The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Lord William

This ballad was communicated to me by Mr James Hogg; and, although it bears a strong resemblance to that of Earl Richard, so strong, indeed, as to warrant a supposition, that the one has been derived from the other, yet its intrinsic merit seems to warrant its insertion. Mr Hogg has added the following note, which, in the course of my enquiries, I have found most fully corroborated.

“I am fully convinced of the antiquity of this song; for, although much of the language seems somewhat modernized, this must be attributed to its currency, being much liked, and very much sung, in this neighbourhood. I can trace it back several generations, but cannot hear of its ever having been in print. I have never heard it with any considerable variation, save that one reciter called the dwelling of the feigned sweetheart, Castleswa.”

Lord William

Lord William was the bravest knight

That dwait in fair Scotland,

And, though renowned in France and Spain,

Fell by a ladie’s hand.

As she was walking maid alone,

Down by yon shady wood.

She heard a smit280 o’ bridle reins,

She wish’d might be for good.

“Come to my arms, my dear Willie,

“You’re welcome hame to me;

“To best o’ chear and charcoal red,281

“And candle burnin’ free.”

“I winna light, I darena light,

“Nor come to your arms at a’;

“A fairer maid than ten o’ you,

“I’ll meet at Castle-law.”

“A fairer maid than me, Willie!

“A fairer maid than me!

“A fairer maid than ten o’ me,

“Your eyes did never see.”

He louted owr his saddle lap,

To kiss her ere they part,

And wi’ a little keen bodkin,

She pierced him to the heart.

“Ride on, ride on, lord William, now,

“As fast as ye can dree!

“Your bonny lass at Castle-law

“Will weary you to see.”

Out up then spake a bonny bird,

Sat high upon a tree —

How could you kill that noble lord?

“He came to marry thee.”

“Come down, come down, my bonny bird,

“And eat bread aff my hand!

“Your cage shall be of wiry goud,

“Whar now its but the wand.”

“Keep ye your cage o’ goud, lady,

“And I will keep my tree;

“As ye hae done to lord William.,

“Sae wad ye do to me.”

She set her foot on her door step,

A bonny marble stane;

And carried him to her chamber,

O’er him to make her mane.

And she has kept that good lord’s corpse

Three quarters of a year,

Until that word began to spread,

Then she began to fear.

Then she cried on her waiting maid,

Ay ready at her ca’;

“There is a knight unto my bower,

“’Tis time he were awa.”

The ane has ta’en him by the head,

The ither by the feet,

And thrown him in the wan water,

That ran baith wide and deep.

“Look back, look back, now, lady fair,

“On him that lo’ed ye weel!

“A better man than that blue corpse

“Ne’er drew a sword of steel.”

280 Smit— Clashing noise, from smite — hence also (perhaps) Smith and Smithy.]

281 Charcoal red— This circumstance marks the antiquity of the poem. While wood was plenty in Scotland, charcoal was the usual fuel in the chambers of the wealthy.]

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29