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Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. II (of 3) by Walter Scott

Part 3 out of 6

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their skill is not confined to the fabrication of arms; for they are
heard sedulously hammering in linns, precipices, and rocky or cavernous
situations where, like the dwarfs of the mines, mentioned by Georg.
Agricola, they busy themselves in imitating the actions and the various
employments of men. The brook of Beaumont, for example, which passes,
in its course, by numerous linns and caverns, is notorious for being
haunted by the Fairies; and the perforated and rounded stones, which are
formed by trituration in its channel, are termed, by the vulgar, fairy
cups and dishes. A beautiful reason is assigned, by Fletcher, for the
fays frequenting streams and fountains. He tells us of

A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed Fairies dance their rounds,
By the pale moon-shine, dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying flesh, and dull mortality.
_Faithful Shepherdess._

It is sometimes accounted unlucky to pass such places, without
performing some ceremony to avert the displeasure of the elves. There
is, upon the top of Minchmuir, a mountain in Peebles-shire, a spring,
called the _Cheese Well_, because, anciently, those who passed that way
were wont to throw into it a piece of cheese, as an offering to the
Fairies, to whom it was consecrated.

Like the _feld elfen_ of the Saxons, the usual dress of the Fairies
is green; though, on the moors, they have been sometimes observed in
heath-brown, or in weeds dyed with the stoneraw, or lichen.[A] They
often ride in invisible procession, when their presence is discovered by
the shrill ringing of their bridles. On these occasions, they sometimes
borrow mortal steeds; and when such are found at morning, panting and
fatigued in their stalls, with their manes and tails dishevelled and
entangled, the grooms, I presume, often find this a convenient excuse
for their situation; as the common belief of the elves quaffing the
choicest liquors in the cellars of the rich (see the story of Lord
Duffus below), might occasionally cloak the delinquencies of an
unfaithful butler.

[Footnote A: Hence the hero of the ballad is termed an "elfin grey."]

The Fairies, beside their equestrian processions, are addicted it would
seem, to the pleasures of the chace. A young sailor, travelling by night
from Douglas, in the Isle of Man, to visit his sister, residing in Kirk
Merlugh, heard the noise of horses, the holla of a huntsman, and the
sound of a horn. Immediately afterwards, thirteen horsemen, dressed in
green, and gallantly mounted, swept past him. Jack was so much delighted
with the sport, that he followed them, and enjoyed the sound of the horn
for some miles; and it was not till he arrived at his sister's house
that he learned the danger which he had incurred. I must not omit to
mention, that these little personages are expert jockeys, and scorn to
ride the little Manks ponies, though apparently well suited to their
size. The exercise therefore, falls heavily upon the English and Irish
horses brought into the Isle of Man. Mr Waldron was assured by a
gentleman of Ballafletcher, that he had lost three or four capital
hunters by these nocturnal excursions.--WALDRON'S _Works_, p. 132.
From the same author we learn, that the Fairies sometimes take more
legitimate modes of procuring horses. A person of the utmost integrity
informed him, that, having occasion to sell a horse, he was accosted
among the mountains by a little gentleman plainly dressed, who priced
his horse, cheapened him, and, after some chaffering, finally purchased
him. No sooner had the buyer mounted, and paid the price, than, he sunk
through the earth, horse and man, to the astonishment and terror of the
seller; who experienced, however, no inconvenience from dealing with so
extraordinary a purchaser.--_Ibid._ p. 135.

It is hoped the reader will receive, with due respect, these, and
similar stories, told by Mr Waldron; for he himself, a scholar and a
gentleman, informs us, "as to circles in grass, and the impression
of small feet among the snow, I cannot deny but I have seen them
frequently, and once thought I heard a whistle, as though in my ear,
when nobody that could make it was near me." In this passage there is a
curious picture of the contagious effects of a superstitious atmosphere.
Waldron had lived so long among the Manks, that he was almost persuaded
to believe their legends.

From the _History of the Irish Bards_, by Mr Walker, and from the
glossary subjoined to the lively and ingenious _Tale of Castle
Rackrent_, we learn, that the same ideas, concerning Fairies, are
current among the vulgar in that country. The latter authority mentions
their inhabiting the ancient tumuli, called _Barrows_, and their
abstracting mortals. They are termed "the good people;" and when an eddy
of wind raises loose dust and sand, the vulgar believe that it announces
a Fairy procession, and bid God speed their journey.

The Scottish Fairies, in like manner, sometimes reside in subterranean
abodes, in the vicinity of human habitations or, according to the
popular phrase, under the "door-stane," or threshold; in which
situation, they sometimes establish an intercourse with men, by
borrowing and lending, and other kindly offices. In this capacity they
are termed "the good neighbours,"[A] from supplying privately the wants
of their friends, and assisting them in all their transactions, while
their favours are concealed. Of this the traditionary story of Sir
Godfrey Macculloch forms a curious example.

[Footnote A: Perhaps this epithet is only one example, among many, of
the extreme civility which the vulgar in Scotland use towards spirits of
a, dubious, or even a determinedly mischievous, nature. The archfiend
himself is often distinguished by the softened title of the "good-man."
This epithet, so applied, must sound strange to a southern ear; but, as
the phrase bears various interpretations, according to the places where
it is used, so, in the Scottish dialect, the _good-man of such a place_
signifies the tenant, or life-renter, in opposition to the laird, or
proprietor. Hence, the devil is termed the good-man, or tenant, of the
infernal regions. In the book of the Universal Kirk, 13th May, 1594,
mention is made of "the horrible superstitioune usit in Garioch, and
dyvers parts of the countrie, in not labouring a parcel of ground
dedicated to the devil, under the title of the _Guid-man's Croft_." Lord
Hailes conjectured this to have been the _tenenos_ adjoining to some
ancient Pagan temple. The unavowed, but obvious, purpose of this
practice, was to avert the destructive rage of Satan from the
neighbouring possessions. It required various fulminations of the
General Assembly of the Kirk to abolish a practice bordering so nearly
upon the doctrine of the Magi.]

As this Gallovidian gentleman was taking the air on horseback, near his
own house, he was suddenly accosted by a little old man, arrayed in
green, and mounted upon a white palfrey. After mutual salutation, the
old man gave Sir Godfrey to understand, that he resided under his
habitation, and that he had great reason to complain of the direction of
a drain, or common sewer, which emptied itself directly into his chamber
of dais, [A] Sir Godfrey Macculloch was a good deal startled at this
extraordinary complaint; but, guessing the nature of the being he had
to deal with, he assured the old man, with great courtesy, that the
direction of the drain should be altered; and caused it be done
accordingly. Many years afterwards, Sir Godfrey had the misfortune to
kill, in a fray, a gentleman of the neighbourhood. He was apprehended,
tried, and condemned.[B] The scaffold, upon which his head was to be
struck off, was erected on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh; but hardly had
he reached the fatal spot, when the old man, upon his white palfrey,
pressed through the crowd, with the rapidity of lightning. Sir Godfrey,
at his command, sprung on behind him; the "good neighbour" spurred his
horse down the steep bank, and neither he nor the criminal were ever
again seen.

[Footnote A: The best chamber was thus currently denominated in
Scotland, from the French _dais_, signifying that part of the ancient
halls which was elevated above the rest, and covered with a canopy.
The turf-seats, which occupy the sunny side of a cottage wall, is also
termed the _dais_.]

[Footnote B: In this particular, tradition coincides with the real fact;
the trial took place in 1697.]

