NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED.
There are two Ballads in Mr. HERD'S MSS. upon the following Story,
in one of which the unfortunate Knight is termed YOUNG HUNTIN. A
Fragment, containing from the sixth to the tenth verse, has been
repeatedly published. The best verses are here selected from both
copies, and some trivial alterations have been adopted from tradition.
"O lady, rock never your young son young,
"One hour langer for me;
"For I have a sweetheart in Garlioch Wells,
"I love far better than thee.
"The very sole o' that ladye's foot
"Than thy face is far mair white."—
"But, nevertheless, now, Erl Richard,
"Ye will bide in ray bower a' night?"
She birled [A] him with the ale and wine,
As they sat down to sup;
A living man he laid him down,
But I wot he ne'er rose up.
Then up and spak the popinjay,
That flew aboun her head;
"Lady! keep weel your green cleiding
"Frae gude Erl Richard's bleid."
"O better I'll keep my green cleiding
"Frae gude Erl Richard's bleid,
"Than thou canst keep thy clattering toung,
"That trattles in thy head."
She has call'd upon her bower maidens,
She has call'd them ane by ane;
"There lies a deid man in my bour:
"I wish that he were gane!"
They hae booted him, and spurred him,
As he was wont to ride;—
A hunting-horn tied round his waist,
A sharp sword by his side;
And they hae had him to the wan water,
For a' men call it Clyde.
Then up and spak the popinjay,
That sat upon the tree—
"What hae ye done wi' Erl Richard?
"Ye were his gay ladye."
"Come down, come down, my bonny bird,
"And sit upon my hand;
"And thou sall hae a cage o' gowd,
"Where thou hast but the wand."
"Awa! awa! ye ill woman:
"Nae cage o' gowd for me;
"As ye hae dune to Erl Richard,
"Sae wad ye do to me."
She hadna cross'd a rigg o' land,
A rigg, but barely ane;
When she met wi' his auld father,
Came riding all alane.
"Where hae ye been, now, ladye fair,
"Where hae ye been sae late?"
"We hae been seeking Erl Richard,
"But him we canna get."
"Erl Richard kens a' the fords in Clyde,
"He'll ride them ane by ane,
"And though the night was ne'er sae mirk,
"Erl Richard will he hame."
O it fell anes, upon a day,
The king was boun' to ride;
And he has mist him, Erl Richard,
Should hae ridden on his right side.
The ladye turn'd her round about,
Wi' meikle mournfu' din—
"It fears me sair o' Clyde water,
"That he is drown'd therein."
"Gar douk, gar douk," [B] the king he cried,
"Gar douk for gold and fee;
"O wha will douk for Erl Richard's sake,
"Or wha will douk for me?"
They douked in at ae weil-head, [C]
And out ay at the other;
"We can douk nae mair for Erl Richard,
"Although he were our brother."
It fell that, in that ladye's castle,
The king was boun' to bed;
And up and spake the popinjay,
That flew abune his head.
"Leave off your douking on the day,
"And douk upon the night;
"And where that sackless [D] knight lies slain,
"The candles will burn bright."
"O there's a bird within this bower,
"That sings baith sad and sweet;
"O there's a bird within your bower,
"Keeps me frae my night's sleep."
They left the douking on the day,
And douked upon the night;
And, where that sackless knight lay slain,
The candles burned bright.
The deepest pot in a' the linn,
They fand Erl Richard in;
A grene turf tyed across his breast,
To keep that gude lord down.
Then up and spake the king himsell,
When he saw the deadly wound—
"O wha has slain my right-hand man,
"That held my hawk and hound?"
Then up and spake the popinjay,
Says—"What needs a' this din?
"It was his light lemman took his life,
"And hided him in the linn."
She swore her by the grass, sae grene,
Sae did she by the corn,
She had na' seen him, Erl Richard,
Since Moninday at morn.
"Put na the wite on me," she said;
"It was my may Catherine."
Then they hae cut baith fern and thorn,
To burn that maiden in.
It wadna take upon her cheik,
Nor yet upon her chin;
Nor yet upon her yellow hair,
To cleanse the deadly sin.
