The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Lord Soulis.

Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage castle,

And beside him Old Redcap sly;

—“Now tell me, thou sprite, who art meikle of might,

The death that I must die?”—

—“While thou shalt bear a charmed life,

And hold that life of me,

'Gainst lance and arrow, sword and knife,

I shall thy warrant be.

“Nor forged steel, nor hempen band,

Shall e'er thy limbs confine,

Till threefold ropes of sifted sand,

Around thy body twine.

“If danger press fast, knock thrice on the chest,

With the rusty padlocks bound;

Turn away your eyes when the lid shall rise,

And listen to the sound.”—

Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage castle,

And Redcap was not by;

And he called on a page who was witty and sage,

To go to the barmkin high.

—“And look thou east, and look thou west,

And quickly come tell to me,

What troopers haste along the waste,

And what may their livery be.”—

He looked o'er fell, and he looked o'er flat,

But nothing, I wist, he saw;

Save a pyot on every turret that sat,

Beside a corby craw.

The page he look'd at the skrieh of day,

But nothing, I wist, he saw;

Till a horseman gay, in the royal array,

Rode down the Hazel-shaw.

—“Say, why do you cross o'er moor and moss?”—

So loudly cried the page;

—“I tidings bring, from Scotland's king,

To Soulis of Hermitage.

“He bids me tell that bloody warden,

Oppressor of low and high,

If ever again his lieges complain,

The cruel Soulis shall die.”—

By traitorous slight, they seized the knight,

Before he rode or ran,

And through the key-stone of the vault,

They plunged him horse and man.

O May she came, and May she gaed,

By Goranberry green;

And May she was the fairest maid,

That ever yet was seen.

O May she came, and May she gaed,

By Goranberry tower;

And who was it but cruel Lord Soulis,

That carried her from her bower?

He brought her to his castle gray,

By Hermitage's side;

Says —“Be content, my lovely May,

For thou shalt be my bride.”—

With her yellow hair that glittered fair,

She dried the trickling tear;

She sighed the name of Branxholm's heir,

The youth that loved her dear.

—“Now be content, my bonny May,

And take it for your hame;

Or ever and ay shall ye rue the day,

You heard young Branxholm's name.

“O'er Branxholm tower, ere the morning hour,

When the lift is like lead so blue;

The smoke shall roll white on the weary night,

And the flame shine dimly through.”—

Syne he's ca'd on him Ringan Red,

A sturdy kemp was he;

From friend or foe, in border feid,

Who never a foot would flee.

Red Ringan sped, and the spearmen led,

Up Goranberry slack;

Aye, many a wight, unmatched in fight,

Who never more came back.

And bloody set the westering sun,

And bloody rose he up;

But little thought young Branxholm's heir,

Where he that night should sup.

He shot the roe-buck on the lee,

The dun deer on the law;

The glammer sure was in his ee,

When Ringan nigh did draw.

O'er heathy edge, through rustling sedge,

He sped till day was set;

And he thought it was his merry men true,

When he the spearmen met.

Far from relief, they seized the chief,

His men were far away;

Through Hermitage slack, they sent him back,

To Soulis' castle gray;

Syne onward fure, for Branxholm tower,

Where all his merry-men lay.

—“Now welcome, noble Branxholm's heir!

Thrice welcome,” quoth Soulis, “to me!

Say, dost thou repair to my castle fair,

My wedding guest to be:

And lovely May deserves, per fay,

A brideman such as thee!”—

And broad and bloody rose the sun,

And on the barmkin shone:

When the page was aware of Red Ringan there,

Who came riding all alone.

To the gate of the tower Lord Soulis he speeds,

As he lighted at the wall;

Says —“Where did ye stable my stalwart steeds,

And where do they tarry all?”—

—“We stabled them sure, on the Tarras Muir;

We stabled them sure,” quoth he:

“Before we could cross that quaking moss,

They all were lost but me.”—

He clenched his fist, and he knocked on the chest,

And he heard a stifled groan;

And, at the third knock, each rusty lock

Did open one by one.

He turned away his eyes, as the lid did rise,

And he listen'd silentlie;

And he heard breathed slow, in murmurs low:

—“Beware of a coming tree!”—

In muttering sound the rest was drowned;

Nor other word heard he;

But slow as it rose, the lid did close,

With the rusty padlocks three.

Now rose with Branxholm's ae brother,

The Tiviot, high and low;

Bauld Walter by name, of meikle fame,

For none could bend his bow.

O'er glen and glade, to Soulis there sped

The fame of his array;

And that Tiviotdale would soon assail

His towers and castle gray.

With clenched fist, he knocked on the chest,

And again he heard a groan;

And he raised his eyes as the lid did rise,

But answer heard he none.

The charm was broke, when the spirit spoke;

And it murmur'd sullenlie,

—“Shut fast the door, and for evermore,

Commit to me the key.

