The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Willie’s Ladye.

Ancient Copy.

Never Before Published.

Mr Lewis, in his Tales of Wonder, has presented the public with a copy of this ballad, with additions and alterations. The editor has also seen a copy, containing some modern stanzas, intended by Mr Jamieson, of Macclesfield, for publication in his Collection of Scottish Poetry. Yet, under these disadvantages, the editor cannot relinquish his purpose of publishing the old ballad, in its native simplicity, as taken from Mrs Brown of Faulkland’s MS.

Those, who wish to know how an incantation, or charm, of the distressing nature here described, was performed in classic days, may consult the story of Galanthis’s Metamorphosis, in Ovid, or the following passage in Apuleius: “Eadem (Saga scilicet quaedam), amatoris uxorem, quod in sibi dicacule probrum dixerat, jam in sarcinam praegnationis, obsepto utero, et repigrato faetu, perpetua praegnatione damnavit. Et ut cuncti numerant, octo annorum onere, misella illa, velut elephantum paritura, distenditur.“— APUL. Metam. lib. 1.

There is also a curious tale about a count of Westeravia, whom a deserted concubine bewitched upon his marriage, so as to preclude all hopes of his becoming a father. The spell continued to operate for three years, till one day, the count happening to meet with his former mistress, she maliciously asked him about the increase of his family. The count, conceiving some suspicion from her manner, craftily answered, that God had blessed him with three fine children; on which she exclaimed, like Willie’s mother in the ballad, “May Heaven confound the old hag, by whose counsel I threw an enchanted pitcher into the draw-well of your palace!” The spell being found, and destroyed, the count became the father of a numerous family. —Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, p. 474.

Willie’s Ladye.

Willie’s ta’en him o’er the faem,319

He’s wooed a wife, and brought her hame;

He’s wooed her for her yellow hair,

But his mother wrought her meikle care;

And meikle dolour gar’d her drie,

For lighter she can never be;

But in her bower she sits wi’ pain,

And Willie mourns o’er her in vain.

And to his mother he has gane,

That vile rank witch, o’ vilest kind!

He says —“My ladie has a cup,

Wi’ gowd and silver set about,

This gudely gift sall be your ain,

And let her be lighter o’ her young bairn.”

“Of her young bairn she’s never be lighter,

“Nor in her bour to shine the brighter;

“But she sall die, and turn to clay,

“And you shall wed another may.”

“Another may I’ll never wed,

“Another may I’ll never bring hame.”

But, sighing, said that weary wight —

“I wish my life were at an end!”

“Yet gae ye to your mother again,

“That vile rank witch, o’ vilest kind!

“And say, your ladye has a steed,

“The like o’ him’s no in the land o’ Leed.320

“For he is silver shod before,

“And he is gowden shod behind;

“At every tuft of that horse mane,

“There’s a golden chess321, and a bell to ring.

“This gudely gift sall be her ain,

“And let me be lighter o’ my young bairn.”

“Of her young bairn she’s ne’er be lighter,

“Nor in her bour to shine the brighter;

“But she sall die, and turn to clay,

“And ye sall wed another may.”

“Another may I’ll never wed,

“Another may I’ll never bring hame.”

But, sighing, said that weary wight —

“I wish my life were at an end!”

“Yet gae ye to your mother again,

“That vile rank witch, o’ rankest kind!

“And say, your ladye has a girdle,

“It is a’ red gowd to the middle;

“And aye, at ilka siller hem

“Hang fifty siller bells and ten;

“This gudely gift sall be her ain,

“And let me be lighter o’ my young bairn.”

“Of her young bairn she’s ne’er be lighter,

“Nor in your bour to shine the brighter;

“For she sall die, and turn to clay,

“And thou sall wed another may.”

“Another may I’ll never wed,

“Another may I’ll never bring hame.”

But, sighing, said that weary wight —

“I wish my days were at an end!”

Then out and spak the Billy Blind,322

(He spak ay in a gude time:)

“Yet gae ye to the market-place,

“And there do buy a loaf of wace;323

“Do shape it bairn and bairnly like,

“And in it twa glassen een you’ll put;

“And bid her your boy’s christening to,

“Then notice weel what she shall do;

“And do ye stand a little away,

“To notice weel what she may saye.

* * *

[A stanza seems to be wanting. Willie is supposed to follow

the advice of the spirit. — His mother speaks.]

“O wha has loosed the nine witch knots,

“That were amang that ladye’s locks?

“And wha’s ta’en out the kaims o’ care,

“That were amang that ladye’s hair?

“And wha has ta’en downe that bush o’ woodbine,

“That hung between her bour and mine?

“And wha has kill’d the master kid,

“That ran beneath that ladye’s bed?

“And wha has loosed her left foot shee,

“And let that ladye lighter be?”

Syne, Willy’s loosed the nine witch knots,

That were amang that ladye’s locks;

And Willy’s ta’en out the kaims o’ care,

That were into that ladye’s hair;

And he’s ta’en down the bush o’ woodbine,

Hung atween her bour and the witch carline;

And he has kill’d the master kid,

That ran beneath that ladye’s bed;

And he has loosed her left foot shee,

And latten that ladye lighter be;

And now he has gotten a bonny son,

And meikle grace be him upon.

319 Faem— The sea foam.]

320 Land o’ Leed— Perhaps Lydia.]

321 Chess— Should probably be jess, the name of a hawk’s bell.]

322 Billy–Blind— A familiar genius, or propitious spirit, somewhat similar to the Brownie. He is mentioned repeatedly in Mrs Brown’s Ballads, but I have not met with him any where else, although he is alluded to in the rustic game of Bogle (i.e. goblin) Billy–Blind. The word is, indeed, used in Sir David Lindsay’s plays, but apparently in a different sense —

“Preists sall leid you like ane Billy Blinde.”

PINKERTON’S Scottish Poems, 1792, Vol. II. p. 232.]

323 Wace— Wax.]

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