The maiden touched the clay-cauld corpse,
A drap it never bled;
The ladye laid her hand on him,
And soon the 'ground was red.
Out they hae ta'en her, may Catherine,
And put her mistress in:
The flame tuik fast upon her cheik,
Tuik fast upon her chin,
Tuik fast upon her faire bodye—
She burn'd like hollins green. [E]
Hollins green—Green holly.
NOTES ON EARL RICHARD.
The candles burned bright.—P. 403. v. 4.
These are unquestionably the corpse lights, called in Wales Canhwyllan
Cyrph, which are sometimes seen to illuminate the spot where a dead
body is concealed. The editor is informed, that, some years ago, the
corpse of a man, drowned in the Ettrick, below Selkirk, was discovered
by means of these candles. Such lights are common in churchyards, and
are probably of a phosphoric nature. But rustic superstition derives
them from supernatural agency, and supposes, that, as soon as life has
departed, a pale flame appears at the window of the house, in which the
person had died, and glides towards the church-yard, tracing through
every winding the route of the future funeral, and pausing where the
bier is to rest. This and other opinions, relating to the "tomb-fires'
livid gleam," seem to be of Runic extraction.
The deepest pot in a' the linn.—P. 403. v. 5.
The deep holes, scooped in the rock by the eddies of a river, are called
pots; the motion of the water having there some resemblance to a
Linn, means the pool beneath a cataract.
The maiden touched the clay-cauld corpse,
A drop it never bled.—P. 405. v. I.
This verse, which is restored from tradition, refers to a superstition
formerly received in most parts of Europe, and even resorted to, by
judicial authority, for the discovery of murder. In Germany, this
experiment was called bahr-recht, or the law of the bier; because,
the murdered body being stretched upon a bier, the suspected person was
obliged to put one hand upon the wound, and the other upon the mouth
of the deceased, and, in that posture, call upon heaven to attest his
innocence. If, during this ceremony, the blood gushed from the mouth,
nose, or wound, a circumstance not unlikely to happen in the course of
shifting or stirring the body, it was held sufficient evidence of the
guilt of the party.
The same singular kind of evidence, although reprobated by Mathaeus and
Carpzovius, was admitted in the Scottish criminal courts, at the short
distance of one century. My readers may be amused by the following
"The laird of Auchindrane (Muir of Auchindrane, in Ayrshire) was accused
of a horrid and private murder, where there were no witnesses, and which
the Lord had witnessed from heaven, singularly by his own hand, and
proved the deed against him. The corpse of the man being buried in
Girvan church-yard, as a man cast away at sea, and cast out there, the
laird of Colzean, whose servant he had been, dreaming of him in his
sleep, and that he had a particular mark upon his body, came and took up
the body, and found it to be the same person; and caused all that lived
near by come and touch the corpse, as is usual in such cases. All round
the place came but Auchindrane and his son, whom nobody suspected, till
a young child of his, Mary Muir, seeing the people examined, came in
among them; and, when she came near the dead body, it sprang out
in bleeding; upon which they were apprehended, and put to the
torture."—WODROW'S History, Vol. I. p. 513. The trial of Auchindrane
happened in 1611. He was convicted and executed.—HUME'S Criminal Law,
Vol. I. p. 428.
