English and Scottish Ballads.
YOUNG BEICHAN AND SUSIE PYE.
An inspection of the first hundred lines of Robert of Gloucester's _Life and Martyrdom of Thomas Beket_, (edited for the Percy Society by W. H. Black, vol. xix,) will leave no doubt that the hero of this ancient and beautiful tale is veritably Gilbert Becket, father of the renowned Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Robert of Gloucester's story coincides in all essential particulars with the traditionary legend, but Susie Pye is, unfortunately, spoken of in the chronicle by no other name than the daughter of the Saracen Prince Admiraud.
We have thought it well to present the three best versions of so popular and interesting a ballad. The two which are given in the body of this work are Jamieson's, from _Popular Ballads_, ii. 117, and ii.
127. In the Appendix is Kinloch's, from _Ancient Scottish Ballads_, p.
260. Other printed copies are _Lord Beichan_, in Richardson's _Borderer's Table Book_, vii. 20, communicated by J. H. Dixon, who has inserted the same in _Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs_, Percy Society, vol. xvii. p. 85; _Lord Bateman_, the common English broadside (at p. 95 of the collection just cited); and _Young Bondwell_, published from Buchan's MS. in _Scottish Traditionary Versions of Ancient Ballads_, p. 1, (Percy Soc. vol. xvii.) identical, we suppose, with the copy referred to by Motherwell in _Scarce Ancient Ballads_, Peterhead, 1819. There is a well-known burlesque of the ordinary English ballad, called _The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman_, with comical illustrations by Cruikshank. On this was founded a burlesque drama, produced some years ago at the Strand Theatre, London, with great applause.
"This ballad, and that which succeeds it in this collection, (both on the same subject,) are given from copies taken from Mrs. Brown's recitation, collated with two other copies procured from Scotland, one in MS., another very good one printed for the stalls; a third, in the possession of the late Reverend Jonathan Boucher of Epsom, taken from recitation in the North of England; and a fourth, about one third as long as the others, which the Editor picked off an old wall in Piccadilly."
Jamieson's interpolations have been omitted.
In London was young Beichan born, He longed strange countries for to see; But he was taen by a savage moor, Who handled him right cruellie;
For he viewed the fashions of that land; 5 Their way of worship viewed he; But to Mahound, or Termagant, Would Beichan never bend a knee.
So in every shoulder they've putten a bore; In every bore they've putten a tree; 10 And they have made him trail the wine And spices on his fair bodie.
They've casten him in a dungeon deep, Where he could neither hear nor see; For seven years they kept him there, 15 Till he for hunger's like to die.
This Moor he had but ae daughter, Her name was called Susie Pye; And every day as she took the air, Near Beichan's prison she passed by. 20
O so it fell, upon a day She heard young Beichan sadly sing; "My hounds they all go masterless; My hawks they flee from tree to tree; My younger brother will heir my land; 25 Fair England again I'll never see!"
All night long no rest she got, Young Beichan's song for thinking on; She's stown the keys from her father's head, And to the prison strong is gone. 30
And she has open'd the prison doors, I wot she open'd two or three, Ere she could come young Beichan at, He was locked up so curiouslie.
But when she came young Beichan before, 35 Sore wonder'd he that may to see; He took her for some fair captive;-- "Fair Lady, I pray, of what countrie?"
"O have ye any lands," she said, "Or castles in your own countrie, 40 That ye could give to a lady fair, From prison strong to set you free?"
"Near London town I have a hall, With other castles two or three; I'll give them all to the lady fair 45 That out of prison will set me free."
"Give me the truth of your right hand, The truth of it give unto me, That for seven years ye'll no lady wed, Unless it be along with me." 50
"I'll give thee the truth of my right hand, The truth of it I'll freely gie, That for seven years I'll stay unwed, For the kindness thou dost show to me."
And she has brib'd the proud warder 55 Wi' mickle gold and white monie; She's gotten the keys of the prison strong, And she has set young Beichan free.
She's gi'en him to eat the good spice-cake, She's gi'en him to drink the blood-red wine; She's bidden him sometimes think on her, 60 That sae kindly freed him out of pine.
She's broken a ring from her finger, And to Beichan half of it gave she: "Keep it, to mind you of that love 65 The lady bore that set you free.
"And set your foot on good ship-board, And haste ye back to your own countrie; And before that seven years have an end, Come back again, love, and marry me." 70
But long ere seven years had an end, She long'd full sore her love to see; For ever a voice within her breast Said, "Beichan has broke his vow to thee."
So she's set her foot on good ship-board, 75 And turn'd her back on her own countrie.
She sailed east, she sailed west, Till to fair England's shore she came; Where a bonny shepherd she espied, Feeding his sheep upon the plain. 80
"What news, what news, thou bonny shepherd?
What news hast thou to tell to me?"
"Such news I hear, ladie," he says, "The like was never in this countrie.
"There is a wedding in yonder hall, 85 Has lasted these thirty days and three; Young Beichan will not bed with his bride, For love of one that's yond the sea."
She's put her hand in her pocket, Gi'en him the gold and white monie; 90 "Hae, take ye that, my bonny boy, For the good news thou tell'st to me."
When she came to young Beichan's gate, She tirled softly at the pin; So ready was the proud porter 95 To open and let this lady in.
"Is this young Beichan's hall," she said, "Or is that noble lord within?"
"Yea, he's in the hall among them all, And this is the day o' his weddin." 100
"And has he wed anither love?
And has he clean forgotten me?"
And, sighin', said that gay ladie, "I wish I were in my own conntrie."
And she has taen her gay gold ring, 105 That with her love she brake so free; Says, "Gie him that, ye proud porter, And bid the bridegroom speak to me."
When the porter came his lord before,[L109]
He kneeled down low on his knee---- 110 "What aileth thee, my proud porter, Thou art so full of courtesie?"
"I've been porter at your gates, It's thirty long years now and three; But there stands a lady at them now, 115 The like o' her did I never see;
"For on every finger she has a ring, And on her mid finger she has three; And as meickle gold aboon her brow As would buy an earldom to me." 120
Its out then spak the bride's mother, Aye and an angry woman was shee; "Ye might have excepted our bonny bride, And twa or three of our companie."
"O hold your tongue, thou bride's mother; 125 Of all your folly let me be; She's ten times fairer nor the bride, And all that's in your companie.
"She begs one sheave of your white bread, But and a cup of your red wine; 130 And to remember the lady's love, That last reliev'd you out of pine."
"O well-a-day!" said Beichan then, "That I so soon have married thee!
For it can be none but Susie Pye, 135 That sailed the sea for love of me."
And quickly hied he down the stair; Of fifteen steps he made but three; He's ta'en his bonny love in his arms, And kist, and kist her tenderlie. 140
"O hae ye ta'en anither bride?
And hae ye quite forgotten me?
And hae ye quite forgotten her, That gave you life and libertie?"
She looked o'er her left shoulder, 145 To hide the tears stood in her e'e: "Now fare thee well, young Beichan," she says, "I'll try to think no more on thee."