The most formidable attribute of the elves, was their practice of
carrying away, and exchanging, children; and that of stealing human
souls from their bodies. "A persuasion prevails among the ignorant,"
says the author of a MS. history of Moray, "that, in a consumptive
disease, the Fairies steal away the soul, and put the soul of a Fairy in
the room of it." This belief prevails chiefly along the eastern coast of
Scotland, where a practice, apparently of druidical origin, is used to
avert the danger. In the increase of the March moon, withies of oak and
ivy are cut, and twisted into wreaths or circles, which they preserve
till next March. After that period, when persons are consumptive, or
children hectic, they cause them to pass thrice through these circles.
In other cases the cure was more rough, and at least as dangerous as the
disease, as will appear from the following extract:

"There is one thing remarkable in this parish of Suddie (in
Inverness-shire), which I think proper to mention. There is a small hill
N.W. from the church, commonly called Therdy Hill, or Hill of Therdie,
as some term it; on the top of which there is a well, which I had the
curiosity to view, because of the several reports concerning it. When
children happen to be sick, and languish long in their malady, so that
they almost turned skeletons, the common people imagine they are taken
away (at least the substance) by spirits, called Fairies, and the shadow
left with them; so, at a particular season in summer, they leave them
all night themselves, watching at a distance, near this well, and this
they imagine will either _end or mend them_; they say many more do
recover than do not. Yea, an honest tenant who lives hard by it, and
whom I had the curiosity to discourse about it, told me it has recovered
some, who were about eight or nine years of age, and to his certain
knowledge they bring adult persons to it; for, as he was passing one
dark night, he heard groanings, and coming to the well, he found a man,
who had been long sick, wrapped in a plaid, so that he could scarcely
move, a stake being fixed in the earth, with a rope, or tedder, that was
about the plaid; he had no sooner enquired what he was, but he conjured
him to loose him, and out of sympathy he was pleased to slacken that,
wherein he was, as I may so speak, swaddled; but, if I right remember,
he signified, he did not recover."--_Account of the Parish of Suddie,_
apud _Macfarlane's MSS._

According to the earlier doctrine, concerning the original corruption of
human nature, the power of daemons over infants had been long reckoned
considerable, in the period intervening between birth and baptism.
During this period, therefore, children were believed to be particularly
liable to abstraction by the Fairies, and mothers chiefly dreaded the
substitution of changelings in the place of their own offspring. Various
monstrous charms existed in Scotland, for procuring the restoration of a
child, which had been thus stolen; but the most efficacious of them was
supposed to be, the roasting of the suppositious child upon the live
embers, when it was believed it would vanish, and the true child appear
in the place, whence it had been originally abstracted.[A]

[Footnote A: Less perilous recipes were sometimes used. The editor is
possessed of a small relique, termed by tradition a toad-stone, the
influence of which was supposed to preserve pregnant women from the
power of daemons, and other dangers incidental to their situation. It
has been carefully preserved for several generations, was often pledged
for considerable sums of money, and uniformly redeemed, from a belief in
its efficacy.]

The most minute and authenticated account of an exchanged child is to be
found in Waldron's _Isle of Man_, a book from which I have derived much
legendary information. "I was prevailed upon myself," says that author,
"to go and see a child, who, they told me, was one of these changelings,
and, indeed, must own, was not a little surprised, as well as shocked,
at the sight. Nothing under heaven could have a more beautiful face;
but, though between five and six years old, and seemingly healthy, he
was so far from being able to walk or stand, that he could not so much
as move any one joint; his limbs were vastly long for his age, but
smaller than any infant's of six months; his complexion was perfectly
delicate, and he had the finest hair in the world. He never spoke nor
cried, ate scarce any thing, and was very seldom seen to smile; but if
any one called him a _fairy-elf_, he would frown, and fix his eyes so
earnestly on those who said it, as if he would look them through. His
mother, or at least his supposed mother, being very poor, frequently
went out a chareing, and left him a whole day together. The neighbours,
out of curiosity, have often looked in at the window, to see how he
behaved while alone; which, whenever they did, they were sure to find
him laughing, and in the utmost delight. This made them judge that he
was not without company, more pleasing to him than any mortals could be;
and what made this conjecture seem the more reasonable, was, that if he
were left ever so dirty, the woman, at her return, saw him with a clean
face, and his hair combed with the utmost exactness and nicety." P. 128.

Waldron gives another account of a poor woman, to whose offspring, it
would seem, the Fairies had taken a special fancy. A few nights after
she was delivered of her first child, the family were alarmed by a
dreadful cry of "Fire!" All flew to the door, while the mother lay
trembling in bed, unable to protect her infant, which was snatched from
the bed by an invisible hand. Fortunately the return of the gossips,
after the causeless alarm, disturbed the Fairies, who dropped the child,
which was found sprawling and shrieking upon the threshold. At the good
woman's second _accouchement_, a tumult was heard in the cow-house,
which drew thither the whole assistants. They returned, when they found
that all was quiet among the cattle, and lo! the second child had been
carried from the bed, and dropped in the middle of the lane. But, upon
the third occurrence of the same kind, the company were again decoyed
out of the sick woman's chamber by a false alarm, leaving only a nurse,
who was detained by the bonds of sleep. On this last occasion, the
mother plainly saw her child removed, though the means were invisible.
She screamed for assistance to the nurse; but the old lady had partaken
too deeply of the cordials which circulate on such joyful occasions, to
be easily awakened. In short, the child was this time fairly carried
off, and a withered, deformed creature, left in its stead, quite naked,
with the clothes of the abstracted infant, rolled in a bundle, by its
side. This creature lived nine years, ate nothing but a few herbs,
and neither spoke, stood, walked nor performed any other functions
of mortality; resembling, in all respects, the changeling already
mentioned.--WALDRON'S _Works, ibid._

But the power of the Fairies was not confined to unchristened children
alone; it was supposed frequently to extend to full grown persons,
especially such as, in an unlucky hour, were devoted to the devil by the
execration of parents, and of masters;[A] or those who were found asleep
under a rock, or on a green hill, belonging to the Fairies, after
sun-set; or, finally, to those who unwarily joined their orgies. A
tradition existed, during the seventeenth century, concerning an
ancestor of the noble family of Duffus, who, "walking abroad in the
fields, near to his own house, was suddenly carried away, and found the
next day at Paris, in the French king's cellar, with a silver cup in his
hand. Being brought into the king's presence, and questioned by him who
he was, and how he came thither, he told his name, his country, and the
place of his residence; and that, on such a day of the month, which
proved to be the day immediately preceding, being in the fields, he
heard the noise of a whirlwind, and of voices, crying, _'Horse and
Hattock!'_ (this is the word which the Fairies are said to use when they
remove from any place), whereupon he cried, _'Horse and Hattock'_ also,
and was immediately caught up, and transported through the air, by the
Fairies, to that place, where, after he had drunk heartily, he fell
asleep, and, before he woke, the rest of the company were gone, and had
left him in the posture wherein he was found. It is said the king gave
him the cup, which was found in his hand, and dismissed him." The
narrator affirms, "that the cup was still preserved, and known by the
name of the _Fairy cup_." He adds, that Mr Steward, tutor to the then
Lord Duffus, had informed him, "that, when a boy, at the school of
Forres, he, and his school-fellows, were upon a time whipping their tops
in the church-yard, before the door of the church, when, though the day
was calm, they heard a noise of a wind, and at some distance saw
the small dust begin to rise and turn round, which motion continued
advancing till it came to the place where they were, whereupon they
began to bless themselves; but one of their number being, it seems, a
little more bold and confident than his companions, said, _'Horse and
Hattock, with my top,'_ and immediately they all saw the top lifted up
from the ground, but could not see which way it was carried, by reason
of a cloud of dust which was raised at the same time. They sought for
the top all about the place where it was taken up, but in vain; and
it was found afterwards in the church-yard, on the other side of the
church."--This puerile legend is contained in a letter from a learned
gentleman in Scotland, to Mr Aubrey, dated 15th March, 1695, published
in AUBREY'S _Miscellanies,_ p. 158.

[Footnote A: This idea is not peculiar to the Gothic tribes, but extends
to those of Sclavic origin. Tooke (_History of Russia,_ Vol. I. p.
100) relates, that the Russian peasants believe the nocturnal daemon,
_Kikimora_, to have been a child, whom the devil stole out of the womb
of its mother, because she had cursed it. They also assert, that if
an execration against a child be spoken in an evil hour, the child is
carried off by the devil. The beings, so stolen, are neither fiends nor
men; they are invisible, and afraid of the cross and holy water; but, on
the other hand, in their nature and dispositions they resemble mankind,
whom they love, and rarely injure.]

Notwithstanding the special example of Lord Duffus, and of the top, it
is the common opinion, that persons, falling under the power of the
Fairies, were only allowed to revisit the haunts of men, after
seven years had expired. At the end of seven years more, they again
disappeared, after which they were seldom seen among mortals. The
accounts they gave of their situation, differ in some particulars.
Sometimes they were represented as leading a life of constant
restlessness, and wandering by moon-light. According to others, they
inhabited a pleasant region, where, however, their situation was
rendered horrible, by the sacrifice of one or more individuals to the
devil, every seventh year. This circumstance is mentioned in Alison
Pearson's indictment, and in the _Tale of the Young Tamlane,_ where
it is termed, "the paying the kane to hell," or, according to some
recitations, "the teind," or tenth. This is the popular reason assigned
for the desire of the Fairies to abstract young children, as substitutes
for themselves in this dreadful tribute. Concerning the mode of winning,
or recovering, persons abstracted by the Fairies, tradition differs; but
the popular opinion, contrary to what may be inferred from the following
tale, supposes, that the recovery must be effected within a year and a
day, to be held legal in the Fairy court. This feat, which was reckoned
an enterprize of equal difficulty and danger, could only be accomplished
on Hallowe'en, at the great annual procession of the Fairy court.[A]
Of this procession the following description is found in Montgomery's
_Flyting against Polwart,_ apud _Watson's Collection of Scots Poems,_
1709, Part III. p. 12.

