good old woman, who spent the best part of her life among flocks
and herds, resided in her latter days in the town of Aberdeen. She was
possest of a most tenacious memory, which retained all the songs she
had heard from nurses and country-women in that sequestered part of
the country. Being maternally fond of my children, when young, she had
them much about her, and delighted them with her songs, and tales of
chivalry. My youngest daughter, Mrs Brown, at Falkland, is blest with
a memory as good as her aunt, and has almost the whole of her songs
by heart. In conversation I mentioned them to your father, at whose
request, my grandson, Mr Scott, wrote down a parcel of them, as his
aunt sung them. Being then but a mere novice in music, he added, in
the copy, such musical notes, as, he supposed, might give your father
some notion of the airs, or rather lilts, to which they were sung."

[Footnote 65: Mr. Jamieson of Macclesfield, a gentleman of literary
and poetical accomplishment, has for some years been employed in a
compilation of Scottish ballad poetry, which is now in the press, and
will probably be soon given to the public. I have, therefore, as far
as the nature of my work permitted, sedulously avoided anticipating
any of his materials; as I am very certain he himself will do our
common cause the most ample justice.]

[Footnote 66: Now a senator of the College of Justice, by the title of
Lord Woodhouselee.]

[Footnote 67: William Tytler, Esq. the ingenious defender of Queen
Mary, and author of a _Dissertation upon Scotish Music_, which does
honour to his memory.]

From this curious and valuable collection, the editor has procured
very material assistance. At the same time, it contains many beautiful
legendary poems, of which he could not avail himself, as they seemed
to be the exclusive property of the bards of Angus and Aberdeenshire.
But the copies of such, as were known on the borders, have furnished
him with various readings, and with supplementary stanzas, which he
has frequent opportunities to acknowledge. The MSS. are cited under
the name of Mrs. Brown of Falkland, the ingenious lady, to whose taste
and memory the world is indebted for the preservation of the tales
which they contain. The other authorities, which occur during
the work, are particularly referred to. Much information has been
communicated to the editor, from various quarters, since the work
was first published of which he has availed himself, to correct and
enlarge the present edition.

In publishing both classes of ancient ballads, the editor has excluded
those which are to be found in the common collections of this nature,
unless in one or two instances, where he conceived it possible to give
some novelty, by historical or critical illustration.

It would have been easy for the editor to have given these songs
an appearance of more indisputable antiquity, by adopting the rude
orthography of the period, to which he is inclined to refer them. But
this (unless when MSS. of antiquity can be referred to) seemed too
arbitrary an exertion of the privileges of a publisher, and must,
besides, have unnecessarily increased the difficulties of many
readers. On the other hand, the utmost care has been taken, never
to reject a word or phrase, used by a reciter, however uncouth or
antiquated. Such barbarisms, which stamp upon the tales their age and
their nation, should be respected by an editor, as the hardy emblem of
his country was venerated by the Poet of Scotland:

The rough bur-thistle spreading wide
Amang the bearded bear,
I turn'd the weeder-clips aside,
And spared the symbol dear.


The meaning of such obsolete words is usually given at the bottom
of the page. For explanation of the more common peculiarities of the
Scottish dialect, the English reader is referred to the excellent
glossary annexed to the last edition of Burns' works.

The Third Class of Ballads are announced to the public, as MODERN
IMITATIONS of the Ancient Style of composition, in that department of
poetry; and they are founded upon such traditions as we may suppose in
the elder times would have employed the harps of the minstrels. This
kind of poetry has been supposed capable of uniting the vigorous
numbers and wild fiction, which occasionally charm us in the ancient
ballad, with a greater equality of versification, and elegance of
sentiment, than we can expect to find in the works of a rude age. But,
upon my ideas of the nature and difficulty of such imitations, I ought
in prudence to be silent; lest I resemble the dwarf, who brought with
him a standard to measure his own stature. I may, however, hint at the
difference, not always attended to, betwixt legendary poems and real
imitations of the old ballad; the reader will find specimens of both
in the modern part of this collection. The legendary poem, called
_Glenfinlas_, and the ballad, entituled the _Eve of St. John_, were
designed as examples of the difference betwixt these two kinds of

It would have the appearance of personal vanity, were the editor to
detail the assistance and encouragement which he has received, during
his undertaking, from some of the first literary characters of our
age. The names of Stuart, Mackenzie, Ellis, Currie, and Ritson, with
many others, are talismans too powerful to be used, for bespeaking the
world's favour to a collection of old songs; even although a veteran
bard has remarked, "that both the great poet of Italian rhyme,
Petrarch, and our Chaucer, and other of the upper house of the muses,
have thought their canzons honoured in the title of a ballad." To my
ingenious friend, Dr. John Leyden, my readers will at once perceive
that I lie under extensive obligations, for the poetical pieces, with
which he has permitted me to decorate my compilation; but I am yet
farther indebted to him for his uniform assistance, in collecting and
arranging materials for the work.

In the notes, and occasional dissertations, it has been my object
to throw together, perhaps without sufficient attention to method,
a variety of remarks, regarding popular superstitions, and legendary
history, which, if not now collected, must soon have been totally
forgotten. By such efforts, feeble as they are, I may contribute
somewhat to the history of my native country; the peculiar features
of whose manners and character are daily melting and dissolving into
those of her sister and ally. And, trivial as may appear such an
offering, to the manes of a kingdom, once proud and independent, I
hang it upon her altar with a mixture of feelings, which I shall not
attempt to describe.

