Dick O' The Cow

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is a combination of three, but mainly from a text which seems to have been sent to Percy in 1775. The other two are from Scottish tradition of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I have made a few changes in spelling only. The ballad was certainly known before the end of the sixteenth century, as Thomas Nashe refers to it in 1596:--'Dick of the Cow, that mad Demilance Northren Borderer, who plaid his prizes with the Lord Iockey so brauely' (Nashe 's Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow, iii. p. 5). Dick at the Caw occurs in a list of 'penny merriments' printed for, and sold by, Philip Brooksby, about 1685.


The Story is yet another of the Border ballads of the Armstrongs and Liddesdale, and tells itself in an admirable way.

The 'Cow,' of course, cannot refer to cattle, as the word would be 'Kye': possibly it means 'broom,' or the hut in which he lived. See Murray's Dictionary, and cp. 9.3

'Billie' means 'brother'; hence the quaint 'billie Willie.' It is the same word as 'bully,' used of Bottom the Weaver, which also occurs in the ballad of Bewick and Grahame, 5.2 (see p. 102 of this volume).


DICK O' THE COW

1.
Now Liddisdale has long lain in,
Fa la
There is no rideing there at a';
Fa la
Their horse is growing so lidder and fatt
That are lazie in the sta'.
Fa la la didle

2.
Then Johnë Armstrang to Willie can say,
'Billie, a rideing then will we;
England and us has been long at a feed;
Perhaps we may hitt of some bootie.

3.
Then they're com'd on to Hutton Hall,
They rade that proper place about;
But the laird he was the wiser man,
For he had left nae gear without.

4.
Then he had left nae gear to steal,
Except six sheep upon a lee;
Says Johnie, 'I'de rather in England die,
Before their six sheep goed to Liddisdale with me.

5.
'But how cal'd they the man we last with mett,
Billie, as we came over the know?'
'That same he is an innocent fool,
And some men calls him Dick o' the Cow.'

6.
'That fool has three as good kyne of his own
As is in a' Cumberland, billie,' quoth he;
'Betide my life, betide my death,
These three kyne shal go to Liddisdaile with me.'

7.
Then they're com'd on to the poor fool's house,
And they have broken his wals so wide;
They have loos'd out Dick o' the Cow's kyne three,
And tane three co'erlets off his wife's bed.

8.
Then on the morn, when the day grew light,
The shouts and crys rose loud and high;
'Hold thy tongue, my wife,' he says,
'And of thy crying let me bee.

9.
'Hald thy tongue, my wife,' he says,
'And of thy crying let me bee,
And ay that where thou wants a kow,
Good sooth that I shal bring thee three.'

10.
Then Dick's com'd on to lord and master,
And I wat a drerie fool was he;
'Hald thy tongue, my fool,' he says,
'For I may not stand to jest with thee.'

11.
'Shame speed a' your jesting, my lord,' quo' Dickie,
'For nae such jesting 'grees with me;
Liddesdaile has been in my house this last night,
And they have tane my three kyne from me.'

12.
'But I may nae langer in Cumberland dwel,
To be your poor fool and your leel,
Unless ye give me leave, my lord,
To go to Liddisdale and steal.'

13.
'To give thee leave, my fool,' he says,
'Thou speaks against mine honour and me;
Unless thou give me thy troth and thy right hand,
Thou'l steal frae nane but them that sta' from thee.'

14.
'There is my trouth and my right hand;
My head shal hing on Hairibie,
I'le never crose Carlele sands again,
If I steal frae a man but them that sta' frae me.'

15.
Dickie has tane leave at lord and master,
And I wat a merrie fool was he;
He has bought a bridle and a pair of new spurs,
And has packed them up in his breek-thigh.

16.
Then Dickie's come on for Puddinburn,
Even as fast as he may drie;
Dickie's come on for Puddinburn,
Where there was thirty Armstrongs and three.

17.
'What's this com'd on me!' quo' Dickë,
'What meakle wae's this happen'd on me,' quo' he,
'Where here is but an innocent fool,
And there is thirty Armstrongs and three!'

