Brown Robin

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is here given from the Jamieson-Brown MS. Versions, lengthened and therefore less succinct and natural, are given in Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs (Love Robbie) and in Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland (Brown Robyn and Mally).

The Story is a genuine bit of romance. The proud porter is apparently suspicious, believing that the king's daughter would not have made him drunk for any good purpose. In spite of that he cannot see through Brown Robin's disguise, though the king remarks that 'this is a sturdy dame.' The king's daughter, one would think, who conceals Robin's bow in her bosom, must also have been somewhat sturdy. Note the picturesque touch in 8.2.


The king but an' his nobles a' } bis
Sat birling at the wine; }
He would ha' nane but his ae daughter
To wait on them at dine.

She's served them butt, she's served them ben,
Intill a gown of green,
But her e'e was ay on Brown Robin,
That stood low under the rain.

She's doen her to her bigly bow'r,
As fast as she coud gang,
An' there she's drawn her shot-window,
An' she's harped an' she sang.

'There sits a bird i' my father's garden,
An' O but she sings sweet!
I hope to live an' see the day
When wi' my love I'll meet.'

'O gin that ye like me as well
As your tongue tells to me,
What hour o' the night, my lady bright,
At your bow'r sal I be?'

'Whan my father an' gay Gilbert
Are baith set at the wine,
O ready, ready I will be
To lat my true-love in.'

O she has birl'd her father's porter
Wi' strong beer an' wi' wine,
Untill he was as beastly drunk
As ony wild-wood swine:
She's stown the keys o' her father's yates
An latten her true-love in.

When night was gane, an' day was come,
An' the sun shone on their feet,
Then out it spake him Brown Robin,
'I'll be discover'd yet.'

Then out it spake that gay lady:
'My love ye need na doubt,
For wi' ae wile I've got you in,
Wi' anither I'll bring you out.'

She's ta'en her to her father's cellar,
As fast as she can fare;
She's drawn a cup o' the gude red wine,
Hung 't low down by her gare;
An' she met wi' her father dear
Just coming down the stair.

'I woud na gi' that cup, daughter,
That ye hold i' your han',
For a' the wines in my cellar,
An' gantrees whare the[y] stan'.'

'O wae be to your wine, father,
That ever 't came o'er the sea;
'Tis pitten my head in sic a steer
I' my bow'r I canna be.'

'Gang out, gang out, my daughter dear,
Gang out an' tack the air;
Gang out an' walk i' the good green wood,
An' a' your marys fair.'

Then out it spake the proud porter--
Our lady wish'd him shame--
'We'll send the marys to the wood,
But we'll keep our lady at hame.'

'There's thirty marys i' my bow'r,
There's thirty o' them an' three;
But there 's nae ane amo' them a'
Kens what flow'r gains for me.'

She's doen her to her bigly bow'r
As fast as she could gang,
An' she has dresst him Brown Robin
Like ony bow'r-woman.

The gown she pat upon her love
Was o' the dainty green,
His hose was o' the saft, saft silk,
His shoon o' the cordwain fine.

She's pitten his bow in her bosom,
His arrow in her sleeve,
His sturdy bran' her body next,
Because he was her love.

Then she is unto her bow'r-door
As fast as she coud gang;
But out it spake the proud porter--
Our lady wish'd him shame--
'We'll count our marys to the wood,
And we'll count them back again.'

The firsten mary she sent out
Was Brown Robin by name;
Then out it spake the king himsel',
'This is a sturdy dame.'

O she went out in a May morning,
In a May morning so gay,
But she never came back again,
Her auld father to see.

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