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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
11. The Gay Goss-Hawk
 
Traditional Ballads
 
 
“O WELL’S me o my gay goss-hawk,
  That he can speak and flee;
He’ll carry a letter to my love,
  Bring back another to me.”
 
“O how can I your true-love ken, 1        5
  Or how can I her know?
Whan frae her mouth I never heard couth, 2
  Nor wi my eyes her saw.”
 
“O well sal ye my true-love ken,
  As soon as you her see;        10
For, of a’ the flowrs in fair Englan,
  The fairest flowr is she.
 
“At even at my love’s bowr-door
  There grows a bowing birk, 3
An sit ye down and sing thereon,        15
  As she gangs to the kirk.
 
“An four-and-twenty ladies fair
  Will wash and go to kirk,
But well shall ye my true-love ken,
  For she wears goud on her skirt.        20
 
“An four and twenty gay ladies
  Will to the mass repair,
But well sal ye my true-love ken,
  For she wears goud on her hair.”
 
O even at that lady’s bowr-door        25
  There grows a bowin birk,
An he set down and sang thereon,
  As she ged to the kirk.
 
“O eet and drink, my marys 4 a’,
  The wine flows you among,        30
Till I gang to my shot-window,
  An hear yon bonny bird’s song.
 
“Sing on, sing on, my bonny bird,
  The song ye sang the streen, 5
For I ken by your sweet singin        35
  You’re frae my true-love sen.” 6
 
O first he sang a merry song,
  An then he sang a grave,
An then he peckd his feathers gray,
  To her the letter gave.        40
 
Ha, there’s a letter frae your love,
  He says he sent you three;
He canno wait your love langer,
  But for your sake he’ll die.
 
“He bids you write a letter to him;        45
  He says he’s sent you five;
He canno wait your love langer,
  Tho you’re the fairest woman alive.”
 
“Ye bid him bake his bridal-bread,
  And brew his bridal-ale,        50
An I’ll meet him in fair Scotlan
  Lang, lang or it be stale.”
 
She’s doen 7 her to her father dear,
  Fa’n low down on her knee:
“A boon, a boon, my father dear,        55
  I pray you, grant it me.”
 
“Ask on, ask on, my daughter,
  An granted it sal be;
Except ae squire in fair Scotlan,
  An him you sall never see.”        60
 
“The only boon, my father dear,
  That I do crave of thee,
Is, gin 8 I die in southin 9 lands,
  In Scotlan to bury me.
 
“An the firstin 10 kirk that ye come till,        65
  Ye gar the bells be rung,
An the nextin kirk that ye come till,
  Ye gar the mess be sung.
 
“An the thirdin kirk that ye come till,
  You deal gold for my sake,        70
An the fourthin kirk that ye come till,
  You tarry there till night.”
 
She is doen her to her bigly bowr, 11
  As fast as she coud fare,
An she has tane a sleepy draught,        75
  That she had mixed wi care.
 
She’s laid her down upon her bed,
  An soon she’s fa’n asleep,
And soon oer every tender limb
  Cauld death began to creep.        80
 
Whan night was flown, an day was come,
  Nae ane that did her see
But thought she was as surely dead
  As ony lady coud be.
 
Her father an her brothers dear        85
  Gard 12 make to her a bier;
The tae 13 half was o guid red gold,
  The tither 14 o silver clear.
 
Her mither an her sisters fair
  Gard work for her a sark;        90
The tae half was o cambrick fine,
  The tither o needle wark.
 
The firstin kirk that they came till,
  They gard the bells be rung,
An the nextin kirk that they came till,        95
  They gard the mess be sung.
 
The thirdin kirk that they came till,
  They dealt gold for her sake,
An the fourthin kirk that they came till,
  Lo, there they met her make!        100
 
“Lay down, lay down the bigly bier.
  Lat me the dead look on;”
Wi cheery cheeks and ruby lips
  She lay an smil’d on him.
 
“O ae sheave 15 o your bread, true-love,        105
  An ae glass o your wine,
For I hae fasted for your sake
  These fully days is nine.
 
“Gang hame, gang hame, my seven bold brothers,
  Gang hame and sound your horn;        110
An ye may boast in southin lans
  Your sister’s playd you scorn.”
 
Note 1. Birch. [back]
Note 2. Maids. [back]
Note 3. Last night. [back]
Note 4. Last night. [back]
Note 5. Sent. [back]
Note 6. Gone. [back]
Note 7. If. [back]
Note 8. Southern. [back]
Note 9. First. [back]
Note 10. Handsome chamber. [back]
Note 11. Caused. [back]
Note 12. One. [back]
Note 13. Other. [back]
Note 14. Slice. [back]
Note 15. Nigh. [back]
 

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