18.
Yet he's com'd up to the hall among them all;
So wel he became his courtisie;
'Well may ye be, my good Laird's Jock,
But the deil bless all your companie!

19.
'I'm come to plain of your man Fair Johnie Armstrong,
And syne his billie Willie,' quo' he;
'How they have been in my house this last night,
And they have tane my three ky frae me.'

20.
Quo' Johnie Armstrong, 'We'll him hang;'
'Nay,' then quo' Willie, 'we'll him slae;'
But up bespake another young man,
'We'le nit him in a four-nooked sheet,
Give him his burden of batts, and lett him gae.'

21.
Then up bespake the good Laird's Jock,
The best falla in the companie;
'Sitt thy way down a little while, Dickë,
And a peice of thine own cow's hough I'l give to thee.'

22.
But Dickie's heart it grew so great
That never a bitt of it he dought to eat;
But Dickie was warr of ane auld peat-house,
Where there al the night he thought for to sleep.

23.
Then Dickie was warr of that auld peat-house,
Where there al the night he thought for to ly;
And a' the prayers the poor fool pray'd was,
'I wish I had a mense for my own three kye!'

24.
Then it was the use of Puddinburn,
And the house of Mangertoun, all haile!
These that came not at the first call
They gott no more meat till the next meall.

25.
The lads, that hungry and aevery was,
Above the door-head they flang the key.
Dickie took good notice to that;
Says, 'There's a bootie younder for me.'

26.
Then Dickie's gane into the stable,
Where there stood thirty horse and three;
He has ty'd them a' with St. Mary knot,
All these horse but barely three.

27.
He has ty'd them a' with St. Mary knot,
All these horse but barely three;
He has loupen on one, taken another in his hand,
And out at the door and gane is Dickie.

28.
Then on the morn, when the day grew light,
The shouts and cryes rose loud and high;
'What's that theife?' quo' the good Laird's Jock,
'Tel me the truth and the verity.

29.
'What's that theife?' quo' the good Laird's Jock,
'See unto me ye do not lie.
Dick o' the Cow has been in the stable this last nicht,
And has my brother's horse and mine frae me.'

30.
'Ye wad never be tel'd it,' quo' the Laird's Jock,
'Have ye not found my tales fu' leel?
Ye wad never out of England bide,
Till crooked and blind and a' wad steal.'

31.
'But will thou lend me thy bay?' Fair Johnë Armstrong can say,
'There's nae mae horse loose in the stable but he;
And I'le either bring ye Dick o' the Kow again.
Or the day is come that he must die.'

32.
'To lend thee my bay,' the Laird's Jock can say,
'He's both worth gold and good monie;
Dick o' the Kow has away twa horse,
I wish no thou should make him three.'

33.
He has tane the Laird's jack on his back,
The twa-handed sword that hang leugh by his thigh;
He has tane the steel cap on his head,
And on is he to follow Dickie.

34.
Then Dickie was not a mile off the town,
I wat a mile but barely three,
Till John Armstrong has o'ertane Dick o' the Kow,
Hand for hand on Cannobie lee.

35.
'Abide thee, bide now, Dickie than,
The day is come that thou must die.'
Dickie looked o'er his left shoulder,
'Johnie, has thou any mo in thy company?

36.
'There is a preacher in our chapell,
And a' the lee-lang day teaches he;
When day is gane, and night is come,
There's never a word I mark but three.

37.
'The first and second's Faith and Conscience,
The third is, Johnie, Take head of thee!
But what faith and conscience had thou, traitor,
When thou took my three kye frae me?

38.
'And when thou had tane my three kye,
Thou thought in thy heart thou was no wel sped;
But thou sent thy billie Willie o'er the know,
And he took three co'erlets off my wife's bed.'

39.
Then Johnë lett a spear fa' leugh by his thigh,
Thought well to run the innocent through,
But the powers above was more than his,
He ran but the poor fool's jerkin through.

40.
Together they ran or ever they blan;
This was Dickie the fool, and hee;
Dickie could not win to him with the blade of the sword,
But he fel'd him with the plummet under the eye.

