Johney Scot

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text of this popular and excellent ballad is given from the Jamieson-Brown MS. It was copied, with wilful alterations, into Scott's Abbotsford MS. called Scottish Songs. Professor Child prints sixteen variants of the ballad, nearly all from manuscripts.

The Story of the duel with the Italian is given with more detail in other versions. In two ballads from Motherwell's MS., where 'the Italian' becomes 'the Tailliant' or 'the Talliant,' the champion jumps over Johney's head, and descends on the point of Johney's sword. This exploit is paralleled in a Breton ballad, where the Seigneur Les Aubrays of St. Brieux is ordered by the French king to combat his wild Moor, who leaps in the air and is received on the sword of his antagonist. Again, in Scottish tradition, James Macgill, having killed Sir Robert Balfour about 1679, went to London to procure his pardon, which Charles II. offered him on the condition of fighting an Italian gladiator. The Italian leaped once over James Macgill, but in attempting to repeat this manoeuvre was spitted by his opponent, who thereby procured not only his pardon, but also knighthood.


O Johney was as brave a knight
As ever sail'd the sea,
An' he's done him to the English court,
To serve for meat and fee.

He had nae been in fair England
But yet a little while,
Untill the kingis ae daughter
To Johney proves wi' chil'.

O word's come to the king himsel',
In his chair where he sat,
That his ae daughter was wi' bairn
To Jack, the Little Scott.

'Gin this be true that I do hear,
As I trust well it be,
Ye pit her into prison strong,
An' starve her till she die.'

O Johney's on to fair Scotland,
A wot he went wi' speed,
An' he has left the kingis court,
A wot good was his need.

O it fell once upon a day
That Johney he thought lang,
An' he's gane to the good green wood,
As fast as he coud gang.

'O whare will I get a bonny boy,
To rin my errand soon,
That will rin into fair England,
An' haste him back again?'

O up it starts a bonny boy,
Gold yallow was his hair,
I wish his mother meickle joy,
His bonny love mieckle mair.

'O here am I, a bonny boy,
Will rin your errand soon;
I will gang into fair England,
An' come right soon again.'

O whan he came to broken briggs,
He bent his bow and swam;
An' whan he came to the green grass growan,
He slaikid his shoone an' ran.

Whan he came to yon high castèl,
He ran it roun' about,
An' there he saw the king's daughter,
At the window looking out.

'O here's a sark o' silk, lady,
Your ain han' sew'd the sleeve;
You'r bidden come to fair Scotlan',
Speer nane o' your parents' leave.

'Ha, take this sark o' silk, lady,
Your ain han' sew'd the gare;
You're bidden come to good green wood,
Love Johney waits you there.'

She's turn'd her right and roun' about,
The tear was in her ee:
'How can I come to my true-love,
Except I had wings to flee?

'Here am I kept wi' bars and bolts,
Most grievous to behold;
My breast-plate's o' the sturdy steel,
Instead of the beaten gold.

'But tak' this purse, my bonny boy,
Ye well deserve a fee,
An' bear this letter to my love,
An' tell him what you see.'

Then quickly ran the bonny boy
Again to Scotlan' fair,
An' soon he reach'd Pitnachton's tow'rs,
An' soon found Johney there.

He pat the letter in his han'
An' taul' him what he sa',
But eer he half the letter read,
He loote the tears doun fa'.

'O I will gae back to fair Englan',
Tho' death shoud me betide,
An' I will relieve the damesel
That lay last by my side.'

Then out it spake his father dear,
'My son, you are to blame;
An' gin you'r catch'd on English groun',
I fear you'll ne'er win hame.'

Then out it spake a valiant knight,
Johny's best friend was he;
'I can commaun' five hunder men,
An' I'll his surety be.'

The firstin town that they came till,
They gard the bells be rung;
An' the nextin town that they came till,
They gard the mess be sung.

The thirdin town that they came till,
They gard the drums beat roun';
The king but an' his nobles a'
Was startl'd at the soun'.

Whan they came to the king's palace
They rade it roun' about,
An' there they saw the king himsel',
At the window looking out.

'Is this the Duke o' Albany,
Or James, the Scottish king?
Or are ye some great foreign lord,
That's come a visiting?'

'I'm nae the Duke of Albany,
Nor James, the Scottish king;
But I'm a valiant Scottish knight,
Pitnachton is my name.'

'O if Pitnachton be your name,
As I trust well it be,
The morn, or I tast meat or drink,
You shall be hanged hi'.'

Then out it spake the valiant knight
That came brave Johney wi';
'Behold five hunder bowmen bold,
Will die to set him free.'

Then out it spake the king again,
An' a scornfu' laugh laugh he;
'I have an Italian in my house
Will fight you three by three.'

'O grant me a boon,' brave Johney cried;
'Bring your Italian here;
Then if he fall beneath my sword,
I've won your daughter dear.'

Then out it came that Italian,
An' a gurious ghost was he;
Upo' the point o' Johney's sword
This Italian did die.

Out has he drawn his lang, lang bran',
Struck it across the plain:
'Is there any more o' your English dogs
That you want to be slain?'

'A clark, a clark,' the king then cried,
'To write her tocher free';
'A priest, a priest,' says Love Johney,
'To marry my love and me.

'I'm seeking nane o' your gold,' he says,
'Nor of your silver clear;
I only seek your daughter fair,
Whose love has cost her dear.'

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