Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter

WILLIAM BELL SCOTT

1812-1890

741                                       The Witchs Ballad

O I hae come from far away,
  From a warm land far away,
A southern land across the sea,
With sailor-lads about the mast,
Merry and canny, and kind to me.
And I hae been to yon town
  To try my luck in yon town;
Nort, and Mysie, Elspie too.
Right braw we were to pass the gate,
Wi gowden clasps on girdles blue.
Mysie smiled wi miminy1 mouth,
  Innocent mouth, miminy mouth;
Elspie wore a scarlet gown,
Norts grey eyes were unco gleg2.
My Castile comb was like a crown.
We walkd abreast all up the street,
  Into the market up the street;
Our hair with marigolds was wound,
Our bodices with love-knots laced,
Our merchandise with tansy bound.
Nort had chickens, I had cocks,
  Gamesome cocks, loud-crowing cocks;
Mysie ducks, and Elspie drakes,
For a wee groat or a pound;
We lost nae time wi gives and takes.
Lost nae time, for well we knew,
  In our sleeves full well we knew,
When the gloaming came that night,
Duck nor drake, nor hen nor cock
Would be found by candle-light.
And when our chaffering all was done,
All was paid for, sold and done,
We drew a glove on ilka hand,
We sweetly curtsied, each to each,
And deftly danced a saraband.
The market-lassies lookd and laughd,
  Left their gear, and lookd and laughd;
They made as they would join the game,
But soon their mithers, wild and wud3,
With whack and screech they stoppd the same.
Sae loud the tongues o randies4 grew,
  The flytin5 and the skirlin6 grew,
At all the windows in the place,
Wi spoons or knives, wi needle or awl,
Was thrust out every hand and face.
And down each stair they throngd anon,
  Gentle, semple, throngd anon:
Souter7 and tailor, frowsy Nan,
The ancient widow young again,
Simpering behind her fan.
Without a choice, against their will,
  Doited8, dazed, against their will,
The market lassie and her mither,
The farmer and his husbandman,
Hand in hand dance a thegither.
Slow at first, but faster soon,
  Still increasing, wild and fast,
Hoods and mantles, hats and hose,
Blindly doffd and cast away,
Left them naked, heads and toes.
They would have torn us limb from limb,
  Dainty limb from dainty limb;
But never one of them could win
Across the line that I had drawn
With bleeding thumb a-widdershin9.
But there was Jeff the provosts son,
  Jeff the provosts only son;
There was Father Auld himsel,
The Lombard frae the hostelry,
And the lawyer Peter Fell.
All goodly men we singled out,
  Waled10 them well, and singled out,
And drew them by the left hand in;
Mysie the priest, and Elspie won
The Lombard, Nort the lawyer carle,
I mysel the provosts son.
Then, with cantrip11 kisses seven,
  Three times round with kisses seven,
Warpd and woven there spun we
Arms and legs and flaming hair,
Like a whirlwind on the sea.
Like a wind that sucks the sea,
  Over and in and on the sea,
Good sooth it was a mad delight;
And every man of all the four
Shut his eyes and laughd outright.
Laughd as long as they had breath,
  Laughd while they had sense or breath;
And close about us coild a mist
Of gnats and midges, wasps and flies,
Like the whirlwind shaft it rist.
Drawn up I was right off my feet,
  Into the mist and off my feet;
And, dancing on each chimney-top,
I saw a thousand darling imps
Keeping time with skip and hop.
And on the provosts brave ridge-tile,
  On the provosts grand ridge-tile,
The Blackamoor first to master me
I saw, I saw that winsome smile,
The mouth that did my heart beguile,
And spoke the great Word over me,
In the land beyond the sea.
I calld his name, I calld aloud,
  Alas! I calld on him aloud;
And then he filld his hand with stour12,
And threw it towards me in the air;
My mouse flew out, I lost my powr!
My lusty strength, my power were gone;
  Power was gone, and all was gone.
He will not let me love him more!
Of bell and whip and horses tail
He cares not if I find a store.
But I am proud if he is fierce!
I am as proud as he is fierce;
Ill turn about and backward go,
If I meet again that Blackamoor,
And hell help us then, for he shall know
I seek another paramour.
And well gang once more to yon town,
  Wi better luck to yon town;
Well walk in silk and cramoisie13,
And I shall wed the provosts son
My lady of the town Ill be!
For I was born a crownd kings child,
  Born and nursed a Kings child,
King o a land ayont14 the sea,
Where the Blackamoor kissd me first,
And taught me art and glamourie15.
Each one in her wame shall hide
  Her hairy mouse, her wary mouse,
Fed on madwort and agramie,
Wear amber beads between her breasts,
And blind-worms skin about her knee.
The Lombard shall be Elspies man,
  Elspies gowden husband-man;
Nort shall take the lawyers hand;
The priest shall swear another vow:
Well dance again the saraband!

1 miminy: prim, demure.

2 gleg: bright, sharp.

3 wud: mad.

4 randies: viragoes.

5 flytin: scolding.

6 skirlin: shrieking.

7 souter: cobbler.

8 doited: mazed.

9 a-widdershin: the wrong way of the sun; or E. to W. through N.

10 waled: chose.

11 cantrip: magic.

12 stour: dust.

13 cramoisie: crimson.

14 ayont: beyond.

15 glamourie: wizardry.

 

Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter