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"This singularly wild and beautiful old ballad," says Chambers, (_Scottish Ballads_, p. 345,) "is chiefly taken from the recitation of the editor's grandmother, who learned it, when a girl, nearly seventy years ago, from a Miss Anne Gray, resident at Neidpath Castle, Peeblesshire; some additional stanzas, and a few various readings, being adopted from a less perfect, and far less poetical copy, published in Mr. Buchan's [_Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland_, i. 281,] and from a fragment in the _Border Minstrelsy_, entitled _The Wife of Usher's Well_, [vol. i. p. 214, of this collection,] but which is evidently the same narrative."[A]

[A] There is to a certain extent a resemblance between this ballad and the German ballad _Das Schloss in Oesterreich_, found in most of the German collections, and in Swedish and Danish.

"The editor has been induced to divide this ballad into two parts, on account of the _great superiority of what follows over what goes before, and because the latter portion is in a great measure independent of the other_, so far as sense is concerned. The first part is composed of the Peeblesshire version, mingled with that of the northern editor: the second is formed of the Peeblesshire version, mingled with the fragment called _The Wife of Usher's Well_."

The natural desire of men to hear more of characters in whom they have become strongly interested, has frequently stimulated the attempt to continue successful fictions, and such supplements are proverbially unfortunate. A ballad-singer would have powerful inducements to gratify this passion of his audience, and he could most economically effect the object by stringing two ballads together. When a tale ended tragically, the sequel must of necessity be a ghost-story, and we have already had, in _Clerk Saunders_, an instance of this combination. Mr. Chambers has furnished the best possible reasons for believing that the same process has taken place in the case of the present ballad, and that the two parts, (which occur separately,) having originally had no connection, were arbitrarily united, to suit the purposes of some unscrupulous rhapsodist.


O I will sing to you a sang, Will grieve your heart full sair; How the Clerk's twa sons o' Owsenford Have to learn some unco lear.

They hadna been in fair Parish 5 A twelvemonth and a day, Till the Clerk's twa sons fell deep in love Wi' the Mayor's dauchters twae.

And aye as the twa clerks sat and wrote, The ladies sewed and sang; 10 There was mair mirth in that chamber, Than in a' fair Ferrol's land.

But word's gane to the michty Mayor, As he sailed on the sea, That the Clerk's twa sons made licht lemans 15 O' his fair dauchters twae.

"If they hae wranged my twa dauchters, Janet and Marjorie, The morn, ere I taste meat or drink, Hie hangit they shall be." 20

And word's gane to the clerk himsell, As he was drinking wine, That his twa sons at fair Parish Were bound in prison strang.

Then up and spak the Clerk's ladye, 25 And she spak tenderlie: "O tak wi' ye a purse o' gowd, Or even tak ye three; And if ye canna get William, Bring Henry hame to me." 30

O sweetly sang the nightingale, As she sat on the wand; But sair, sair mourned Owsenford, As he gaed in the strand.

When he came to their prison strang, 35 He rade it round about, And at a little shot-window, His sons were looking out.

"O lie ye there, my sons," he said, "For owsen or for kye? 40 Or what is it that ye lie for, Sae sair bound as ye lie?"

"We lie not here for owsen, father; Nor yet do we for kye; But it's for a little o' dear-boucht love, 45 Sae sair bound as we lie.

"O borrow us, borrow us, father," they said, "For the luve we bear to thee!"

"O never fear, my pretty sons, Weel borrowed ye sall be." 50

Then he's gane to the michty Mayor, And he spak courteouslie: "Will ye grant my twa sons' lives, Either for gold or fee?

Or will ye be sae gude a man, 55 As grant them baith to me?"

"I'll no grant ye your twa sons' lives, Neither for gold nor fee; Nor will I be sae gude a man, As gie them baith to thee; 60 But before the morn at twal o'clock, Ye'll see them hangit hie!"

Ben it came the Mayor's dauchters, Wi' kirtle coat alone; Their eyes did sparkle like the gold, 65 As they tripped on the stone.

"Will ye gie us our loves, father, For gold, or yet for fee?

Or will ye take our own sweet lives, And let our true loves be?" 70

He's taen a whip into his hand, And lashed them wondrous sair; "Gae to your bowers, ye vile limmers; Ye'se never see them mair."

Then out it speaks auld Owsenford; 75 A sorry man was he: "Gang to your bouirs, ye lilye flouirs; For a' this maunna be."

Then out it speaks him Hynde Henry: "Come here, Janet, to me; 80 Will ye gie me my faith and troth, And love, as I gae thee?"

"Ye sall hae your faith and troth, Wi' God's blessing and mine:"

And twenty times she kissed his mouth, 85 Her father looking on.

Then out it speaks him gay William: "Come here, sweet Marjorie; Will ye gie me my faith and troth, And love, as I gae thee?" 90

"Yes, ye sall hae your faith and troth, Wi' God's blessing and mine:"

And twenty times she kissed his mouth, Her father looking on.

"O ye'll tak aff your twa black hats, 95 Lay them down on a stone, That nane may ken that ye are clerks, Till ye are putten doun."

The bonnie clerks they died that morn; Their loves died lang ere noon; 100 And the waefu' Clerk o' Owsenford To his lady has gane hame.


His lady sat on her castle wa', Beholding dale and doun; And there she saw her ain gude lord Come walking to the toun.

"Ye're welcome, ye're welcome, my ain gude lord, 5 Ye're welcome hame to me; But where-away are my twa sons?

Ye suld hae brought them wi' ye."

"O they are putten to a deeper lear, And to a higher scule: 10 Your ain twa sons will no be hame Till the hallow days o' Yule."

"O sorrow, sorrow, come mak my bed; And, dule, come lay me doun; For I will neither eat nor drink, 15 Nor set a fit on groun'!"

The hallow days o' Yule were come, And the nights were lang and mirk, When in and cam her ain twa sons, And their hats made o' the birk. 20

It neither grew in syke nor ditch, Nor yet in ony sheuch; But at the gates o' Paradise That birk grew fair eneuch.

"Blow up the fire, now, maidens mine, 25 Bring water from the well; For a' my house shall feast this night, Since my twa sons are well.

"O eat and drink, my merry-men a', The better shall ye fare; 30 For my two sons they are come hame To me for evermair."

And she has gane and made their bed, She's made it saft and fine; And she's happit them wi' her gay mantil, 35 Because they were her ain.

But the young cock crew in the merry Linkum, And the wild fowl chirped for day; And the aulder to the younger said, "Brother, we maun away. 40

"The cock doth craw, the day doth daw, The channerin worm doth chide; Gin we be missed out o' our place, A sair pain we maun bide."

"Lie still, lie still a little wee while, 45 Lie still but if we may; Gin my mother should miss us when she wakes, She'll gae mad ere it be day."

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