- Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. I (Jock o' the Side.) by Sir Walter Scott
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Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. I
Jock o' the Side.

by Sir Walter Scott

The subject of this ballad, being a common event in those troublesome and disorderly times, became a favourite theme of the ballad-makers. There are, in this collection, no fewer than three poems on the rescue of prisoners, the incidents in which nearly resemble each other; though the poetical description is so different, that the editor did not think himself at liberty to reject any one of them, as borrowed from the others. As, however, there are several verses, which, in recitation, are common to all these three songs, the editor, to prevent unnecessary and disagreeable repetition, has used the freedom of appropriating them to that, in which they seem to have the best poetic effect.

The reality of this story rests solely upon the foundation of tradition. Jock o' the side seems to have been nephew to the laird of Mangertoun, cousin to the Laird's Jock, one of his deliverers, and probably brother to Chrystie of the Syde, mentioned in the list of border clans 1597. Like the Laird's Jock, he also is commemorated by Sir Richard Maitland.—See the Introduction.
He is weil kend, Johne of the Syde,
A greater theif did never ryde;
He never tyris
For to brek byris.
Our muir and myris
Ouir gude ane guide.
The land-serjeant, mentioned in this ballad, and also in that of Hobble Noble, was an officer under the warden, to whom was committed the apprehending of delinquents, and the care of the public peace.


Now Liddesdale has ridden a raid,
But I wat they had better hae staid at hame;
For Michael o' Winfield he is dead,
And Jock o' the Side is prisoner ta'en.

For Mangerton house Lady Downie has gane,
Her coats she has kilted up to her knee;
And down the water wi' speed she rins,
While tears in spaits [175] fa' fast frae her e'e.

Then up and spoke our gude auld lord—
"What news, what news, sister Downie, to me?"
"Bad news, bad news, my Lord Mangerton;
"Michael is killed, and they hae ta'en my son Johnie."

"Ne'er fear, sister Downie," quo' Mangerton;
"I have yokes of ousen, eighty and three;
"My barns, my byres, and my faulds a' weil fill'd,
And I'll part wi' them a' ere Johnie shall die.

"Three men I'll send to set him free,
A' harneist wi' the best o' steil;
The English louns may hear, and drie
The weight o' their braid-swords to feel.

"The Laird's Jock ane, the Laird's Wat twa,
O Hobbie Noble, thou ane maun be!
Thy coat is blue, thou hast been true,
Since England banish'd thee to me."

Now Hobbie was an English man,
In Bewcastle dale was bred and born:
But his misdeeds they were sae great,
They banish'd him ne'er to return.

Lord Mangerton them orders gave,
"Your horses the wrang way maun be shod;
Like gentlemen ye mauna seim,
But look like corn-caugers [176] ga'en the road.

"Your armour gude ye mauna shaw,
Nor yet appear like men o' weir;
As country lads be a' array'd,
Wi' branks and brecham [177] on each mare."

Sae now their horses are the wrang way shod.
And Hobbie has mounted his grey sae fine;
Jock his lively bay, Wat's on his white horse, behind,
And on they rode for the water of Tyne

At the Cholerford they all light down,
And there, wi' the help of the light o' the moon,
A tree they cut, wi' fifteen nogs on each side,
To climb up the wa' of Newcastle toun.

But when they cam to Newcastle toun,
And were alighted at the wa',
They fand their tree three ells ower laigh,
They fand their stick baith short and sma'.

Then up and spak the Laird's ain Jock;
"There's naething for't; the gates we maun force."
But when they cam the gate untill,
A proud porter withstood baith men and horse.

His neck in twa the Armstrangs wrang;
Wi' fute or hand he ne'er play'd pa!
His life and his keys at anes they hae ta'en,
And cast the body ahind the wa'.

Now sune they reach Newcastle jail,
And to the prisoner thus they call;
"Sleeps thou, wakes thou, Jock o' the Side,
Or art thou weary of thy thrall?"