"--Hail, land of spearmen! seed of those who scorn'd
To stoop the proud crest to Imperial Rome!
Hail! dearest half of Albion, sea-wall'd!
Hail! state unconquer'd by the fire of war,
Red war, that twenty ages round thee blaz'd!
To thee, for whom my purest raptures flow,
Kneeling with filial homage, I devote
My life, my strength, my first and latest song."



_Cott. MSS. Calig_. B. III. fol. 29.

* * * * *

"Pleisith it your grace to be advertised, that upon Fridaye, at x a
clok at nyght, I retourned to this towne, and all the garnysons to
their places assigned, the bushopricke men, my Lorde of Westmoreland,
and my Lord Dacre, in likewise evry man home with their companys,
without los of any men, thanked be God; saving viii or x slayne, and
dyvers hurt, at skyrmyshis and saults of the town of Gedwurth, and the
forteressis, which towne is soo suerly brent, that no garnysons ner
none other shal bee lodged there, unto the tyme it bee newe buylded;
the brennyng whereof I comytted to twoo sure men, Sir William Bulmer,
and Thomas Tempeste. The towne was moche bettir then I went (_i.e._
ween'd) it had been, for there was twoo tymys moo houses therein
then in Berwike, and well buylded, with many honest and faire houses
therein, sufficiente to have lodged M horsemen in garnyson, and six
good towres therein; whiche towne and towres be clenely distroyed,
brent, and throwen downe. Undoubtedly there was noo journey made into
Scotland, in noo manys day leving, with soo fewe a nombre that is
recownted to be soo high an enterprice as this, bothe with thies
contremen, and Scottishmen, nor of truthe so moche hurt doon. But in
th' ende a great mysfortune ded fall, onely by foly, that such ordre,
as was commaunded by me to be kepte, was not observed, the maner
whereof hereaftir shall ensue. Bifore myn entre into Scotland, I
appointed Sir William Bulmer and Sir William Evers too be marshallis
of th' army; Sir William Bulmer for the vangard, and Sir William Evers
for the reregard. In the vangard I appointed my Lord of Westmoreland,
as chief, with all the bushopricke, Sir William Bulmer, Sir William
Evers, my Lord Dacre, with all his company; and with me remayned
all the rest of the garnysons, and the Northumberland men. I was of
counsaill with the marshallis at th' ordering of our lodgingg, and our
campe was soo well envirowned with ordynance, carts, and dikes, that
hard it was to entre or issue, but at certain places appointed for
that purpos, and assigned the mooste commodious place of the saide
campe for my Lord Dacre company, next the water, and next my Lord of
Westmoreland. And at suche tyme as my Lord Dacre came into the fald,
I being at the sault of th' abby, whiche contynued unto twoo houres
within nyght, my seid Lord Dacre wold in nowise bee contente to ly
within the campe, whiche was made right sure, but lodged himself
without, wherewith, at my retourne, I was not contente, but then it
was to late to remove; the next daye I sente my seid Lorde Dacre to a
strong hold, called Fernherst, the lorde whereof was his mortal enemy;
and with hym, Sir Arthur Darcy, Sir Marmaduke Constable, with viii c.
of their men, one cortoute, and dyvers other good peces of ordynance
for the feld (the seid Fernherste stode marvelous strongly, within a
grete woode); the seid twoo knights with the moost parte of their men,
and Strickland, your grace servaunte, with my Kendall men, went into
the woode on fote, with th' ordynance, where the said Kendall men were
soo handled, that they found hardy men, that went noo foote back for
theym; the other two knightes were alsoo soo sharply assayled, that
they were enforced to call for moo of their men; and yet could not
bring the ordynance to the forteresse, unto the tyme my Lord Dacre,
with part of his horsemen, lighted on fote; and marvelously hardly
handled himself, and fynally, with long skirmyshing, and moche
difficultie, gat forthe th' ordynance within the howse and threwe
downe the same. At which skyrmyshe, my seid Lord Dacre, and his
brother, Sir Cristofer, Sir Arthure, and Sir Marmaduke, and many other
gentilmen, did marvellously hardly; and found the best resistence
that hath been seen with my comyng to their parties, and above xxxii
Scottis sleyne, and not passing iiij Englishmen, but above lx hurt.
Aftir that, my seid lord retournyng to the campe, wold in nowise bee
lodged in the same, but where he laye the furst nyght. And he being
with me at souper, about viij a clok, the horses of his company brak
lowse, and sodenly ran out of his feld, in such nombre, that it caused
a marvellous alarome in our feld; and our standing watche being set,
the horses cam ronnyng along the campe, at whome were shot above one
hundred shief of arrowes, and dyvers gonnys, thinking they had been
Scotts, that wold have saulted the campe; fynally the horses were soo
madde, that they ran like wild dere into the feld; above xv c. at the
leest, in dyvers companys, and, in one place, above I felle downe
a gret rok, and slewe theymself, and above ij c. ran into the towne
being on fire, and by the women taken, and carried awaye right evill
brent, and many were taken agayne. But, fynally, by that I can esteme
by the nombre of theym that I sawe goo on foote the next daye, I think
thare is lost above viij c. horses, and all with foly for lak of
not lying within the camp. I dare not write the wondres that my Lord
Dacre, and all his company, doo saye they sawe that nyght, vj. tymys
of spirits and fereful sights. And unyversally all their company
saye playnly, the devill was that nyght among theym vi tymys; whiche
mysfortune hath blemyshed the best journey that was made in Scotland
many yeres. I assure your grace I found the Scottes, at this tyme, the
boldest men, and the hotest, that ever I sawe any nation, and all
the journey, upon all parts of th' army, kepte us with soo contynuall
skyrmyshe, that I never sawe the like. If they myght assemble xl M as
good men as I nowe sawe, xv c or ij M, it wold bee a hard encountre to
mete theym. Pitie it is of my Lord Dacres losse of the horses of his
company; he brought with hym above iiij M. men, and came and lodged
one night in Scotland, in his moost mortal enemy's centre. There is
noo herdyer, ner bettir knyght, but often tyme he doth not use the
most sure order, which he hath nowe payed derely for. Written at
Berwike the xxvij of September.

