Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
136. Johnnie of Cockerslee

JOHNNIE rose up in a May morning,
  Call’d for water to wash his hands;
‘Gar loose to me the gude gray dogs,
  That are bound wi’ iron bands.’

When Johnnie’s mother gat word o’ that,
  Her hands for dule she wrang;
‘O Johnnie, for my benison,
  To the greenwood dinna gang!

‘Eneugh ye hae o’ gude wheat bread,
  And eneugh o’ the blude-red wine;        10
And therefore for nae venison, Johnnie,
  I pray ye, stir frae hame.

‘There are Seven For’sters at Hislinton side,
  At Hislinton where they dwell,
And for ae drap o’ thy heart’s blude        15
  They wad ride the fords o’ hell.’

But Johnnie has buskit his gude bend-bow,
  His arrows, ane by ane,
And he has gane to Durrisdeer
  To ding the dun deer down.        20

He’s lookit east, and he’s lookit west,
  And a little below the sun;
And there he spied the dun deer lying
  Aneath a buss o’ broom.

Johnnie he shot and the dun deer lap,
  And he wounded her on the side;
But atween the wood and the wan water
  His hounds they laid her pride.

And Johnnie has brittled the deer sae well,
  Had out her liver and lungs;        30
And wi’ these he has feasted his bluidy hounds
  As if they had been Earl’s sons.

They ate sae much o’ the venison,
  And drank sae much o’ the blude,
That Johnnie and his gude gray hounds        35
  Fell asleep by yonder wood.

By there came a silly auld carle,
  An ill death mote he die!
And he’s awa’ to Hislinton,
  Where the Seven Foresters did lie.        40

‘What news, what news, ye gray-headed carle?
  What news? come tell to me.’—
‘I bring nae news,’ said the gray-headed carle,
  ‘But what these eyes did see.

‘High up in Braidislee, low down in Braidislee,
  And under a buss o’ scroggs,
The bonniest childe that ever I saw
  Lay sleeping atween his dogs.

‘The sark he had upon his back
  It was o’ the holland fine,        50
The doublet he had over that
  It was o’ the Lincoln twine.

‘The buttons that were on his sleeve
  Were o’ the gowd sae gude;
The twa gray dogs he lay atween,        55
  Their mouths were dyed wi’ blude.’

Then out and spak’ the First Forester,
  The head man owre them a’;
‘If this be Johnnie o’ Cockerslee
  Nae nearer will we draw.’        60

But up and spak’ the Sixth Forester,
  (His sister’s son was he,)
‘If this be Johnnie o’ Cockerslee,
  We soon shall gar him dee!’

The first flight of arrows the Foresters shot,
  They wounded him on the knee;
And out and spak’ the Seventh Forester,
  ‘The next will gar him dee.’

‘O some they count ye well-wight men,
  But I do count ye nane;        70
For you might well ha’ waken’d me,
  And ask’d gin I wad be ta’en.

‘The wildest wolf in a’ this wood
  Wad no ha’ done sae by me;
She ha’ wet her foot i’ the wan water,        75
  And sprinkled it owre my bree,
And if that wad not ha’ waken’d me,
  Wad ha’ gone an’ let me be.

‘O bows of yew, if ye be true,
  In London where ye were bought;        80
And, silver strings, value me sma’ things
  Till I get this vengeance wrought!
And, fingers five, get up belive:
  And Manhood fail me nought!

‘Stand stout, stand stout, my noble dogs,
  Stand stout and dinna flee!
Stand fast, stand fast, my good gray hounds,
  And we will gar them dee!’

Johnnie has set his back to an aik,
  His foot against a stane,        90
And he has slain the Seven Foresters,
  He has slain them a’ but ane.

He has broke three ribs in that ane’s side,
  But and his collar bane;
He ’s flung him twa-fald owre his steed,        95
  Bade him carry the tidings hame …

‘Is there no a bird in a’ this forest
  Will do as mickle for me
As dip its wing in the wan water
  And straik it on my e’e-bree?        100

‘Is there no a bird in a’ this forest
  Can sing as I can say,—
Can flee away to my mother’s bower
  And tell to fetch Johnnie away?’

The starling flew to her window-stane,
  It whistled and it sang;
And aye the owre-word o’ the tune
  Was, Johnnie tarries lang!

They made a rod o’ the hazel-bush,
  Another o’ the slae-thorn tree,        110
And mony, mony were the men
  At the fetching our Johnnie.

Then out and spak’ his auld mother,
  And fast her tears did fa’:
‘Ye wadna be warn’d, my son Johnnie,        115
  Frae the hunting to bide awa’!’

Now Johnnie’s gude bend-bow is broke,
  And his gude gray dogs are slain;
And his body lies dead in Durrisdeer,
  And his hunting it is done.        120
GLOSS:  buss] bush, clump.  lap] leapt.  brittled] ‘broken’, cut up venison.  scroggs] stunted, or scraggy, trees.  twine] thread, texture.  well-wight] sturdy, here brave.  bree] brow.  belive] nimbly, at once.


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