She's brought them down to yon cellar, She brought them fifty steps and three; 30 She birled wi' them the beer and wine, Till they were as drunk as drunk could be.
Then she has lock'd her cellar door, For there were fifty steps and three; "Lie there wi' my sad malison, 35 For this bad news ye've tauld to me."
She's ta'en the keys intill her hand, And threw them deep, deep in the sea; "Lie there wi' my sad malison, Till my gude lord return to me." 40
Then she sat down in her own room, And sorrow lull'd her fast asleep; And up it starts her own gude lord, And even at that lady's feet.
"Take here the keys, Janet," he says, 45 "That ye threw deep, deep in the sea; And ye'll relieve my merry young men, For they've nane o' the swick o' me.
"They shot the shot, and drew the stroke, And wad in red bluid to the knee; 50 Nae sailors mair for their lord coud do, Nor my young men they did for me."
"I hae a question at you to ask, Before that ye depart frae me; You'll tell to me what day I'll die, 55 And what day will my burial be?"
"I hae nae mair o' God's power Than he has granted unto me; But come to heaven when ye will, There porter to you I will be. 60
"But ye'll be wed to a finer knight Than ever was in my degree; Unto him ye'll hae children nine, And six o' them will be ladies free.
"The other three will be bold young men, 65 To fight for king and countrie; The ane a duke, the second a knight, And third a laird o' lands sae free."
THE WIFE OF USHER'S WELL.
_Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_, iii. 258.
That the repose of the dead is disturbed by the immoderate grief of those they have left behind them, is a belief which finds frequent expression in popular ballads. Obstinate sorrow rouses them from their grateful slumber; every tear that is shed for them wets their shroud; they can get no rest, and are compelled to revisit the world they would fain forget, to rebuke and forbid the mourning that destroys their peace.
"Ice-cold and bloody, a lead-weight of sorrow, falls on my breast each tear that you shed,"
says the ghost of Helgi in the _Edda_ to his lamenting wife (_Helgak.
Hundingsb._ II.) The same idea is found in the German ballad, _Der Vorwirth_, Erk's _Liederhort_, No. 46, 46 a, and in various tales, as _Das Todtenhemdchen_, (_K.u.H. Marchen_, No. 109, and note), etc. In like manner Sir Aage, in a well-known Danish ballad (Grundtvig, No.
90), and the corresponding _Sorgens Magt, Svenska F.V._, No. 6.
"Every time thou weepest for me, Thy heart makest sad, Then all within, my coffin stands full Of clotted blood."
Rarely is the silence of the grave broken for purposes of consolation.
Yet some cases there are, as in a Lithuanian ballad cited by Wackernagel, _Altd. Blatter_, i. 176, and a Spanish ballad noticed by Talvj, _Versuch_, p. 141. The present ballad seems to belong to the latter class rather than the former, but it is so imperfect that its true character cannot be determined.
Chambers maintains, we think erroneously, that this ballad is a fragment of _The Clerk's Twa Sons o' Owsenford_. See the second volume of this collection, page 63.
There lived a wife at Usher's Well, And a wealthy wife was she, She had three stout and stalwart sons, And sent them o'er the sea.
They hadna been a week from her, 5 A week but barely ane, When word came to the carline wife, That her three sons were gane.
They hadna been a week from her, A week but barely three, 10 When word came to the carline wife, That her sons she'd never see.
"I wish the wind may never cease, Nor fishes[L14] in the flood, Till my three sons come hame to me, 15 In earthly flesh and blood."--
It fell about the Martinmas, When nights are lang and mirk, The carline wife's three sons came hame, And their hats were o' the birk. 20
It neither grew in syke nor ditch, Nor yet in ony sheugh; But at the gates o' Paradise, That birk grew fair eneugh.
"Blow up the fire, my maidens! 25 Bring water from the well!
For a' my house shall feast this night, Since my three sons are well."--
And she has made to them a bed, She's made it large and wide; 30 And she's ta'en her mantle her about, Sat down at the bed-side.
Up then crew the red red cock, 35 And up and crew the gray; The eldest to the youngest said, "'Tis time we were away."--
The cock he hadna craw'd but once, And clapp'd his wings at a', 40 Whan the youngest to the eldest said, "Brother, we must awa.--
"The cock doth craw, the day doth daw, The channerin' worm doth chide; Gin we be mist out o' our place, 45 A sair pain we maun bide.
"Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
Fareweel to barn and byre!
And fare ye weel, the bonny lass, That kindles my mother's fire." 50
14. Should we not read, for _fishes_ here, _fashes_-- i. e.
THE SUFFOLK MIRACLE:
_Or, a relation of a young man, who, a month after his death, appeared to his sweetheart, and carried her on horseback behind him for forty miles in two hours, and was never seen after but in his grave._
From _A Collection of Old Ballads_, i. 266. In Moore's _Pictorial Book of Ancient Ballad Poetry_ (p. 463) is a copy from a broadside in the Roxburghe collection.
_The Suffolk Miracle_ has an external resemblance to several noble ballads, but the likeness does not extend below the surface. It is possible that we have here the residuum of an old poem, from which all the beauty and spirit have been exhaled in the course of tradition; but as the ballad now exists, it is a vulgar ghost-story, without any motive. Regarding the external form alone, we may place by its side the Breton ballad, _Le Frere de Lait_, in Villemarque's _Chants Populaires de la Bretagne_, vol. i. No. 22 (translated by Miss Costello, _Quart. Review_, vol. 68, p. 75), the Romaic ballad of _Constantine and Arete_, in Fauriel's _Chants Populaires de la Grece Moderne_, p. 406 (see Appendix), and the Servian ballad (related to the Romaic, and perhaps derived from it), _Jelitza and her Brothers_, Talvj, _Volkslieder der Serben_, i. 160, all of them among the most beautiful specimens in this kind of literature; and also Burger's _Lenore_. It has been once or twice most absurdly suggested that _Lenore_ owed its existence to this _Suffolk Miracle_. The difference, indeed, is not greater than between a "Chronicle History" and _Macbeth_; it is however certain that Burger's ballad is all his own, except the hint of the ghostly horseman and one or two phrases, which he took from the description of a Low German ballad. The editors of the _Wunderhorn_ claim to give this ballad, vol. ii. p. 19. An equivalent prose tradition is well known in Germany. Most of the ballads relating to the return of departed spirits are brought together in an excellent article by Wackernagel in the _Altdeutsche Blatter_, i. 174.
A wonder stranger ne'er was known Than what I now shall treat upon.
In Suffolk there did lately dwell A farmer rich and known full well.
He had a daughter fair and bright, 5 On whom he placed his chief delight; Her beauty was beyond compare, She was both virtuous and fair.
There was a young man living by, Who was so charmed with her eye, 10 That he could never be at rest; He was by love so much possest.