Your most bownden,




* * * * *

In the following passages, extracted from the memoirs of Sir Robert
Carey, then deputy of his father, Lord Hunsdon, warden of the east
marches, afterwards Earl of Monmouth, the reader will find a lively
illustration of the sketch given of border manners in the preceding

"Having thus ended with my brother, I then beganne to thinke of the
charge I had taken upon mee, which was the government of the east
march, in my father's absence. I wrote to Sir Robert Kerr[68], who was
my opposite warden, a brave active young man, and desired him that hee
would appoint a day, when hee and myselfe might privately meet in
some part of the border, to take some good order for the quieting the
borders, till my retourne from London, which journey I was shortly of
necessity to take. Hee stayed my man all night, and wrote to mee back,
that hee was glad to have the happinesse to be acquainted with mee,
and did not doubt but the country would be better governed by our good
agreements. I wrote to him on the Monday, and the Thursday after hee
appointed the place and hour of meeting.

[Footnote 68: Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford, warden of the middle
marches, and ancestor of the house of Roxburghe.]

"After hee had filled my man with drinke, and putt him to bed, hee,
and some halfe a score with him, gott to horse, and came into England
to a little village. There hee broke up a house, and tooke out a poore
fellow, who (hee pretended) had done him some wrong, and before the
doore cruelly murthered him, and so came quietly home, and went to
bed. The next morning hee delivered my man a letter in answer to mine,
and retourned him to mee. It pleased mee well at the reading of his
kinde letter; but when I heard what a _brave_ hee had put upon mee, I
quickly resolved what to do, which was, never to have to do with him,
till I was righted for the greate wrong hee had done mee. Upon this
resolution, the day I should have mett with him I tooke post, and with
all the haste I could, rode to London, leaving him to attend my coming
to him as was appointed. There hee stayed from one till five, but
heard no news of mee. Finding by this that I had neglected him, hee
retourned home to his house, and so things rested (with greate dislike
the one of the other) till I came back, which was with all the speede
I could, my businesse being ended. The first thing I did after my
retourne, was to ask justice for the wrong hee had done mee; but I
could gett none. The borderers, seeing our disagreement, they thought
the time wished for of them was come. The winter being beganne, their
was roades made out of Scotland into the east march, and goods were
taken three or foure times a weeke. I had no other meanes left to
quiet them, but still sent out of the garrison horsemen of Berwick, to
watch in the fittest places for them, and it was their good hap many
times to light upon them, with the stolen goods driving before them.
They were no sooner brought before mee, but a jury went upon them,
and, being found guilty, they were frequently hanged: a course which
hath been seldom used, but I had no way to keep the country quiet but
to do so; for, when the Scotch theeves found what a sharp course I
tooke with them, that were found with the bloody hand, I had in a
short time the country more quiet. All this while wee were but in jest
as it were, but now beganne the greate quarrell betweene us.

"There was a favorite of his, a greate theife, called Geordie Bourne.
This gallant, with some of his associates would, in a bravery,
come and take goods in the east march. I had that night some of the
garrison abroad. They met with this Geordie and his fellowes, driving
of cattle before them. The garrison set upon them, and with a shott
killed Geordie Bourne's unckle, and hee himselfe bravely resisting
till he was sore hurt in the head, was taken. After hee was taken, his
pride was such, as hee asked, who it was that durst avow that nightes
worke? but when hee heard it was the garrison, he was then more
quiet. But so powerfull and awfull was this Sir Robert Kerr, and his
favourites, as there was not a gentleman in all the east march that
durst offend them. Presently after hee was taken, I had most of the
gentlemen of the march come to mee, and told mee, that now I had the
ball at my foote, and might bring Sir Robert Kerr to what conditions I
pleased; for that this man's life was so neere and deare unto him, as
I should have all that my heart could desire, for the good and quiet
of the country and myselfe, if upon any condition I would give him his
life. I heard them and their reasons; notwithstanding, I called a jury
the next morning, and hee was found guilty of MARCH TREASON. Then they
feared that I would cause him to be executed that afternoone, which
made them come flocking to mee, humbly entreating mee, that I would
spare his life till the next day, and if Sir Robert Kerr came not
himselfe to mee, and made mee not such proffers, as I could not but
accept, that then I should do with him what I pleased. And further,
they told mee plainly, that if I should execute him, before I had
heard from Sir Robert Kerr, they must be forced to quitt their houses
and fly the country; for his fury would be such, against mee and the
march I commanded, as hee would use all his power and strength to the
utter destruction of the east march. They were so earnest with mee,
that I gave them my word hee should not dye that day. There was
post upon post sent to Sir Robert Kerr, and some of them rode to him
themselves, to advertise him in what danger Geordie Bourne was; how he
was condemned, and should have been executed that afternoone, but, by
their humble suite, I gave them my word, that he should not dye that
day; and therefore besought him, that hee would send to mee, with all
the speede hee could, to let mee know, that hee would be the next day
with mee to offer mee good conditions for the safety of his life. When
all things were quiet, and the watch set at night, after supper, about
ten of the clock, I tooke one of my men's liveryes, and putt it about
mee, and tooke two other of my servants with mee in their liveryes,
and we three, as the warden's men, came to the provost marshall's,
where Bourne was, and were lett into his chamber. Wee sate down by
him, and told him, that wee were desirous to see him, because wee
heard hee was stoute and valiant, and true to his friend; and that
wee were sorry our master could not be moved to save his life. He
voluntarily of himselfe said, that hee had lived long enough to do
so many villainies as hee had done; and withal told us, that hee had
layne with about forty men's wives, what in England, what in Scotland;
and that hee had killed seven Englishmen with his own hands, cruelly
murthering them: that hee had spent his whole time in whoreing,
drinking, stealing, and taking deep revenge for slight offences.
Hee seemed to be very penitent, and much desired a minister for the
comfort of his soule. Wee promised him to lett our master know his
desire, who, wee knew, would presently grant it. Wee tooke our leaves
of him, and presently I tooke order, that Mr. Selby, a very worthy
honest preacher, should go to him, and not stirre from him till his
execution the next morning; for, after I had heard his own confession,
I was resolved no conditions should save his life: and so tooke order,
that at the gates opening the next morning, hee should be carried to
execution, which accordingly was performed. The next morning I had one
from Sir Robert Kerr for a parley, who was within two miles staying
for mee. I sent him word, "I would meet him where hee pleased, but I
would first know upon what termes and conditions." Before his man was
retourned, hee had heard, that in the morning, very early, Geordie
Bourne had been executed. Many vowes hee made of cruell revenge,
and retourned home full of griefe and disdaine, and, from that time
forward still plotted revenge. Hee knew the gentlemen of the country
were altogether sacklesse, and to make open road upon the march would
but shew his malice, and lay him open to the punishment due to such
offences. But his practice was how to be revenged on mee, or some of

