Brown Robyn's Confession

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is the only one known, that printed by Buchan, Ballads of the North of Scotland, and copied into Motherwell's MS.

The Story, relating as it does a miracle of the Virgin, is, perhaps, the only one we possess of a class which, in other lands, is so extensive. A similar Scandinavian ballad has a tragical termination, except in one version.

The casting of lots to discover the Jonah of a ship is a feature common to many literatures.


It fell upon a Wodensday
Brown Robyn's men went to sea,
But they saw neither moon nor sun,
Nor starlight wi' their ee.

'We'll cast kevels us amang,
See wha the unhappy man may be;'
The kevel fell on Brown Robyn,
The master-man was he.

'It is nae wonder,' said Brown Robyn,
'Altho I dinna thrive,
For wi' my mither I had twa bairns,
And wi' my sister five.

'But tie me to a plank o' wude
And throw me in the sea;
And if I sink; ye may bid me sink,
But if I swim, just lat me bee.'

They've tyed him to a plank o' wude,
And thrown him in the sea;
He didna sink, tho' they bade him sink;
He swim'd, and they bade lat him bee.

He hadna been into the sea
An hour but barely three,
Till by it came Our Blessed Lady,
Her dear young son her wi'.

'Will ye gang to your men again,
Or will ye gang wi' me?
Will ye gang to the high heavens,
Wi' my dear son and me?'

'I winna gang to my men again,
For they would be feared at mee;
But I woud gang to the high heavens,
Wi' thy dear son and thee.'

'It's for nae honour ye did to me, Brown Robyn,
It's for nae guid ye did to mee;
But a' is for your fair confession
You've made upon the sea.'

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