The Twa Sisters O' Binnorie

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Texts.--The version here given is compounded from two different sources, almost of necessity. Stanzas 1-19 were given by Scott, compounded from W. Tytler's Brown MS. and the recitation of an old woman. But at stanza 20 Scott's version becomes eccentric, and he prints such verses as:--

'A famous harper passing by
The sweet pale face he chanced to spy ...

The strings he framed of her yellow hair,
Whose notes made sad the listening air.'

Stanzas 20-25, therefore, have been supplied from the Jamieson-Brown MS., which after this point does not descend from the high level of ballad-poetry.

The Story.--This is a very old and a very popular story. An early broadside exists, dated 1656, and the same version is printed in Wit Restor'd, 1658. Of Scandinavian ballads on the same subject, nine are Danish, two Icelandic, twelve Norwegian, four Färöe, and eight or nine Swedish.


THE TWA SISTERS O' BINNORIE

1.
There were twa sisters sat in a bour,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
There came a knight to be their wooer,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

2.
He courted the eldest wi' glove and ring,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
But he lo'ed the youngest aboon a' thing,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

3.
He courted the eldest with broach and knife,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
But he lo'ed the youngest aboon his life,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

4.
The eldest she was vexed sair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
And sair envìed her sister fair,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

5.
The eldest said to the youngest ane,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'Will ye go and see our father's ships come in?'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

6.
She's ta'en her by the lilly hand,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
And led her down to the river-strand,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

7.
The youngest stude upon a stane,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
The eldest came and pushed her in,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

8.
She took her by the middle sma',
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
And dashed her bonnie back to the jaw,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie/

9.
'O sister, sister, reach your hand!'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'And ye shall be heir of half my land,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

10.
'O sister, I'll not reach my hand,'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'And I'll be heir of all your land,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

11.
'Shame fa' the hand that I should take,'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'It's twin'd me and my world's make,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

12.
'O sister, reach me but your glove,'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'And sweet William shall be your love,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

13.
'Sink on, nor hope for hand or glove,'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'And sweet William shall better be my love,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

14.
'Your cherry cheeks and your yellow hair,'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'Garr'd me gang maiden evermair,'
By the bonnie mill-dams o' Binnorie.

15.
Sometimes she sunk, and sometimes she swam,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
Until she came to the miller's dam,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

16.
'O father, father, draw your dam!'
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
'There's either a mermaid or a milk-white swan,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

17.
The miller hasted and drew his dam,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
And there he found a drowned woman,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

18.
You could not see her yellow hair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
For gowd and pearls that were sae rare,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

19.
You could na see her middle sma',
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
Her gowden girdle was sae bra',
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

20.
An' by there came a harper fine,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
That harped to the king at dine,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

21.
When he did look that lady upon,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
He sigh'd and made a heavy moan,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

22.
He's ta'en three locks o' her yallow hair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
And wi' them strung his harp sae fair,
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

23.
The first tune he did play and sing,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
Was, 'Farewell to my father the king,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

24.
The nextin tune that he play'd syne,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
Was, 'Farewell to my mother the queen,'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

25.
The lasten tune that he play'd then,
Binnorie, O Binnorie!
Was, 'Wae to my sister, fair Ellen!'
By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.

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