“Alas! that ever thou raised'st thine eyes,

Thine eyes to look on me!

Till seven years are o'er, return no more,

For here thou must not be.”—

Think not but Soulis was wae to yield

His warlock chamber o'er;

He took the keys from the rusty lock,

That ne'er were ta'en before.

He threw them o'er his left shoulder,

With meikle care and pain;

And he bade it keep them, fathoms deep,

Till he returned again.

And still when seven years are o'er,

Is heard the jarring sound;

When slowly opes the charmed door

Of the chamber under ground.

And some, within the chamber door,

Have cast a curious eye;

But none dare tell, for the spirits in hell,

The fearful sights they spy.

When Soulis thought on his merrie men now,

A woeful wight was he;

Says —“Vengeance is mine, and I will not repine!

But Branxholm's heir shall die.”—

Says —“What would ye do, young Branxholm,

Gin ye had me, as I have thee?”—

—“I would take you to the good greenwood,

And gar your ain hand wale the tree.”—

—“Now shall thine ain hand wale the tree,

For all thy mirth and meikle pride;

And May shall chuse, if my love she refuse,

A scrog bush thee beside.”—

They carried him to the good greenwood,

Where the green pines grew in a row;

And they heard the cry, from the branches high,

Of the hungry carrion crow.

They carried him on from tree to tree,

The spiry boughs below;

—“Say, shall it be thine, on the tapering pine,

To feed the hooded crow?”—

—“The fir-tops fall by Branxholm wall,

When the night blast stirs the tree;

And it shall not be mine to die on the pine,

I loved in infancie.”—

Young Branxholm turned him, and oft looked back,

And aye he passed from tree to tree;

Young Branxholm peeped, and puirly spake,

—“O sic a death is no for me.”—

And next they passed the aspin gray;

Its leaves were rustling mournfullie:

—“Now chuse thee, chuse thee, Branxholm gay;

Say, wilt thou never chuse the tree?”—

—“More dear to me is the aspin gray,

More dear than any other tree;

For beneath the shade that its branches made,

Have past the vows of my love and me.”—

Young Branxholm peeped, and puirly spake,

Until he did his ain men see;

With witch's hazel in each steel cap,

In scorn of Soulis's gramarye;

Then shoulder height, for glee he lap,

—“Methinks I spye a coming tree!”—

—“Aye, many may come, but few return;”—

Quo' Soulis, the lord of gramarye;

—“No warrior's hand in fair Scotland

Shall ever dint a wound on me!”—

—“Now, by my sooth,” quo' bauld Walter,

“If that be true we soon shall see.”—

His bent bow he drew, and the arrow was true,

But never a wound or scar had he.

Then up bespake him, true Thomas,

He was the lord of Ersyltoun:

—“The wizard's spell no steel can quell,

Till once your lances bear him down.”—

They bore him down with lances bright,

But never a wound or scar had he;

With hempen bands they bound him tight,

Both hands and feet on the Nine-stane lea.

That wizzard accurst, the bands he burst;

They mouldered at his magic spell;

And neck and heel, in the forged steel,

They bound him against the charms of hell.

That wizzard accursed, the bands he burst;

No forged steel his charms could bide;

Then up bespake him, true Thomas,

—“We'll bind him yet, whate'er betide.”—

The black spae-book from his breast he took,

Impressed with many a warlock spell;

And the book it was wrote by Michael Scot,

Who held in awe the fiends of hell.

They buried it deep, where his bones they sleep,

That mortal man might never it see:

But Thomas did save it from the grave,

When he returned from Faerie.

The black spae-book from his breast he took,

And turned the leaves with curious hand;

No ropes, did he find, the wizzard could bind,

But threefold ropes of sifted sand.

They sifted the sand from the Nine-stane burn,

And shaped the ropes so curiouslie;

But the ropes would neither twist nor twine,

For Thomas true and his gramarye.

The black spae-book from his breast he took,

And again he turned it with his hand;

And he bade each lad of Tiviot add

The barley chaff to the sifted sand.

The barley chaff to the sifted sand

They added still by handfuls nine;

But Redcap sly, unseen was by,

And the ropes would neither twist nor twine.

And still beside the Nine-stane burn,

Ribbed like the sand at mark of sea;

The ropes that would not twist nor turn,

Shaped of the sifted sand you see.

The black spae-book true Thomas he took;

Again its magic leaves he spread;

And he found that to quell the powerful spell,

The wizzard must be boiled in lead.

On a circle of stones they placed the pot,

On a circle of stones but barely nine;

They heated it red and fiery hot,

Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

They rolled him up in a sheet of lead,

A sheet of lead for a funeral pall;

They plunged him in the cauldron red,

And melted him, lead, and bones, and all.

At the Skelf-hill, the cauldron still

The men of Liddesdale can shew;

And on the spot where they boiled the pot,

The spreat and the deer-hair ne'er shall grow.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00