Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Ballads: A Song of the Scotch Marches
Kinmont Willie
 
          [The events here reported occurred in 1596. The ballad is the best example of those which treat of rescues, and lawless exploits in the debateable land.]

O HAVE ye na heard o’ the fause Sakelde?
  O have ye na heard o’ the keen Lord Scroop?
How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont Willie,
  On Hairibee to hang him up?
 
Had Willie had but twenty men,        5
  But twenty men as stout as he,
Fause Sakelde had never the Kinmont ta’en,
  Wi’ eight score in his cumpanie.
 
They band his legs beneath the steed,
  They tied his hands behind his back;        10
They guarded him, fivesome on each side,
  And they brought him ower the Liddel-rack.
 
They led him thro’ the Liddel-rack,
  And also thro’ the Carlisle sands
They brought him to Carlisle castell,        15
  To be at my Lord Scroop’s commands.
 
‘My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,
  And whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the border law?
  Or answer to the bauld Buccleuch!’        20
 
‘Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver!
  There ’s never a Scot shall set ye free:
Before ye cross my castle yate,
  I trow ye shall take farewell o’ me.’
 
‘Fear na ye that, my lord,’ quo’ Willie:        25
  ‘By the faith o’ my body, Lord Scroop,’ he said,
‘I never yet lodged in a hostelrie,
  But I paid my lawing before I gaed.’
 
Now word is gane to the bauld Keeper,
  In Branksome Ha’, where that he lay,        30
That Lord Scroop has ta’en the Kinmont Willie,
  Between the hours of night and day.
 
He has ta’en the table wi’ his hand,
  He garr’d the red wine spring on hie—
‘Now Christ’s curse on my head,’ he said,        35
  ‘But avenged of Lord Scroop I ’ll be!
 
‘O is my basnet 1 a widow’s curch? 2
  Or my lance a wand of the willow tree?
Or my arm a ladye’s lilye hand,
  That an English lord should lightly me!        40
 
‘And have they ta’en him, Kinmont Willie,
  Against the truce of border tide?
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
  Is Keeper here on the Scottish side?
 
‘And have they e’en ta’en him, Kinmont Willie,        45
  Withouten either dread or fear?
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
  Can back a steed, or shake a spear?
 
‘O were there war between the lands,
  As well I wot that there is none,        50
I would slight Carlisle castell high,
  Tho’ it were builded of marble stone.
 
‘I would set that castell in a low, 3
  And sloken it with English blood!
There ’s nevir a man in Cumberland,        55
  Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.
 
‘But since nae war ’s between the lands,
  And there is peace, and peace should be;
I ’ll neither harm English lad nor lass,
  And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!’        60
 
He has call’d him forty marchmen bauld,
  I trow they were of his ain name,
Except Sir Gilbert Elliot call’d,
  The laird of Stobs, I mean the same.
 
He has call’d him forty marchmen bauld,        65
  Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch;
With spur on heel, and splent on spauld, 4
  And gleuves of green, and feathers blue.
 
There were five and five before them a’,
  Wi’ hunting horns and bugles bright;        70
And five and five came wi’ Buccleuch,
  Like warden’s men, arrayed for fight:
 
And five and five, like a mason gang,
  That carried the ladders lang and hie;
And five and five, like broken men;        75
  And so they reached the Woodhouselee.
 
And as we cross’d the Bateable Land,
  When to the English side we held,
The first o’ men that we met wi’,
  Whae sould it be but fause Sakelde?        80
 
‘Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?’
  Quo’ fause Sakelde; ‘come tell to me!’
‘We go to hunt an English stag,
  Has trespassed on the Scots countrie.’
 
‘Where be ye gaun, ye marshal men?’        85
  Quo’ fause Sakelde; ‘come tell me true!’
‘We go to catch a rank reiver,
  Has broken faith wi’ the bauld Buccleuch.’
 
‘Where are ye gaun, ye mason lads,
  Wi’ a’ your ladders, lang and hie?’        90
‘We gang to herry a corbie’s nest,
  That wons not far frae Woodhouselee.’
 
‘Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?’
  Quo’ fause Sakelde; ‘come tell to me!’
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band,        95
  And the never a word o’ lear had he.
 
