The Clerk's Twa Sons O' Owsenford, And The Wife Of Usher's Well

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

These two ballads must be considered together, as the last six verses (18-23) of The Clerk's Twa Sons, as here given, are a variant of The Wife of Usher's Well.


Texts.--The Clerk's Twa Sons is taken from Kinloch's MSS., in the handwriting of James Chambers, as it was sung to his grandmother by an old woman.

The Wife of Usher's Well is from Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and however incomplete, may well stand alone.


The Story has a fairly close parallel in the well-known German ballad, 'Das Schloss in Oesterreich'; and a ballad found both in Spain and Italy has resemblances to each. But in these two ballads, especially in The Wife of Usher's Well, the interest lies rather in the impressiveness of the verses than in the story.


THE CLERK'S TWA SONS O' OWSENFORD

1.
O I will sing to you a sang,
But oh my heart is sair!
The clerk's twa sons in Owsenford
Has to learn some unco lair.

2.
They hadna been in fair Parish
A twelvemonth an' a day,
Till the clerk's twa sons o' Owsenford
Wi' the mayor's twa daughters lay.

3.
O word's gaen to the mighty mayor,
As he sail'd on the sea,
That the clerk's twa sons o' Owsenford
Wi' his twa daughters lay.

4.
'If they hae lain wi' my twa daughters,
Meg and Marjorie,
The morn, or I taste meat or drink,
They shall be hangit hie.'

5.
O word's gaen to the clerk himself,
As he sat drinkin' wine,
That his twa sons in fair Parish
Were bound in prison strong.

6.
Then up and spak the clerk's ladye,
And she spak pow'rfully:
'O tak with ye a purse of gold,
Or take with ye three,
And if ye canna get William,
Bring Andrew hame to me.'

7.
'O lye ye here for owsen, dear sons,
Or lie ye here for kye?
Or what is it that ye lie for,
Sae sair bound as ye lie?'

8.
'We lie not here for owsen, dear father,
Nor yet lie here for kye;
But it's for a little o' dear-bought love
Sae sair bound as we lye.'

9.
O he's gane to the mighty mayor
And he spake powerfully:

'Will ye grant me my twa sons' lives,
Either for gold or fee?
Or will ye be sae gude a man
As grant them baith to me?'

10.
'I'll no' grant ye yere twa sons' lives,
Neither for gold or fee,
Nor will I be sae gude a man
As gie them back to thee;
Before the morn at twelve o'clock
Ye'll see them hangit hie.'

11.
Up and spak his twa daughters,
And they spak pow'rfully:
'Will ye grant us our twa loves' lives,
Either for gold or fee?
Or will ye be sae gude a man
As grant them baith to me?'

12.
'I 'll no' grant ye yere twa loves' lives,
Neither for gold or fee,
Nor will I be sae gude a man
As grant their lives to thee;
Before the morn at twelve o'clock
Ye'll see them hangit hie.'

13.
O he's ta'en out these proper youths,
And hang'd them on a tree,
And he's bidden the clerk o' Owsenford
Gang hame to his ladie.

14.
His lady sits on yon castle-wa',
Beholding dale and doun,
An' there she saw her ain gude lord
Come walkin' to the toun.

15.
'Ye're welcome, welcome, my ain gude lord,
Ye're welcome hame to me;
But where away are my twa sons?
Ye should hae brought them wi' ye.'

16.
'It's I've putten them to a deeper lair,
An' to a higher schule;
Yere ain twa sons 'ill no' be here
Till the hallow days o' Yule.'

17.
'O sorrow, sorrow, come mak' my bed,
An' dool come lay me doon!
For I'll neither eat nor drink,
Nor set a fit on ground.'

18.
The hallow days of Yule are come,
The nights are lang and dark;
An' in an' cam' her ain twa sons,
Wi' their hats made o' the bark.

19.
'O eat an' drink, my merry men a',
The better shall ye fare,
For my twa sons the[y] are come hame
To me for evermair.'

20.
She has gaen an' made their bed,
An' she's made it saft an' fine,
An' she's happit them wi' her gay mantel,
Because they were her ain.

21.
O the young cock crew i' the merry Linkem,
An' the wild fowl chirp'd for day;
The aulder to the younger did say,
'Dear brother, we maun away.'

22.
'Lie still, lie still, a little wee while,
Lie still but if we may;
For gin my mother miss us away,
She'll gae mad or it be day.'

23.
O it's they've ta'en up their mother's mantel,
And they've hang'd it on the pin:
'O lang may ye hing, my mother's mantel,
Or ye hap us again!'

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