Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
44. Young Bekie

YOUNG BEKIE was as brave a knight
  As ever sail’d the sea;
And he’s doen him to the court of France,
  To serve for meat and fee.

He had nae been i’ the court of France
  A twelvemonth nor sae long,
Til he fell in love with the king’s daughter,
  And was thrown in prison strong.

The king he had but ae daughter,
  Burd Isbel was her name;        10
And she has to the prison-house gane,
  To hear the prisoner’s mane.

‘O gin a lady wou’d borrow me,
  At her stirrup-foot I wou’d rin;
Or gin a widow wou’d borrow me,        15
  I wou’d swear to be her son.

‘Or gin a virgin wou’d borrow me,
  I wou’d wed her wi’ a ring;
I’d gie her ha’s, I’d gie her bowers,
  The bonny towrs o’ Linne.’        20

O barefoot, barefoot gaed she but,
  And barefoot came she ben;
It was no for want o’ hose and shoone,
  Nor time to put them on;

But a’ for fear that her father dear
  Had heard her making din:
She’s stown the keys o’ the prison-house door
  And latten the prisoner gang.

O whan she saw him, Young Bekie,
  Her heart was wondrous sair!        30
For the mice but and the bold rottons
  Had eaten his yallow hair.

She’s gi’en him a shaver for his beard,
  A comber till his hair,
Five hunder pound in his pocket,        35
  To spen’ and nae to spair.

She’s gi’en him a steed was good in need,
  An’ a saddle o’ royal bone,
A leash o’ hounds o’ ae litter,
  And Hector callèd one.        40

Atween this twa a vow was made,
  ’T was made full solemnly,
That or three years was come an’ gane,
  Well married they should be.

He had nae been in ’s ain country
  A twelvemonth till an end,
Till he’s fore’d to marry a duke’s daughter,
  Or than lose a’ his land.

‘Ohon, alas!’ says Young Bekie,
  ‘I know not what to dee;        50
For I canno win to Burd Isbel,
  An’ she kensnae to come to me.’

O it fell once upon a day
  Burd Isbel fell asleep,
And up it starts the Billy Blind,        55
  And stood at her bed-feet.

‘O waken, waken, Burd Isbel,
  How can you sleep so soun’,
Whan this is Bekie’s wedding day,
  An’ the marriage gaïn on?        60

‘Ye do ye to your mither’s bowr,
  Think neither sin nor shame;
An’ ye tak twa o’ your mither’s marys,
  To keep ye frae thinking lang.

‘Ye dress yoursel’ in the red scarlèt,
  An’ your marys in dainty green,
An’ ye pit girdles about your middles
  Wou’d buy an earldome.

‘O ye gang down by yon sea-side,
  An’ down by yon sea-stran’;        70
Sae bonny will the Hollan’s boats
  Come rowin’ till your han’.

‘Ye set your milke-white foot abord,
  Cry, Hail ye, Domine!
An’ I shal be the steerer o’t,        75
  To row you o’er the sea.’

She’s tane her till her mither’s bowr,
  Thought neither sin nor shame,
And she took twa o’ her mither’s marys,
  To keep her frae thinking lang.        80

She dress’d hersel’ i’ the red scarlèt,
  Her marys i’ dainty green,
And they pat girdles about their middles
  Wou’d but an earldome.

And they gid down by yon sea-side,
  And down by yon sea-stran’;
Sae bonny did the Hollan’s boats
  Come rowin’ to their han’.

She set her milke-white foot on board,
  Cried, Hail ye, Domine!        90
And the Billy Blind was the steerer o’t,
  To row her o’er the sea.

Whan she came to young Bekie’s gate,
  She heard the music play;
Sae well she kent frae a’ she heard,        95
  It was his wedding day.

She’s pitten her han’ in her pocket,
  Gi’en the porter guineas three;
‘Hae, tak ye that, ye proud portèr,
  Bid the bride-groom speake to me.’        100

O whan that he cam up the stair,
  He fell low down on his knee:
He hail’d the king, and he hail’d the queen,
  And he hail’d him, Young Bekie.

‘O I’ve been porter at your gates
  This thirty years an’ three;
But there’s three ladies at them now,
  Their like I never did see.

‘There’s ane o’ them dress’d in red scarlèt,
  An’ twa in dainty green,        110
An’ they hae girdles about their middles
  Wou’d buy an earldome.’

Then out it spake the bierly bride,
  Was a’ goud to the chin;
‘Gin she be braw without,’ she says,        115
  ‘We’s be as braw within.’

Then up it starts him, Young Bekie,
  And the tears was in his e’e:
‘I’ll lay my life it’s Burd Isbel,
  Come o’er the sea to me.’        120

O quickly ran he down the stair,
  And whan he saw ’t was shee,
He kindly took her in his arms,
  And kiss’d her tenderly.

‘O hae ye forgotten, Young Bekie,
  The vow ye made to me,
Whan I took you out o’ the prison strong,
  Whan ye was condemn’d to die?

‘I gae you a steed was good in need,
  An’ a saddle o’ royal bone,        130
A leash o’ hounds o’ ae litter,
  An’ Hector callèd one.’

It was well kent what the lady said,
  That it wasnae a lee,
For at ilka word the lady spake,        135
  The hound fell at her knee.

‘Tak hame, tak hame your daughter dear,
  A blessing gae her wi’!
For I maun marry my Burd Isbel,
  That’s come o’er the sea to me.’        140

‘Is this the custom o’ your house,
  Or the fashion o’ your lan’,
To marry a maid in a May mornin’,
  An’ to send her back at even?’
GLOSS:  borrow] ransom.  but] out.  ben] in.  rottons] rats.  royal bone] ivory.  Or than] Or else.  Billy Blind] a friendly household fairy. See p.80.  marys] maids.  bierly] stately.


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