The Gay Goshawk

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is from the Jamieson-Brown MS., on which version Scott drew partly for his ballad in the Minstrelsy. Mrs. Brown recited the ballad again to William Tytler in 1783, but the result is now lost, with most of the other Tytler-Brown versions.

The Story.--One point, the maid's feint of death to escape from her father to her lover, is the subject of a ballad very popular in France; a version entitled Belle Isambourg is printed in a collection called Airs de Cour, 1607. Feigning death to escape various threats is a common feature in many European ballads.

It is perhaps needless to remark that no goshawk sings sweetly, much less talks. In Buchan's version (of forty-nine stanzas) the goshawk is exchanged for a parrot.


'O well's me o' my gay goss-hawk,
That he can speak and flee;
He'll carry a letter to my love,
Bring back another to me.'

'O how can I your true-love ken,
Or how can I her know?
When frae her mouth I never heard couth,
Nor wi' my eyes her saw.'

'O well sal ye my true-love ken,
As soon as you her see;
For, of a' the flow'rs in fair Englan',
The fairest flow'r is she.

'At even at my love's bow'r-door
There grows a bowing birk,
An' sit ye down and sing thereon
As she gangs to the kirk.

'An' four-and-twenty ladies fair
Will wash and go to kirk,
But well shall ye my true-love ken,
For she wears goud on her skirt.

'An' four-and-twenty gay ladies
Will to the mass repair,
But well sal ye my true-love ken,
For she wears goud on her hair.'

O even at that lady's bow'r-door
There grows a bowin' birk,
An' she sat down and sang thereon,
As she ged to the kirk.

'O eet and drink, my marys a',
The wine flows you among,
Till I gang to my shot-window,
An' hear yon bonny bird's song.

'Sing on, sing on, my bonny bird,
The song ye sang the streen,
For I ken by your sweet singin',
You 're frae my true-love sen'.'

O first he sang a merry song,
An' then he sang a grave,
An' then he peck'd his feathers gray,
To her the letter gave.

'Ha, there's a letter frae your love,
He says he sent you three;
He canna wait your love langer,
But for your sake he'll die.

'He bids you write a letter to him;
He says he's sent you five;
He canno wait your love langer,
Tho' you're the fairest woman alive.'

'Ye bid him bake his bridal bread,
And brew his bridal ale,
An' I'll meet him in fair Scotlan'
Lang, lang or it be stale.'

She's doen her to her father dear,
Fa'n low down on her knee:
'A boon, a boon, my father dear,
I pray you, grant it me.'

'Ask on, ask on, my daughter,
An' granted it sal be;
Except ae squire in fair Scotlan',
An' him you sall never see.'

'The only boon my father dear,
That I do crave of the,
Is, gin I die in southin lans,
In Scotland to bury me.

'An' the firstin kirk that ye come till,
Ye gar the bells be rung,
An' the nextin kirk that ye come till,
Ye gar the mess be sung.

'An' the thirdin kirk that ye come till,
You deal gold for my sake,
An' the fourthin kirk that ye come till,
You tarry there till night.'

She is doen her to her bigly bow'r,
As fast as she coud fare,
An' she has tane a sleepy draught,
That she had mix'd wi' care.

She's laid her down upon her bed,
An' soon she's fa'n asleep,
And soon o'er every tender limb
Cauld death began to creep.

Whan night was flown, an' day was come,
Nae ane that did her see
But thought she was as surely dead
As ony lady coud be.

Her father an' her brothers dear
Gard make to her a bier;
The tae half was o' guid red gold,
The tither o' silver clear.

Her mither an' her sisters fair
Gard work for her a sark;
The tae half was o' cambrick fine,
The tither o' needle wark.

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

The thirdin kirk that they came till,
They dealt gold for her sake,
An' the fourthin kirk that they came till,
Lo, there they met her make!

'Lay down, lay down the bigly bier,
Lat me the dead look on';
Wi' cherry cheeks and ruby lips
She lay an' smil'd on him.

'O ae sheave o' your bread, true-love,
An' ae glass o' your wine,
For I hae fasted for your sake
These fully days is nine.

'Gang hame, gang hame, my seven bold brothers,
Gang hame and sound your horn;
An' ye may boast in southin lan's
Your sister's play'd you scorn.'

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