Fause Footrage

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is from Alexander Fraser Tytler's Brown MS., which was also the source of Scott's version in the Minstrelsy. One line (31.1), closely resembling a line in Lady Wardlaw's forged ballad Hardyknute, caused Sir Walter to investigate strictly the authenticity of the ballad, but the evidence of Lady Douglas, that she had learned the ballad in her childhood, and could still repeat much of it, removed his doubts. It is, however, quite possible, as Professor Child points out, 'that Mrs. Brown may unconsciously have adopted this verse from the tiresome and affected Hardyknute, so much esteemed in her day.'

The Story.--In The Complaynt of Scotlande (1549) there is mentioned a tale 'how the King of Estmure Land married the King's daughter of Westmure Land,' and it has been suggested that there is a connection with the ballad.

This is another of the ballads of which the English form has become so far corrupted that we have to seek its Scandinavian counterpart to obtain the full form of the story. The ballad is especially popular in Denmark, where it is found in twenty-three manuscripts, as follows:--

The rich Svend wooes Lisbet, who favours William for his good qualities. Svend, ill with grief, is well-advised by his mother, not to care for a plighted maid, and ill-advised by his sister, to kill William. Svend takes the latter advice, and kills William. Forty weeks later, Lisbet gives birth to a son, but Svend is told that the child is a girl. Eighteen years later, the young William, sporting with a peasant, quarrels with him; the peasant retorts, 'You had better avenge your father's death.' Young William asks his mother who slew his father, and she, thinking him too young to fight, counsels him to bring Svend to a court. William charges him in the court with the murder of his father, and says that no compensation has been offered. Not a penny shall be paid, says Svend. William draws his sword, and slays him.

Icelandic, Swedish, and Färöe ballads tell a similar story.


King Easter has courted her for her gowd,
King Wester for her fee;
King Honor for her lands sae braid,
And for her fair body.

They had not been four months married,
As I have heard them tell,
Until the nobles of the land
Against them did rebel.

And they cast kaivles them amang,
And kaivles them between;
And they cast kaivles them amang,
Wha shoud gae kill the king.

O some said yea, and some said nay,
Their words did not agree;
Till up it gat him Fa'se Footrage,
And sware it shoud be he.

When bells were rung, and mass was sung,
And a' man boon to bed,
King Honor and his gay ladie
In a hie chamer were laid.

Then up it raise him Fa'se Footrage,
While a' were fast asleep,
And slew the porter in his lodge,
That watch and ward did keep.

O four and twenty silver keys
Hang hie upon a pin,
And ay as a door he did unlock,
He has fasten'd it him behind.

Then up it raise him King Honor,
Says, 'What means a' this din?
Now what's the matter, Fa'se Footrage,
Or wha was't loot you in?'

'O ye my errand well shall learn
Before that I depart';
Then drew a knife baith lang and sharp
And pierced him thro' the heart.

Then up it got the Queen hersell,
And fell low down on her knee:
'O spare my life now, Fa'se Footrage!
For I never injured thee.

'O spare my life now, Fa'se Footrage!
Until I lighter be!
And see gin it be lad or lass,
King Honor has left me wi'.'

'O gin it be a lass,' he says,
'Weel nursed she shall be;
But gin it be a lad-bairn,
He shall be hanged hie.

'I winna spare his tender age,
Nor yet his hie, hie kin;
But as soon as e'er he born is,
He shall mount the gallows-pin.'

O four and twenty valiant knights
Were set the Queen to guard,
And four stood ay at her bower-door,
To keep baith watch and ward.

But when the time drew till an end
That she should lighter be,
She cast about to find a wile
To set her body free.

O she has birled these merry young men
Wi' strong beer and wi' wine,
Until she made them a' as drunk
As any wall-wood swine.

'O narrow, narrow is this window,
And big, big am I grown!'
Yet thro' the might of Our Ladie,
Out at it she has won.

She wander'd up, she wander'd down,
She wander'd out and in;
And at last, into the very swines' stye,
The Queen brought forth a son.

Then they cast kaivles them amang
Wha should gae seek the Queen;
And the kaivle fell upon Wise William,
And he's sent his wife for him.

O when she saw Wise William's wife,
The Queen fell on her knee;
'Win up, win up, madame,' she says,
'What means this courtesie?'

'O out of this I winna rise,
Till a boon ye grant to me,
To change your lass for this lad-bairn,
King Honor left me wi'.

'And ye maun learn my gay gos-hawke
Well how to breast a steed;
And I shall learn your turtle-dow
As well to write and read.

'And ye maun learn my gay gos-hawke
To wield baith bow and brand;
And I sall learn your turtle-dow
To lay gowd wi' her hand.

'At kirk and market where we meet,
We dare nae mair avow
But--"Dame, how does my gay gose-hawk?"
"Madame, how does my dow?"'

When days were gane, and years come on,
Wise William he thought long;
Out has he ta'en King Honor's son,
A hunting for to gang.

It sae fell out at their hunting,
Upon a summer's day,
That they cam' by a fair castle,
Stood on a sunny brae.

'O dinna ye see that bonny castle
Wi' wa's and towers sae fair?
Gin ilka man had back his ain,
Of it you shoud be heir.'

'How I shoud be heir of that castle,
In sooth I canna see;
When it belongs to Fa'se Footrage,
And he's nae kin to me.'

'O gin ye shoud kill him Fa'se Footrage,
You woud do what is right;
For I wot he kill'd your father dear,
Ere ever you saw the light.

'Gin you shoud kill him Fa'se Footrage,
There is nae man durst you blame;
For he keeps your mother a prisoner,
And she dares no take you hame.'

The boy stared wild like a gray gose-hawk,
Says, 'What may a' this mean?'
'My boy, you are King Honor's son,
And your mother's our lawful queen.'

'O gin I be King Honor's son,
By Our Ladie I swear,
This day I will that traytour slay,
And relieve my mother dear!'

He has set his bent bow till his breast,
And lap the castle-wa';
And soon he's siesed on Fa'se Footrage,
Wha loud for help gan ca'.

'O haud your tongue now, Fa'se Footrage,
Frae me ye shanno flee.'
Syne pierced him through the foul fa'se heart,
And set his mother free.

And he has rewarded Wise William
Wi' the best half of his land;
And sae has he the turtle dow
Wi' the truth o' his right hand.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Fause Footrage' by Frank Sidgwick

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy