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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
Maitland’s Complaint Against the Thieves of Liddisdale


III. Maitland’s Complaynt, Against the Thievis of Liddisdail

Of Liddisdail the common theifis (thieves)
Sa peartlie stellis (steal) now and reifies (rob)
That nane may keip
Horse, nolt (black cattle or oxen), nor scheip (sheep),
Nor yet dar sleip
For their mischeifis.

They plainly throw the country rydis
I trow the mekil devil thame gydis
Quhair they onsett,
Ay in their gait.
Thair is na yet
Nor dor thame bydis (hinders).

Thay leif richt nocht, quhair ever thay ga:
Their can na thing be hid them fra;
For gif men wald
Thair houses hald,
Than wax they bald,
To burne and stay.

Thay theifis have neirhand (almost) harreit (plundered) hail (the whole)
Ettricke forest and Lawderdail;
Now are they gane,
In Lawthiane;
And spairis nane
That thay will waill (make choice of).

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

Bot (but) commoun taking of blak mail,
They that had flesche, breid and aill,
Now are sae wrakit,
Made bair and nakit,
Fain to be slakit
With watter caill (broth of vegetables).

They theifis that steillis and tursis (pack up and carry off) hame
Ilk ane o’ them has ane to-name*;
Will of the Lawis
Hab of the Schawis;
To mak bar wawis (bare walls)
Thay think nae schame.

They spuilye (despoil) pur men of their pakis (pack or wallet).
Thay leif them nocht on bed nor bakis (bread):
Baith hen and cok,
With reil and rok (both the spinning instrument and the yarn),
The Lairdis Jok,
All with him takis.

They leif not spindell, spoone, nor spert,
Bed, boster, blanket, sark (shirt), nor scheit;
Johne of the Parke
Ryps (searches) kist and ark (both clothes and meal chest)
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 byres (cow houses);
Ouir muir and myris
Ouir guide ane gyde.

There is ane callet Clement’s Hob
Fra ilk pair wife reifis the wob (steals the web of cloth),
And all the lave,
Quhatever they haife,
The devil recaive
Thairfoir his gob (mouth).

To sic grit stouth quha eir wald trow it,
But gif some great man it allowit?
Rycht sair I trew
Thocht it be rew (Ruth; a pity)
Thair is sa few
That dar avow it.

Of euen 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 (early) nor late.

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

Of stouth thocht now may come gude speid,
That nother of men nor God has dreid,
Yet, or I dee,
Some sall thame see,
Hing on a tree
Quhill thay be deid –

Quo’ Sir R. M. of Lethington, knicht

  • Owing to the March men being divided into large clans, bearing the same surname, 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 called here ‘to-name or nom de guerre’ in addition to his family name.

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