Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Narrative Poems: IX. Scotland
Jock Johnstone, the Tinkler
James Hogg (1770–1835)
 
“O, CAME ye ower by the Yoke-burn Ford,
  Or down the King’s Road o’ the cleuch? 1
Or saw ye a knight and a lady bright,
  Wha ha’e gane the gate they baith shall rue?”
 
“I saw a knight and a lady bright        5
  Ride up the cleuch at the break of day;
The knight upon a coal-black steed,
  And the dame on one of a silver-gray.
 
“And the lady’s palfrey flew the first,
  With many a clang of silver bell:        10
Swift as the raven’s morning flight
  The two went scouring ower the fell.
 
“By this time they are man and wife,
  And standing in St. Mary’s fane;
And the lady in the grass-green silk        15
  A maid you will never see again.”
 
“But I can tell thee, saucy wight,—
  And that the runaway shall prove,—
Revenge to a Douglas is as sweet
  As maiden charms or maiden’s love.”        20
 
“Since thou say’st that, my Lord Douglas,
  Good faith some clinking there will be;
Beshrew my heart but and my sword,
  If I winna turn and ride with thee!”
 
They whipped out ower the Shepherd Cleuch,        25
  And doun the links o’ the Corsecleuch Burn;
And aye the Douglas swore by his sword
  To win his love, or ne’er return.
 
“First fight your rival, Lord Douglas,
  And then brag after, if you may;        30
For the Earl of Ross is as brave a lord
  As ever gave good weapon sway.
 
“But I for ae poor siller merk,
  Or thirteen pennies and a bawbee,
Will tak in hand to fight you baith,        35
  Or beat the winner, whiche’er it be.”
 
The Douglas turned him on his steed,
  And I wat a loud laughter leuch he:
“Of a’ the fools I have ever met,
  Man, I ha’e never met ane like thee.        40
 
“Art thou akin to lord or knight,
  Or courtly squire or warrior leal?”
“I am a tinkler,” quo’ the wight,
  “But I like croun-cracking unco weel.”
 
When they came to St. Mary’s kirk,        45
  The chaplain shook for very fear;
And aye he kissed the cross, and said,
  “What deevil has sent that Douglas here!
 
“He neither values Book nor ban,
  But curses all without demur;        50
And cares nae mair for a holy man
  Than I do for a worthless cur.”
 
“Come here, thou bland and brittle priest,
  And tell to me without delay
Where have you hid the lord of Ross        55
  And the lady that came at the break of day.”
 
“No knight or lady, good Lord Douglas,
  Have I beheld since break of morn;
And I never saw the lord of Ross
  Since the woful day that I was born.”        60
 
Lord Douglas turned him round about,
  And looked the Tinkler in the face;
Where he beheld a lurking smile,
  And a deevil of a dour grimace.
 
“How ’s this, how ’s this, thou Tinkler loun?        65
  Hast thou presumed to lie on me?”
“Faith that I have!” the Tinkler said,
  “And a right good turn I have done to thee;
 
“For the lord of Ross and thy own true-love,
  The beauteous Harriet of Thirlestane,        70
Rade west away, ere the break of day;
  And you ’ll never see the dear maid again;
 
“So I thought it best to bring you here,
  On a wrang scent, of my own accord;
For had you met the Johnstone clan,        75
  They wad ha’e made mince-meat of a lord.”
 
At this the Douglas was so wroth
  He wist not what to say or do;
But he strak the Tinkler o’er the croun,
  Till the blood came dreeping ower his brow.        80
 
“Beshrew my heart,” quo’ the Tinkler lad,
  “Thou bear’st thee most ungallantlye!
If these are the manners of a lord,
  They are manners that winna gang doun wi’ me.”
 
“Hold up thy hand,” the Douglas cried,        85
  “And keep thy distance, Tinkler loun!”
“That will I not,” the Tinkler said,
  “Though I and my mare should both go doun!”
 
“I have armor on,” cried the Lord Douglas,
  “Cuirass and helm, as you may see.”        90
“The deil me care!” quo’ the Tinkler lad;
  “I shall have a skelp at them and thee.”
 
“You are not horsed,” quo’ the Lord Douglas,
  “And no remorse this weapon brooks.”
“Mine ’s a right good yaud,” quo’ the Tinkler lad,        95
  “And a great deal better nor she looks.
 
“So stand to thy weapons, thou haughty lord,
  What I have taken I needs must give;
Thou shalt never strike a tinkler again,
  For the langest day thou hast to live.”        100
 
Then to it they fell, both sharp and snell,
  Till the fire from both their weapons flew;
But the very first shock that they met with,
  The Douglas his rashness ’gan to rue.
 
For though he had on a sark of mail,        105
  And a cuirass on his breast wore he,
With a good steel bonnet on his head,
  Yet the blood ran trickling to his knee.
 
The Douglas sat upright and firm,
  Aye as together their horses ran;        110
But the Tinkler laid on like the very deil,—
  Siccan strokes were never laid on by man.
 
“Hold up thy hand, thou Tinkler loun,”
  Cried the poor priest with whining din;
“If thou hurt the brave Lord James Douglas;        115
  A curse be on thee and all thy kin!”
 
