Sir Walter Scott The Minstrelsy of
the Scottish Border Lady Anne
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 verse which I have often heard sung in my childhood: -
"She set her back against a thorn,
And there she has her young son born;
"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 bonny boy, an ye were mine,
I'd clead ye in the silks sae fine,' -
"O mother 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 neighborhood 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 ee,
"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 simmers' morn,
And they did sing and play at the ba',
As naked as they were born.
"O seven lang years wad 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 rede that I tell,
Then make ye a choice of the three.
"'Tis I am Peter, and this is Paul,
And that ane, 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,*
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 couldna see.
"Beneath the turf, where now I stand,
The fause nurse buried me;
The cruel penknife sticks still in my head;
And I come not back to thee." -
* Propine - Usually gift, but here the power of giving or bestowing.
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