"It was not long after that my brother and I had intelligence, that
there was a great match made at footeball and the chiefe ryders were
to be there. The place they were to meet at was Kelsy, and that day,
wee heard it, was the day for the meeting. Wee presently called a
counsaile, and after much dispute it was concluded, that the likeliest
place hee was to come to, was to kill the scoutes. And it was the more
suspected, for that my brother, before my coming to the office, for
the cattaile stolne out of the bounds, and as it were from under the
walles of Barwicke, being refused justice (upon his complaint,) or at
least delaid, sent off the garrison into Liddisdale, and killed there
the chiefe offender, which had done the wrong.

"Upon this conclusion, there was order taken, that both horse and
foote should lye in ambush, in diverse parts of the boundes, to defend
the scoutes, and to give a sound blow to Sir Robert and his company.
Before the horse and foote were sett out with directions what to
do, it was almost darke night, and the gates ready to be lockt. Wee
parted, and as I was by myselfe comeing to my house, God put it into
my mind, that it might well be, hee meant destruction to my men,
that I had sent out to gather tithes for mee at Norham, and their
rendezvous was every night to lye and sup at an ale-house in Norham.
I presently caused my page to take horse, and to ride as fast as his
horse could carry him, and to command my servants (which were in all
eight) that, presently upon his coming to them, they should all change
their lodging, and go streight to the castle, there to lye that night
in strawe and hay. Some of them were unwilling thereto, but durst
not disobey; so altogether left their ale-house, and retired to the
castle. They had not well settled themeselves to sleep, but they
heard in the town a great alarm; for Sir Robert and his company came
streight to the ale-house, broke open the doors, and made enquiry for
my servants. They were answered, that by my command they were all in
the castle. After they had searched all the house, and found none,
they feared they were betrayed, and, with all the speede they could,
made haste homewards again. Thus God blessed me from this bloody

"All the whole march expected nightly some hurt to be done; but God so
blessed mee and the government I held, as, for all his fury, hee never
drew drop of blood in all my march, neither durst his theeves trouble
it much with stealing, for fear of hanging, if they were taken. Thus
wee continued a yeare, and then God sent a meanes to bring thinges to
better quiet by this occasion.

"There had been commissioners in Barwicke, chosen by the queene and
king of Scottes, for the better quieting of our borders. By their
industry they found a great number of malefactors guilty, both in
England and Scotland; and they tooke order, that the officers of
Scotland should deliver such offenders, as were found guilty in their
jurisdictions, to the opposite officers in England, to be detained
prisoners, till they had made satisfaction for the goods they had
taken out of England. The like order was taken with the wardens of
England, and days prefixed for the delivery of them all. And in case
any of the officers, on either side, should omit their duties, in not
delivering the prisoners at the dayes and places appointed, that then
there should a course be taken by the soveraignes, that what chiefe
officer soever should offend herein, he himself should be delivered
and detained, till he had made good what the commissioners had agreed

"The English officers did punctually, at the day and place, deliver
their prisoners, and so did most of the officers of Scotland; only
the Lord of Bocleuch and Sir Robert Kerr were faultie. They were
complained of, and new dayes appointed for the delivery of their
prisoners. Bocleuch was the first, that should deliver; and hee
failing entered himselfe prisoner into Barwicke, there to remaine till
those officers under his charge were delivered to free him. He
chose for his guardian Sir William Selby, master of the ordinance at
Barwicke. When Sir Robert Kerr's day of delivery came, he failed too,
and my Lord Hume, by the king's command, was to deliver him prisoner
into Barwicke upon the like termes, which was performed. Sir Robert
Kerr (contrary to all men's expectation) chose mee for his guardian,
and home I brought him to my own house, after hee was delivered to
mee. I lodged him as well as I could, and tooke order for his diet,
and men to attend on him, and sent him word, that (although by his
harsh carriage towards mee, ever since I had that charge, he could
not expect any favour, yet) hearing so much goodness of him, that hee
never broke his word, if hee should give mee his hand and credit to be
a true prisoner, hee would have no guard sett upon him, but have free
liberty for his friends in Scotland to have ingresse and regresse to
him as oft as hee pleased. He tooke this very kindly at my handes,
accepted of my offer, and sent me thankes.