In the hinder end of harvest, on All-hallowe'en,
When our _good neighbours_ dois ride, if I read right.
Some buckled on a bunewand, and some on a been,
Ay trottand in tronps from the twilight;
Some saidled a she-ape, all grathed into green,
Some hobland on a hemp-stalk, hovand to the hight;
The king of Pharie and his court, with the Elf queen,
With many elfish incubus was ridand that night.
There an elf on an ape, an unsel begat.
Into a pot by Pomathorne;
That bratchart in a busse was born;
They fand a monster on the morn,
War faced nor a cat.

[Footnote A: See the inimitable poem of Hallowe'en:--

"Upon that night, when Fairies light
On Cassilis Downan dance;
Or o'er the leas, in splendid blaze,
On stately coursers prance," &c. _Burns._]

The catastrophe of _Tamlane_ terminated more successfully than that of
other attempts, which tradition still records. The wife of a farmer in
Lothian had been carried off by the Fairies, and, during the year of
probation, repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children,
combing their hair. On one of these occasions she was accosted by
her husband; when she related to him the unfortunate event which had
separated them, instructed him by what means he might win her, and
exhorted him to exert all his courage, since her temporal and eternal
happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who
ardently loved his wife, set out on Hallow-e'en and, in the midst of a
plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the Fairies. At
the ringing of the Fairy bridles, and the wild unearthly sound which
accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the
ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode
past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and
exultation; among which he plainly discovered the voice of his wife,
lamenting that he had lost her for ever.

A similar, but real incident, took place at the town of North Berwick,
within the memory of man. The wife of a man, above the lowest class of
society, being left alone in the house, a few days after delivery, was
attacked and carried off by one of those convulsion fits, incident to
her situation. Upon the return of the family, who had been engaged in
hay-making, or harvest, they found the corpse much disfigured. This
circumstance, the natural consequence of her disease, led some of the
spectators to think that she had been carried off by the Fairies,
and that the body before them was some elfin deception. The husband,
probably, paid little attention to this opinion at the time. The body
was interred, and, after a decent time had elapsed, finding his domestic
affairs absolutely required female superintendence, the widower paid
his addresses to a young woman in the neighbourhood. The recollection,
however, of his former wife, whom he had tenderly loved, haunted his
slumbers; and, one morning, he came to the clergyman of the parish in
the utmost dismay, declaring, that she had appeared to him the preceding
night, informed him that she was a captive in Fairy Land, and conjured
him to attempt her deliverance. She directed him to bring the minister,
and certain other persons, whom she named, to her grave at midnight. Her
body was then to be dug up, and certain prayers recited; after which the
corpse was to become animated, and fly from them. One of the assistants,
the swiftest runner in the parish, was to pursue the body; and, if he
was able to seize it, before it had thrice encircled the church, the
rest were to come to his assistance, and detain it, in spite of the
struggles it should use, and the various shapes into which it might be
transformed. The redemption of the abstracted person was then to become
complete. The minister, a sensible man, argued with his parishioner upon
the indecency and absurdity of what was proposed, and dismissed him.
Next Sunday, the banns being for the first time proclaimed betwixt the
widower and his new bride, his former wife, very naturally, took the
opportunity of the following night to make him another visit, yet more
terrific than the former. She upbraided him with his incredulity, his
fickleness, and his want of affection; and, to convince him that her
appearance was no aerial illusion, she gave suck, in his presence, to
her youngest child. The man, under the greatest horror of mind, had
again recourse to the pastor; and his ghostly counsellor fell upon
an admirable expedient to console him. This was nothing less than
dispensing with the further solemnity of banns, and marrying him,
without an hour's delay, to the young woman to whom he was affianced;
after which no spectre again disturbed his repose.

* * * * *

Having concluded these general observations upon the Fairy superstition,
which, although minute, may not, I hope, be deemed altogether
uninteresting, I proceed to the more particular illustrations, relating
to the _Tale of the Young Tamlane._

The following ballad, still popular in Ettrick Forest, where the scene
is laid, is certainly of much greater antiquity than its phraseology,
gradually modernized as transmitted by tradition, would seem to denote.
The _Tale of the Young Tamlane_ is mentioned in the _Complaynt of
Scotland;_ and the air, to which it was chaunted, seems to have been
accommodated to a particular dance; for the dance of _Thorn of
Lynn_, another variation of _Thomalin_, likewise occurs in the same
performance. Like every popular subject, it seems to have been
frequently parodied; and a burlesque ballad, beginning

"Tom o' the Linn was a Scotsman born,"

is still well known.

In a medley, contained in a curious and ancient MS. cantus, _penes_ J.G.
Dalyell, Esq., there is an allusion to our ballad:--

"Sing young Thomlin, be merry, be merry, and twice so merry."

In _Scottish Songs_, 1774, a part of the original tale was published,
under the title of _Kerton Ha';_ a corruption of Carterhaugh; and,
in the same collection, there is a fragment, containing two or three
additional verses, beginning,

"I'll wager, I'll wager, I'll wager with you," &c.

In Johnson's _Musical Museum_, a more complete copy occurs, under the
title of _Thom Linn_, which, with some alterations was reprinted in the
_Tales of Wonder_.

The present edition is the most perfect which has yet appeared; being
prepared from a collation of the printed copies, with a very accurate
one in Glenriddell's MSS., and with several recitals from tradition.
Some verses are omitted in this edition, being ascertained to belong to
a separate ballad, which will be found in a subsequent part of the work.
In one recital only, the well known fragment of the _Wee, wee Man_,
was introduced, in the same measure with the rest of the poem. It was
retained in the first edition, but is now omitted; as the editor has
been favoured, by the learned Mr Ritson, with a copy of the original
poem, of which it is a detached fragment. The editor has been enabled to
add several verses of beauty and interest to this edition of _Tamlane_,
in consequence of a copy, obtained from a gentleman residing near
Langholm, which is said to be very ancient, though the diction is
somewhat of a modern cast. The manners of the Fairies are detailed at
considerable length, and in poetry of no common merit.

Carterhaugh is a plain, at the conflux of the Ettrick and Yarrow, in
Selkirkshire, about a mile above Selkirk, and two miles below Newark
Castle; a romantic ruin, which overhangs the Yarrow, and which is said
to have been the habitation of our heroine's father, though others place
his residence in the tower of Oakwood. The peasants point out, upon the
plain, those electrical rings, which vulgar credulity supposes to be
traces of the Fairy revels. Here, they say, were placed the stands of
milk, and of water, in which _Tamlane_ was dipped, in order to effect
the disenchantment; and upon these spots, according to their mode of
expressing themselves, the grass will never grow. Miles Cross (perhaps a
corruption of Mary's Cross), where fair Janet waited the arrival of the
Fairy train, is said to have stood near the duke of Buccleuch's seat of
Bowhill, about half a mile from Carterhaugh. In no part of Scotland,
indeed, has the belief in Fairies maintained its ground with more
pertinacity than in Selkirkshire. The most sceptical among the lower
ranks only venture to assert, that their appearances, and mischievous
exploits, have ceased, or at least become infrequent, since the light of
the Gospel was diffused in its purity. One of their frolics is said to
have happened late in the last century. The victim of elfin sport was a
poor man, who, being employed in pulling heather upon Peatlaw, a hill
not far from Carterhaugh, had tired of his labour, and laid him down
to sleep upon a Fairy ring.--When he awakened, he was amazed to find
himself in the midst of a populous city, to which, as well as to the
means of his transportation, he was an utter stranger. His coat was left
upon the Peatlaw; and his bonnet, which had fallen off in the course of
his aerial journey, was afterwards found hanging upon the steeple of
the church of Lanark. The distress of the poor man was, in some degree,
relieved, by meeting a carrier, whom he had formerly known, and who
conducted him back to Selkirk, by a slower conveyance than had whirled
him to Glasgow.--That he had been carried off by the Fairies, was
implicitly believed by all, who did not reflect, that a man may have
private reasons for leaving his own country, and for disguising his
having intentionally done so.


O I forbid ye, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh;
For young Tamlane is there.

There's nane, that gaes by Carterhaugh,
But maun leave him a wad;
Either goud rings or green mantles,
Or else their maidenheid.

Now, gowd rings ye may buy, maidens,
Green mantles ye may spin;
But, gin ye lose your maidenheid,
Ye'll ne'er get that agen.