41.
Now Dickie has fel'd Fair Johnë Armstrong,
The prettiest man in the south countrey;
'Gramercie,' then can Dickie say,
'I had twa horse, thou has made me three.'

42.
He has tane the laird's jack of his back,
The twa-handed sword that hang leugh by his thigh;
He has tane the steel cap off his head;
'Johnie, I'le tel my master I met with thee.'

43.
When Johnë waken'd out of his dream,
I wat a drery man was he;
'Is thou gane now, Dickie, than?
The shame gae in thy company!

44.
'Is thou gane now, Dickie, than?
The shame go in thy companie!
For if I should live this hundred year,
I shal never fight with a fool after thee.'

45.
Then Dickie comed home to lord and master,
Even as fast as he may drie.
'Now, Dickie, I shal neither eat meat nor drink
Till high hanged that thou shall be!'

46.
'The shame speed the liars, my lord!' quo' Dickie,
'That was no the promise ye made to me;
For I'd never gane to Liddesdale to steal
Till that I sought my leave at thee.'

47.
'But what gart thou steal the Laird's Jock's horse?
And, limmer, what gart thou steal him?' quo' he;
'For lang might thou in Cumberland dwelt
Or the Laird's Jock had stoln ought frae thee.'

48.
'Indeed I wat ye lee'd, my lord,
And even so loud as I hear ye lie;
I wan him frae his man, Fair Johnë Armstrong,
Hand for hand on Cannobie lee.

49.
'There's the jack was on his back,
The twa-handed sword that hung leugh by his thigh;
There's the steel cap was on his head;
I have a' these takens to lett you see.'

50.
'If that be true thou to me tels
(I trow thou dare not tel a lie),
I'le give thee twenty pound for the good horse,
Wel tel'd in thy cloke-lap shall be.

51.
'And I'le give thee one of my best milk-kye
To maintain thy wife and children three;
And that may be as good, I think,
As ony twa o' thine might be.'

52.
'The shame speed the liars, my lord!' quo' Dickie;
'Trow ye ay to make a fool of me?
I'le either have thirty pound for the good horse,
Or else he's gae to Mattan fair wi' me.'

53.
Then he has given him thirty pound for the good horse,
All in gold and good monie:
He has given him one of his best milk-kye
To maintain his wife and children three.

54.
Then Dickie's come down through Carlile town,
Even as fast as he may drie.
The first of men that he with mett
Was my lord's brother, Bailife Glazenberrie.

55.
'Well may ye be, my good Ralph Scrupe!'
'Welcome, my brother's fool!' quo' he;
'Where did thou gett Fair Johnie Armstrong's horse?'
'Where did I get him but steal him,' quo' he.

56.
'But will thou sell me Fair Johnie Armstrong's horse?
And, billie, will thou sell him to me?' quo' he;
'Ay, and [thou] tel me the monie on my cloke-lap,
For there's not one farthing I'le trust thee.'

57.
'I'le give thee fifteen pound for the good horse,
Wel told on thy cloke-lap shal be;
And I'le give thee one of my best milk-kye
To maintain thy wife and thy children three.'

58.
'The shame speed the liars, my lord!' quo' Dickë,
'Trow ye ay to make a fool of me?' quo' he;
'I'le either have thirty pound for the good horse.
Or else he's to Mattan Fair with me.'

59.
He has given him thirty pound for the good horse,
All in gold and good monie;
He has given him one of his best milk-kye
To maintain his wife and children three.

60.
Then Dickie lap a loup on high,
And I wat a loud laughter leugh he;
'I wish the neck of the third horse were browken,
For I have a better of my own, and onie better can be.'

61.
Then Dickie com'd hame to his wife again.
Judge ye how the poor fool he sped!
He has given her three score of English pounds
For the three auld co'erlets was tane off her bed.

62.
'Hae, take thee there twa as good kye,
I trow, as all thy three might be;
And yet here is a white-footed naigg,
I think he'le carry both thee and me.

63.
'But I may no langer in Cumberland dwell;
The Armstrongs they'le hang me high.'
But Dickie has tane leave at lord and master,
And Burgh under Stanemuir there dwels Dickie.

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