The edition of this ballad here printed was prepared by Motherwell from three copies obtained from recitation, (_Minstrelsy_, p. 204.) Other versions have been published in Kinloch's _Ancient Scottish Ballads_, p. 78, Buchan's _Ballads of the North of Scotland_, i. 248, and his _Gleanings_, p. 122. The proper names which occur in the course of the piece vary considerably in the different copies. In two of Motherwell's, the hero's designation was Johnie Scot, in a third, Johnie M'Nauchton. In one of Buchan's he is styled Love John, in the other, Lang Johnny Moir. In Kinloch's copy, "Buneftan is his name,"
and he is also called "Jack that little Scot," which seems to have been the title of the ballad in an unpublished collection quoted by Ritson in his _Dissertation on Scottish Song_, p. lxxxi. In like manner, for the King of Aulsberry, (v. 111,) we have the various readings, Duke of Marlborough, Duke of Mulberry, Duke of York, and Duke of Winesberrie, and in the following verse, James the Scottish King, for the King of Spain.
The following passage, illustrative of the feat of arms accomplished by Johnie Scot, was pointed out to Motherwell by Mr. Sharpe:--James Macgill, of Lindores, having killed Sir Robert Balfour, of Denmiln, in a duel, "immediately went up to London in order to procure his pardon, which, it seems, the King (Charles the Second) offered to grant him, upon condition of his fighting an Italian gladiator, or bravo, or, as he was called, a bully, which, it is said, none could be found to do.
Accordingly, a large stage was erected for the exhibition before the King and court. Sir James, it is said, stood on the defensive till the bully had spent himself a little; being a taller man than Sir James, in his mighty gasconading and bravadoing, he actually leapt over the knight as if he would swallow him alive; but, in attempting to do this a second time, Sir James ran his sword up through him, and then called out, 'I have spitted him, let them roast him who will.' This not only procured his pardon, but he was also knighted on the spot."--Small's _Account of Roman Antiquities recently discovered in Fife_, p. 217.
From Buchan's _Lang Johnny Moir_, printed in the Appendix, it will be seen that the title of Little Scot is not to be taken literally, but that the doughty champion was a man of huge stature.
O Johnie Scot 's to the hunting gane, Unto the woods sae wild; And Earl Percy's ae daughter To him goes big wi' child.
O word is to the kitchen gane, 5 And word is to the ha', And word is to the highest towers, Among the nobles a'.
"If she be wi' child," her father said, "As woe forbid it be! 10 I'll put her into a prison strang, And try the veritie."
"But if she be wi' child," her mother said, "As woe forbid it be!
I'll put her intill a dungeon dark, 15 And hunger her till she die."
O Johnie 's called his waiting man, His name was Germanie: "It 's thou must to fair England gae, Bring me that gay ladie. 20
"And here it is a silken sark, Her ain hand sewed the sleeve; Bid her come to the merry green wood, To Johnie her true love."
He rode till he came to Earl Percy's gate, 25 He tirled at the pin: "O wha is there?" said the proud porter; "But I daurna let thee in."
It's he rode up, and he rode down, He rode the castle about, 30 Until he spied a fair ladie At a window looking out.
"Here is a silken sark," he said, "Thy ain hand sewed the sleeve; And ye must gae to the merry green woods, 35 To Johnie Scot thy love."
"The castle it is high, my boy, And walled round about; My feet are in the fetters strong, And how can I get out? 40
"My garters are o' the gude black iron, And O but they be cold; My breast-plate's o' the sturdy steel, Instead of beaten gold.
"But had I paper, pen, and ink, 45 Wi' candle at my command, It's I would write a lang letter To John in fair Scotland."
Then she has written a braid letter, And sealed it wi' her hand, 50 And sent it to the merry green wood, Wi' her own boy at command.
The first line of the letter Johnie read, A loud, loud lauch leuch he; But he had not read ae line but twa, 55 Till the saut tears did blind his ee.
"O I must up to England go, Whatever me betide, For to relieve mine own fair ladie, That lay last by my side." 60
Then up and spak Johnie's auld mither, A weel spoke woman was she: "If you do go to England, Johnie, I may take fareweel o' thee."
And out and spak his father then, 65 And he spak well in time: "If thou unto fair England go, I fear ye'll ne'er come hame."
But out and spak his uncle then, And he spak bitterlie: 70 "Five hundred of my good life-guards Shall bear him companie."
When they were all on saddle set, They were comely to behold; The hair that hung owre Johnie's neck shined 75 Like the links o' yellow gold.
When they were all marching away, Most pleasant for to see, There was not so much as a married man In Johnie's companie. 80
Johnie Scot himsell was the foremost man In the company that did ride; His uncle was the second man, Wi' his rapier by his side.
The first gude town that Johnie came to, 85 He made the bells be rung; And when he rode the town all owre, He made the psalms be sung.
The next gude town that Johnie came to, He made the drums beat round; 90 And the third gude town that he came to, He made the trumpets sound, Till King Henry and all his merry men A-marvelled at the sound.
And when they came to Earl Percy's yates, 95 They rode them round about; And who saw he but his own true love At a window looking out?
"O the doors are bolted with iron and steel, So are the windows about; 100 And my feet they are in fetters strong; And how can I get out?
"My garters they are of the lead, And O but they be cold; My breast-plate's of the hard, hard steel, 105 Instead of beaten gold."
But when they came to Earl Percy's yett, They tirled at the pin; None was so ready as Earl Percy himsell To open and let them in. 110
"Art thou the King of Aulsberry, Or art thou the King of Spain?
Or art thou one of our gay Scots lords, M'Nachton be thy name?"
"I'm not the King of Aulsberry, 115 Nor yet the King of Spain; But am one of our gay Scots lords, Johnie Scot I am called by name."
When Johnie came before the king, He fell low down on his knee: 120 "If Johnie Scot be thy name," he said, "As I trew weel it be, Then the brawest lady in a' my court Gaes big wi' child to thee."
"If she be with child," fair Johnie said, 125 "As I trew weel she be, I'll make it heir owre a' my land, And her my gay ladie."
"But if she be wi' child," her father said, "As I trew weel she be, 130 To-morrow again eight o'clock, High hanged thou shalt be."
Out and spoke Johnie's uncle then, And he spak bitterlie: "Before that we see fair Johnie hanged, 135 We'll a' fight till we die."
"But is there ever an Italian about your court,[L137]
That will fight duels three?
For before that I be hanged," Johnie said, "On the Italian's sword I'll die." 140
"Say on, say on," said then the king, "It is weel spoken of thee; For there is an Italian in my court Shall fight you three by three."
O some is to the good green wood, 145 And some is to the plain, The queen with all her ladies fair, The king with his merry men, Either to see fair Johnie flee, Or else to see him slain. 150
They fought on, and Johnie fought on, Wi' swords o' temper'd steel, Until the draps o' red, red blood Ran trinkling down the field.
They fought on, and Johnie fought on, 155 They fought right manfullie; Till they left not alive, in a' the king's court, A man only but three.
And they begoud at eight of the morn, And they fought on till three; 160 When the Italian, like a swallow swift,[L161]
Owre Johnie's head did flee:
But Johnie being a clever young boy, He wheeled him round about; And on the point of Johnie's broad-sword, 165 The Italian he slew out.
"A priest, a priest," fair Johnie cried, "To wed my love and me;"
"A clerk, a clerk," her father cried, "To sum her tocher free." 170
"I'll hae none of your gold," fair Johnie cried, "Nor none of your other gear; But I will have my own fair bride, For this day I've won her dear."