"Some four dayes passed; all which time his friends came into him, and
hee kept his chamber. Then hee sent to mee, and desired mee, I would
come and speake with him, which I did; and after long discourse,
charging and re-charging one another with wrong and injuries, at
last, before our parting, wee became good friends, with greate
protestations, on his side, never to give mee occasion of unkindnesse
again. After our reconciliation hee kept his chamber no longer, but
dined and supt with mee. I tooke him abroad with mee at the least
thrice a weeke, a hunting, and every day wee grew better friends.
Bocleuch, in a few dayes after, had his pledges delivered, and was
set at liberty. But Sir Robert Kerr could not get his, so that I was
commanded to carry him to Yorke, and there to deliver him prisoner to
the archbishop, which accordingly I did. At our parting, he professed
greate love unto mee for the kinde usage I had shewn him, and that I
would find the effects of it upon his delivery, which hee hoped would
be shortly.

"Thus wee parted; and, not long after, his pledges were gott, and
brought to Yorke, and hee sett at liberty. After his retourne home,
I found him as good as his word. Wee met oft at dayes of truce, and I
had as good justice as I could desire; and so wee continued very kinde
and good friends, all the time that I stayed in that march, which was
not long."



* * * * *

Of Liddisdail the commoun theifis
Sa peartlie steillis now and reifis,
That nane may keip
Horse, nolt, nor scheip,
Nor yett dar sleip
For their mischeifis.

Thay plainly throw the country rydis,
I trow the mekil devil thame gydis!
Quhair they onsett,
Ay in thair gaitt,
Thair is na yet
Nor dor, thame bydis.

Thay leif rich nocht, quhair ever thay ga;
Thair can na thing be hid thame fra;
For gif men wald
Thair housis hald,
Than waxe thay bald,
To burne and slay.

Thay thiefs have neirhand herreit hail,
Ettricke forest and Lawderdaill;
Now are they gane,
In Lawthiane;
And spairis nane
That thay will waill.

Thay landis ar with stouth sa socht,
To extreame povertye ar broucht,
Thay wicked schrowis
Has laid the plowis,
That nane or few is
That are left oucht.

Bot commoun taking of blak mail,
Thay that had flesche, and breid and aill,
Now are sa wrakit,
Made bair and nakit,
Fane to be slaikit
With watter caill.

Thay theifs that steillis and tursis hame,
Ilk ane of them has ane to-name[69];
Will of the Lawis,
Hab of the Schawis:
To mak bair wawis
Thay thinke na schame.

Thay spuilye puir men of their pakis,
Thay leif them nocht on bed nor bakis;
Baith hen and cok,
With reil and rok,
The Lairdis Jok,
All with him takis.

Thay leif not spindell, spoone, nor speit;
Bed, boster, blanket, sark, nor scheit;
Johne of the Parke
Ryps kist and ark;
For all sic wark
He is richt meit.

He is weil kend, John of the Syde;
A greater theif did never ryde.
He never tyris
For to brek byris:
Ouir muir and myris
Ouir gude ane gyde.

Thair is ane, callet Clement's Hob,
Fra ilk puir wyfe reifis the wob,
And all the lave,
Quhatever they haife,
The devil recave
Thairfoir his gob.

To sic grit stouth quha eir wald trow it,
Bot gif some great man it allowit
Rycht sair I trow
Thocht it be rew:
Thair is sa few
That dar avow it.

Of sum great men they have sic gait,
That redy are thame to debait,
And will up weir
Thair stolen geir;
That nane dare steir
Thame air nor late.

Quhat causis theifis us ourgang,
Bot want of justice us amang?
Nane takis cair,
Thocht all for fear;
Na man will spair
Now to do wrang.

Of stouth thocht now thay come gude speid,
That nother of men nor God has dreid;
Yet, or I die,
Sum sail thame sie,
Hing on a trie
Quhill thay be deid--

_Quo_' Sir R.M. _of_ Lethington, _knicht_.

[Footnote 69: Owing to the marchmen being divided into large clans,
bearing the same sirname, individuals were usually distinguished
by some epithet, derived from their place of residence, personal
qualities, or descent. Thus, every distinguished moss-trooper had,
what is here called, a _to-name_, or _nom de guerre_, in addition to
his family name.]