But up then spak her, fair Janet,
The fairest o' a' her kin;
"I'll cum and gang to Carterhaugh,
"And ask nae leave o' him."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle,[A]
A little abune her knee;
And she has braided her yellow hair,
A little abune her bree.

And when she cam to Carterhaugh,
She gaed beside the well;
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsell.

She hadna pu'd a red red rose,
A rose but barely three;
Till up and starts a wee wee man,
At Lady Janet's knee.

Says--"Why pu' ye the rose, Janet?
"What gars ye break the tree?
"Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
"Withoutten leave o' me?"

Says--"Carterhaugh it is mine ain;
"My daddie gave it me;
"I'll come and gang to Carterhaugh,
"And ask nae leave o' thee."

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
Amang the leaves sae green;
And what they did I cannot tell--
The green leaves were between.

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
Amang the roses red;
And what they did I cannot say--
She ne'er returned a maid.

When she cam to her father's ha',
She looked pale and wan;
They thought she'd dried some sair sickness,
Or been wi' some leman.

She didna comb her yellow hair,
Nor make meikle o' her heid;
And ilka thing, that lady took,
Was like to be her deid.

Its four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba';
Janet, the wightest of them anes,
Was faintest o' them a'.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess;
And out there came the fair Janet,
As green as any grass.

Out and spak an auld gray-headed knight,
Lay o'er the castle wa'--
"And ever alas! for thee, Janet,
"But we'll be blamed a'!"

"Now haud your tongue, ye auld gray knight!
"And an ill deid may ye die!
"Father my bairn on whom I will,
"I'll father nane on thee."

Out then spak her father dear,
And he spak meik and mild--
"And ever alas! my sweet Janet,
"I fear ye gae with child."

"And, if I be with child, father,
"Mysell maun bear the blame;
"There's ne'er a knight about your ha'
"Shall hae the bairnie's name.

"And if I be with child, father,
"'Twill prove a wondrous birth;
"For well I swear I'm not wi' bairn
"To any man on earth.

"If my love were an earthly knight,
"As he's an elfin grey,
"I wadna gie my ain true love
"For nae lord that ye hae."

She princked hersell and prinn'd hersell,
By the ae light of the moon,
And she's away to Carterhaugh,
To speak wi' young Tamlane.

And when she cam to Carterhaugh,
She gaed beside the well;
And there she saw the steed standing,
But away was himsell.

She hadna pu'd a double rose,
A rose but only twae,
When up and started young Tamlane,
Says--"Lady, thou pu's nae mae!

"Why pu' ye the rose, Janet,
"Within this garden grene,
"And a' to kill the bonny babe,
"That we got us between?"

"The truth ye'll tell to me, Tamlane;
"A word ye mauna lie;
"Gin ye're ye was in haly chapel,
"Or sained[B] in Christentie."

"The truth I'll tell to thee, Janet,
"A word I winna lie;
"A knight me got, and a lady me bore,
"As well as they did thee.

"Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
"Dunbar, Earl March, is thine;
"We loved when we were children small,
"Which yet you well may mind.

"When I was a boy just turned of nine,
"My uncle sent for me,
"To hunt, and hawk, and ride with him,
"And keep him cumpanie.

"There came a wind out of the north,
"A sharp wind and a snell;
"And a dead sleep came over me,
"And frae my horse I fell.

"The Queen of Fairies keppit me,
"In yon green hill to dwell;
"And I'm a Fairy, lyth and limb;
"Fair ladye, view me well.

"But we, that live in Fairy-land,
"No sickness know, nor pain;
"I quit my body when I will,
"And take to it again.

"I quit my body when I please,
"Or unto it repair;
"We can inhabit, at our ease,
"In either earth or air.

"Our shapes and size we can convert,
"To either large or small;
"An old nut-shell's the same to us,
"As is the lofty hall.

"We sleep in rose-buds, soft and sweet,
"We revel in the stream;
"We wanton lightly on the wind,
"Or glide on a sunbeam.

"And all our wants are well supplied,
"From every rich man's store,
"Who thankless sins the gifts he gets,
"And vainly grasps for more.

"Then would I never tire, Janet,
"In elfish land to dwell;
"But aye at every seven years,
"They pay the teind to hell;
"And I am sae fat, and fair of flesh,
"I fear 'twill be mysell.

"This night is Hallowe'en, Janet,
"The morn is Hallowday;

"And, gin ye dare your true love win,
"Ye hae na time to stay.

"The night it is good Hallowe'en,
"When fairy folk will ride;
"And they, that wad their true love win,
"At Miles Cross they maun bide."

"But how shall I thee ken, Tamlane?
"Or how shall I thee knaw,
"Amang so many unearthly knights,
"The like I never saw.?"

"The first company, that passes by,
"Say na, and let them gae;
"The next company, that passes by,
"Say na, and do right sae;
"The third company, that passes by,
"Than I'll be ane o' thae.

"First let pass the black, Janet,
"And syne let pass the brown;
"But grip ye to the milk-white steed,
"And pu' the rider down.

"For I ride on the milk-white steed,
"And ay nearest the town;
"Because I was a christened knight,
"They gave me that renown.

"My right hand will be gloved, Janet,
"My left hand will be bare;
"And these the tokens I gie thee,
"Nae doubt I will be there.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"An adder and a snake;
"But had me fast, let me not pass,
"Gin ye wad be my maik.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"An adder and an ask;
"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"A bale[C] that burns fast.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"A red-hot gad o' aim;
"But had me fast, let me not pass,
"For I'll do you no harm.

"First, dip me in a stand o' milk,
"And then in a stand o' water;
"But had me fast, let me not pass--
"I'll be your bairn's father.

"And, next, they'll shape me in your arms,
"A toad, but and an eel;
"But had me fast, nor let me gang,
"As you do love me weel.

"They'll shape me in your arms, Janet,
"A dove, but and a swan;
"And, last, they'll shape me in your arms,
"A mother-naked man:
"Cast your green mantle over me--
"I'll be mysell again."

Gloomy, gloomy, was the night,
And eiry[D] was the way,
As fair Janet, in her green mantle,
To Miles Cross she did gae.

The heavens were black, the night was dark,
And dreary was the place;

But Janet stood, with eager wish,
Her lover to embrace.

Betwixt the hours of twelve and one,
A north wind tore the bent;
And straight she heard strange elritch sounds
Upon that wind which went.

About the dead hour o' the night,
She heard the bridles ring;
And Janet was as glad o' that,
As any earthly thing!

Their oaten pipes blew wondrous shrill,
The hemlock small blew clear;
And louder notes from hemlock large,
And bog-reed struck the ear;
But solemn sounds, or sober thoughts,
The Fairies cannot bear.

They sing, inspired with love and joy,
Like sky-larks in the air;
Of solid sense, or thought that's grave,
You'll find no traces there.

Fair Janet stood, with mind unmoved,
The dreary heath upon;
And louder, louder, wax'd the sound,
As they came riding on.

Will o' Wisp before them went,
Sent forth a twinkling light;
And soon she saw the Fairy bands
All riding in her sight.

And first gaed by the black black steed,
And then gaed by the brown;
But fast she gript the milk-white steed,
And pu'd the rider down.

She pu'd him frae the milk-white steed,
And loot the bridle fa';
And up there raise an erlish[E] cry--
"He's won amang us a'!"

They shaped him in fair Janet's arms,
An esk[F], but and an adder;
She held him fast in every shape--
To be her bairn's father.

They shaped him in her arms at last,
A mother-naked man;
She wrapt him in her green mantle,
And sae her true love wan.

Up then spake the Queen o' Fairies,
Out o' a bush o' broom--
"She that has borrowed young Tamlane,
Has gotten a stately groom."

Up then spake the Queen of Fairies,
Out o' a bush of rye--
"She's ta'en awa the bonniest knight
In a' my cumpanie.

"But had I kenn'd, Tamlane," she says,
"A lady wad borrowed thee--
"I wad ta'en out thy twa gray een,
"Put in twa een o' tree.

"Had I but kenn'd, Tamlane," she says,
"Before ye came frae hame--
"I wad tane out your heart o' flesh,
"Put in a heart o' stane.

"Had I but had the wit yestreen,
"That I hae coft[G] the day--
"I'd paid my kane seven times to hell,
"Ere you'd been won away!"

[Footnote A: The ladies are always represented, in Dunbar's Poems, with
green mantles and yellow hair. _Maitland Poems,_ Vol. I. p. 45.]

[Footnote B: _Sained_--Hallowed.]

[Footnote C: _Bale_--A faggot.]

[Footnote D: _Eiry_--Producing superstitious dread.]

