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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cock he hadna craw'd but once,
And clapp'd his wings at a',
Whan the youngest to the eldest said,
'Brother, we must awa'.

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

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

Footnote: A well known Border Ballad which I first learnt in primary school. The song describes the return of the ghosts of three sons to their mother at Martinmas. The Feast of St Martin was held on 11 November, one of the Scottish Quarter Days, and was the same day as Halloween in the old calendar. The song is thought to be from the 16th century and first appeared in print in Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders in 1802.



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