* * * * *

The battle of Melrose (see Introduction, p. xvii.) occasioned a deadly
feud betwixt the name of Scott and Ker. The following indenture was
designed to reconcile their quarrel. But the alliance, if it ever took
effect, was not of long duration; for the feud again broke out about
1553, when Sir Walter Scott was slain by the Kers, in the streets of

"Thir indentures, made at Ancrum the 16th of March, 1529 years,
contains, proports, and bears leil and suithfast witnessing. That it
is appointed, agreed, and finally accorded betwixt honourable men;
that is to say, Walter Ker of Cessford, Andrew Ker of Fairnieherst,
Mark Ker of Dolphinston, George Kerr, tutor of Cessford, and Andrew
Ker of Primesideloch, for themselves, kin, friends, mentenants,
assisters, allies, adherents, and partakers, on the one part; and
Walter Scot of Branxholm, knight, Robert Scot of Allanhaugh, Robert
Scot, tutor of Howpaisly, John Scot of Roberton, and Walter Scot of
Stirkshaws, for themselves, their kin, friends, mentenants, servants,
assisters, and adherents, on the other part; in manner, form, and
effect, as after follows: For staunching all discord and variance
betwixt them, and for furth-bearing of the king's authority, and
punishing trespasses, and for amending all slaughters, heritages, and
steedings, and all other pleas concerning thereto, either of these
parties to others, and for unite, friendship, and concord, to be had
in time coming 'twixt them, of our sovereign lord's special command:
that is to say, either of the said parties, be the tenor hereof,
remits and forgives to others the rancour, hatred, and malice of their
hearts; and the said Walter Scot of Branxholm shall gang, or cause
gang, at the will of the party, to the four head pilgrimages of
Scotland, and shall say a mass for the souls of umquhile Andrew Ker
of Cessford, and them that were slain in his company, in the field
of Melrose; and, upon his expence, shall cause a chaplain say a mass
daily, when he is disposed, in what place the said Walter Ker and his
friends pleases, for the well of the said souls, for the space of five
years next to come.--Mark Ker of Dolphinston, Andrew Kerr of Graden,
shall gang, at the will of the party, to the four head pilgrimages
of Scotland, and shall gar say a mass for the souls of umquhile James
Scot of Eskirk, and other Scots, their friends, slain in the field
of Melrose; and, upon their expence, shall gar a chaplain say a mass
daily, when he is disposed, for the heal of their souls, where the
said Walter Scot and his friends pleases, for the space of three years
next to come: and the said Walter Scot of Branxholm shall marry his
son and heir upon one of the said Walter Ker his sisters; he paying,
therefor, a competent portion to the said Walter Ker and his heir, at
the sight of the friends of baith parties. And also, baith the saids
parties bind and oblige them, be the faith and truth of their bodies,
that they abide at the decreet and deliverance of the six men chosen
arbiters, anent all other matters, quarrels, actiones, and debates,
whilk either of them likes to propone against others betwixt the saids
parties: and also the six arbiters are bound and obliged to decreet
and deliver, and give forth their deliverance thereuntil, within
year and day after the date hereof.--And attour, either of the saids
parties bind and oblige them, be the faith and truth of their bodies,
ilk ane to others, that they shall be leil and true to others, and
neither of them will another's skaith, but they shall let it at their
power, and give to others their best counsel, and it be asked; and
shall take leil and aeffald part ilk ane with others, with their kin,
friends, servants, allies, and partakers, in all and sundry their
actions, quarrels, and debates, against all that live and die (may the
allegiance of our sovereign lord the king allenarly be excepted).--And
for the obliging and keeping all thir premises above written, baith
the saids parties are bound and obliged, ilk ane to others, be the
faith and truth of their bodies, but fraud or guile, under the pain
of perjury, men-swearing, defalcation, and breaking of the bond of
deadly. And, in witness of the whilk, ilk ane to the procuratory of
this indenture remain with the said Walter Scot and his friends, the
said Walter Ker of Cessford has affixed his proper seal, with his
subscription manual, and with the subscription of the said Andrew
Ker of Fairnieherst, Mark Ker of Dolphinston, George Ker, tutor of
Cessford, and Andrew Ker of Primesideloch, before these witnesses, Mr.
Andrew Drurie, abbot of Melrose, and George Douglas of Boonjedward,
John Riddel of that ilk, and William Stewart.

_Sic Subscribitur_,

WALTER KER of Cessford.

ANDREW KER of Fairnieherst.



ANDREW KER of Primesideloch."

N.B. The four pilgrimages are Scoon, Dundee, Paisley, and Melrose.



* * * * *

This burlesque poem is preserved in the Bannatyne MSS. It is in the
same strain with the verses concerning the _Gyre Carline_ (Vol. II.)
As the mention of _Bettokis Bowr_ occurs in both pieces, and as the
scene of both is laid in East Lothian, they are perhaps composed by
the same author. The humour of these fragments seems to have been
directed against the superstitions of Rome; but it is now become very
obscure. Nevertheless, the verses are worthy of preservation, for the
sake of the ancient language and allusions.