[Footnote E: _Erlish_--Elritch, ghastly.]

[Footnote F: _Esk_--Newt.]

[Footnote G: _Coft_--Bought.]


_Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
Dunbar, Earl March, is thine,_ &c.--P. 185, v. 5.

Both these mighty chiefs were connected with Ettrick Forest, and its
vicinity. Their memory, therefore, lived in the traditions of the
country. Randolph, earl of Murray, the renowned nephew of Robert Bruce,
had a castle at Ha' Guards, in Annandale, and another in Peebles-shire,
on the borders of the forest, the site of which is still called
Randall's Walls. Patrick of Dunbar, earl of March, is said by Henry the
Minstrel, to have retreated to Ettrick Forest, after being defeated by

_And all our wants are well supplied,
From every rich man's store;
Who thankless sins the gifts he gets, &c._--P. 187. v. 3.

To _sin our gifts, or mercies_, means, ungratefully to hold them in
slight esteem. The idea, that the possessions of the wicked are most
obnoxious to the depredations of evil spirits, may be illustrated by the
following tale of a _Buttery Spirit_, extracted from Thomas Heywood:--

An ancient and virtuous monk came to visit his nephew, an inn-keeper,
and, after other discourse, enquired into his circumstances. Mine host
confessed, that, although he practised all the unconscionable tricks of
his trade, he was still miserably poor. The monk shook his head, and
asked to see his buttery, or larder. As they looked into it, he rendered
visible to the astonished host an immense goblin, whose paunch,
and whole appearance, bespoke his being gorged with food, and who,
nevertheless, was gormandizing at the innkeeper's expence, emptying
whole shelves of food, and washing it down with entire hogsheads of
liquor. "To the depredation of this visitor will thy viands be exposed,"
quoth the uncle, "until thou shalt abandon fraud, and false reckonings."
The monk returned in a year. The host having turned over a new leaf, and
given christian measure to his customers, was now a thriving man. When
they again inspected the larder, they saw the same spirit, but woefully
reduced in size, and in vain attempting to reach at the full plates and
bottles, which stood around him; starving, in short, like Tantalus, in
the midst of plenty. Honest Heywood sums up the tale thus:

In this discourse, far be it we should mean
Spirits by meat are fatted made, or lean;
Yet certain 'tis, by God's permission, they
May, over goods extorted, bear like sway.

* * * * *

All such as study fraud, and practise evil,
Do only starve themselves to plumpe the devill.
_Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels,_ p. 577.


This ballad is published from the collation of two copies, obtained from
recitation. It seems to be the rude original, or perhaps a corrupted
and imperfect copy, of _The Child of Elle_, a beautiful legendary tale,
published in the _Reliques of Ancient Poetry_. It is singular, that
this charming ballad should have been translated, or imitated, by the
celebrated Buerger, without acknowledgment of the English original. As
_The Child of Elle_ avowedly received corrections, we may ascribe its
greatest beauties to the poetical taste of the ingenious editor. They
are in the truest stile of Gothic embellishment. We may compare, for
example, the following beautiful verse, with the same idea in an old

The baron stroked his dark-brown cheek,
And turned his face aside,
To wipe away the starting tear,
He proudly strove to hide!
_Child of Elle._

The heathen Soldan, or Amiral, when about to slay two lovers, relents in
a similar manner:

Weeping, he turned his heued awai,
And his swerde hit fel to grounde.
_Florice and Blauncheflour._


Erlinton had a fair daughter,
I wat he weird her in a great sin,[A]
For he has built a bigly bower,
An' a' to put that lady in.

An' he has warn'd her sisters six,
An' sae has he her brethren se'en,
Outher to watch her a' the night,
Or else to seek her morn an' e'en.

She hadna been i' that bigly bower,
Na not a night, but barely ane,
Till there was Willie, her ain true love,
Chapp'd at the door, cryin', "Peace within!"

"O whae is this at my bower door,
"That chaps sae late, nor kens the gin?"[B]
"O it is Willie, your ain true love,
"I pray you rise an' let me in!"

"But in my bower there is a wake,
"An' at the wake there is a wane;[C]
"But I'll come to the green-wood the morn,
"Whar blooms the brier by mornin' dawn."

Then she's gane to her bed again,
Where she has layen till the cock crew thrice,
Then she said to her sisters a',
"Maidens, 'tis time for us to rise."

She pat on her back a silken gown,
An' on her breast a siller pin,
An' she's tane a sister in ilka hand,
An' to the green-wood she is gane.

She hadna walk'd in the green-wood,
Na not a mile but barely ane,
Till there was Willie, her ain true love,
Whae frae her sisters has her ta'en.

He took her sisters by the hand,
He kiss'd them baith, an' sent them hame,
An' he's ta'en his true love him behind,
And through the green-wood they are gane.

They hadna ridden in the bonnie green-wood,
Na not a mile but barely ane,
When there came fifteen o' the boldest knights.
That ever bare flesh, blood, or bane.

The foremost was an aged knight,
He wore the grey hair on his chin,
Says, "Yield to me thy lady bright,
"An' thou shalt walk the woods within."

"For me to yield my lady bright
"To such an aged knight as thee,
"People wad think I war gane mad,
"Or a' the courage flown frae me."

But up then spake the second knight,
I wat he spake right boustouslie,
"Yield me thy life, or thy lady bright,
"Or here the tane of us shall die."

"My lady is my warld's meed;
"My life I winna yield to nane;
"But if ye be men of your manhead,
"Ye'll only fight me ane by ane."

He lighted aff his milk-white steed,
An' gae his lady him by the head,
Say'n, "See ye dinna change your cheer;
"Until ye see my body bleed."

He set his back unto an aik,
He set his feet against a stane,
An' he has fought these fifteen men,
An' kill'd them a' but barely ane;
For he has left that aged knight,
An' a' to carry the tidings hame.

When he gaed to his lady fair,
I wat he kiss'd her tenderlie;
"Thou art mine ain love, I have thee bought;
"Now we shall walk the green-wood free."

[Footnote A: _Weird her in a great sin_--Placed her in danger of
committing a great sin.]

[Footnote B: _Gin_--The slight or trick necessary to open the door, from

[Footnote C: _Wane_--A number of people.]


This poem was communicated to me by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq.
jun. of Hoddom, as written down, from tradition, by a lady. It is a
singular circumstance, that it should coincide so very nearly with the
ancient dirge, called _The Three Ravens_, published by Mr Ritson, in his
_Ancient Songs;_ and that, at the same time, there should exist such a
difference, as to make the one appear rather a counterpart than copy of
the other. In order to enable the curious reader to contrast these two
singular poems, and to form a judgment which may be the original, I take
the liberty of copying the English ballad from Mr Ritson's Collection,
omitting only the burden and repetition of the first line. The learned
editor states it to be given _"From Ravencroft's Metismata. Musical
phansies, fitting the cittie and country, humours to 3, 4, and 5
voyces,_ London, 1611, 4to. It will be obvious (continues Mr Ritson)
that this ballad is much older, not only than the date of the book, but
most of the other pieces contained in it." The music is given with the
words, and is adapted to four voices:

There were three rauens sat on a tre,
They were as blacke as they might be:

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

"Downe in yonder greene field,
"There lies a knight slain under his shield;

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

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

"Down there comes a fallow doe,
"As great with yong as she might goe,

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

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

"She buried him before the prime,
"She was dead her selfe ere euen song time.

"God send euery gentleman,
"Such haukes, such houndes, and such a leman.
_Ancient Songs,_ 1792, p. 155.

I have seen a copy of this dirge much modernized.


As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane;
The tane unto the t'other say,
"Where sall we gang and dine to-day?"

"In behint yon auld fail[A] dyke,
"I wot there lies a new slain knight;
"And nae body kens that he lies there,
"But his hawk, his hound, and lady fair.

"His hound is to the hunting gane,
"His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
"His lady's ta'en another mate,
"So we may mak our dinner sweet.

"Ye'll sit on his white hause bane,
"And I'll pike out his bonny blue een:
"Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair,
"We'll theek[B] our nest when it grows bare.

"Mony a one for him makes mane,
"But nane sall ken whare he is gane:
"O'er his white banes, when they are bare,
"The wind sall blaw for evermair."

[Footnote A: _Fail_--Turf.]

[Footnote B: _Theek_--Thatch.]


