Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Wife of Usher’s Well
The Ballad
1.  THERE lived a wife at Usher’s Well,
      And a wealthy wife was she;
  She had three stout and stalwart sons,
      And sent them o’er the sea.
2.  They hadna been a week from her,        5
      A week but barely ane,
  When word came to the carlin 1 wife
      That her three sons were gane.
3.  They hadna been a week from her,
      A week but barely three,        10
  When word came to the carlin wife
      That her sons she’d never see.
4.  “I wish the wind may never cease,
      Nor fashes 2 in the flood,
  Till my three sons come hame to me,        15
      In earthly flesh and blood.”
5.  It fell about the Martinmass, 3
      When nights are lang and mirk,
  The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
      And their hats were o’ the birk. 4        20
6.  It neither grew in syke 5 nor ditch,
      Nor yet in ony sheugh, 6
  But at the gates o’ Paradise,
      That birk grew fair eneugh.
*        *        *        *        *
7.  “Blow up the fire, my maidens!        25
      Bring water from the well!
  For a’ my house shall feast this night,
      Since my three sons are well.”
8.  And she has made to them a bed,
      She’s made it large and wide,        30
  And she’s ta’en her mantle her about,
      Sat down at the bed-side.
*        *        *        *        *
9.  Up then crew the red, red cock, 7
      And up and crew the gray;
  The eldest to the youngest said,        35
      “’Tis time we were away.”
10.  The cock he hadna craw’d but once,
      And clapp’d his wing at a’,
  When the youngest to the eldest said,
      “Brother, we must awa’.        40
11.  “The cock doth craw, the day doth daw,
      The channerin 8 worm doth chide;
  Gin we be mist out o’ our place,
      A sair pain we maun bide.
12.  “Fare ye weel, my mother dear!        45
      Fareweel to barn and byre!
  And fare ye weel, the bonny lass
      That kindles my mother’s fire!”
Note 1. Old woman. [back]
Note 2. Lockhart’s clever emendation for the fishes of the Ms. Fashes = disturbances, storms. [back]
Note 3. November 11th. Another version gives the time as “the hallow days of Yule.” [back]
Note 4. Birch. [back]
Note 5. Marsh. [back]
Note 6. Furrow, ditch. [back]
Note 7. In folk-lore, the break of day is announced to demons and ghosts by three cocks,—usually a white, a red, and a black; but the colors, and even the numbers, vary. At the third crow, the ghosts must vanish. This applies to guilty and innocent alike; of course, the sons are “spirits of health.” [back]
Note 8. Fretting. [back]

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