Copyright
William Edmondstoune Aytoun.

The ballads of Scotland (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryWilliam Edmondstoune AytounThe ballads of Scotland (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Ji,






UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES




THE BALLADS OF SCOTLAND



THE



BALLADS OF SCOTLAND



EDITED BY



WILLIAM EDMONDSTOUNE AYTOUN, D.C.L.



SECOND EDITIOX

REVISED AND AUGMENTED

IN TWO VOLUMES
VOL. I.



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
MDCCCLIX



» ', » \ » > ' * 1









) 3 I



\%5S>



TO



MY DEAREST MOTHER



THIS WORK



IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED



26G182



PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION.



I BELIEVE that every editor of a work of this
kind must have felt that in his first edition
many errors and omissions were certain to occur.
Having had the advantage of much sound and
intelligent criticism from gentlemen who were
evidently well acquainted with the subject, and
enthusiasts in our older literature, I have been
enabled in some places materially to improve
the text ; while, from private sources, I have
received much information of a very valuable
kind. The work has been subjected to a strict
revision, and six additional ballads — two of them
taken down from recitation — have been inserted.
Two ballads, which were printed in the "first



VI 11 PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION.

edition — "Barthram's Dirge" and "Lady Mary
Ann," — have been withdrawn ; the first, because
it is now ascertained to have been written by
the late Mr Surtees ; the second, because it is
merely an adaptation of an old fragmentary
ditty. I have also been fortunate in recovering
better and fuller versions of several ballads than
I was able originally to procure ; and I trust
that the work, so amended, may be found worthy
of the continued favour of the public.



CONTENTS OF THE FIEST VOLUME



I'AGE
INTRODUCTION xiii

SIR PATRICK SPENS ' 1

TAMLANE ; 7

THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN 13

EDOM O' GORDON 19

THOMAS OF ERCILDOUNE 26

TRUE THOMAS 36

HELEN OF KIRKCONNELL' 41

JOHNIE OF BRAIDISLEE 44

CLERK SAUNDERS / 48

GUDE WALLACE 54

ANNIE OF LOCHROTAN 58

THE BATTLE OF HARLAW (COMMON VERSION) 64

THE BATTLE OF HARLAW (TRADITIONARY BALLAD) 75

JOHNIE armstrangI 79

THE BLUIDY SARK 86

YOUNG WATERS '{. 92

KINMONT WILLIE 7 95



X CONTENTS.

PACK
iVLLAN-A-MAUT 103

^THE RAID OF THE REIDSWIRE 106

*»THE WIFE OF USHER'S WELL 113

THE CLERKS OF OWSENFORD 116

THE HARPER OF LOCHMABEN 121

OUR GUDEMAX 125

AVALT, WALT 130

THE MARCHIONESS OF DOUGLAS 133

JOHN SETON 139

ANNIE LAURIE 143

GIL MOKICE 145

THE mother's MALISON 155

THE BONNIE BANKS O' FORDIE 159

THE WIPE OF AUCHTERMUCHTY 162

DICK O' THE COW 167

THE GAT GOSS-HAWK 178

JOHNIE FAA 183

THE DOWIE DENS O' TARROW 189

THE WOOD O' WARSLIN' 193

THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND 196

BINNORIE 199

THE WITCH-MOTHER 205

THE GRAT COCK 209

JAMIE TELFER 211

MAY COLLEAN 219

LADY ELSPAT 223

ANNAN WATER 226



CONTENTS. ^^



HUGH OF LINCOLN

FINE FLOWERS l' THE VALLEY ..

THE GARDENER

BURD HELEN

THE BATTLE OF CORRICHIE

THE BONNIE EARL OF MURRAY.

THE BATTLE OP BALRINNES ....

^JOCK O' THE SIDE

HOBBIE NOBLE

DONALD OF THE ISLES

ELORE, LO

ROSLIN'S DAUGHTER

THE HONEYMOON



PAGE
...229

...232
...237
...239



.24



.249

.252

.264

.271

..277

..283

..286

..292



INTRODUCTION.



In offering to the public a collected and collated
edition of the old Scottish Ballads, I am anxious,
if jDossible, to guard myself against the charge of
presumption. No such charge could be founded
upon the mere fact of collection ; but the task of
collation is of a delicate and arduous nature, and
requires no ordinary amount of study and prepara-
tion on the part of any one who attempts it. For,
as the great mass of the Scottish ballad-poetry
existed only in a traditionary form until a com-
paratively recent period, and as in the course of
centuries it has undergone many inevitable altera-
tions, and has been frequently added to and inter-
polated, any attempt towards its restoration must
be proportionably difficult.

