Lady Maisry

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text.--From the Jamieson-Brown MS. All the other variants agree as to the main outline of the ballad.

The Story.--Lady Maisry, refusing the young lords of the north country, and saying that her love is given to an English lord, is suspected by her father's kitchy-boy, who goes to tell her brother. He charges her with her fault, reviles her for 'drawing up with an English lord,' and commands her to renounce him. She refuses, and is condemned to be burned. A bonny boy bears news of her plight to Lord William, who leaps to boot and saddle; but he arrives too late to save her, though he vows vengeance on all her kin, and promises to burn himself last of all.

Burning was the penalty usually allotted in the romances to a girl convicted of unchastity.


The young lords o' the north country
Have all a wooing gone,
To win the love of Lady Maisry,
But o' them she woud hae none.

O they hae courted Lady Maisry
Wi' a' kin kind of things;
An' they hae sought her Lady Maisry
Wi' brotches an' wi' rings.

An' they ha' sought her Lady Maisry
Frae father and frae mother;
An' they ha' sought her Lady Maisry
Frae sister an' frae brother.

An' they ha' follow'd her Lady Maisry
Thro' chamber an' thro' ha';
But a' that they coud say to her,
Her answer still was Na.

'O ha'd your tongues, young men,' she says,
'An' think nae mair o' me;
For I've gi'en my love to an English lord,
An' think nae mair o' me.'

Her father's kitchy-boy heard that,
An ill death may he dee!
An' he is on to her brother,
As fast as gang coud he.

'O is my father an' my mother well,
But an' my brothers three?
Gin my sister Lady Maisry be well,
There's naething can ail me.'

'Your father an' your mother is well,
But an' your brothers three;
Your sister Lady Maisry's well,
So big wi' bairn gangs she.'

'Gin this be true you tell to me,
My mailison light on thee!
But gin it be a lie you tell,
You sal be hangit hie.'

He's done him to his sister's bow'r,
Wi' meikle doole an' care;
An' there he saw her Lady Maisry
Kembing her yallow hair.

'O wha is aught that bairn,' he says,
'That ye sae big are wi'?
And gin ye winna own the truth,
This moment ye sall dee.'

She turn'd her right and roun' about,
An' the kem fell frae her han';
A trembling seiz'd her fair body,
An' her rosy cheek grew wan.

'O pardon me, my brother dear,
An' the truth I'll tell to thee;
My bairn it is to Lord William,
An' he is betroth'd to me.'

'O coud na ye gotten dukes, or lords,
Intill your ain country,
That ye draw up wi' an English dog,
To bring this shame on me?

'But ye maun gi' up the English lord,
Whan youre young babe is born;
For, gin you keep by him an hour langer,
Your life sall be forlorn.'

'I will gi' up this English blood,
Till my young babe be born;
But the never a day nor hour langer,
Tho' my life should be forlorn.'

'O whare is a' my merry young men,
Whom I gi' meat and fee,
To pu' the thistle and the thorn,
To burn this wile whore wi'?'

'O whare will I get a bonny boy,
To help me in my need,
To rin wi' hast to Lord William,
And bid him come wi' speed?'

O out it spake a bonny boy,
Stood by her brother's side:
'O I would run your errand, lady,
O'er a' the world wide.

'Aft have I run your errands, lady,
Whan blawn baith win' and weet;
But now I'll rin your errand, lady,
Wi' sa't tears on my cheek.'

O whan he came to broken briggs,
He bent his bow and swam,
An' whan he came to the green grass growin',
He slack'd his shoone and ran.

O whan he came to Lord William's gates,
He baed na to chap or ca',
But set his bent bow till his breast,
An' lightly lap the wa';
An', or the porter was at the gate,
The boy was i' the ha'.

'O is my biggins broken, boy?
Or is my towers won?
Or is my lady lighter yet,
Of a dear daughter or son?'

'Your biggin is na broken, sir,
Nor is your towers won;
But the fairest lady in a' the lan'
For you this day maun burn.'

'O saddle me the black, the black,
Or saddle me the brown;
O saddle me the swiftest steed
That ever rade frae a town.'

Or he was near a mile awa',
She heard his wild horse sneeze:
'Mend up the fire, my false brother,
It's na come to my knees.'

O whan he lighted at the gate,
She heard his bridle ring;
'Mend up the fire, my false brother,
It's far yet frae my chin.

'Mend up the fire to me, brother,
Mend up the fire to me;
For I see him comin' hard an' fast,
Will soon men' 't up to thee.

'O gin my hands had been loose, Willy,
Sae hard as they are boun',
I would have turn'd me frae the gleed,
And castin out your young son.'

'O I'll gar burn for you, Maisry,
Your father an' your mother;
An' I'll gar burn for you, Maisry,
Your sister an' your brother.

'An' I'll gar burn for you, Maisry,
The chief of a' your kin;
An' the last bonfire that I come to,
Mysel' I will cast in.'

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