Jock answers thus, wi' dulefu' tone;
"Aft, aft, I wake—I seldom sleep:
But whae's this kens my name sae well,
And thus to mese [178] my waes does seik?"

Then out and spak the gude Laird's Jock,
"Now fear ye na, my billie," quo' he;
"For here are the Laird's Jock, the Laird's Wat,
And Hobbie Noble, come to set thee free."

"Now hand thy tongue, my gude Laird's Jock;
For ever, alas! this canna be;
For if a' Liddesdale was here the night,
The morn's the day that I maun die.

"Full fifteen stane o' Spanish iron,
They hae laid a' right sair on me;
Wi' locks and keys I am fast bound
Into this dungeon dark and dreirie."

"Fear ye na' that," quo' the Laird's Jock;
"A faint heart ne'er wan a fair ladie;
Work thou within, we'll work without,
And I'll be sworn we'll set thee free."

The first strong door that they cam at,
They loosed it without a key;
The next chain'd door that they cam at,
They garr'd it a' to flinders flee.

The prisoner now upon his back,
The Laird's Jock has gotten up fu' hie;
And down the stair, him, irons and a',
Wi' nae sma' speid and joy, brings he.

"Now, Jock, my man," quo' Hobbie Noble,
"Some o' his weight ye may lay on me."
"I wat weil no!" quo' the Laird's ain Jock,
"I count him lighter than a flee."

Sae out at the gates they a' are gane,
The prisoner's set on horseback hie;
And now wi' speid they've ta'en the gate,
While ilk ane jokes fu' wantonlie:

"O Jock! sae winsomely's ye ride,
Wi' baith your feet upon ae side;
Sae weel ye're harneist, and sae trig,
In troth ye sit like ony bride!"

The night, tho' wat, they did na mind,
But hied them on fu' merrilie,
Until they cam to Cholerford brae, [179]
Where the water ran like mountains hie.

But when they cam to Cholerford,
There they'met with an auld man;
Says—"Honest man, will the water ride?
Tell us in haste, if that ye can."

"I wat weel no," quo' the gude auld man;
"I hae lived here threty years and thrie,
And I ne'er yet saw the Tyne sae big,
Nor running anes sae like a sea."

Then out and spak the Laird's saft Wat,
The greatest coward in the cumpanie;
"Now halt, now halt! we need na try't;
The day is come we a' maun die!"

"Puir faint-hearted thief!" cried the Laird's ain Jock,
"There'l nae man die but him that's fie; [180]
I'll guide ye a' right safely thro';
Lift ye the pris'ner on ahint me."

Wi' that the water they hae ta'en,
By ane's and twa's they a' swam thro';
"Here are we a' safe," quo' the Laird's Jock,
"And, puir faint Wat, what think ye now?"

They scarce the other brae had won,
When twenty men they saw pursue;
Frae Newcastle toun they had been sent,
A' English lads baith stout and true.

But when the land-serjeant the water saw,
"It winna ride, my lads," says he;
Then cried aloud—"The prisoner take,
But leave the fetters, I pray, to me."

"I wat weil no," quo' the Laird's Jock;
"I'll keep them a'; shoon to my mare they'll be,
My gude bay mare—for I am sure,
She has bought them a' right dear frae thee."

Sae now they are on to Liddesdale,
E'en as fast as they could them hie;
The prisoner is brought to's ain fire side,
And there o's airns they mak him free.

"Now, Jock, my billie," quo' a' the three,
"The day is com'd thou was to die;
But thou's as weil at thy ain ingle side,
Now sitting, I think, 'twixt thee and me."


[175] Spaits—Torrents.

[176] Caugers—Carriers.

[177] Branks and brecham—Halter and cart-collar.

[178] Mese—Soothe.

[179] Cholerford brae—A ford upon the Tyne, above Hexham.

[180] Fie—Predestined.
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