Here T must premise, that I use the word
"restoration" in a sense which need not alarm



XIV INTRODUCTION.

even the most scrupulous stickler for implicit ad-
herence to existing versions. I have an extreme
dislike to that kind of renovation which ekes out
fragments by modern additions, which, however
skilfully planned and executed, can only be re-
garded as clever indtations of the past. The
architect who adds to a ruin by building round
it, witliout more than a conjectural notion of its
original extent and proportion, cannot be termed
a renovator. The new pile simply detracts from
the sanctity of the ancient relic ; is always felt to
be incongruous ; and is frequently the reverse of
picturesque. But, on the other hand, when a fine
old building has suffered at various times from the
hands of successive architects, who, in their zeal
to piece it out, have added preposterous wings,
thrown out staring porticoes, blocked up windows,
and ruthlessly whitewashed the antique carvings
and decorations, the work of restoration, by the
removal of these exotics, appears to me eminently
praiseworthy. It is in that sense that I use the
term ; and it is to that end that my labours have
been directed.

I have judged it necessary to make this explana-
tion, because the late Mr Motherwell — a poet of
considerable eminence, and a faithful and enthu-



INTRODUCTION. XV

siastic collector of ballads — has, in the introduc-
tion to his " Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern,"
condemned altogether the practice of collating-
versions ; and as his opinion, in a matter of this
kind, must undeniably be regarded as of weight,
T shall transcribe the condemnatory passage, in
order that the public may have a fair opportunity
of judging from the argument. Mr Motherwell
says :—

" It is perhaps unnecessary to mention, that of
every old traditionary ballad known there exists
what may be called different versions : in other
words, the same story is told after a different
fashion in one district of the country, from what
it is remembered in another. It therefore not un-
frequently occurs, that no two copies obtained in
parts of the country distant from each other, will
be found precisely to tally in their texts ; perhaps
they may not have a single stanza which is mutual
property, except certain commonplaces which seem
an integral portion of the original mechanism of
all our ancient ballads, and the presence of which
forms one of their most peculiar and distinctive
characteristics, as contrasted with the modern
ballads. Both of these copies, however, narrate the
same story. In that particular, their identity with



XVI INTRODUCTION.

each other cannot be disputed ; but in many
minute circumstances, as well as in the way by
which tlie same catastrophe is brought out, sensible
differences exist. By selecting the most beautiful
and striking passages, which present themselves
in the one copy, and making these cohere, as they
best mav, with similar extracts detached from the

*/ 7

other copy, the editor of oral poetry succeeds in
producing from the conflicting texts of his various
authorities, a third version more perfect and ornate
than any individual one as it originally stood.
This improved version may contain the quint-
essence, the poetic elements of each copy con-
sulted ; but in this general resemblance to all, it
loses its pai'ticular affinity to any one. Its indi-
viduality entirely disappears ; and those features
by which each separate copy proved its authen-
ticitv, in the collated version become faint and
dubious, confused and undistinguishable."

Now it humbly appears to me that unless Mr
Motherwell intended to maintain (which is a mani-
fest absurdity) that there was a duality or plu-
rality of each ballad from its very origin, this
passage, and much more which he has written to
the same effect, is no argument w'hatever against
a judicious attempt at restoration by collating the



INTKODUCTION. XVU

different versions, wliich are indeed, in many cases,
superabundant. He is right so far, in taking ex-
cejDtion to that mode of editing which consists in
the indiscriminate selection of the best stanzas
from different versions without regard to the con-
text, but I apprehend that he is wrong in his
general conclusion, which is to the effect that " it
is surely the duty of the collector and editor of
traditionary ballads to avoid the perilous and fre-
quently abortive task of uniting discordant and
essentially incohesive texts, and to content him-
self with merely selecting that one of his copies
which appears the most simple and least vitiated,
and to give it purely and simply as he obtained it,
without liazarding any emendation whatever."

