The Text is from Motherwell's MS., written from the recitation of a Mrs. King of Kilbarchan.
The Story of the ballad is a mere remnant of the story told in the Gest of King Horn, preserved in three manuscripts, the oldest of which belongs to the thirteenth century. Similar stories are given in a French romance of the fourteenth century, and an English manuscript of the same date. The complete story in the Gest may be condensed as follows:--
Horn, son of Murry, King of Suddenne, was captured by Saracens, who killed his father, and turned him and his twelve companions adrift in a boat, which was eventually beached safely on the coast of Westerness, and Ailmar the king took them in and brought them up. Rymenhild his daughter, falling in love with Horn, offered herself to him. He refused, unless she would make the king knight him. She did so, and again claimed his love; but he said he must first prove his knighthood. She gave him a ring set with stones, such that he could never be slain if he looked on it and thought of her. His first feat was the slaying of a hundred heathens; then he returned to Rymenhild. Meanwhile, however, one of his companions had told the king that Horn meant to kill him and wed his daughter. Ailmar ordered Horn to quit his court; and Horn, having told Rymenhild that if he did not come back in seven years she might marry another, sailed to the court of King Thurston in Ireland, where he stayed for seven years, performing feats of valour with the aid of Rymenhild's ring.
At the end of the allotted time, Rymenhild was to be married to King Modi of Reynis. Horn, hearing of this, went back to Westerness, arrived on the marriage-morn, met a palmer (the old beggar man of the ballad), changed clothes with him, and entered the hall. According to custom, Rymenhild served wine to the guests, and as Horn drank, he dropped her ring into the vessel. When she discovered it, she sent for the palmer, and questioned him. He said Horn had died on the voyage thither. Rymenhild seized a knife she had hidden to kill King Modi and herself if Horn came not, and set it to her breast. The palmer threw off his disguise, saying, 'I am Horn.' Still he would not wed her till he had regained his father's kingdom of Suddenne, and went away and did so. Meanwhile a false friend seized Rymenhild; but on the marriage-day Horn returned, killed him, and finally made Rymenhild his wife and Queen of Suddenne.
Compare the story of Torello and the Saladin in the Decameron, Tenth Day, Novel 9.
In Scotland there was a babie born,
Lill lal, etc.
And his name it was called young Hind Horn,
With a fal lal, etc.
He sent a letter to our king
That he was in love with his daughter Jean.[A]
... ... ...
He's gi'en to her a silver wand,
With seven living lavrocks sitting thereon.
She's gi'en to him a diamond ring,
With seven bright diamonds set therein.
'When this ring grows pale and wan,
You may know by it my love is gane.'
One day as he looked his ring upon,
He saw the diamonds pale and wan.
He left the sea and came to land,
And the first that he met was an old beggar man.
'What news, what news?' said young Hind Horn;
'No news, no news,' said the old beggar man.
'No news,' said the beggar, 'no news at a',
But there is a wedding in the king's ha'.
'But there is a wedding in the king's ha',
That has halden these forty days and twa.'
'Will ye lend me your begging coat?
And I'll lend you my scarlet cloak.
'Will you lend me your beggar's rung?
And I'll gi'e you my steed to ride upon.
'Will you lend me your wig o' hair,
To cover mine, because it is fair?'
The auld beggar man was bound for the mill,
But young Hind Horn for the king's hall.
The auld beggar man was bound for to ride,
But young Hind Horn was bound for the bride.
When he came to the king's gate,
He sought a drink for Hind Horn's sake.
The bride came down with a glass of wine,
When he drank out the glass, and dropt in the ring.
'O got ye this by sea or land?
Or got ye it off a dead man's hand?'
'I got not it by sea, I got it by land,
And I got it, madam, out of your own hand.'
'O I'll cast off my gowns of brown,
And beg wi' you frae town to town.
'O I'll cast off my gowns of red,
And I'll beg wi' you to win my bread.'
'Ye needna cast off your gowns of brown,
For I'll make you lady o' many a town.
'Ye needna cast off your gowns of red,
It's only a sham, the begging o' my bread.'
The bridegroom he had wedded the bride,
But young Hind Horn he took her to bed.