A yet more dreadful case was that of Philip Standfield, tried upon the
30th November, 1687, for cursing his father (which, by the Scottish law,
is a capital crime, Act 1661, Chap. 20), and for being accessory
to his murder. Sir James Standfield, the deceased, was a person of
melancholy temperament; so that, when his body was found in a pond near
his own house of Newmilns, he was at first generally supposed to have
drowned himself. But, the body having been hastily buried, a report
arose that he had been strangled by ruffians, instigated by his son
Philip, a profligate youth, whom be had disinherited on account of his
gross debauchery. Upon this rumour, the Privy Council granted warrant to
two surgeons of character, named Crawford and Muirhead, to dig up the
body, and to report the state in which they should find it. Philip
was present on this occasion, and the evidence of both surgeons bears
distinctly, that he stood for some time at a distance from the body
of his parent; but, being called upon to assist in stretching out
the corpse, he put his hand to the head, when the mouth and nostrils
instantly gushed with blood. This circumstance, with the evident
symptoms of terror and remorse, exhibited by young Standfield, seem to
have had considerable weight with the jury, and are thus stated in the
indictment: "That his (the deceased's) nearest relations being required
to lift the corpse into the coffin, after it had been inspected, upon
the said Philip Standfield touching of it (according to God's usual
mode of discovering murder), it bled afresh upon the said Philip; and
that thereupon he let the body fall, and fled from it in the greatest
consternation, crying, Lord have mercy upon me!" The prisoner was found
guilty of being accessory to the murder of his father, although there
was little more than strong presumptions against him. It is true, he was
at the same time separately convicted of the distinct crimes of having
cursed his father, and drank damnation to the monarchy and hierarchy.
His sentence, which was to have his tongue cut out, and hand struck off,
previous to his being hanged, was executed with the utmost rigour. He
denied the murder with his last breath. "It is," says a contemporary
judge, "a dark case of divination, to be remitted to the great day,
whether he was guilty or innocent. Only it is certain he
was a bad youth, and may serve as a beacon to all profligate
persons."—FOUNTAINHALL'S Decisions, Vol. I. p. 483.
While all ranks believed alike the existence of these prodigies, the
vulgar were contented to refer them to the immediate interference of the
Deity, or, as they termed it, God's revenge against murder. But those,
who, while they had overleaped the bounds of superstition, were still
entangled in the mazes of mystic philosophy, amongst whom we must
reckon many of the medical practitioners, endeavoured to explain the
phenomenon, by referring to the secret power of sympathy, which even
Bacon did not venture to dispute. To this occult agency was imputed the
cure of wounds, effected by applying salves and powders, not to
the wound itself, but to the sword or dagger, by which it had been
inflicted; a course of treatment, which, wonderful as it may at first
seem, was certainly frequently attended with signal success. [A] This,
however, was attributed to magic, and those, who submitted to such a
mode of cure, were refused spiritual assistance.
The vulgar continue to believe firmly in the phenomenon of the murdered
corpse bleeding at the approach of the murderer. "Many (I adopt the
words of an ingenious correspondent) are the proofs advanced in
confirmation of the opinion, against those who are so hardy as to doubt
it; but one, in particular, as it is said to have happened in this
place, I cannot help repeating.
The first part of the process was to wash the wound clean,
and bind it up so as to promote adhesion, and exclude the air. Now,
though the remedies, afterwards applied to the sword, could hardly
promote so desirable an issue, yet it is evident the wound stood a good
chance of healing by the operation of nature, which, I believe, medical
gentlemen call a cure by the first intention.
"Two young men, going a fishing in the river Yarrow, fell out; and so
high ran the quarrel, that the one, in a passion, stabbed the other to
the heart with a fish spear. Astonished "at the rash act, he hesitated
whether to fly, give himself up to justice, or conceal the crime; and,
in the end, fixed on the latter expedient, burying the body of his
friend very deep in the sands. As the meeting had been accidental, he
was never from gaiety to a settled melancholy. Time passed on for
the space of fifty years, when a smith, fishing near the same place,
discovered an uncommon and curious bone, which he put in his pocket,
and afterwards showed to some people in his smithy. The murderer being
present, now an old white-headed man, leaning on his staff, desired a
sight of the little bone; but how horrible was the issue! no sooner had
he touched it, than it streamed with purple blood. Being told where it
was found, he confessed the crime, was condemned, but was prevented, by
death, from suffering the punishment due to his crime.
"Such opinions, though reason forbids us to believe them, a few moments
reflection on the cause of their origin will teach us to revere. Under
the feudal system which prevailed, the rights of humanity were too often
violated, and redress very hard to be procured; thus an awful deference
to one of the leading attributes of Omnipotence begat on the mind,
untutored by philosophy, the first germ of these supernatural effects;
which was, by superstitious zeal, assisted, perhaps, by a few instances
of sudden remorse, magnified into evidence of indisputable guilt."