‘Why trespass ye on the English side?
  Row-footed outlaws, stand!’ quo’ he;
The never a word had Dickie to say,
  Sae he thrust the lance through his fause bodie.        100
 
Then on we held for Carlisle toun,
  And at Staneshaw-bank the Eden we cross’d;
The water was great and meikle of spait,
  But the nevir a horse nor man we lost.
 
And when we reached the Staneshaw-bank,        105
  The wind was rising loud and hie;
And there the laird garr’d leave our steeds,
  For fear that they should stamp and nie.
 
And when we left the Staneshaw-bank,
  The wind began full loud to blaw,        110
But ’twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
  When we came beneath the castle wa’.
 
We crept on knees, and held our breath,
  Till we placed the ladders against the wa’;
And sae ready was Buccleuch himsell        115
  To mount the first, before us a’.
 
He has ta’en the watchman by the throat,
  He flung him down upon the lead—
‘Had there not been peace between our land,
  ‘Upon the other side thou hadst gaed!—        120
 
‘Now sound out, trumpets!’ quo’ Buccleuch;
  ‘Let ’s waken Lord Scroop, right merrilie!’
Then loud the warden’s trumpet blew—
  ‘O wha dare meddle wi’ me?’
 
Then speedilie to work we gaed,        125
  And raised the slogan ane and a’,
And cut a hole thro’ a sheet of lead,
  And so we wan to the castle ha’.
 
They thought King James and a’ his men
  Had won the house wi’ bow and spear;        130
It was but twenty Scots and ten,
  That put a thousand in sic a stear!
 
Wi’ coulters, and wi’ fore-hammers,
  We garr’d the bars bang merrilie,
Untill we cam to the inner prison,        135
  Where Willie o’ Kinmont he did lie.
 
And when we cam to the lower prison,
  Where Willie o’ Kinmont he did lie—
‘O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,
  Upon the morn that thou ’s to die?’        140
 
‘O I sleep saft, and I wake aft;
  Its lang since sleeping was fleyed 5 frae me!
Gie my service back to my wife and bairns,
  And a’ gude fellows that spier 6 for me.’
 
Then Red Rowan has hente him up,        145
  The starkest man in Teviotdale—
‘Abide, abide now, Red Rowan,
  Till of my Lord Scroope I take farewell.
 
‘Farewell, farewell, my gude Lord Scroope!
  My gude Lord Scroope, farewell!’ he cried—        150
‘I ’ll pay you for my lodging maill, 7
  When first we meet on the border side.’
 
Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,
  We bore him down the ladder lang;
At every stride Red Rowan made,        155
  I wot the Kinmont’s airns 8 played clang!
 
‘O mony a time,’ quo’ Kinmont Willie,
  I have ridden horse baith wild and wood; 9
But a rougher beast than Red Rowan,
  I ween my legs have ne’er bestrode.        160
 
‘O mony a time,’ quo’ Kinmont Willie,
  ‘I ’ve pricked a horse out oure the furs; 10
But since the day I backed a steed,
  I never wore sic cumbrous spurs!’
 
We scarce had won the Staneshaw-bank,        165
  When a’ the Carlisle bells were rung,
And a thousand men, in horse and foot,
  Cam wi’ the keen Lord Scroope along.
 
Buccleuch has turned to Eden water,
  Even where it flowed frae bank to brim,        170
And he has plunged in wi’ a’ his band,
  And safely swam them thro’ the stream.
 
He turned him on the other side,
  And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he—
‘If ye like na my visit in merry England,        175
  In fair Scotland come visit me!’
 
All sore astonished stood Lord Scroope,
  He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared to trew his eyes,
  When thro’ the water they had gane.        180
 
‘He is either himself a devil frae hell,
  Or else his mother a witch maun be;
I wad na ha ridden that wan water,
  For a’ the gowd in Christentie.’
 
Note 1. helmet. [back]
Note 2. coif. [back]
Note 3. flame. [back]
Note 4. armour on shoulder. [back]
Note 5. frighted. [back]
Note 6. ask. [back]
Note 7. rent. [back]
Note 8. irons. [back]
Note 9. mad. [back]
Note 10. furrows. [back]
 
 
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