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:

Jamie Douglas

The Text of the ballad is here given from Kinloch's MSS., where it is in the handwriting of John Hill Burton when a youth. The text of the song Waly, waly, I take from Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany. The song and the ballad have become inextricably confused, and the many variants of the former contain a greater or a smaller proportion of verses apparently taken from the latter.

The Story of the ballad as here told is nevertheless quite simple and straightforward. It is spoken in the first person by the daughter of the Earl of Mar. (She also says she is sister to the Duke of York, 7.4, a person often introduced into ballads.) Blacklaywood, the lady complains, has spoken calumniously of her to her lord, and she leaves him, saying farewell to her children, and taking her youngest son with her.

The ballad is historical in so far as that Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of the Earl of Mar, was married in 1670 to James, second Marquis of Douglas, and was formally separated from him in 1681. Further, tradition puts the blame of the separation on William Lawrie, factor to the Marquis, often styled the laird of Blackwood ('Blacklaywood,' 2.3), from his wife's family estate.

The non-historical points in the ballad are minor ones. The couple had only one child; and the lady's father could not have come to fetch her away (9.2), as the Earl of Mar died in 1668, before his daughter's wedding.

I have printed the song Waly, waly not because it can be considered a ballad, but simply because it is so closely interwoven with Jamie Douglas. Stanza 6 is reminiscent of the beautiful English quatrain beginning:

'Westron wind, when will thou blow.'

See Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, i. 57.

Waly, waly up the bank,                                 ['Waly' = alas!]
  And waly, waly down the brae!
And waly, waly to yon burn-side,
  Where me and my love wunt to gae!            ['wunt' = were wont]

As I lay sick, and very sick,
  And sick was I, and like to die,
And Blacklaywood put in my love's ears
  That he staid in bower too lang wi' me.

As I lay sick, and very sick,
  And sick was I, and like to die,
And walking into my garden green,
  I heard my good lord lichtlie me.                 ['lichtlie,' make light of]

Now woe betide ye, Blacklaywood!
  I'm sure an ill death you must die;
Ye'll part me and my ain good lord,
  And his face again I'll never see.

'Come down stairs now, Jamie Douglas,
  Come down stairs and drink wine wi' me;
I'll set thee into a chair of gold,
  And not one farthing shall it cost thee.'

'When cockle-shells turn silver bells,
  And muscles grow on every tree,
When frost and snow turn fiery baas,
  I'll come down the stair and drink wine wi' thee.'    ['baas,' balls]

'What's needs me value you, Jamie Douglas,
  More than you do value me?
The Earl of Mar is my father,
  The Duke of York is my brother gay.

'But when my father gets word o' this,
  I trow a sorry man he'll be;
He'll send four score o' his soldiers brave,
  To tak me hame to mine ain countrie.'

As I lay owre my castell-wa',
  I beheld my father comin' for me,
Wi' trumpets sounding on every side;
  But they werena music at a' for me.

'And fare ye weel now, Jamie Douglas!
  And fare ye weel, my children three!
And fare ye weel, my own good lord!
  For my face again ye shall never see.

'And fare ye weel now, Jamie Douglas!
  And fare ye weel, my children three!
And fare ye weel now, Jamie Douglas,
  But my youngest son shall gae wi' me.'

'What ails ye at your youngest son,
  Sits smilin' at the nurse's knee?
I'm sure he never knew any harm,
  Except it was from his nurse or thee.'

  ... ... ...
  ... ... ...

And when I was into my coaches set,
  He made his trumpets a' to soun.'

I've heard it said, and it's oft times seen,
  The hawk that flies far frae her nest;
And a' the world shall plainly see
  It's Jamie Douglas that I love best.

I've heard it said, and it's oft times seen,
  The hawk that flies from tree to tree;
And a' the world shall plainly see
  It's for Jamie Douglas I maun die.

Waly, waly gin love be bonny


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