Listen lordis, I sall you tell,
Off ane very grit marvell,
Off Lord Fergussis gaist,
How meikle Sir Andro it chest,
Unto Beittokis bour,
The silly sawle to succour:
And he hes writtin unto me,
Auld storeis for to se,
Gif it appinis him to meit,
How he sall conjure the spreit:
And I haif red mony quars,
Bath the Donet, and Dominus que pars,
Ryme maid, and als redene,
Baith Inglis and Latene:
And ane story haif I to reid,
Passes Bonitatem in the creid.
To conjure the litill gaist he mon haif
Of tod's tails ten thraif,
And kast the grit holy water
With pater noster, pitter patter;
And ye man sit in a compas,
And cry, Harbert tuthless,
Drag thow, and ye's draw,
And sit thair quhill cok craw.
The compas mon hallowit be
With aspergis me Domine;
The haly writ schawis als
Thair man be hung about your bals
Pricket in ane woll poik
Of neis powder ane grit loik.
Thir thingis mon ye beir,
Brynt in ane doggis eir,
Ane pluck, ane pindill, and ane palme cors,
Thre tuskis of ane awld hors,
And of ane yallow wob the warp,
The boddome of ane awld herp,
The held of ane cuttit reill,
The band of an awld quheill,
The taill of ane yeild sow,
And ane bait of blew wow,
Ane botene, and ane brechame,
And ane quhorle made of lame,
To luke out at the litill boir,
And cry, Crystis crosse, you befoir:
And quhen ye see the litill gaist,
Cumand to you in all haist,
Cry loud, Cryste eleisone,
And speir quhat law it levis on?
And gif it sayis on Godis ley,
Than to the litill gaist ye say,
With braid benedicite;
--"Litill gaist, I conjure the,
With lierie and larie,
Bayth fra God, and Sanct Marie,
First with ane fischis mouth,
And syne with ane sowlis towth,
With ten pertane tais,
And nyne knokis of windil strais,
With thre heidis of curle doddy."--
And bid the gaist turn in a boddy.
Then efter this conjuratioun,
The litill gaist will fall in soun,
And thair efter down ly,
Cryand mercy petously;
Than with your left heil sane,
And it will nevir cum agane,
As meikle as a mige amaist.[70]

He had a litill we leg,
And it wes cant as any cleg,
It wes wynd in ane wynden schet,
Baythe the handis and the feit:
Suppose this gaist wes litill
Yit it stal Godis quhitell;
It stal fra peteous Abrahame,
Ane quhorle and ane quhim quhame;
It stal fra ye carle of ye mone
Ane payr of awld yin schone;
It rane to Pencatelane,
And wirreit ane awld chaplane;
This litill gaist did na mair ill
Bot clok lyk a corn mill;
And it wald play and hop,
About the heid ane stre strop;
And it wald sing and it wald dance,
Oure fute, and Orliance.
Quha conjurit the litill gaist say ye?
Nane bot the litill Spenzie fle,
That with hir wit and her ingyne,
Gart the gaist leif agane;
And sune mareit the gaist the fle,
And croun'd him King of Kandelie;
And they gat them betwene,
Orpheus king, and Elpha quene.[71]
To reid quha will this gentill geist,
Ye hard it not at Cockilby's feist.[72]

[Footnote 70: Apparently some lines are here omitted.]

[Footnote 71: This seems to allude to the old romance of _Orfeo and
Heurodis_, from which the reader will find some extracts, Vol. II.
The wife of _Orpheus_ is here called _Elpha_, probably from her having
been extracted by the elves, or fairies.]

[Footnote 72: Alluding to a strange unintelligible poem in the
Bannatyne MSS., called _Cockelby's sow_.]





* * * * *

The editor embraces this opportunity of presenting the reader with
the following stanzas, intended to commemorate some striking Scottish
superstitions, omitted by Collins in his ode upon that subject; and
which, if the editor can judge with impartiality of the production
of a valued friend, will be found worthy of the sublime original.
The reader must observe, that these verses form a continuation of
the address, by Collins, to the author of _Douglas_, exhorting him to
celebrate the traditions of Scotland. They were first published in the
_Edinburgh Magazine_, for April, 1788.

* * * * *
Thy muse may tell, how, when at evening's close,
To meet her love beneath the twilight shade,
O'er many a broom-clad brae and heathy glade,
In merry mood the village maiden goes;
There, on a streamlet's margin as she lies,
Chaunting some carol till her swain appears,
With visage deadly pale, in pensive guise,
Beneath a wither'd fir his form he rears![73]
Shrieking and sad, she bends her irie flight,
When, mid dire heaths, where flits the taper blue,
The whilst the moon sheds dim a sickly light,
The airy funeral meets her blasted view!
When, trembling, weak, she gains her cottage low,
Where magpies scatter notes of presage wide,
Some one shall tell, while tears in torrents flow,
That, just when twilight dimm'd the green hill's side,
Far in his lonely sheil her hapless shepherd died.

[Footnote 73: The _wraith_, or spectral appearance, of a person
shortly to die, is a firm article in the creed of Scottish
superstition. Nor is it unknown in our sister kingdom. See the story
of the beautiful lady Diana Rich.--_Aubrey's Miscellanies_, p, 89.]

Let these sad strains to lighter sounds give place!
Bid thy brisk viol warble measures gay!
For see! recall'd by thy resistless lay,
Once more the Brownie shews his honest face.
Hail, from thy wanderings long, my much lov'd sprite!
Thou friend, thou lover of the lowly, hail!
Tell, in what realms thou sport'st thy merry night,
Trail'st the long mop, or whirl'st the mimic flail.
Where dost thou deck the much-disordered hall,
While the tired damsel in Elysium sleeps,
With early voice to drowsy workman call,
Or lull the dame, while mirth his vigils keeps?
'Twas thus in Caledonia's domes, 'tis said,
Thou ply'dst the kindly task in years of yore:
At last, in luckless hour, some erring maid
Spread in thy nightly cell of viands store:
Ne'er was thy form beheld among their mountains more.[74]

[Footnote 74: See Introduction, p. ci.]

Then wake (for well thou can'st) that wond'rous lay,
How, while around the thoughtless matrons sleep,
Soft o'er the floor the treacherous fairies creep,
And bear the smiling infant far away:
How starts the nurse, when, for her lovely child,
She sees at dawn a gaping idiot stare!
O snatch the innocent from demons vilde,
And save the parents fond from fell despair!
In a deep cave the trusty menials wait,
When from their hilly dens, at midnight's hour,
Forth rush the airy elves in mimic state,
And o'er the moon-light heath with swiftness scour:
In glittering arms the little horsemen shine;
Last, on a milk-white steed, with targe of gold,
A fay of might appears, whose arms entwine
The lost, lamented child! the shepherds bold[75]
The unconscious infant tear from his unhallowed hold.

