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Queen Mary came tripping down the stair, Wi' the gold strings in her hair: "O whare's the little babie," she says, "That I heard greet sae sair?"

"O hald your tongue, Queen Mary, my dame, 25 Let all those words go free; It was mysell wi' a fit o' the sair colic, I was sick just like to die."

"O hald your tongue, Mary Hamilton, Let all those words go free; 30 O where is the little babie That I heard weep by thee?"

"I rowed it in my handkerchief, And threw it in the sea; I bade it sink, I bade it swim, 35 It would get nae mair o' me."

"O wae be to thee, Mary Hamilton, And an ill deid may you die; For if you had saved the babie's life, It might hae been an honour to thee. 40

"Busk ye, busk ye, Mary Hamilton, O busk ye to be a bride; For I am going to Edinburgh town Your gay wedding to bide.

"You must not put on your robes of black, 45 Nor yet your robes of brown; But you must put on your yellow gold stuffs, To shine thro' Edinburgh town."

"I will not put on my robes of black, Nor yet my robes of brown; 50 But I will put on my yellow gold stuffs, To shine thro' Edinburgh town."

As she went up the Parliament Close, A riding on her horse, There she saw many a burgess' lady 55 Sit greeting at the cross.

"O what means a' this greeting?

I'm sure it's nae for me; For I'm come this day to Edinburgh town, Weel wedded for to be." 60

When she gade up the Parliament stair, She gied loud lauchters three; But ere that she had come down again, She was condemned to die.

"O little did my mother think, 65 The day she prinned my gown, That I was to come sae far frae hame To be hanged in Edinburgh town.

"O what'll my poor father think, As he comes through the town, 70 To see the face of his Molly fair Hanging on the gallows pin?

"Here's a health to the mariners That plough the raging main; Let neither my mother nor father ken 75 But I'm coming hame again.

"Here's a health to the sailors That sail upon the sea; Let neither my mother nor father ken That I came here to die. 80

"Yestreen the Queen had four Maries, This night she'll hae but three; There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton, And Mary Carmichael and me."

"O hald your tongue, Mary Hamilton, 85 Let all those words go free; This night ere ye be hanged Ye shall gang hame wi' me."

"O hald your tongue, Queen Mary, my dame, Let all those words go free; 90 Since I have come to Edinburgh town, It's hanged I shall be; For it shall ne'er be said that in your court I was condemned to die."


From Lyle's _Ancient Ballads and Songs_, p. 160, where it was printed as collated "from the singing of two aged persons, one of them a native of Perthshire." There are two versions slightly differing from the present;--one in Cunningham's _Songs of Scotland_, iii. 60, obtained from Sir Walter Scott, and another in Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharpe's _Ballad Book_, p. 62.

Allan Ramsay wrote a song with the same title, beginning with the first stanza of the ballad, (_Tea Table Miscellany_, i. 70.)

The story of the unfortunate heroines is thus given by Chambers: "Bessie Bell and Mary Gray were the daughters of two country gentlemen in the neighborhood of Perth; and an intimate friendship subsisted between them. Bessie Bell, daughter of the Laird of Kinnaird, happening to be on a visit to Mary Gray, at her father's house of Lynedoch, when the plague of 1666 broke out, to avoid the infection, the two young ladies built themselves a bower in a very retired and romantic spot, called the Burn-braes, about three quarters of a mile westward from Lynedoch House; where they resided for some time, supplied with food, it is said, by a young gentleman of Perth, who was in love with them both. The disease was unfortunately communicated to them by their lover, and proved fatal; when, according to custom in cases of the plague, they were not buried in the ordinary parochial place of sepulture, but in a sequestered spot, called the Dronach Haugh, at the foot of a brae of the same name, upon the banks of the River Almond."

O Bessy Bell an' Mary Gray, They were twa bonnie lassies; They biggit a house on yon burn-brae, An' theekit it o'er wi' rashes.

They theekit it o'er wi' birk and brume, 5 They theekit it o'er wi' heather, Till the pest cam frae the neib'rin town An' streekit them baith thegither.

They were na' buried in Meffen kirk-yard, Amang the rest o' their kin; 10 But they were buried by Dornoch haugh, On the bent before the sun.

Sing, Bessy Bell an' Mary Gray, They were twa bonnie lasses, Wha' biggit a bower on yon burn-brae, 15 An' theekit it o'er wi' thrashes.


_The Children in the Wood_ is perhaps the most popular of all English ballads. Its merit is attested by the favor it has enjoyed with so many generations, and was vindicated to a cold and artificial age by the kindly pen of Addison. The editor of the _Reliques_ thought that the subject was taken from an old play, published in 1601, "of a young child murthered in a wood by two ruffins, with the consent of his unkle," but Ritson discovered that the ballad was entered in the Stationers'

Registers in 1595. The plot of the play was undoubtedly derived from the Italian, and the author of the ballad may have taken a hint from the same source.

Percy's edition, (_Reliques_, iii. 218,) which we have adopted, was printed from two old copies, one of them in black-letter, in the Pepys collection. The full title is, _The Children in the Wood, or, The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament_. _To the Tune of Rogero_, &c. Copies slightly varying from Percy's may be seen in _A Collection of Old Ballads_, (1723,) i. 221; Ritson's _Ancient Songs_, ii. 150; _The Book of British Ballads_, p. 13; and Moore's _Pictorial Book of Ancient Ballad Poetry_, p. 263.

Now ponder well, you parents deare, These wordes which I shall write; A doleful story you shall heare, In time brought forth to light.

A gentleman of good account 5 In Norfolke dwelt of late, Who did in honour far surmount Most men of his estate.

Sore sicke he was, and like to dye, No helpe his life could save; 10 His wife by him as sicke did lye, And both possest one grave.

No love between these two was lost, Each was to other kinde; In love they liv'd, in love they dyed, 15 And left two babes behinde:

The one a fine and pretty boy, Not passing three yeares olde; The other a girl more young than he, And fram'd in beautyes molde. 20 The father left his little son, As plainlye doth appeare, When he to perfect age should come, Three hundred poundes a yeare.

And to his little daughter Jane 25 Five hundred poundes in gold, To be paid downe on marriage-day, Which might not be controll'd: But if the children chance to dye, Ere they to age should come, 30 Their uncle should possesse their wealth; For so the wille did run.

"Now, brother," said the dying man, "Look to my children deare; Be good unto my boy and girl, 35 No friendes else have they here: To God and you I recommend My children deare this daye; But little while be sure we have Within this world to staye. 40

"You must be father and mother both, And uncle all in one; God knowes what will become of them, When I am dead and gone."

With that bespake their mother deare, 45 "O brother kinde," quoth shee, "You are the man must bring our babes To wealth or miserie:

"And if you keep them carefully, Then God will you reward; 50 But if you otherwise should deal, God will your deedes regard."

With lippes as cold as any stone, They kist their children small: "God bless you both, my children deare;" 55 With that the teares did fall.

These speeches then their brother spake To this sicke couple there: "The keeping of your little ones, Sweet sister, do not feare. 60 God never prosper me nor mine, Nor aught else that I have, If I do wrong your children deare, When you are layd in grave."

The parents being dead and gone, 65 The children home he takes, And bringes them straite unto his house, Where much of them he makes.

He had not kept these pretty babes A twelvemonth and a daye, 70 But, for their wealth, he did devise To make them both awaye.

He bargain'd with two ruffians strong, Which were of furious mood, That they should take these children young, 75 And slaye them in a wood.

He told his wife an artful tale.

He would the children send To be brought up in faire London, With one that was his friend. 80

Away then went those pretty babes, Rejoycing at that tide, Rejoycing with a merry minde, They should on cock-horse ride.

They prate and prattle pleasantly, 85 As they rode on the waye, To those that should their butchers be, And work their lives decaye:

So that the pretty speeche they had, Made Murder's heart relent: 90 And they that undertooke the deed, Full sore did now repent.

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