The ballad of _The Douglas Tragedy_ is one of the few, to which popular
tradition has ascribed complete locality. The farm of Blackhouse, in
Selkirkshire, is said to have been the scene of this melancholy
event. There are the remains of a very ancient tower, adjacent to
the farmhouse, in a wild and solitary glen, upon a torrent, named
Douglas-burn, which joins the Yarrow, after passing a craggy rock,
called the Douglas-craig. This wild scene, now a part of the Traquair
estate, formed one of the most ancient possessions of the renowned
family of Douglas; for Sir John Douglas, eldest son of William,
the first Lord Douglas, is said to have sat, as baronial lord of
Douglas-burn, during his father's lifetime, in a parliament of Malcolm
Canmore, held at Forfar.--GODSCROFT, Vol. I. p. 20. The tower appears to
have been square, with a circular turret at one angle, for carrying up
the staircase, and for flanking the entrance. It is said to have derived
its name of Blackhouse from the complexion of the lords of Douglas,
whose swarthy hue was a family attribute. But, when the high mountains,
by which it is inclosed, were covered with heather, which was the case
till of late years, Blackhouse must have also merited its appellation
from the appearance of the scenery.

From this ancient tower Lady Margaret is said to have been carried by
her lover. Seven large stones, erected upon the neighbouring heights of
Blackhouse, are shown, as marking the spot where the seven brethren were
slain; and the Douglas-burn is averred to have been the stream, at which
the lovers stopped to drink: so minute is tradition in ascertaining the
scene of a tragical tale, which, considering the rude state of former
times, had probably foundation in some real event.

Many copies of this ballad are current among the vulgar, but chiefly in
a state of great corruption; especially such as have been committed to
the press in the shape of penny pamphlets. One of these is now before
me, which, among many others, has the ridiculous error of "_blue gilded_
horn," for "_bugelet_ horn." The copy, principally used in this edition
of the ballad, was supplied by Mr Sharpe. The three last verses are
given from the printed copy, and from tradition. The hackneyed verse, of
the rose and the briar springing from the grave of the lovers, is common
to most tragic ballads; but it is introduced into this with singular
propriety, as the chapel of St Mary, whose vestiges may be still traced
upon the lake, to which it has given name, is said to have been the
burial place of Lord William and Fair Margaret. The wrath of the Black
Douglas, which vented itself upon the brier, far surpasses the usual

At length came the clerk of the parish,
As you the truth shall hear,
And by mischance he cut them down,
Or else they had still been there.


"Rise up, rise up, now, Lord Douglas," she says,
"And put on your armour so bright;
"Let it never be said, that a daughter of thine
"Was married to a lord under night.

"Rise up, rise up, my seven bold sons,
"And put on your armour so bright,
"And take better care of your youngest sister,
"For your eldest's awa the last night."

He's mounted her on a milk-white steed,
And himself on a dapple grey,
With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
And lightly they rode away.

Lord William lookit o'er his left shoulder,
To see what he could see,
And there he spy'd her seven brethren bold
Come riding over the lee.

"Light down, light down, Lady Marg'ret," he said,
"And hold my steed in your hand,
"Until that against your seven brethren bold,
"And your father, I mak a stand."

She held his steed in her milk-white hand,
And never shed one tear,
Until that she saw her seven brethren fa',
And her father hard fighting, who lov'd her so dear.

"O hold your hand, Lord William!" she said,
"For your strokes they are wond'rous sair;
"True lovers I can get many a ane,
"But a father I can never get mair."

O she's ta'en out her handkerchief,
It was o' the holland sae fine,
And ay she dighted her father's bloody wounds,
That ware redder than the wine.

"O chuse, O chuse, Lady Marg'ret," he said,
"O whether will ye gang or bide?"
"I'll gang, I'll gang, Lord William," she said,
"For ye have left me no other guide."

He's lifted her on a milk-white steed,
And himself on a dapple grey,
With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
And slowly they baith rade away.

O they rade on, and on they rade,
And a' by the light of the moon,
Until they came to yon wan water,
And there they lighted down.

They lighted down to tak a drink
Of the spring that ran sae clear;
And down the stream ran his gude heart's blood,
And sair she gan to fear.

"Hold up, hold up, Lord William," she says,
"For I fear that you are slain!"
"'Tis naething but the shadow of my scarlet cloak;
"That shines in the water sae plain."

O they rade on, and on they rade,
And a' by the light of the moon,
Until they cam' to his mother's ha' door,
And there they lighted down.

"Get up, get up, lady mother," he says,
"Get up, and let me in!--
"Get up, get up, lady mother," he says,
"For this night my fair lady I've win.

"O mak my bed, lady mother," he says,
"O mak it braid and deep!
"And lay Lady Marg'ret close at my back,
"And the sounder I will sleep."

Lord William was dead lang ere midnight,
Lady Marg'ret lang ere day--
And all true lovers that go thegither,
May they have mair luck than they!

Lord William was buried in St Marie's kirk,
Lady Margaret in Mary's quire;
Out o' the lady's grave grew a bonny red rose,
And out o' the knight's a brier.

And they twa met, and they twa plat,
And fain they wad be near;
And a' the warld might ken right weel,
They were twa lovers dear.

But bye and rade the Black Douglas,
And wow but he was rough!
For he pull'd up the bonny brier,
And flang'd in St Mary's loch.


In this ballad the reader will find traces of a singular superstition,
not yet altogether discredited in the wilder parts of Scotland. The
lykewake, or watching a dead body, in itself a melancholy office, is
rendered, in the idea of the assistants, more dismally awful, by the
mysterious horrors of superstition. In the interval betwixt death and
interment, the disembodied spirit is supposed to hover around its mortal
habitation, and, if invoked by certain rites, retains the power of
communicating, through its organs, the cause of its dissolution. Such
enquiries, however are always dangerous, and never to be resorted to
unless the deceased is suspected to have suffered _foul play_, as it
is called. It is the more unsafe to tamper with this charm, in an
unauthorized manner; because the inhabitants of the infernal regions
are, at such periods, peculiarly active. One of the most potent
ceremonies in the charm, for causing the dead body to speak, is, setting
the door ajar, or half open. On this account, the peasants of Scotland
sedulously avoid leaving the door ajar, while a corpse lies in the
house. The door must either be left wide open, or quite shut; but the
first is always preferred, on account of the exercise of hospitality
usual on such occasions. The attendants must be likewise careful never
to leave the corpse for a moment alone, or, if it is left alone, to
avoid, with a degree of superstitious horror, the first sight of it.
The following story, which is frequently related by the peasants of
Scotland, will illustrate the imaginary danger of leaving the door ajar.
In former times, a man and his wife lived in a solitary cottage, on one
of the extensive border fells. One day, the husband died suddenly; and
his wife, who was equally afraid of staying alone by the corpse, or
leaving the dead body by itself, repeatedly went to the door, and
looked anxiously over the lonely moor, for the sight of some person
approaching. In her confusion and alarm, she accidentally left the door
ajar, when the corpse suddenly started up, and sat in the bed, frowning
and grinning at her frightfully. She sat alone, crying bitterly, unable
to avoid the fascination of the dead man's eye, and too much terrified
to break the sullen silence, till a catholic priest, passing over the
wild, entered the cottage. He first set the door quite open, then put
his little finger in his mouth, and said the paternoster backwards; when
the horrid look of the corpse relaxed, it fell back on the bed, and
behaved itself as a dead man ought to do.

The ballad is given from tradition.


Of a' the maids o' fair Scotland,
The fairest was Marjorie;
And young Benjie was her ae true love,
And a dear true love was he.

And wow! but they were lovers dear,
And loved fu' constantlie;
But ay the mair when they fell out,
The sairer was their plea.[A]

And they hae quarrelled on a day,
Till Marjorie's heart grew wae;
And she said she'd chuse another luve,
And let young Benjie gae.

And he was stout,[B] and proud-hearted,
And thought o't bitterlie;
And he's ga'en by the wan moon-light,
To meet his Marjorie.

"O open, open, my true love,
"O open, and let me in!"
"I dare na open, young Benjie,
"My three brothers are within."

"Ye lied, ye lied, ye bonny burd,
"Sae loud's I hear ye lie;
"As I came by the Lowden banks,
"They bade gude e'en to me.

"But fare ye weel, my ae fause love,
"That I hae loved sae lang!
"It sets[C] ye chuse another love,
"And let young Benjie gang."

Then Marjorie turned her round about,
The tear blinding her ee,--
"I darena, darena, let thee in,
"But I'll come down to thee."

Then saft she smiled, and said to him,
"O what ill hae I done?"
He took her in his armis twa,
And threw her o'er the linn.

The stream was strang, the maid was stout,
And laith laith to be dang,[D]
But, ere she wan the Lowden banks,
Her fair colour was wan.

Then up bespak her eldest brother,
"O see na ye what I see?"
And out then spak her second brother,
"Its our sister Marjorie!"

