NOW FIRST PUBLISHED.
This ballad, which is a very great favourite among the inhabitants of
Ettrick Forest, is universally believed to be founded in fact. The
editor found it easy to collect a variety of copies; but very difficult,
indeed, to select from them such a collated edition, as may, in any
degree, suit the taste of "these more light and giddy-paced times."
Tradition places the event, recorded in the song, very early; and it
is probable that the ballad was composed soon afterwards, although
the language has been gradually modernized, in the course of
its transmission to us, through the inaccurate channel of oral
tradition.—The bard does not relate particulars, but barely the
striking outlines of a fact, apparently so well known when he wrote,
as to render minute detail as unnecessary, as it is always tedious and
The hero of the ballad was a knight of great bravery, called Scott,
who is said to have resided at Kirkhope, or Oakwood castle, and is, in
tradition, termed the Baron of Oakwood. The estate of Kirkhope belonged
anciently to the Scotts of Harden: Oakwood is still their property,
and has been so from time immemorial. The editor was therefore led to
suppose, that the hero of the ballad might have been identified with
John Scott, sixth son of the laird of Harden, murdered in Ettrick
Forest by his kinsmen, the Scotts of Gilmanscleugh (see notes to Jamie
Telfer, Vol. I. p. 152). This appeared the more probable, as the common
people always affirm, that this young man was treacherously slain, and
that, in evidence thereof, his body remained uncorrupted for many years;
so that even the roses on his shoes seemed as fresh as when he was first
laid in the family vault at Hassendean. But from a passage in Nisbet's
Heraldry, he now believes the ballad refers to a duel fought at
Deucharswyre, of which Annan's Treat is a part, betwixt John Scott of
Tushielaw and his brother-in-law Walter Scott, third son of Robert of
Thirlestane, in which the latter was slain.
In ploughing Annan's Treat, a huge monumental stone, with an
inscription, was discovered; but being rather scratched than engraved,
and the lines being run through each other, it is only possible to
read one or two Latin words. It probably records the event of the
combat.—The person slain was the male ancestor of the present Lord
Tradition affirms, that the hero of the song (be he who he may) was
murdered by the brother, either of his wife, or betrothed bride. The
alleged cause of malice was, the lady's father having proposed to endow
her with half of his property, upon her marriage with a warrior of such
renown. The name of the murderer is said to have been Annan, and the
place of combat is still called Annan's Treat. It is a low muir, on the
banks of the Yarrow, lying to the west of Yarrow Kirk. Two tall unhewn
masses of stone are erected, about eighty yards distant from each other;
and the least child, that can herd a cow, will tell the passenger, that
there lie "the two lords, who were slain in single combat."
It will be, with many readers, the greatest recommendation of these
verses, that they are supposed to have suggested to Mr Hamilton, of
Bangour, the modern ballad, beginning,
"Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride."
A fragment, apparently regarding the story of the following ballad, but
in a different measure, occurs in Mr Herd's MSS., and runs thus:—
"When I look cast, my heart is sair,
"But when I look west, its mair and mair;
"For then I see the braes o' Yarrow,
"And there, for aye, I lost my marrow."
THE DOWIE DENS OF YARROW.
Late at e'en, drinking the wine,
And ere they paid the lawing,
They set a combat them between,
To fight it in the dawing.
"O stay at hame, my noble lord!
"O stay at hame, my marrow!
"My cruel brother will you betray
"On the dowie houms of Yarrow."
"O fare ye weel, my ladye gaye!
"O fare ye weel, my Sarah!
"For I maun gae, though I ne'er return,
"Frae the dowie banks o' Yarrow.
She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair,
As oft she had done before, O;
She belted him with his noble brand,
And he's awa' to Yarrow.
As he gaed up the Tennies bank,
I wot he gaed wi' sorrow,
Till, down in a den, he spied nine arm'd men,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.
"O come ye here to part your land,
"The bonnie forest thorough?
"Or come ye here to wield your brand,
"On the dowie houms of Yarrow?"
"I come not here to part my land,
"And neither to beg nor borrow;
"I come to wield my noble brand,
"On the bonnie banks of Yarrow.
"If I see all, ye're nine to ane;
"And that's an unequal marrow;
"Yet will I fight, while lasts my brand,
"On the bonnie banks of Yarrow."
Four has he hurt, and five has slain,
On the bloody braes of Yarrow,
Till that stubborn knight came him behind,
And ran his bodie thorough.
"Gae hame, gae hame, good-brother [A] John,
"And tell your sister Sarah,
"To come and lift her leafu' lord;
"He's sleepin sound on Yarrow."——
"Yestreen I dream'd a dolefu' dream;
"I fear there will be sorrow!
"I dream'd, I pu'd the heather green,
"Wi' my true love, on Yarrow.
"O gentle wind, that bloweth south,
"From where my love repaireth,
"Convey a kiss from his dear mouth,
"And tell me how he fareth!
"But in the glen strive armed men;
"They've wrought me dole and sorrow;
"They've slain—the comeliest knight they've slain—
"He bleeding lies on Yarrow."
As she sped down yon high high hill,
She gaed wi' dole and sorrow,
And in the den spyed ten slain men,
On the dowie banks of Yarrow.
She kissed his cheek, she kaim'd his hair,
She search'd his wounds all thorough;
She kiss'd them, till her lips grew red,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.
"Now, haud your tongue, my daughter dear!
"For a' this breeds but sorrow;
"I'll wed ye to a better lord,
"Than him ye lost on Yarrow."
"O haud your tongue, my father dear!
"Ye mind me but of sorrow;
"A fairer rose did never bloom
"Than now lies cropp'd on Yarrow."