Young Hunting

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is given from two copies in Herd's MSS. as collated by Child, with the exception of two lines, 9.3,4, which are taken from a third and shorter copy in Herd's MSS., printed by him in the Scottish Songs. Scott's ballad, Earl Richard, is described by him as made up from the above-mentioned copies of Herd, with some trivial alterations adopted from tradition--a totally inadequate account of wholesale alterations. Scott also gives a similar ballad in Lord William.

The Story.--Young Hunting, a king's son, tells a former mistress that he has a new sweetheart whom he loves thrice as well. The lady conceals her anger, plies him with wine, and slays him in his drunken sleep. Her deed unluckily is overseen by a bonny bird, whom she attempts to coax into captivity, but fails. She dresses Young Hunting for riding, and throws him into the Clyde. The king his father asks for him. She swears by corn (see First Series, Glasgerion, p. 1) that she has not seen him since yesterday at noon. The king's divers search for him in vain, until the bonny bird reminds them of the method of finding a drowned corpse by the means of candles. The lady still denies her guilt, and accuses her maid 'Catheren,' but the bonfire refuses to consume the innocent Catheren. When the real culprit is put in, she burns like hoky-gren.

The discovery of a drowned body by candles is a recognised piece of folklore. Usually the candle is stuck in a loaf of bread or on a cork, and set afloat in the river; sometimes a hole is cut in a loaf of bread and mercury poured in to weight it; even a chip of wood is used. The superstition still survives. The most rational explanation offered is that as eddies in rapid streams form deep pools, in which a body might easily be caught, so a floating substance indicates the place by being caught in the centre of the eddy.

The failure of the fire to burn an innocent maid is also, of course, a well-known incident.


'O Lady, rock never your young son young
One hour longer for me,
For I have a sweetheart in Garlick's Wells
I love thrice better than thee.

'The very sols of my love's feet
Is whiter then thy face:'
'But nevertheless na, Young Hunting,
Ye'l stay wi' me all night.'

She has birl'd in him Young Hunting
The good ale and the beer,
Till he was as fou drunken
As any wild-wood steer.

She has birl'd in him Young Hunting
The good ale and the wine,
Till he was as fou drunken
As any wild-wood swine.

Up she has tain him Young Hunting,
And she has had him to her bed,
... ... ...
... ... ...

And she has minded her on a little penknife,
That hangs low down by her gare,
And she has gin him Young Hunting
A deep wound and a sare.

Out an' spake the bonny bird,
That flew abon her head:
'Lady, keep well thy green clothing
Fra that good lord's blood.'

'O better I'll keep my green clothing
Fra that good lord's blood,
Nor thou can keep thy flattering toung,
That flatters in thy head.

'Light down, light down, my bonny bird,
Light down upon my hand,
And ye sail hae a cage o' the gowd
Where ye hae but the wand.

'O siller, O siller shall be thy hire,
An' goud shall be thy fee,
An' every month into the year
Thy cage shall changed be.'

'I winna light down, I shanna light down,
I winna light on thy hand;
For soon, soon wad ye do to me
As ye done to Young Hunting.'

She has booted and spir'd him Young Hunting
As he had been gan to ride,
A hunting-horn about his neck,
An' the sharp sourd by his side;
And she has had him to yon wan water,
For a' man calls it Clyde.

The deepest pot intill it a'
She has puten Young Hunting in;
A green truff upon his breast,
To hold that good lord down.

It fell once upon a day
The king was going to ride,
And he sent for him Young Hunting,
To ride on his right side.

She has turn'd her right and round about,
She sware now by the corn:
'I saw na thy son, Young Hunting,
Sen yesterday at morn.'

She has turn'd her right and round about,
She sware now by the moon:
'I saw na thy son, Young Hunting,
Sen yesterday at noon.

'It fears me sair in Clyde Water
That he is drown'd therein:'
O they ha' sent for the king's duckers
To duck for Young Hunting.

They ducked in at the tae water-bank,
They ducked out at the tither:
'We'll duck no more for Young Hunting
All tho' he wear our brother.'

Out an' spake the bonny bird,
That flew abon their heads:
... ... ...
... ... ...

'O he's na drown'd in Clyde Water,
He is slain and put therein;
The lady that lives in yon castil
Slew him and put him in.

'Leave aff your ducking on the day,
And duck upon the night;
Whear ever that sakeless knight lys slain,
The candels will shine bright.'

Thay left off their ducking o' the day,
And ducked upon the night,
And where that sakeless knight lay slain,
The candles shone full bright.

The deepest pot intill it a'
Thay got Young Hunting in;
A green turff upon his brest,
To hold that good lord down.

O thay hae sent aff men to the wood
To hew down baith thorn an' fern,
That they might get a great bonefire
To burn that lady in.
'Put na the wyte on me,' she says,
'It was her May Catheren.'

Whan thay had tane her May Catheren,
In the bonefire set her in,
It wad na take upon her cheeks,
Nor take upon her chin,
Nor yet upon her yallow hair,
To healle the deadly sin.

Out they hae tain her May Catheren
And they hay put that lady in;
O it took upon her cheek, her cheek,
An' it took upon her chin,
An' it took on her fair body,
She burnt like hoky-gren.

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