Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
86. Lady Elspat

‘O BRENT’S your brow, my Lady Elspat;
  O gowden yellow is your hair!
Of a’ the maids o’ fair Scotland
  There’s nane like Lady Elspat fair.’

‘Perform your vows,’ she says, ‘Sweet William;
  The vows which ye ha’ made to me;
And at the back o’ my mither’s castle
  This night I’ll surely meet wi’ thee.’

But wae be to her brother’s page,
  Wha heard the words this twa did say!        10
He’s tauld them to her lady mither,
  Wha wrought Sweet William mickle wae.

For she’s ta’en him, Sweet William,
  And she ’s gar’d bind him wi ’s bow-string.
Till the red blood o’ his fair body        15
  Frae ilka nail o’ his hand did spring.

O it fell ance upon a time
  That the Lord Justice came to town;
Out she has ta’en him, Sweet William,
  Brought him before the Lord Justice boun’.        20

And what is the crime now, madame,’ he says,
  ‘Has been committed by this young man?’—
‘O he has broken my bonny castle,
  That was well biggit wi’ lime and stane.

‘And he has broken my bonny coffers,
  That was well bandit wi’ aiken ban’;
And he has stolen my rich jewels;
  I wot he has them every ane.’

Then out it spak’ her Lady Elspat
  As she sat by the Lord Justice’ knee:        30
‘Now ye hae tauld your tale, mither,
  I pray, Lord Justice, you’ll now hear me.

‘He hasna broken her bonny castle,
  That was well biggit wi’ lime and stane;
Nor has he stolen her rich jewels,        35
  For I wot she has them every one.

‘But tho’ he was my first true love,
  And tho’ I had sworn to be his bride,
’Cause he had not a great estate
  She would this way our loves divide.’        40

Then out it spak’ the Lord Justice
  (I wot the tear was in his e’e):
‘I see nae fault in this young man;
  Sae loose his bands, and set him free.

‘Tak’ back your love now, Lady Elspat,
  And my best blessing you baith upon!
For gin he be your first true love,
  He is my eldest sister’s son.

‘There is a steed within my stable
  Cost me baith gowd and white monèy;        50
Ye’se get as mickle o’ my free land
  As he’ll ride about in a summer’s day.’
GLOSS:  brent] straight, smooth.  biggit] built.  bandit] bound.  aiken] oaken.


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