Fair Helen Of Kirconnell

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is taken from Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), vol. i. pp. 72-79, omitting the tedious Part I. Another of many versions may be found in Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. xiii. pp. 275-6, about the year 1794; fourteen stanzas, corresponding to most of Scott's two parts.

The Story of the ballad is given in the two above-mentioned books from tradition as follows. Fair Helen, of the clan of Irving or Bell, favoured Adam Fleming (Fleeming) with her love; another suitor, whose name is said to have been Bell, was the choice of the lady's family and friends. The latter lover becoming jealous, concealed himself in the bushes of the banks of the Kirtle, which flows by the kirkyard of Kirconnell, where the true lovers were accustomed to walk. Being discovered lurking there by Helen, he levelled his carbine at Adam Fleming. Helen, however, threw herself into her lover's arms, and received the bullet intended for him: whereupon he slew his rival. He went abroad to Spain and fought against the infidels, but being still inconsolable, returned to Kirconnell, perished on Helen's grave, and was buried beside her. The tombstone, bearing a sword and a cross, with Hic jacet Adamus Fleming, is still (says Scott) shown in the churchyard of Kirconnell.

The Flemings were a family belonging to Kirkpatrick-Fleming, a parish in Dumfries which includes Kirconnell.

Wordsworth's version of the story includes the famous rhyme:--

'Proud Gordon cannot bear the thoughts
That through his brain are travelling,--
And, starting up, to Bruce's heart
He launch'd a deadly javelin!'


I wish I were where Helen lies,
Night and day on me she cries,
O that I were where Helen lies,
On fair Kirconnell Lee!

Curst be the heart that thought the thought,
And curst the hand that fired the shot,
When in my arms burd Helen dropt,
And died to succour me.

O think na ye my heart was sair,
When my love dropt down and spak nae mair,
There did she swoon wi' meikle care,
On fair Kirconnell Lee.

As I went down the water side,
None but my foe to be my guide,
None but my foe to be my guide,
On fair Kirconnell Lee.

I lighted down, my sword did draw,
I hacked him in pieces sma',
I hacked him in pieces sma',
For her sake that died for me.

O Helen fair, beyond compare,
I'll make a garland of thy hair,
Shall bind my heart for evermair,
Untill the day I die.

O that I were where Helen lies,
Night and day on me she cries,
Out of my bed she bids me rise,
Says, 'Haste, and come to me!'

O Helen fair! O Helen chaste!
If I were with thee I were blest,
Where thou lies low, and takes thy rest
On fair Kirconnell Lee.

I wish my grave were growing green,
A winding-sheet drawn ower my e'en
And I in Helen's arms lying
On fair Kirconnell Lee.

I wish I were where Helen lies,
Night and day on me she cries,
And I am weary of the skies,
For her sake that died for me.

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