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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
Barthramís Dirge


The following beautiful fragment was taken down by Mr. Surtees, from the recitation of Anne Douglas, an old woman who weeded in his garden. It is imperfect, and the words within brackets were inserted by my correspondent, to supply such stanzas as the chantress's memory left defective. The hero of the ditty, if the reciter be correct, was shot to death by nine brothers, whose sister he had seduced, but was afterwards buried, at her request, near their usual place of meeting; which may account for his being laid, not in holy ground, but beside the burn. The name of Barthram, or Bertram, would argue a Northumbrian origin, and there is, or was, a Headless Cross, among many so named, near Elsdon in Northumberland. But the mention of the Nine-Stane Burn, and Nine-Stane Rig, seems to refer to those places in the vicinity of Hermitage Castle, which is countenanced by the mentioning our Lady's Chapel. Perhaps the hero may have been an Englishman, and the lady a native of Scotland, which renders the catastrophe even more probable. The style of the ballad is rather Scottish than Northumbrian. They certainly did bury in former days near the Nine-Stane Burn; for the Editor remembers finding a small monumental cross, with initials, lying among the heather. It was so small, that, with the assistance of another gentleman, he easily placed it upright.

BARTHRAM'S DIRGE

They shot him dead at the Nine-Stane Rig,
Beside the Headless Cross,
And they left him lying in his blood,
Upon the moor and moss.

* * * * *

They made a bier of the broken bough,
The sauch and the aspin gray,
And they bore him to the Lady Chapel,
And waked him there all day.

A lady came to that lonely bower,
And threw her robes aside,
She tore her ling (long) yellow hair,
And knelt at Barthram's side.

She bathed him in the Lady-Well,
His wounds so deep and sair,
And she plaited a garland for his breast,
And a garland for his hair.

They rowed him in a lily-sheet,
And bare him to his earth,
{And the Gray Friars sung the dead man's mass,
As they pass'd the Chapel Garth.}

They buried him at {the mirk} midnight,
{When dew fell cold and still,
When the aspen gray forgot to play,
And the mist clung to the hill.}

They dug his grave but a bare foot deep,
By the edge of the Ninestone Burn,
And they covered him {O'er with the heather forever,}
The moss and the {Lady} fern.

A Gray Friar staid upon his grave,
And sang till the morning tide,
And a friar shall sing for Barthram's soul,
While the headless Cross shall bide.

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