Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
27. Clerk Saunders
 
 
PART I
I

CLERK SAUNDERS and may Margaret
  Walk’d owre yon garden green;
And deep and heavy was the love
  That fell thir twa between.
 
II

‘A bed, a bed,’ Clerk Saunders said,
        5
  ‘A bed for you and me!’
‘Fye na, fye na,’ said may Margaret,
  ‘Till anes we married be!’—
 
III

‘Then I’ll take the sword frae my scabbard
  And slowly lift the pin;        10
And you may swear, and save your aith,
  Ye ne’er let Clerk Saunders in.
 
IV

‘Take you a napkin in your hand,
  And tie up baith your bonnie e’en,
And you may swear, and save your aith,        15
  Ye saw me na since late yestreen.’
 
V

It was about the midnight hour,
  When they asleep were laid,
When in and came her seven brothers,
  Wi’ torches burning red:        20
 
VI

When in and came her seven brothers,
  Wi’ torches burning bright:
They said, ‘We hae but one sister,
  And behold her lying with a knight!’
 
VII

Then out and spake the first o’ them,
        25
  ‘I bear the sword shall gar him die.’
And out and spake the second o’ them,
  ‘His father has nae mair but he.’
 
VIII

And out and spake the third o’ them,
  ‘I wot that they are lovers dear.’        30
And out and spake the fourth o’ them,
  ‘They hae been in love this mony a year.’
 
IX

Then out and spake the fifth o’ them,
  ‘It were great sin true love to twain.’
And out and spake the sixth o’ them,        35
  ‘It were shame to slay a sleeping man.’
 
X

Then up and gat the seventh o’ them,
  And never a word spake he;
But he has striped his bright brown brand
  Out through Clerk Saunders’ fair bodye.        40
 
XI

Clerk Saunders he started, and Margaret she turn’d
  Into his arms as asleep she lay;
And sad and silent was the night
  That was atween thir twae.
 
XII

And they lay still and sleepit sound
        45
  Until the day began to daw’;
And kindly she to him did say,
  ‘It is time, true love, you were awa’.’
 
XIII

But he lay still, and sleepit sound,
  Albeit the sun began to sheen;        50
She look’d atween her and the wa’,
  And dull and drowsie were his e’en.
 
XIV

Then in and came her father dear;
  Said, ‘Let a’ your mourning be;
I’ll carry the dead corse to the clay,        55
  And I’ll come back and comfort thee.’
 
XV

‘Comfort weel your seven sons,
  For comforted I will never be:
I ween ’twas neither knave nor loon
  Was in the bower last night wi’ me.’        60
 
PART II
I

The clinking bell gaed through the town,
  To carry the dead corse to the clay;
And Clerk Saunders stood at may Margaret’s window,
  I wot, an hour before the day.
 
II

‘Are ye sleeping, Marg’ret?’ he says,
        65
  ‘Or are ye waking presentlie?
Give me my faith and troth again,
  I wot, true love, I gied to thee.’
 
III

‘Your faith and troth ye sall never get,
  Nor our true love sall never twin,        70
Until ye come within my bower,
  And kiss me cheik and chin.’
 
IV

‘My mouth it is full cold, Marg’ret;
  It has the smell, now, of the ground;
And if I kiss thy comely mouth,        75
  Thy days of life will not be lang.
 
V

‘O cocks are crowing on merry middle-earth,
  I wot the wild fowls are boding day;
Give me my faith and troth again,
  And let me fare me on my way.’        80
 
VI

‘Thy faith and troth thou sallna get,
  And our true love sall never twin,
Until ye tell what comes o’ women,
  I wot, who die in strong traivelling?’
 
VII

‘Their beds are made in the heavens high,
        85
  Down at the foot of our good Lord’s knee,
Weel set about wi’ gillyflowers;
  I wot, sweet company for to see.
 
VIII

‘O cocks are crowing on merry middle-earth,
  I wot the wild fowls are boding day;        90
The psalms of heaven will soon be sung,
  And I, ere now, will be miss’d away.’
 
IX

Then she has taken a crystal wand,
  And she has stroken her troth thereon;
She has given it him out at the shot-window,        95
  Wi’ mony a sad sigh and heavy groan.
 
X

‘I thank ye, Marg’ret; I thank ye, Marg’ret;
  And ay I thank ye heartilie;
Gin ever the dead come for the quick,
  Be sure, Marg’ret, I’ll come for thee.’        100
 
XI

It’s hosen and shoon, and gown alone,
  She climb’d the wall, and follow’d him,
Until she came to the green forèst,
  And there she lost the sight o’ him.
 
XII

‘Is there ony room at your head, Saunders?
        105
  Is there ony room at your feet?
Or ony room at your side, Saunders,
  Where fain, fain, I wad sleep?’
 
XIII

‘There’s nae room at my head, Marg’ret,
  There’s nae room at my feet;        110
My bed it is fu’ lowly now,
  Amang the hungry worms I sleep.
 
XIV

‘Cauld mould is my covering now,
  But and my winding-sheet;
The dew it falls nae sooner down        115
  Than my resting-place is weet.
 
XV

‘But plait a wand o’ bonny birk,
  And lay it on my breast;
And shed a tear upon my grave,
  And wish my saul gude rest.’        120
 
XVI

Then up and crew the red, red cock,
  And up and crew the gray:
‘’Tis time, ’tis time, my dear Marg’ret,
  That you were going away.
 
XVII

‘And fair Marg’ret, and rare Marg’ret,
        125
  And Marg’ret o’ veritie,
Gin e’er ye love another man,
  Ne’er love him as ye did me.’
 
GLOSS:  striped] thrust.  twin] break in two.
 

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