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Ch. 7: Conclusions

We have now examined critically the four essentially Border ballads which Sir Walter is suspected of having "edited" in an unrighteous manner. Now he helps to forge, and issues Auld Maitland. Now he, or somebody, makes up Otterburne, "partly of stanzas from Percy's Reliques, which have undergone emendations calculated to disguise the source from which they came, partly of stanzas of modern fabrication, and partly of a few stanzas and lines from Herd's version." {148a} Thirdly, Scott, it is suggested, knew only what I call "the Elliot version" of Jamie Telfer, perverted that by transposing the roles of Buccleuch and Stobs, and added picturesque stanzas in glorification of his ancestor, Wat of Harden. Fourthly, he is suspected of "writing the whole ballad" of Kinmont Willie, "from beginning to end."

Of these four charges the first, and most disastrous, we have absolutely disproved. Scott did not write one verse of the Auld Maitland; he edited it with unusual scrupulosity, for he had but one copy, and an almost identical recitation. He could not "eke and alter" by adding verses from other texts, as he did in Otterburne.

Secondly, Scott did not make up Otterburne in the way suggested by his critic. He took Hogg's MS., and I have shown minutely what that MS. was, and he edited it in accordance with his professed principles. He made "a standard text." It is only to be regretted that Hogg did not take down VERBATIM the words of his two reciters and narrators, and that Scott did not publish Hogg's version, with his letter, in his notes; but that was not his method, nor the method of his contemporaries.

Thirdly, as to Jamie Telfer, long ago I wrote, opposite


"The lyart locks of Harden's hair,"


aut Jacobus aut Diabolus, meaning that either James Hogg or the devil composed that stanza. I was wrong. Hogg had nothing to do with it; on internal evidence Scott was the maker. But that he transposed the Scott and Elliot roles is incapable of proof; and I have shown that such perversions were made in very early times, where national, not clan prejudices were concerned. I have also shown that Scott's version contains matter not in the Elliot version, matter injurious to the poem, as in one stanza, certainly not composed by himself, the stanza being an inappropriate stray formula from other ballads. But, in the absence of manuscript materials I can only produce presumptions, not proofs.

Lastly, Kinmont Willie, and Scott's share in it, is matter of presumption, not of proof. He had been in quest of the ballad, as we know from his list of desiderata; he says that what he got was "mangled" by reciters, and that, in what he got, one river was mentioned where topography requires another. He also admits that, in the three ballads of rescues, he placed passages where they had most poetical appropriateness. My arguments to show that Satchells had memory of a Kinmont ballad will doubtless appeal with more or less success, or with none, to different students. That an indefinite quantity of the ballad, and improvements on the rest, are Scott's, I cannot doubt, from evidence of style.

"Sir Walter Scott it is impossible to assail, however much the scholarly conscience may disapprove," says Mr. Kittredge. {150a} Not much is to be taken by assailing him! "Business first, pleasure afterwards," as, according to Sam Weller, Richard III. said, when he killed Henry VI. before smothering the princes in the Tower. I proceed to pleasure in the way of presenting imitations of "the traditional ballad" which "appears to be inimitable by any person of literary cultivation," according to Mr. Kittredge.


IMITATIONS OF BALLADS


The three following ballads are exhibited in connection with Mr. Kittredge's opinion that neither poet nor poetaster can imitate, to- day, the traditional ballad. Of course, not one of my three could now take in an expert, for he would ask for documentary evidence of their antiquity. But I doubt if Mr. Kittredge can find any points in my three imitations which infallibly betray their modernity

The first, Simmy o' Whythaugh, is based on facts in the Border despatches. Historically the attempt to escape from York Castle failed; after the prisoners had got out they were recaptured.

The second ballad, The Young Ruthven, gives the traditional view of the slaying of the Ruthvens in their own house in Perth, on 5th August 1600.

The third, The Dead Man's Dance, combines the horror of the ballads of Lizzy Wan and The Bonny Hind, with that of the Romaic ballad, in English, The Suffolk Miracle (Child, No. 272).


I.

SIMMY O' WHYTHAUGH

O, will ye hear o' the Bishop o' York,
   O, will ye hear o' the Armstrongs true,
How they hae broken the Bishop's castle,
   And carried himsel' to the bauld Buccleuch?

They were but four o' the Lariston kin, They were but four o' the Armstrong name, Wi' stout Sim Armstrong to lead the band, The Laird o' Whythaugh, I mean the same.

They had done nae man an injury, They had na robbed, they had na slain, In pledge were they laid for the Border peace, In the Bishop's castle to dree their pain.

The Bishop he was a crafty carle, He has ta'en their red and their white monie, But the muddy water was a' their drink, And dry was the bread their meat maun be.

"Wi' a ged o' airn," did Simmy say, "And ilka man wi' a horse to ride, We aucht wad break the Bishop's castle, And carry himsel' to the Liddel side.

"The banks o' Whythaugh I sall na see, I never sall look upon wife and bairn; I wad pawn my saul for my gude mear, Jean, I wad pawn my saul for a ged o' airn."

There was ane that brocht them their water and bread; His gude sire, he was a kindly Scot, Says "Your errand I'll rin to the Laird o' Cessford, If ye'll swear to pay me the rescue shot."

Then Simmy has gi'en him his seal and ring, To the Laird o' Cessford has ridden he-- I trow when Sir Robert had heard his word The tear it stood in Sir Robert's e'e.

"And saIl they starve him, Simmy o' Whythaugh, And sall his bed be the rotten strae? I trow I'll spare neither life nor gear, Or ever I live to see that day!

"Gar bring up my horses," Sir Robert he said, "I bid ye bring them by three and three, And ane by ane at St. George's close, At York gate gather your companie."

Oh, some rade like corn-cadger men, And some like merchants o' linen and hose; They slept by day and they rade by nicht, Till they a' convened at St. George's close.

Ilka mounted man led a bridded mear, I trow they had won on the English way; Ilka belted man had a brace o' swords, To help their friends to fend the fray.

Then Simmy he heard a hoolet cry In the chamber strang wi' never a licht; "That's a hoolet, I ken," did Simmy say, "And I trow that Teviotdale's here the nicht!"

They hae grippit a bench was clamped wi' steel, Wi' micht and main hae they wrought, they four, They hae burst it free, and rammed wi' the bench, Till they brake a hole in the chamber door.

"Lift strae frae the beds," did Simmy say; To the gallery window Simmy sped, He has set his strength to a window bar, And bursten it out o' the binding lead.

He has bursten the bolts o' the Elliot men, Out ower the window the strae cast he, For they bid to loup frae the window high, And licht on the strae their fa' would be.

To the Bishop's chamber Simmy ran; "Oh, sleep ye saft, my Lord!" says he; "Fu' weary am I o' your bread and water, Ye'se hae wine and meat when ye dine wi' me."

He has lifted the loon across his shoulder; "We maun leave the hoose by the readiest way!" He has cast him doon frae the window high, And a' to hansel the new fa'n strae!

Then twa by twa the Elliots louped, The Armstrongs louped by twa and twa. "I trow, if we licht on the auld fat Bishop, That nane the harder will be the fa'!"

They rade by nicht and they slept by day; I wot they rade by an unkenned track; "The Bishop was licht as a flea," said Sim, "Or ever we cam' to the Liddel rack."

Then "Welcome, my Lord," did Simmy say, "We'll win to Whythaugh afore we dine, We hae drunk o' your cauld and ate o' your dry, But ye'll taste o' our Liddesdale beef and wine."


II.

THE YOUNG RUTHVEN

The King has gi'en the Queen a gift,
   For her May-day's propine,
He's gi'en her a band o' the diamond-stane,
   Set in the siller fine.

The Queen she walked in Falkland yaird, Beside the hollans green, And there she saw the bonniest man That ever her eyes had seen.

His coat was the Ruthven white and red, Sae sound asleep was he The Queen she cried on May Beatrix, That bonny lad to see.

"Oh! wha sleeps here, May Beatnix, Without the leave o' me?" "Oh! wha suld it be but my young brother Frae Padua ower the sea!

"My father was the Earl Gowrie, An Earl o' high degree, But they hae slain him by fause treason, And gar'd my brothers flee.

"At Padua hae they learned their leir In the fields o' Italie; And they hae crossed the saut sea-faem. And a' for love o' me!"

* * * * *

The Queen has cuist her siller band About his craig o' snaw; But still he slept and naething kenned, Aneth the hollans shaw.

The King was walking thro' the yaird, He saw the siller shine; "And wha," quo' he, "is this galliard That wears yon gift o' mine?"

The King has gane till the Queen's ain bower, An angry man that day; But bye there cam' May Beatrix And stole the band away.

And she's run in by the little black yett, Straight till the Queen ran she: "Oh! tak ye back your siller band, On it gar my brother dee!"

The Queen has linked her siller band About her middle sma'; And then she heard her ain gudeman Come sounding through the ha'.

"Oh! whare," he cried, "is the siller band I gied ye late yestreen? The knops was a' o' the diamond-stane, Set in the siller sheen."

"Ye hae camped birling at the wine, A' nicht till the day did daw; Or ye wad ken your siller band About my middle sma'!"

The King he stude, the King he glowered, Sae hard as a man micht stare: "Deil hae me! Like is a richt ill mark,-- Or I saw it itherwhere!

"I saw it round young Ruthven's neck As he lay sleeping still; And, faith, but the wine was wondrous guid, Or my wife is wondrous ill!"

There was na gane a week, a week, A week but barely three; The King has hounded John Ramsay out, To gar young Ruthven dee!

They took him in his brother's house, Nae sword was in his hand, And they hae slain him, young Ruthven, The bonniest in the land!

And they hae slain his fair brother, And laid him on the green, And a' for a band o' the siller fine And a blink o' the eye o' the Queen!

Oh! had they set him man to man, Or even ae man to three, There was na a knight o' the Ramsay bluid Had gar'd Earl Gowrie dee!


III.

THE DEAD MAN'S DANCE

"The dance is in the castle ha',
   And wha will dance wi' me?"
"There's never a man o' living men,
   Will dance the nicht wi' thee!"

Then Margaret's gane within her bower, Put ashes on her hair, And ashes on her bonny breast And on hen shoulders bare.

There cam' a knock to her bower-door, And blythe she let him in; It was her brother frae the wars, She lo'ed abune her kin.

"Oh, Willie, is the battle won? Or are you fled?" said she, "This nicht the field was won and lost, A' in a far countrie.

"This nicht the field was lost and won, A' in a far countrie, And here am I within your bower, For nane will dance with thee."

"Put gold upon your head, Margaret, Put gold upon your hair, And gold upon your girdle-band, And on your breast so fair!"

"Nay, nae gold for my breast, Willie, Nay, nae gold for my hair, It's ashes o' oak and dust o' earth, That you and I maun wear!

"I canna dance, I mauna dance, I daurna dance with thee. To dance atween the quick and the deid, Is nae good companie."

* * * * *

The fire it took upon her cheek, It took upon her chin, Nae Mass was sung, nor bells was rung, For they twa died in deidly sin.


{148a} Further Essays, p. 45.

{150a} Ballads, p. xxix.


THE END.

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Andrew Lang

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