If this rule had been observed by all the col-
lectors of traditionary poetry (setting editors for
the mean time aside), it is curious to speculate
upon the results. Almost every collector, Avho
has diligently applied himself 'to the task of gath-
ering together the " disjecta membra poetse" (in-
cluding Sir Walter Scott, the most illustrious of
them all), has, in the course of his researches,
when such a harvest was to be gathered, recovered
two, three, or more versions of the same ballad,

and in many cases a version of it had been printed
VOL. I. b



XVlll INTKODUCTION.

by a previous collector. What, tlien, was the
finder to do? According to Mr Motherwell, he
ought only to give the one version which he con-
sidered the best, omitting or flinging aside the
others, notwithstanding the interest of their various
renderings. But how, if the previous collector
had printed what, on the whole, must be esteemed
a better version than any which the late investi-
gator had found ? Was it his duty then to com-
mit to the flames what he had gathered with so
much trouble ? I apprehend not. If that were so,
undoubtedly the Scottish ballad-book would have
been miserably shorn. If, on the other hand, each
collector had printed, separately and apart, the
whole of the material which he had acquired, our
ballad-book would have swollen to such dropsical
dimensions, that few would have cared to look
upon its bloated surface. I apprehend that Mr
Motherwell, in his indignation at certain mal-
practices, with which both Pinkerton and Allan
Cunningham were undoubtedly chargeable, be-
came too generally dogmatic : for, if collation is
to be thus universally condemned, he is, in his
own person, liable to the charge, as manyW the
pieces in his collection were made up from com-
parison of separate recitations.



INTEODUCTION. XIX

From my earliest years I have been familiar
with the traditionary poetry of my country ; and
I cannot say with truth that subsequent study, or
an acquaintance with those compositions which
rank as classics, has in any way lessened my ad-
miration for those simple but impassioned strains.
They have become, to a certain extent, the first-
lings of my memory ; and verses or snatches oi
them occur to me more readily for illustration
than lines of Horace, which are commonly cited
by Parliamentary speakers, or even the epigram-
matic and antithetical couplets of the poets of the
age of Queen Anne. Such being the case, with-
out arguing any point of taste which might arise
from that confession, I may at least plead early
familiarity with the subject as an excuse for my
present attempt ; and I may further add, that the
idea of collating and restoring, in so far as that
was possible, the scattered fragments of the Scot-
tish ballad-poetry, in a complete form, has long
been present in my mind, and has at various
times, when leisure permitted, occupied much of
my attention. Before my attention was drawn to
active literary pursuits, almost all the floating
minstrelsy which time had spared had been col-
lected by able, industrious, and venerable hands —



XX INTKODUCTION.

di-awn from the great current, and piled in sepa-
rate heaps — but not, as it appeared to me, pro-
perly assorted or arranged. I saw that a good
deal of this material was being quietly abstracted
by votaries of the muse, who were better reno-
vators than inventors, and that several of my old
favourites had been furbished, dressed vip, and
exhibited to the public as novelties ; and knowing
well the value of much that remained, I was not
without apprehension that in the course of time
the whole stock w^ould be absorbed, to reajjpear in
modern glitter and resonance, just as if a hidden
treasure of unicorns, bonnetpieces, and Jacobuses,
were to be discovered by a sly appropriator, and
by liim to be recast as medals bearing his own
name and legend. Such always must be the case
in the absence of a complete collection. I do not
presume to blame the practice. The artist into
whose hands an antique cameo may fall, may un-
doubtedly take a hint from its tracery. All I
contend for is tlie preservation and collection of
the originals. When these are brought together,
and exhibited to the public eye, they are models
for all coming time. Those who copy slavishly
will then be judged according to their work : the
chiselling may be delicate and exquisite, far ex-



INTRODUCTION. XXI

celling that of the model, but ample means will
be afforded of deciding upon the originality of the
design.

There are reasons which, independently of my
own inclination and desire, satisfy me that such
an attempt should be made. In almost every
other country in Europe, the remains of the old
national poetry have been carefully brought to-
gether and consolidated. The Songs of the Cid
and the Moorish romances of Spain exist to us
without variations or conflicting versions. The
old German ditties are preserved in the " Volks-
lieder der Deutschen," edited by Friedrich Karl
von Erlach ; and in the " Knaben Wunderhorn,"
published by Arnim and Brentano, a most delight-
ful book, which, as Heine has well remarked,
" contains the most beauteous flowers of the Ger-
man mind ; and he who would become acquainted
with the German people in their most amiable
aspect, must study these traditionary songs. At
this moment," says he, "the 'Wunderhorn' lies
before me, and I feel as if I were inhaling the
frae:rance of the German linden." The Danish
ballads, which in many respects bear a strong re-
semblance to those of Scotland, and which extend
over a period of several centuries, from the thir-



XXU INTRODUCTION.

