Captain Wedderburn

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is from Kinloch's MSS., where it was written down from the recitation of Mary Barr: it is entitled 'The Earl of Rosslyn's Daughter.'


The Story is the converse of A Noble Riddle Wisely Expounded, in which the maid wins a husband by riddles; in the present one the captain out-riddles the maid. Similar tales are very popular in many lands, being found in Persia, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Lithuania, East Siberia, etc.

Most of the lady's riddles are found in an old English song, and its traditional derivatives. The song, which is given below, is found in Sloane MS. 2593, which contains other carols and ballads (see pp. 123-8)[A]. From this is derived the nursery song beginning--

'I had four brothers over the sea'

(with many variations:-- 'four sisters,' 'six lovers,' 'a true lover'), and with a curious half-Latin refrain which varies between

Para-mara, dictum, domine,

and

Peri-meri, dixi, domine.

The following is the song referred to above. It was twice printed by T. Wright from the fifteenth-century MS.



1.
I have a yong suster
fer beyondyn the se;
Many be the drowryis
that che sente me.

2.
Che sente me the cherye,
withoutyn ony ston,
And so che dede [the] dowe,
withoutyn ony bon.

3.
Sche sente me the brere,
withoutyn ony rynde,
Sche bad me love my lemman
withoute longgyng.

4.
How xuld ony cherye
be withoute ston?
And how xuld ony dowe
ben withoute bon?

5.
How xuld any brere
ben withoute rynde?
How xuld I love my lemman
without longyng?

6.
Quan the cherye was a flour,
than hadde it non ston;
Quan the dowe was an ey,
than hadde it non bon.

7.
Quan the brere was onbred,
than hadde it non rynd;
Quan the mayden hayt that che lovit,
che is without longing.




CAPTAIN WEDDERBURN

1.
The Lord of Rosslyn's daughter gaed through the wud her lane,
And there she met Captain Wedderburn, a servant to the king.
He said unto his livery man, 'Were 't na agen the law,
I wad tak her to my ain bed, and lay her at the wa'.'

2.
'I'm walking here my lane,' she says, 'amang my father's trees;
And ye may lat me walk my lane, kind sir, now gin ye please.
The supper-bell it will be rung, and I'll be miss'd awa';
Sae I'll na lie in your bed, at neither stock nor wa'.'

3.
He said, 'My pretty lady, I pray lend me your hand,
And ye'll hae drums and trumpets always at your command;
And fifty men to guard ye wi', that weel their swords can draw;
Sae we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'll lie at the wa'.'

4.
'Haud awa' frae me, kind sir, I pray lat go my hand;
The supper-bell it will be rung, nae langer maun I stand.
My father he'll na supper tak, gif I be miss'd awa';
Sae I'll na lie in your bed, at neither stock nor wa'.'

5.
'O my name is Captain Wedderburn, my name I'll ne'er deny,
And I command ten thousand men, upo' yon mountains high.
Tho' your father and his men were here, of them I'd stand na awe,
But should tak ye to my ain bed, and lay ye neist the wa'.'

6.
Then he lap aff his milk-white steed, and set the lady on,
And a' the way he walk'd on foot, he held her by the hand;
He held her by the middle jimp, for fear that she should fa';
Saying, 'I'll tak ye to my ain bed, and lay thee at the wa'.'

7.
He took her to his quartering-house, his landlady looked ben,
Saying, 'Monie a pretty ladie in Edinbruch I've seen;
But sic 'na pretty ladie is not into it a':
Gae, mak for her a fine down-bed, and lay her at the wa'.'

8.
'O haud awa' frae me, kind sir, I pray ye lat me be,
For I'll na lie in your bed till I get dishes three;
Dishes three maun be dress'd for me, gif I should eat them a',
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.

9.
'Tis I maun hae to my supper a chicken without a bane;
And I maun hae to my supper a cherry without a stane;
And I maun hae to my supper a bird without a gaw,
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.'

10.
'Whan the chicken's in the shell, I'm sure it has na bane;
And whan the cherry's in the bloom, I wat it has na stane;
The dove she is a genty bird, she flees without a gaw;
Sae we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'll be at the wa'.'

11.
'O haud awa' frae me, kind sir, I pray ye give me owre,
For I'll na lie in your bed, till I get presents four;
Presents four ye maun gie me, and that is twa and twa,
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.

12.
'Tis I maun hae some winter fruit that in December grew,
And I maun hae a silk mantil that waft gaed never through;
A sparrow's horn, a priest unborn, this nicht to join us twa,
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.'

13.
'My father has some winter fruit that in December grew;
My mither has a silk mantil the waft gaed never through;
A sparrow's horn ye soon may find, there's ane on ev'ry claw,
And twa upo' the gab o' it, and ye shall get them a'.

14.
'The priest he stands without the yett, just ready to come in;
Nae man can say he e'er was born, nae man without he sin;
He was haill cut frae his mither's side, and frae the same let fa':
Sae we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'se lie at the wa'.'

15.
'O haud awa' frae me, kind sir, I pray don't me perplex,
For I'll na lie in your bed till ye answer questions six:
Questions six ye maun answer me, and that is four and twa,
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.

16.
'O what is greener than the gress, what's higher than thae trees?
O what is worse than women's wish, what's deeper than the seas?
What bird craws first, what tree buds first, what first does on them fa'?
Before I lie in your bed, at either stock or wa'.'

17.
'Death is greener than the gress, heaven higher than thae trees;
The devil's waur than women's wish, hell's deeper than the seas;
The cock craws first, the cedar buds first, dew first on them does fa';
Sae we'll baith lie in ae bed, and ye'se lie at the wa','

18.
Little did this lady think, that morning whan she raise,
That this was for to be the last o' a' her maiden days.
But there's na into the king's realm to be found a blither twa,
And now she's Mrs. Wedderburn, and she lies at the wa'.

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