Fair Janet

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text.--Of seven or eight variants of this ballad, only three preserve the full form of the story. On the whole, the one here given--from Sharp's Ballad Book, as sung by an old woman in Perthshire--is the best, as the other two--from Herd's Scots Songs, and the Kinloch MSS.--are slightly contaminated by extraneous matter.

The Story is a simple ballad-tale of 'true-love twinned'; but the episode of the dancing forms a link with a number of German and Scandinavian ballads, in which compulsory dancing and horse-riding is made a test of the guilt of an accused maiden. In the Scotch ballad the horse-riding has shrunk almost to nothing, and the dancing is not compulsory. The resemblance is faint, and the barbarities of the Continental versions are happily wanting in our ballad.


FAIR JANET

1.
'Ye maun gang to your father, Janet,
Ye maun gang to him soon;
Ye maun gang to your father, Janet,
In case that his days are dune.'

2.
Janet's awa' to her father,
As fast as she could hie:
'O what's your will wi' me, father?
O what's your will wi' me?'

3.
'My will wi' you, Fair Janet,' he said,
'It is both bed and board;
Some say that ye lo'e Sweet Willie,
But ye maun wed a French lord.'

4.
'A French lord maun I wed, father?
A French lord maun I wed?
Then, by my sooth,' quo' Fair Janet,
'He's ne'er enter my bed.'

5.
Janet's awa' to her chamber,
As fast as she could go;
Wha's the first ane that tapped there,
But Sweet Willie her jo?

6.
'O we maun part this love, Willie,
That has been lang between;
There's a French lord coming o'er the sea,
To wed me wi' a ring;
There's a French lord coming o'er the sea,
To wed and tak' me hame.'

7.
'If we maun part this love, Janet,
It causeth mickle woe;
If we maun part this love, Janet,
It makes me into mourning go.'

8.
'But ye maun gang to your three sisters,
Meg, Marion, and Jean;
Tell them to come to Fair Janet,
In case that her days are dune.'

9.
Willie's awa' to his three sisters,
Meg, Marion, and Jean:
'O haste, and gang to Fair Janet,
I fear that her days are dune.'

10.
Some drew to them their silken hose,
Some drew to them their shoon,
Some drew to them their silk manteils,
Their coverings to put on,
And they're awa' to Fair Janet,
By the hie light o' the moon.

... ... ...

11.
'O I have born this babe, Willie,
Wi' mickle toil and pain;
Take hame, take hame, your babe, Willie,
For nurse I dare be nane.'

12.
He's tane his young son in his arms,
And kisst him cheek and chin,
And he's awa' to his mother's bower,
By the hie light o' the moon.

13.
'O open, open, mother,' he says,
'O open, and let me in;
The rain rains on my yellow hair,
And the dew drops o'er my chin,
And I hae my young son in my arms,
I fear that his days are dune.'

14.
With her fingers lang and sma'
She lifted up the pin,
And with her arms lang and sma'
Received the baby in.

15.
'Gae back, gae back now, Sweet Willie,
And comfort your fair lady;
For where ye had but ae nourice,
Your young son shall hae three.'

16.
Willie he was scarce awa',
And the lady put to bed,
When in and came her father dear:
'Make haste, and busk the bride.'

17.
'There's a sair pain in my head, father,
There's a sair pain in my side;
And ill, O ill, am I, father,
This day for to be a bride.'

18.
'O ye maun busk this bonny bride,
And put a gay mantle on;
For she shall wed this auld French lord,
Gin she should die the morn.'

19.
Some put on the gay green robes,
And some put on the brown;
But Janet put on the scarlet robes,
To shine foremost throw the town.

20.
And some they mounted the black steed,
And some mounted the brown;
But Janet mounted the milk-white steed,
To ride foremost throw the town.

21.
'O wha will guide your horse, Janet?
O wha will guide him best?'
'O wha but Willie, my true love?
He kens I lo'e him best.'

22.
And when they cam' to Marie's kirk,
To tye the haly ban',
Fair Janet's cheek looked pale and wan,
And her colour gaed and cam'.

23.
When dinner it was past and done,
And dancing to begin,
'O we'll go take the bride's maidens,
And we'll go fill the ring.'

24.
O ben then cam' the auld French lord,
Saying, 'Bride, will ye dance with me?'
'Awa', awa', ye auld French Lord,
Your face I downa see.'

25.
O ben then cam' now Sweet Willie,
He cam' with ane advance:
'O I'll go tak' the bride's maidens,
And we'll go tak' a dance.'

26.
'I've seen ither days wi' you, Willie,
And so has mony mae,
Ye would hae danced wi' me mysel',
Let a' my maidens gae.'

27.
O ben then cam' now Sweet Willie,
Saying, 'Bride, will ye dance wi' me?'
'Aye, by my sooth, and that I will,
Gin my back should break in three.'

28.
She had nae turned her throw the dance,
Throw the dance but thrice,
Whan she fell doun at Willie's feet,
And up did never rise.

29.
Willie's ta'en the key of his coffer,
And gi'en it to his man:
'Gae hame, and tell my mother dear
My horse he has me slain;
Bid her be kind to my young son,
For father has he nane.'

30.
The tane was buried in Marie's kirk,
And the tither in Marie's quire;
Out of the tane there grew a birk,
And the tither a bonny brier.

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