teentli to the eighteentli, are contained in that
"well-known and admirable compilation the "Danske
Viser," edited by Abrahamson, Nyernp, and Kah-
bek. In the same way the ballads of Sweden
have been collected by Adolf Iwar Arwidsson,
who, so late as the year 1842, issxied the third
and concluding volume of his series, entitled the
" Svenska Fomsanger," from the press of Stock-
holm. I am given to understand that the old
Sclavonic poetry has been preserved and edited
with equal care ; but of that I cannot speak from
my own knowledge, my only acquaintance with
those ballads being derived from the spirited Ger-
man versions given in the " Volkslieder" of the
accomplished Herder. Thus the foreigner who
wishes to acquire a knowledge of the early poetical
literature of those nations, can at once procure a
perfect and authoritative collection, which is by
no means the case with regard to the Scottish
ballads. These have hitherto been scattered
through many volumes — some indeed common and
popular, but others scarce, and one or two out of
print, having been merely set in type for private
circulation ; and the versions which these contain
are by no means uniform,

I have already said that my object is to frame



INTEODUCTION'. XXUl

as complete a collection as lies in my power of the
old ballads of Scotland ; and if, of each poem, only
one version was extant, the task would have been
a very simple one. But it is not so. The col-
lecting of those ancient remains was commenced
more than a century ago, nnder the auspices of
Allan Ramsay, whose merits as a poet must ever
endear him to his countrymen, but who was really
ill-qualified to discharge the duty of an editor.
He felt no hesitation or remorse in altering, re-
touching, and adding to the old material which
fell into his hands, so as to suit it to the prevalent
taste of the age ; thereby throvnng great difficul-
ties in the way of his successors, who have been
forced again to invoke the uncertain and ever-
altering aid of tradition, for originals which then
might have been easily preserved. His " Tea-
Table Miscellany " and " Evergreen," the publi-
cation of which commenced in the year 1724, con-
tain the fruits of his distorted labours ; but another
and a better channel for the publication of those
interesting reliques was opened by the scheme of
Bishop Percy, who in 1765 published his famous
work, having secured, for the Scottish department,
the able co-operation of Lord Hailes. All laud and
honour be to the memory of Bishop Percy ! Among



XXVI INTRODUCTION.

it, or we Lear it read ; and, although we may
have no extrinsic ground for supposing it to have
been altered, we nevertheless feel instinctively
that there is an incongruity in its parts ; and, by
close examination, we are able with at least toler-
able accuracy to discriminate between what is
genuine and what is counterfeit.

I venture not to say that successful imitation
is impossible. There are no impossibilities in
literature ; and in some persons the imitative
faculty is so largely developed that they might
train themselves by practice into adoption of a
style not naturally their own. But that would
imply more pains and labour than any one is
likely to undergo for the mere sake of counter-
feiting ballads ; and few who have the poetical
impulse strong within them would apply it thus,
when even success could not add anything to
their reputation. I must, however, candidly
admit that there is no infallible test. It is well
knoAvn that imposition of this kind has been fre-
quently practised, for we have many instances of
its detection. But we cannot confidently assert
that it has never been so far successful as to set
detection at defiance. The enthusiasm of col-
lectors is apt to lead them astray ; and sometimes



INTEODUCTION. XXVU

impositions of a very daring character have been
attempted. For example, the late Allan Cunning-
ham, when a yotmg man, communicated to Mr
Cromek, as ancient, many compositions of his
own, which were published in the volume entitled
" Kemains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song."
The poems are really beautiful, for Cunningham
was a man of remarkable genius ; but they do
not show the impress of antiquity, though Cromek
rejoiced over them, as an antiquary might do over
a casket of coins bearing to have been struck in
the days of the Heptarchy. But there may have
been more careful imitators than Allan Cunning-
ham ; and considering that we have nothing to
rely on except tradition, the course of which it is
impossible to trace, extreme dogmatism ought to
be avoided, although it is unquestionably a more
venial fault than infidelity,

A few ballads recovered from recitation appeared
in minor collections made subsequently to Herd's
publication ; but none of these require special
notice. But in 1802, Sir Walter Scott appeared
as a collector of the Scottish ballads, and beyond
all doubt " The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border"
was a splendid proof of his diligence, research,
poetic enthusiasm, and vast acquirement. I ob-



XXVUl INTRODUCTION.

