Fair Annie

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is that of Scott's Minstrelsy, 'chiefly from the recitation of an old woman.' Scott names the ballad 'Lord Thomas and Fair Annie,' adding to the confusion already existing with 'Lord Thomas and Fair Annet.'

The Story.--Fair Annie, stolen from the home of her father, the Earl of Wemyss, by 'a knight out o'er the sea,' has borne seven sons to him. He now bids her prepare to welcome home his real bride, and she meekly obeys, suppressing her tears with difficulty. Lord Thomas and his new-come bride hear, through the wall of their bridal chamber, Annie bewailing her lot, and wishing her seven sons had never been born. The bride goes to comfort her, discovers in her a long-lost sister, and departs, thanking heaven she goes a maiden home.

Of this ballad, Herd printed a fragment in 1769, some stanzas being incorporated in the present version. Similar tales abound in the folklore of Scandinavia, Holland, and Germany. But, three hundred years older than any version of the ballad, is the lay of Marie de France, Le Lai de Freisne; which, nevertheless, is only another offshoot of some undiscovered common origin.

It is imperative (in 4.4) that Annie should braid her hair, as a sign of virginity: married women only bound up their hair, or wore it under a cap.


'It's narrow, narrow, make your bed,
And learn to lie your lane;
For I'm ga'n o'er the sea, Fair Annie,
A braw bride to bring hame.
Wi' her I will get gowd and gear;
Wi' you I ne'er got nane.

'But wha will bake my bridal bread,
Or brew my bridal ale?
And wha will welcome my brisk bride,
That I bring o'er the dale?'

'It's I will bake your bridal bread,
And brew your bridal ale;
And I will welcome your brisk bride,
That you bring o'er the dale.'

'But she that welcomes my brisk bride
Maun gang like maiden fair;
She maun lace on her robe sae jimp,
And braid her yellow hair.'

'But how can I gang maiden-like,
When maiden I am nane?
Have I not born seven sons to thee,
And am with child again?'

She's taen her young son in her arms,
Another in her hand,
And she's up to the highest tower,
To see him come to land.

'Come up, come up, my eldest son,
And look o'er yon sea-strand,
And see your father's new-come bride,
Before she come to land.'

'Come down, come down, my mother dear,
Come frae the castle wa'!
I fear, if langer ye stand there,
Ye'll let yoursell down fa'.'

And she gaed down, and farther down,
Her love's ship for to see,
And the topmast and the mainmast
Shone like the silver free.

And she's gane down, and farther down,
The bride's ship to behold,
And the topmast and the mainmast
They shone just like the gold.

She's taen her seven sons in her hand,
I wot she didna fail;
She met Lord Thomas and his bride,
As they came o'er the dale.

'You're welcome to your house, Lord Thomas,
You're welcome to your land;
You're welcome with your fair ladye,
That you lead by the hand.

'You're welcome to your ha's, ladye,
You're welcome to your bowers;
You're welcome to your hame, ladye,
For a' that's here is yours.'

'I thank thee, Annie, I thank thee, Annie,
Sae dearly as I thank thee;
You're the likest to my sister Annie,
That ever I did see.

'There came a knight out o'er the sea,
And steal'd my sister away;
The shame scoup in his company,
And land where'er he gae!'

She hang ae napkin at the door,
Another in the ha',
And a' to wipe the trickling tears,
Sae fast as they did fa'.

And aye she served the long tables,
With white bread and with wine;
And aye she drank the wan water,
To had her colour fine.

And aye she served the lang tables,
With white bread and with brown;
And ay she turned her round about
Sae fast the tears fell down.

And he's taen down the silk napkin,
Hung on a silver pin,
And aye he wipes the tear trickling
A' down her cheek and chin.

And aye he turned him round about,
And smil'd amang his men;
Says, 'Like ye best the old ladye,
Or her that's new come hame?'

When bells were rung, and mass was sung,
And a' men bound to bed,
Lord Thomas and his new-come bride
To their chamber they were gaed.

Annie made her bed a little forbye,
To hear what they might say;
'And ever alas,' Fair Annie cried,
'That I should see this day!

'Gin my seven sons were seven young rats
Running on the castle wa',
And I were a gray cat mysell,
I soon would worry them a'.

'Gin my seven sons were seven young hares,
Running o'er yon lilly lee,
And I were a grew hound mysell,
Soon worried they a' should be.'

And wae and sad Fair Annie sat,
And drearie was her sang,
And ever, as she sobb'd and grat,
'Wae to the man that did the wrang!'

'My gown is on,' said the new-come bride,
'My shoes are on my feet,
And I will to Fair Annie's chamber,
And see what gars her greet.

'What ails ye, what ails ye, Fair Annie,
That ye make sic a moan?
Has your wine barrels cast the girds,
Or is your white bread gone?

'O wha was't was your father, Annie,
Or wha was't was your mother?
And had ye ony sister, Annie,
Or had ye ony brother?'

'The Earl of Wemyss was my father,
The Countess of Wemyss my mother;
And a' the folk about the house
To me were sister and brother.'

'If the Earl of Wemyss was your father,
I wot sae he was mine;
And it shall not be for lack o' gowd
That ye your love sall tyne.

'For I have seven ships o' mine ain,
A' loaded to the brim,
And I will gie them a' to thee,
Wi' four to thine eldest son:
But thanks to a' the powers in heaven
That I gae maiden hame!'

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