[Footnote 75: For an account of the Fairy superstition, see
_Introduction to the Tale of Tamlane_.]



* * * * *



* * * * *

One edition of the present ballad is well known; having appeared in
the _Reliques of Ancient Poetry_, and having been inserted in almost
every subsequent collection of Scottish songs. But it seems to have
occurred to no editor, that a more complete copy of the song might be
procured. That, with which the public is now presented, is taken
from two MS. copies,[76] collated with several verses recited by the
editor's friend, Robert Hamilton, Esq. advocate, being the 16th, and
the four which follow. But, even with the assistance of the common
copy, the ballad seems still to be a fragment. The cause of Sir
Patrick Spens' voyage is, however, pointed out distinctly; and it
shews, that the song has claim to high antiquity, as referring to a
very remote period in Scottish history.

[Footnote 76: That the public might possess this carious fragment as
entire as possible, the editor gave one of these copies, which seems
the most perfect, to Mr. Robert Jamieson, to be inserted in his

Alexander III. of Scotland died in 1285; and, for the misfortune
of his country, as well as his own, he had been bereaved of all his
children before his decease. The crown of Scotland descended upon
his grand-daughter, Margaret, termed, by our historians, the _Maid of
Norway_. She was the only offspring of a marriage betwixt Eric, king
of Norway, and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III. The kingdom had
been secured to her by the parliament of Scotland, held at Scone,
the year preceding her grandfather's death. The regency of Scotland
entered into a congress with the ministers of the king of Norway and
with those of England, for the establishment of good order in
the kingdom of the infant princess. Shortly afterwards, Edward I.
conceived the idea of matching his eldest son, Edward, Prince of
Wales, with the young queen of Scotland. The plan was eagerly embraced
by the Scottish nobles; for, at that time, there was little of the
national animosity, which afterwards blazed betwixt the countries,
and they patriotically looked forward to the important advantage, of
uniting the island of Britain into one kingdom. But Eric of Norway
seems to have been unwilling to deliver up his daughter; and, while
the negociations were thus protracted, the death of the Maid of Norway
effectually crushed a scheme, the consequences of which might have
been, that the distinction betwixt England and Scotland would, in our
day, have been as obscure and uninteresting as that of the realms of
the heptarchy.--_Hailes' Annals. Fordun, &c._

The unfortunate voyage of Sir Patrick Spens may really have taken
place, for the purpose of bringing back the Maid of Norway to her own
kingdom; a purpose, which was probably defeated by the jealousy of the
Norwegians, and the reluctance of King Eric. I find no traces of
the disaster in Scottish history; but, when we consider the meagre
materials, whence Scottish history is drawn, this is no conclusive
argument against the truth of the tradition. That a Scottish vessel,
sent upon such an embassy, must, as represented in the ballad, have
been freighted with the noblest youth in the kingdom, is sufficiently
probable; and, having been delayed in Norway, till the tempestuous
season was come on, its fate can be no matter of surprise. The
ambassadors, finally sent by the Scottish nation to receive their
queen, were Sir David Wemyss, of Wemyss, and Sir Michael Scot of
Balwearie; the same, whose knowledge, surpassing that of his age,
procured him the reputation of a wizard. But, perhaps, the expedition
of Sir Patrick Spens was previous to their embassy. The introduction
of the king into the ballad seems a deviation from history; unless
we suppose, that Alexander was, before his death, desirous to see his
grand-child and heir.

The Scottish monarchs were much addicted to "sit in Dumfermline town,"
previous to the accession of the Bruce dynasty. It was a favourite
abode of Alexander himself, who was killed by a fall from his horse,
in the vicinity, and was buried in the abbey of Dumfermline.

There is a beautiful German translation of this ballad, as it appeared
in the _Reliques_, in the Volk-Lieder of Professor Herder; an elegant
work, in which it is only to be regretted, that the actual popular
songs of the Germans form so trifling a proportion.

The tune of Mr. Hamilton's copy of _Sir Patrick Spens_ is different
from that, to which the words are commonly sung; being less plaintive,
and having a bold nautical turn in the close.


* * * * *

The king sits in Dumfermline town,
Drinking the blude-red wine;
"O[77] whare will I get a skeely skippe[78],
"To sail this new ship of mine?"

O up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the king's right knee,--
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor,
"That ever sail'd the sea."

Our king has written a braid letter.
And seal'd it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

"To Noroway, to Noroway,
"To Noroway o'er the faem;
"The king's daughter of Noroway,
"'Tis thou maun bring her hame."

The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Sae loud loud laughed he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e'e.

"O wha is this has done this deed,
"And tauld the king o' me,
"To send us out, at this time of the year,
"To sail upon the sea?

"Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
"Our ship must sail the faem;
"The king's daughter of Noroway,
"'Tis we must fetch her hame,"

They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn,
Wi' a' the speed they may;
They hae landed in Noroway,
Upon a Wodensday.

They hadna been a week, a week,
In Noroway, but twae,
When that the lords o' Noroway
Began aloud to say,--

"Ye Scottishmen spend a' our king's goud,
"And a' our queenis fee."
"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liars loud!
"Fu' loud I hear ye lie."

"For I brought as much white monie,
"As gane[79] my men and me,


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