Popular Ballads of the Olden Time

The following is from Popular Ballads of the Olden Time: Third Series - Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance Selected and Edited by Frank Sidgwick:

The Gipsy Laddie

The Text is from Motherwell's MS., a copy from tradition in Renfrewshire in 1825. The ballad exists both in English and Scottish, and though the English ballad is probably derived from the Scottish, it was the first in print. It is also called Johnnie Faa. Motherwell, in printing an elaborated version of the following text (Minstrelsy, 1827, p. 360), called it Gypsie Davy.

The Story--Singers--presumably gipsies--entice Lady Cassillis down to hear them, and cast glamour on her. She follows their chief, Gipsy Davy, but finds (stt. 5 and 6) that the conditions are changed. Her lord misses her, seeks her 'thro' nations many,' and finds her drinking with the gipsy chief. He asks her to return home with him. At this point the present version becomes difficult, and the bearing of st. 12 is not apparent. We may gather that the lady returned home with her husband, as he proceeded to hang sixteen of the gipsies.

This version calls the lady 'Jeanie Faw,' but the majority call the gipsy chief Johnnie Faa, which is a well-known name amongst gipsies, and occurs as early as 1540 as the name of the 'lord and earl of Little Egypt.' Gipsies being expelled from Scotland by Act of Parliament in 1609, a Captain Johnnė Faa and seven others were hanged in 1624 for disobeying the ordinance, and this execution is sufficient to account for the introduction of the name into a ballad of this kind.

The ballad has no certain connection with the Cassillis family, and it has been suggested that the word is simply a corruption of 'castle,' the original beginning of the ballad being

'The gipsies came to the castle-gate.'

If this be so, the present form of the ballad illustrates admirably two methods of corruption by tradition.

There cam singers to Earl Cassillis' gates,
  And oh, but they sang bonnie!
They sang sae sweet and sae complete,
  Till down cam the earl's lady.

She cam tripping down the stair,
  And all her maids before her;
As soon as they saw her weel-faur'd face                   ['weel-faur'd,' well-favoured]
  They coost their glamourye owre her.

They gave her o' the gude sweet-meats,
  The nutmeg and the ginger,
And she gied them a far better thing,
  Ten gold rings aff her finger.

'Tak from me my silken cloak,
  And bring me down my plaidie;
For it is good eneuch,' she said,
  'To follow a Gipsy Davy.

'Yestreen I rode this water deep,
  And my gude lord beside me;
But this nicht I maun set in my pretty fit and wade,
  A wheen blackguards wading wi' me,                      ['a wheen,' a pack [of]]

'Yestreen I lay in a fine feather-bed,
  And my gude lord beyond me;
But this nicht I maun lie in some cauld tenant's-barn,
  A wheen blackguards waiting on me.'

'Come to thy bed, my bonny Jeanie Faw,
  Come to thy bed, my dearie,
For I do swear by the top o' my spear,
  Thy gude lord'll nae mair come near thee.'

When her gude lord cam hame at nicht,
  It was asking for his fair ladye;
One spak slow, and another whisper'd out,
  'She's awa' wi' Gipsey Davy!'

'Come saddle to me my horse,' he said;
  'Come saddle and mak him readie!
For I'll neither sleep, eat, nor drink,
  Till I find out my lady.'

They socht her up, they socht her doun,
  They socht her thro' nations many,
Till at length they found her out in Abbey dale,
  Drinking wi' Gipsey Davy.

'Rise, oh, rise! my bonny Jeanie Faw;
  Oh, rise, and do not tarry!
Is this the thing ye promised to me
  When at first I did thee marry?'

They drank her cloak, so did they her goun,
  They drank her stockings and her shoon,
And they drank the coat that was nigh to her smock,
  And they pawned her pearled apron.

They were sixteen clever men,
  Suppose they were na bonnie;
They are a' to be hang'd on ae tree,
  For the stealing o' Earl Cassilis' lady.

'We are sixteen clever men,
  One woman was a' our mother;
We are a' to be hanged on ae day,
  For the stealing of a wanton lady.'

Bessy Bell and Mary Gray


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