Out then spak her eldest brother,
"O how shall we her ken?"
And out then spak her youngest brother,
"There's a honey mark on her chin."

Then they've ta'en up the comely corpse,
And laid it on the ground--
"O wha has killed our ae sister,
"And how can he be found?

"The night it is her low lykewake,
"The morn her burial day,
"And we maun watch at mirk midnight,
"And hear what she will say."

Wi' doors ajar, and candle light,
And torches burning clear;
The streikit corpse, till still midnight,
They waked, but naething hear.

About the middle o' the night.
The cocks began to craw;
And at the dead hour o' the night,
The corpse began to thraw.

"O wha has done the wrang, sister,
"Or dared the deadly sin?
"Wha was sae stout, and feared nae dout,
"As thraw ye o'er the linn?"

"Young Benjie was the first ae man
"I laid my love upon;
"He was sae stout and proud-hearted,
"He threw me o'er the linn."

"Sall we young Benjie head, sister,
"Sall we young Benjie hang,
"Or sall we pike out his twa gray een,
"And punish him ere he gang?"

"Ye mauna Benjie head, brothers,
"Ye mauna Benjie hang,
"But ye maun pike out his twa gray een,
"And punish him ere he gang.

"Tie a green gravat round his neck,
"And lead him out and in,
"And the best ae servant about your house
"To wait young Benjie on.

"And ay, at every seven year's end,
"Ye'll tak him to the linn;
"For that's the penance he maun drie,
"To scug[E] his deadly sin."

[Footnote A: _Plea_--Used obliquely for _dispute_.]

[Footnote B: _Stout_--Through this whole ballad, signifies _haughty_.]

[Footnote C: _Sets ye_--Becomes you--ironical.]

[Footnote D: _Dang_--defeated.]

[Footnote E: _Scug_--shelter or expiate.]


This ballad was communicated to me by Mr Kirkpatrick Sharpe of Hoddom,
who mentions having copied it from an old magazine. Although it has
probably received some modern corrections, the general turn seems to
be ancient, and corresponds with that of a fragment, containing the
following verses, which I have often heard sung in my childhood:--

She set her back against a thorn,
And there she has her young son borne;
"O smile nae sae, my bonny babe!
"An ye smile sae sweet, ye'll smile me dead."

* * * * *

An' when that lady went to the church,
She spied a naked boy in the porch,

"O bonnie boy, an' ye were mine,
"I'd clead ye in the silks sae fine."
"O mither dear, when I was thine,
"To me ye were na half sae kind."

* * * * *

Stories of this nature are very common in the annals of popular
superstition. It is, for example, currently believed in Ettrick Forest,
that a libertine, who had destroyed fifty-six inhabited houses, in order
to throw the possessions of the cottagers into his estate, and who added
to this injury, that of seducing their daughters, was wont to commit, to
a carrier in the neighbourhood, the care of his illegitimate children,
shortly after they were born. His emissary regularly carried them away,
but they were never again heard of. The unjust and cruel gains of the
profligate laird were dissipated by his extravagance, and the ruins of
his house seem to bear witness to the truth of the rhythmical prophecies
denounced against it, and still current among the peasantry. He himself
died an untimely death; but the agent of his amours and crimes survived
to extreme old age. When on his death-bed, he seemed much oppressed in
mind, and sent for a clergyman to speak peace to his departing spirit:
but, before the messenger returned, the man was in his last agony;
and the terrified assistants had fled from his cottage, unanimously
averring, that the wailing of murdered infants had ascended from behind
his couch, and mingled with the groans of the departing sinner.


Fair lady Anne sate in her bower,
Down by the greenwood side,
And the flowers did spring, and the birds did sing,
'Twas the pleasant May-day tide.

But fair lady Anne on sir William call'd,
With the tear grit in her e'e,
"O though thou be fause, may heaven thee guard,
"In the wars ayont the sea!"

Out of the wood came three bonnie boys,
Upon the simmer's morn,
And they did sing, and play at the ba',
As naked as they were born.

"O seven lang year was I sit here,
"Amang the frost and snaw,
"A' to hae but ane o' these bonnie boys,
"A playing at the ba'."

Then up and spake the eldest boy,
"Now listen, thou fair ladie!
"And ponder well the read that I tell,
"Then make ye a choice of the three.

"'Tis I am Peter, and this is Paul,
"And that are, sae fair to see,
"But a twelve-month sinsyne to paradise came,
"To join with our companie."

"O I will hae the snaw-white boy,
"The bonniest of the three."
"And if I were thine, and in thy propine,[A]
"O what wad ye do to me?"

"'Tis I wad clead thee in silk and gowd,
"And nourice thee on my knee."
"O mither! mither! when I was thine,
"Sic kindness I could na see.

"Before the turf, where I now stand,
"The fause nurse buried me;
"Thy cruel penknife sticks still in my heart,
"And I come not back to thee."

[Footnote A: _Propine_--Usually gift, but here the power of giving or

* * * * *


This ballad was communicated to me by Mr James Hogg; and, although it
bears a strong resemblance to that of _Earl Richard_, so strong, indeed,
as to warrant a supposition, that the one has been derived from the
other, yet its intrinsic merit seems to warrant its insertion. Mr Hogg
has added the following note, which, in the course of my enquiries, I
have found most fully corroborated.

"I am fully convinced of the antiquity of this song; for, although much
of the language seems somewhat modernized, this must be attributed
to its currency, being much liked, and very much sung, in this
neighbourhood. I can trace it back several generations, but cannot
hear of its ever having been in print. I have never heard it with any
considerable variation, save that one reciter called the dwelling of the
feigned sweetheart, _Castleswa_."


Lord William was the bravest knight
That dwait in fair Scotland,
And, though renowned in France and Spain,
Fell by a ladie's hand.

As she was walking maid alone,
Down by yon shady wood.
She heard a smit[A] o' bridle reins,
She wish'd might be for good.

"Come to my arms, my dear Willie,
"You're welcome hame to me;
"To best o' chear and charcoal red,[B]
"And candle burnin' free."

"I winna light, I darena light,
"Nor come to your arms at a';
"A fairer maid than ten o' you,
"I'll meet at Castle-law."

"A fairer maid than me, Willie!
"A fairer maid than me!
"A fairer maid than ten o' me,
"Your eyes did never see."

He louted owr his saddle lap,
To kiss her ere they part,
And wi' a little keen bodkin,
She pierced him to the heart.

"Ride on, ride on, lord William, now,
"As fast as ye can dree!
"Your bonny lass at Castle-law
"Will weary you to see."

Out up then spake a bonny bird,
Sat high upon a tree,--
How could you kill that noble lord?
"He came to marry thee."

"Come down, come down, my bonny bird,
"And eat bread aff my hand!
"Your cage shall be of wiry goud,
"Whar now its but the wand."

"Keep ye your cage o' goud, lady,
"And I will keep my tree;
"As ye hae done to lord William.,
"Sae wad ye do to me."

She set her foot on her door step,
A bonny marble stane;
And carried him to her chamber,
O'er him to make her mane.

And she has kept that good lord's corpse
Three quarters of a year,
Until that word began to spread,
Then she began to fear.

Then she cried on her waiting maid,
Ay ready at her ca';
"There is a knight unto my bower,
"'Tis time he were awa."

The ane has ta'en him by the head,
The ither by the feet,
And thrown him in the wan water,
That ran baith wide and deep.

"Look back, look back, now, lady fair,
"On him that lo'ed ye weel!
"A better man than that blue corpse
"Ne'er drew a sword of steel."

[Footnote A: _Smit_--Clashing noise, from smite--hence also _(perhaps)_
Smith and Smithy.]

[Footnote B: _Charcoal red_--This circumstance marks the antiquity of
the poem. While wood was plenty in Scotland, charcoal was the usual fuel
in the chambers of the wealthy.]


The concluding verses of this ballad were inserted in the copy of
_Tamlane_, given to the public in the first edition of this work. They
are now restored to their proper place. Considering how very apt the
most accurate reciters are to patch up one ballad with verses from
another, the utmost caution cannot always avoid such errors.

A more sanguine antiquary than the editor might perhaps endeavour to
identify this poem, which is of undoubted antiquity, with the _"Broom
Broom on Hill,"_ mentioned by Lane, in his _Progress of Queen Elizabeth
into Warwickshire_, as forming part of Captain's Cox's collection,
so much envied by the black-letter antiquaries of the present
day.--_Dugdale's Warwickshire,_ p. 166. The same ballad is quoted by one
of the personages, in a "very mery and pythie comedie," called _"The
longer thou livest, the more fool thou art."_ See Ritson's Dissertation,
prefixed to _Ancient Songs,_ p. lx. "Brume brume on hill," is also
mentioned in the _Complayat of Scotland_. See Leyden's edition, p. 100.


There was a knight and a lady bright,
Had a true tryste at the broom;
The ane ga'ed early in the morning,
The other in the afternoon.

And ay she sat in her mother's bower door,
And ay she made her mane,
"Oh whether should I gang to the Broomfield hill,
"Or should I stay at hame?

"For if I gang to the Broomfield hill,
"My maidenhead is gone;
"And if I chance to stay at hame,
"My love will ca' me mansworn."

Up then spake a witch woman,
Ay from the room aboon;
"O, ye may gang to the Broomfield hill,
"And yet come maiden hame.

"For, when ye gang to the Broomfield hill,
"Ye'll find your love asleep,
"With a silver-belt about his head,
"And a broom-cow at his feet.

"Take ye the blossom of the broom,
"The blossom it smells sweet,
"And strew it at your true love's head,
"And likewise at his feet.

"Take ye the rings off your fingers,
"Put them on his right hand,
"To let him know, when he doth awake,
"His love was at his command."

She pu'd the broom flower on Hive-hill,
And strew'd on's white hals bane,
And that was to be wittering true,
That maiden she had gane.

"O where were ye, my milk-white steed,
"That I hae coft sae dear,
"That wadna watch and waken me,
"When there was maiden here?"

"I stamped wi' my foot, master,
"And gar'd my bridle ring;
"But na kin' thing wald waken ye,
"Till she was past and gane."

"And wae betide ye, my gay goss hawk,
"That I did love sae dear,
"That wadna watch and waken me,
"When there was maiden here."

"I clapped wi' my wings, master,
"And aye my bells I rang,
"And aye cry'd, waken, waken, master,
"Before the ladye gang."

"But haste and haste, my good white steed,
"To come the maiden till,
"Or a' the birds, of gude green wood,
"Of your flesh shall have their fill."

"Ye need na burst your good white steed,
"Wi' racing o'er the howm;
"Nae bird flies faster through the wood,
"Than she fled through the broom."


_This Ballad was communicated to the Editor by Mr_ HAMILTON,
_Music-seller, Edinburgh, with whose Mother it had been a, favourite.
Two verses and one line were wanting, which are here supplied from a
different Ballad, having a plot somewhat similar. These verses are the
6th and 9th._

'Twas on a night, an evening bright,
When the dew began to fa',
Lady Margaret was walking up and down,
Looking o'er her castle wa'.

She looked east, and she looked west,
To see what she could spy,
When a gallant knight came in her sight,
And to the gate drew nigh.

"You seem to be no gentleman,
"You wear your boots so wide;
"But you seem to be some cunning hunter,
"You wear the horn so syde."[A]

"I am no cunning hunter," he said,
"Nor ne'er intend to be;
"But I am come to this castle
"To seek the love of thee;
"And if you do not grant me love,
"This night for thee I'll die."

"If you should die for me, sir knight,
"There's few for you will mane,
"For mony a better has died for me,
"Whose graves are growing green.

"But ye maun read my riddle," she said,
"And answer my questions three;
"And but ye read them right," she said,
"Gae stretch ye out and die.--

"Now, what is the flower, the ae first flower,
"Springs either on moor or dale?
"And what is the bird, the bonnie bonnie bird,
"Sings on the evening gale?"

"The primrose is the ae first flower,
"Springs either on moor or dale;
"And the thistlecock is the bonniest bird;
"Sings on the evening gale."

"But what's the little coin," she said,
"Wald buy my castle bound?
"And what's the little boat," she said,
"Can sail the world all round?"

"O hey, how mony small pennies
"Make thrice three thousand pound?
"Or hey, how mony small fishes
"Swim a' the salt sea round."

"I think you maun be my match," she said,
"My match, and something mair;
"You are the first e'er got the grant
Of love frae my father's heir.

"My father was lord of nine castles,
"My mother lady of three;
"My father was lord of nine castles,
"And there's nane to heir but me.

"And round about a' thae castles,
"You may baith plow and saw,
"And on the fifteenth day of May,
"The meadows they will maw."

"O hald your tongue, lady Margaret," he said,
"For loud I hear you lie!
"Your father was lord of nine castles,
"Your mother was lady of three;
"Your father was lord of nine castles,
"But ye fa' heir to but three.

"And round about a' thae castles,
"You may baith plow and saw,
"But on the fifteenth day of May
"The meadows will not maw.

"I am your brother Willie," he said,
"I trow ye ken na me;
"I came to humble your haughty heart,
"Has gar'd sae mony die."

"If ye be my brother Willie," she said,
"As I trow weel ye be,
"This night I'll neither eat nor drink,
"But gae alang wi' thee."

"O hold your tongue, lady Margaret," he said.
"Again I hear you lie;
"For ye've unwashen hands, and ye've unwashen feet,[B]
"To gae to clay wi' me.

"For the wee worms are my bedfellows,
"And cauld clay is my sheets;
"And when the stormy winds do blow,
"My body lies and sleeps."

[Footnote A: _Syde_--Long or low.]

[Footnote B: _Unwashen hands and unwashen feet_--Alluding to the custom
of washing and dressing dead bodies.]


_The beautiful air of Cowdenknows is well known and popular. In Ettrick
Forest the following words are uniformly adapted to the tune, and seem
to be the original ballad. An edition of this pastoral tale, differing
considerably from the present copy, was published by Mr_ HERD, _in 1772.
Cowdenknows is situated upon the river Leader, about four miles from
Melrose, and is now the property of Dr_ HUME.

O the broom, and the bonny bonny broom,
And the broom of the Cowdenknows!
And aye sae sweet as the lassie sang,
I' the bought, milking the ewes.

The hills were high on ilka side,
An' the bought i' the lirk o' the hill,
And aye, as she sang, her voice it rang
Out o'er the head o' yon hill.

There was a troop o' gentlemen
Came riding merrilie by,
And one of them has rode out o' the way,
To the bought to the bonny may.

"Weel may ye save an' see, bonny lass,
"An' weel may ye save an' see."
"An' sae wi' you, ye weel-bred knight,"
"And what's your will wi' me?"

"The night is misty and mirk, fair may,
"And I have ridden astray,
"And will ye be so kind, fair may,
"As come out and point my way?"

"Ride out, ride out, ye ramp rider!
"Your steed's baith stout and strang;
"For out of the bought I dare na come,
"For fear 'at ye do me wrang."

"O winna ye pity me, bonny lass,
"O winna ye pity me?
"An' winna ye pity my poor steed,
"Stands trembling at yon tree?"

"I wadna pity your poor steed,
"Tho' it were tied to a thorn;
"For if ye wad gain my love the night,
"Ye wad slight me ere the morn.

"For I ken you by your weel-busked hat,
"And your merrie twinkling e'e,
"That ye're the laird o' the Oakland hills,
"An' ye may weel seem for to be."

"But I am not the laird o' the Oakland hills,
"Ye're far mista'en o' me;
"But I'm are o' the men about his house,
"An' right aft in his companie."

He's ta'en her by the middle jimp,
And by the grass-green sleeve;
He's lifted her over the fauld dyke,
And speer'd at her sma' leave.

O he's ta'en out a purse o' gowd,
And streek'd her yellow hair,
"Now, take ye that, my bonnie may,
"Of me till you hear mair."

O he's leapt on his berry-brown steed,
An' soon he's o'erta'en his men;
And ane and a' cried out to him,
"O master, ye've tarry'd lang!"

"O I hae been east, and I hae been west,
"An' I hae been far o'er the know,
"But the bonniest lass that ever I saw
"Is i'the bought milking the ewes."

She set the cog[A] upon her head,
An' she's gane singing hame--
"O where hae ye been, my ae daughter?
"Ye hae na been your lane."

"O nae body was wi' me, father,
"O nae body has been wi' me;
"The night is misty and mirk, father,
"Ye may gang to the door and see.

"But wae be to your ewe-herd, father,
"And an ill deed may he die;
"He bug the bought at the back o' the know,
"And a tod[B] has frighted me.

"There came a tod to the bought-door,
"The like I never saw;
"And ere he had tane the lamb he did,
"I had lourd he had ta'en them a'."

O whan fifteen weeks was come and gane,
Fifteen weeks and three.
That lassie began to look thin and pale,
An' to long for his merry twinkling e'e.

It fell on a day, on a het simmer day,
She was ca'ing out her father's kye,
By came a troop o' gentlemen,
A' merrilie riding bye.

"Weel may ye save an' see, bonny may,
"Weel may ye save and see!
"Weel I wat, ye be a very bonny may,

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