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 Braes of Yarrow

The Text was communicated to Percy by Dr. Robertson of Edinburgh, but it did not appear in the Reliques.

In 9.1, 'Then' is doubtless an interpolation, as are the words 'Now Douglas' in 11.1 but on the whole it is the best text of the fifteen or twenty variants.

The Story--James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott referred the ballad to two different sources, the former legendary, and the latter historical. It has always been very popular in Scotland, and besides the variants there are in existence several imitations, such as the well-known poem of William Hamilton, 'Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride.' This was printed in vol. ii. of Percy's Reliques.

About half the known variants make the hero and heroine man and wife, the other half presenting them as unmarried lovers.

'I dreamed a dreary dream this night,
  That fills my heart wi' sorrow;
I dreamed I was pouing the heather green
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.

'O true-luve mine, stay still and dine,
  As ye ha' done before, O;'
'O I'll be hame by hours nine,
  And frae the braes of Yarrow.'

'I dreamed a dreary dream this night,
  That fills my heart wi' sorrow;
I dreamed my luve came headless hame,
  O frae the braes of Yarrow!

'O true-luve mine, stay still and dine.
  As ye ha' done before, O;'
'O I'll be hame by hours nine,
  And frae the braes of Yarrow.'

'O are ye going to hawke,' she says,
  'As ye ha' done before, O?
Or are ye going to wield your brand,
  Upon the braes of Yarrow?'

'O I am not going to hawke,' he says,
  'As I have done before, O,
But for to meet your brother John,
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.'

As he gaed down yon dowy den,                   ['dowy,' dreary]
  Sorrow went him before, O;
Nine well-wight men lay waiting him,            ['well-wight,' brave, sturdy]
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.

'I have your sister to my wife,
  Ye think me an unmeet marrow!
But yet one foot will I never flee
  Now frae the braes of Yarrow.'

Then four he kill'd and five did wound,
  That was an unmeet marrow!
And he had weel nigh wan the day
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.

But a cowardly loon came him behind,
  Our Lady lend him sorrow!
And wi' a rappier pierced his heart,
  And laid him low on Yarrow.

Now Douglas to his sister's gane,
  Wi' meikle dule and sorrow:
'Gae to your luve, sister,' he says,
  'He's sleeping sound on Yarrow.'

As she went down yon dowy den,
  Sorrow went her before, O;
She saw her true-love lying slain
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.

She swoon'd thrice upon his breist
  That was her dearest marrow;
Said, 'Ever alace, and wae the day
  Thou went'st frae me to Yarrow!'

[Apparently Percy's invention]

She kist his mouth, she kaimed his hair,
  As she had done before, O;
She wiped* the blood that trickled doun
  Upon the braes of Yarrow.

[* 'wiped': Child suggests the original word was 'drank.']

Her hair it was three quarters lang,
  It hang baith side and yellow;                      ['side,' long]
She tied it round her white hause-bane,         ['hause-bane,' neck]
  And tint her life on Yarrow.

The Twa Brothers


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