The Bonny Birdy

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Text.--From the Jamieson-Brown MS. Jamieson, in printing this ballad, enlarged and rewrote much of it, making the burden part of the dialogue throughout.

The Story is much the same as that of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard; but the ballad as a whole is worthy of comparison with the longer English ballad for the sake of its lyrical setting.


There was a knight, in a summer's night,
Was riding o'er the lee, (diddle)
An' there he saw a bonny birdy,
Was singing upon a tree. (diddle)

O wow for day! (diddle)
An' dear gin it were day! (diddle)
Gin it were day, an' gin I were away,
For I ha' na lang time to stay. (diddle)

'Make hast, make hast, ye gentle knight,
What keeps you here so late?
Gin ye kent what was doing at hame,
I fear you woud look blate.'

'O what needs I toil day an' night,
My fair body to kill,
Whan I hae knights at my comman',
An' ladys at my will?'

'Ye lee, ye lee, ye gentle knight,
Sa loud's I hear you lee;
Your lady's a knight in her arms twa
That she lees far better nor thee.'

'Ye lee, ye lee, you bonny birdy,
How you lee upo' my sweet!
I will tak' out my bonny bow,
An' in troth I will you sheet.'

'But afore ye hae your bow well bent,
An' a' your arrows yare,
I will flee till another tree,
Whare I can better fare.'

'O whare was you gotten, and whare was ye clecked?
My bonny birdy, tell me';
'O I was clecked in good green wood,
Intill a holly tree;
A gentleman my nest herryed
An' ga' me to his lady.

'Wi' good white bread an' farrow-cow milk
He bade her feed me aft,
An' ga' her a little wee simmer-dale wanny,
To ding me sindle and saft.

'Wi' good white bread an' farrow-cow milk
I wot she fed me nought,
But wi' a little wee simmer-dale wanny
She dang me sair an' aft:
Gin she had deen as ye her bade,
I wouldna tell how she has wrought.'

The knight he rade, and the birdy flew,
The live-lang simmer's night,
Till he came till his lady's bow'r-door,
Then even down he did light:
The birdy sat on the crap of a tree,
An' I wot it sang fu' dight.

'O wow for day! (diddle)
An' dear gin it were day! (diddle)
Gin it were day, and gin I were away,
For I ha' na lang time to stay.' (diddle)

'What needs ye lang for day, (diddle)
An' wish that you were away? (diddle)
Is no your hounds i' my cellar.
Eating white meal and gray?' (diddle)
'O wow for day,' etc.

'Is nae you[r] steed in my stable,
Eating good corn an' hay?
An' is nae your hawk i' my perch-tree,
Just perching for his prey?
An' is nae yoursel i' my arms twa?
Then how can ye lang for day?'

'O wow for day! (diddle)
An' dear gin it were day! (diddle)
For he that's in bed wi' anither man's wife
Has never lang time to stay.' (diddle)

Then out the knight has drawn his sword,
An' straiked it o'er a strae,
An' thro' and thro' the fa'se knight's waste
He gard cauld iron gae:
An' I hope ilk ane sal sae be serv'd
That treats ane honest man sae.

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