Fair Mary Of Wallington

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is from Lovely Jenny's Garland, as given with emendations by Professor Child. There is also a curiously perverted version in Herd's manuscript, in which the verses require rearrangement before becoming intelligible.

The Story can be gathered from the version here given without much difficulty. It turns on the marriage of Fair Mary, who is one of seven sisters fated to die of their first child. Fair Mary seems to be a fatalist, and, after vowing never to marry, accepts as her destiny the hand of Sir William Fenwick of Wallington. Three-quarters of a year later she sends to fair Pudlington for her mother. Her mother is much affected at the news (st. 22), and goes to Wallington. Her daughter, in travail, lays the blame on her, cuts open her side to give birth to an heir, and dies.

In a Breton ballad Pontplancoat thrice marries a Marguerite, and each of his three sons costs his mother her life.

In the Scottish ballad, a 'scope' is put in Mary's mouth when the operation takes place. In the Breton ballad it is a silver spoon or a silver ball. 'Scope,' or 'scobs' as it appears in Herd, means a gag, and was apparently used to prevent her from crying out. But the silver spoon and ball in the Breton ballad would appear to have been used for Marguerite to bite on in her anguish, just as sailors chewed bullets while being flogged.


FAIR MARY OF WALLINGTON

1.
When we were silly sisters seven,
Sisters were so fair,
Five of us were brave knights' wives,
And died in childbed lair.

2.
Up then spake Fair Mary,
Marry woud she nane;
If ever she came in man's bed,
The same gate wad she gang.

3.
'Make no vows, Fair Mary,
For fear they broken be;
Here's been the Knight of Wallington,
Asking good will of thee.'

4.
'If here's been the knight, mother,
Asking good will of me,
Within three quarters of a year
You may come bury me.'

5.
When she came to Wallington,
And into Wallington hall,
There she spy'd her mother dear,
Walking about the wall.

6.
'You're welcome, daughter dear,
To thy castle and thy bowers';
'I thank you kindly, mother,
I hope they'll soon be yours.'

7.
She had not been in Wallington
Three quarters and a day,
Till upon the ground she could not walk,
She was a weary prey.

8.
She had not been in Wallington
Three quarters and a night,
Till on the ground she coud not walk,
She was a weary wight.

9.
'Is there ne'er a boy in this town,
Who'll win hose and shun,
That will run to fair Pudlington,
And bid my mother come?'

10.
Up then spake a little boy,
Near unto a-kin;
'Full oft I have your errands gone,
But now I will it run.'

11.
Then she call'd her waiting-maid
To bring up bread and wine;
'Eat and drink, my bonny boy,
Thou'll ne'er eat more of mine.

12.
'Give my respects to my mother,
She sits in her chair of stone,
And ask her how she likes the news,
Of seven to have but one.

13.
'Give my respects to my mother,
As she sits in her chair of oak,
And bid her come to my sickening,
Or my merry lake-wake.

14.
'Give my love to my brother
William, Ralph, and John,
And to my sister Betty fair,
And to her white as bone:

15.
'And bid her keep her maidenhead,
Be sure make much on 't,
For if e'er she come in man's bed,
The same gate will she gang.'

16.
Away this little boy is gone,
As fast as he could run;
When he came where brigs were broke,
He lay down and swum.

17.
When he saw the lady, he said,
'Lord may your keeper be!'
'What news, my pretty boy,
Hast thou to tell to me?'

18.
'Your daughter Mary orders me,
As you sit in a chair of stone,
To ask you how you like the news,
Of seven to have but one.

19.
'Your daughter gives commands,
As you sit in a chair of oak,
And bids you come to her sickening,
Or her merry lake-wake.

20.
'She gives command to her brother
William, Ralph, and John,
[And] to her sister Betty fair,
And to her white as bone.

21.
'She bids her keep her maidenhead,
Be sure make much on 't,
For if e'er she came in man's bed,
The same gate woud she gang.'

22.
She kickt the table with her foot,
She kickt it with her knee,
The silver plate into the fire,
So far she made it flee.

23.
Then she call'd her waiting-maid
To bring her riding-hood,
So did she on her stable-groom
To bring her riding-steed.

24.
'Go saddle to me the black, [the black,]
Go saddle to me the brown,
Go saddle to me the swiftest steed
That e'er rid [to] Wallington.'

25.
When they came to Wallington,
And into Wallington hall,
There she spy'd her son Fenwick,
Walking about the wall.

26.
'God save you, dear son,
Lord may your keeper be!
Where is my daughter fair,
That used to walk with thee?'

27.
He turn'd his head round about,
The tears did fill his e'e:
''Tis a month' he said, 'since she
Took her chambers from me.'

28.
She went on . . .
And there were in the hall
Four and twenty ladies,
Letting the tears down fall.

29.
Her daughter had a scope
Into her cheek and into her chin,
All to keep her life
Till her dear mother came.

30.
'Come take the rings off my fingers,
The skin it is so white,
And give them to my mother dear,
For she was all the wite.

31.
'Come take the rings off my fingers,
The veins they are so red,
Give them to Sir William Fenwick,
I'm sure his heart will bleed.'

32.
She took out a razor
That was both sharp and fine,
And out of her left side has taken
The heir of Wallington.

33.
There is a race in Wallington,
And that I rue full sare;
Tho' the cradle it be full spread up
The bride-bed is left bare.

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