“I care no more for Lord James Douglas
  Than Lord James Douglas cares for me;
But I want to let his proud heart know
  That a tinkler ’s a man as well as he.”        120
 
So they fought on, and they fought on,
  Till good Lord Douglas’ breath was gone;
And the Tinkler bore him to the ground,
  With rush, with rattle, and with groan.
 
“O hon! O hon!” cried the proud Douglas,        125
  “That I this day should have lived to see!
For sure my honor I have lost,
  And a leader again I can never be!
 
“But tell me of thy kith and kin,
  And where was bred thy weapon hand?        130
For thou art the wale of tinkler louns
  That ever was born in fair Scotland.”
 
“My name ’s Jock Johnstone,” quo’ the wight;
  “I winna keep in my name frae thee;
And here, tak thou thy sword again,        135
  And better friends we two shall be.”
 
But the Douglas swore a solemn oath,
  That was a debt he could never owe;
He would rather die at the back of the dike
  Than owe his sword to a man so low.        140
 
“But if thou wilt ride under my banner,
  And bear my livery and my name,
My right-hand warrior thou shalt be
  And I ’ll knight thee on the field of fame.”
 
“Woe worth thy wit, good Lord Douglas,        145
  To think I ’d change my trade for thine;
Far better and wiser would you be,
  To live a journeyman of mine,
 
“To mend a kettle or a casque,
  Or clout a goodwife’s yettlin’ pan,—        150
Upon my life, good Lord Douglas,
  You ’d make a noble tinkler-man!
 
“I would give you a drammock twice a day,
  And sunkets on a Sunday morn,
And you should be a rare adept        155
  In steel and copper, brass and horn!
 
“I ’ll fight you every day you rise,
  Till you can act the hero’s part;
Therefore, I pray you, think of this,
  And lay it seriously to heart.”        160
 
The Douglas writhed beneath the lash,
  Answering with an inward curse,—
Like salmon wriggling on a spear,
  That makes his deadly wound the worse.
 
But up there came two squires renowned;        165
  In search of Lord Douglas they came;
And when they saw their master down,
  Their spirits mounted in a flame.
 
And they flew upon the Tinkler wight,
  Like perfect tigers on their prey:        170
But the Tinkler heaved his trusty sword,
  And made him ready for the fray.
 
“Come one to one, ye coward knaves,—
  Come hand to hand, and steed to steed;
I would that ye were better men,        175
  For this is glorious work indeed!”
 
Before you could have counted twelve,
  The Tinkler’s wondrous chivalrye
Had both the squires upon the sward,
  And their horses galloping o’er the lea.        180
 
The Tinkler tied them neck and heel,
  And many a biting jest gave he:
“O fie, for shame!” said the Tinkler lad;
  “Siccan fighters I never did see!”
 
He slit one of their bridle reins,—        185
  O, what disgrace the conquered feels!—
And he skelpit the squires with that good tawse,
  Till the blood ran off at baith their heels.
 
The Douglas he was forced to laugh
  Till down his cheek the salt tear ran:        190
“I think the deevil be come here
  In the likeness of a tinkler man!”
 
Then he has to Lord Douglas gone,
  And he raised him kindly by the hand,
And set him on his gallant steed,        195
  And bore him away to Henderland:
 
“Be not cast down, my Lord Douglas,
  Nor writhe beneath a broken bane;
For the leech’s art will mend the part,
  And your honor lost will spring again.        200
 
“’T is true, Jock Johnstone is my name;
  I ’m a right good tinkler, as you see;
For I can crack a casque betimes,
  Or clout one, as my need may be.
 
“Jock Johnstone is my name, ’t is true,—        205
  But noble hearts are allied to me;
For I am the lord of Annandale,
  And a knight and earl as well as thee.”
 
Then Douglas strained the hero’s hand,
  And took from it his sword again:        210
“Since thou art the lord of Annandale,
  Thou hast eased my heart of meikle pain.
 
“I might have known thy noble form
  In that disguise thou ’rt pleased to wear;
All Scotland knows thy matchless arm,        215
  And England by experience dear.
 
“We have been foes as well as friends,
  And jealous of each other’s sway;
But little can I comprehend
  Thy motive for these pranks to-day.”        220
 
“Sooth, my good lord, the truth to tell,
  ’T was I that stole your love away,
And gave her to the lord of Ross
  An hour before the break of day;
 
“For the lord of Ross is my brother,        225
  By all the laws of chivalrye;
And I brought with me a thousand men
  To guard him to my ain countrye.
 
“But I thought meet to stay behind,
  And try your lordship to waylay,        230
Resolved to breed some noble sport,
  By leading you so far astray.
 
“Judging it better some lives to spare,—
  Which fancy takes me now and then,—
And settle our quarrel hand to hand,        235
  Than each with our ten thousand men.
 
“God send you soon, my Lord Douglas,
  To Border foray sound and haill!
But never strike a tinkler again,
  If he be a Johnstone of Annandale.”        240
 
Note 1. Dell. [back]
 
 
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