serve with mucli regret, and, I confess, not a little
indignation, that more than one subsequent editor
of the ballads have insinuated a doubt as to the
fidelity of Sir Walter's rendering. My firm belief,
rested on documentary evidence, is that Scott was
most scrupulous in adhering to the very letter of
his transcripts, whenever copies of ballads, pre-
viously taken down, were submitted to him. As
evidence, I refer to the " Song of the Outlaw
Murray," printed in these volumes, of which an
undoubted old copy, made out long before Sir
Walter's time, is now, through the courtesy of
the representative of the Philiphaugh family,
lying before me. It is not a first-class ballad ;
for it is far too lengthy, and in many respects
might have been improved by a judicious work-
man : but Sir Walter has given it throughout just
as he received it. That he retouched and supple-
mented one or two ballads which he gathered from
oral tradition, is quite true ; but lie made no secret
of that. One of the very best of the Border
ballads, " Kinmont Willie," had been so mangled,
as he states ^\•itll perfect frankness, " that some
conjectural emendations have been absolutely
necessary to make it intelligible." That explana-
tion being given, was there anything deceitful in



INTRODUCTION. XXIX

tlie process ? Then, with regard to collation, Sir
Walter followed that course which seems to be
the natural and proper one ; namely, of supplying
lacimce in one copy from material contained in
another ; which, after all, has been the universal
practice of editors. I confess that I have a per-
sonal interest in vindicating this practice, because
several of the ballads which appear in these
volumes, and which I am quite certain will be
regarded as novelties even by such persons as
have studied this branch of native literatme, have
been framed by diligent collation of fragments,
none of which, regarded separately, were of any
value, or even, in some cases, intelligible. Such
are " The Marchioness of Douglas," " The Duke
of AthoU's Nurse," " Hynde Horn," and " Earl
Richard's Wedding ; " which the reader may
confidently accept as ancient.

But even Sir Walter Scott, with all his care
and knowledge, was liable to imposition. It is
now admitted that three ballads which appeared
in the " Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," viz.,
" The Death of Featherstonhaugh," " Lord Eurie,"
and " Bartram's Dirge," were original composi-
tions, after the manner of the antique, by the late
Mr R, Surtees of Mainsforth, near Durham, who



XXX INTRODUCTION".

wasdisingemious enough — I use the mildest phrase
— to palm them off upon Sir Walter Scott, as old
ballads which he had recovered from recitation.
The biographer of Surtees, Mr Taylor, makes
rather light of this equivocal transaction, alleging
that " Surtees no doubt had wished to have the
success of his attempt tested by the unbiassed
opinion of the very first authority on the subject,
and the result must have been gratifying to him.
But at a later period of their intimacy, when per-
sonal regard was added to high admiration for his
correspondent, he probably would not have sub-
jected him to the mortification of finding that he
•could be imposed on in a matter where he had a
right to consider himself as almost infallible."
The first attempt might admit of pardon as an
inconsiderate hoax, but we cannot so regard the
second and third deliberate utterance of forgeries ;
and it is not surprising that Surtees carefully pre-
served his secret during the lifetime of Sir Walter
Scott. I am also inclined to think that the Ettiick
Shepherd, who supplied Sir Walter with some of
his material, was not altogether trastworthy. My
reasons for holding that opinion are stated in the
introductory notices to "Auld Maitland" and
" The Border Widow's Lament."



INTRODUCTION. XXXI

In 1806, Mr Egbert Jamieson publislied his
collection, entitled " Popular Ballads and Songs,
from Tradition, Manuscripts, and Scarce Editions;"
and thereby made an important contribution to the
stock of ballad literature. The immediate success
of this publication was not commensurate with its
merits ; nor did it attract nearly so much attention
as the " Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border." Never-
theless, the versions which it contained were for
the most part of high merit, derived from authentic
sources, carefully collated where collation was
possible, and annotated witli judgment and dis-
cretion. Messrs FiNLAY, KiNLOGH, Maidment,
Sharpe, and Motherwell, have since added
much to the store of ballad poetry, by publish-
ing ballads or fragments which had escaped the
notice or evaded the industry of former collectors,
or versions which differed materially from those
already in circulation. And in 1828, Mr Peter
Buchan published his " Ancient Ballads and
Songs of the North of Scotland," a repertory of
the most curious kind, which I have found of
some value in preparing the present volumes for
the press. Mr Buchan was by no means parti-
cular as to the quality of his material. He took
immense pains to collect every scrap of legendary



XXXU INTRODUCTION,

song which he could find extant in Aberdeenshire
and the adjacent districts, without any minute


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryWilliam Edmondstoune AytounThe ballads of Scotland (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 17)