"The castle of Thirlestane is situated upon the Leader, near the town of Lauder. Whether the present building, which was erected by Chancellor Maitland, and improved by the duke of Lauderdale, occupies the site of the ancient castle, I do not know; but it still merits the epithet of a "_darksome house_." I find no notice of the siege in history; but there is nothing improbable in supposing, that the castle, during the stormy period of the Baliol wars, may have held out against the English. The creation of a nephew of Edward I., for the pleasure of slaying him by the hand of young Maitland, is a poetical license; and may induce us to place the date of the composition about the reign of David II., or of his successor, when the real exploits of Maitland and his sons were in some degree obscured, as well as magnified, by the lapse of time. The inveterate hatred against the English, founded upon the usurpation of Edward I., glows in every line of the ballad.
"Auld Maitland is placed, by Gawain Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, among the popular heroes of romance, in his allegorical Palice of Honour.
"I saw Raf Coilyear with his thrawin brow, Crabit John the Reif, and auld Cowkilbeis Sow; And how the wran cam out of Ailesay, And Piers Plowman, that meid his workmen fow: Gret Gowmacmorne, and Fin Mac Cowl, and how They suld be goddis in Ireland, as they say.
_Thair saw I Maitland upon auld beird gray_, Robin Hude, and Gilbert with the quhite hand, How Hay of Nauchton flew in Madin land."
"It is a curious circumstance that this interesting tale, so often referred to by ancient authors, should be now recovered in so perfect a state; and many readers may be pleased to see the following sensible observations, made by a person born in Ettrick Forest, in the humble situation of a shepherd: 'I am surprised to hear that this song is suspected by some to be a modern forgery; the contrary will be best proved, by most of the old people, hereabouts, having a great part of it by heart. Many, indeed, are not aware of the manners of this country; till this present age, the poor illiterate people, in these glens, knew of no other entertainment, in the long winter nights, than repeating, and listening to, the feats of their ancestors, recorded in songs, which I believe to be handed down, from father to son, for many generations, although, no doubt, had a copy been taken, at the end of every fifty years, there must have been some difference, occasioned by the gradual change of language. I believe it is thus that many very ancient songs have been gradually modernized, to the common ear; while, to the connoisseur, they present marks of their genuine antiquity.'--_Letter to the Editor_, _from_ Mr. JAMES HOGG. [June 30, 1801.] To the observations of my ingenious correspondent I have nothing to add, but that, in this, and a thousand other instances, they accurately coincide with my personal knowledge."--SCOTT.
Notwithstanding the authority of Scott and Leyden, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Aytoun, (_Ballads of Scotland_, ii. 1,) that this ballad is a modern imitation, or if not that, a comparatively recent composition. It is with reluctance that I make for it the room it requires.
 Such liberties with the genealogy of monarchs were common to romancers. Henry the Minstrel makes Wallace slay more than one of King Edward's nephews; and Johnie Armstrong claims the merit of slaying a sister's son of Henry VIII.--S. (See p. 49.)
There lived a king in southern land, King Edward hight his name; Unwordily he wore the crown, Till fifty years were gane.
He had a sister's son o's ain, 5 Was large of blood and bane; And afterward, when he came up, Young Edward hight his name.
One day he came before the king, And kneel'd low on his knee-- 10 "A boon, a boon, my good uncle, I crave to ask of thee!
"At our lang wars, in fair Scotland, I fain hae wish'd to be; If fifteen hundred waled wight men 15 You'll grant to ride wi' me."
"Thou sall hae thae, thou sall hae mae; I say it sickerlie; And I mysell, an auld gray man, Array'd your host sall see." 20
King Edward rade, King Edward ran-- I wish him dool and pyne!
Till he had fifteen hundred men Assembled on the Tyne.
And thrice as many at Berwicke[L25] 25 Were all for battle bound, [Who, marching forth with false Dunbar,[L27]
A ready welcome found.]
They lighted on the banks of Tweed, And blew their coals sae het, 30 And fired the Merse and Teviotdale, All in an evening late.
As they fared up o'er Lammermore, They burn'd baith up and down, Until they came to a darksome house, 35 Some call it Leader-Town.
"Wha hauds this house?" young Edward cry'd, "Or wha gies't ower to me?"
A gray-hair'd knight set up his head, And crackit richt crousely: 40
"Of Scotland's king I haud my house; He pays me meat and fee; And I will keep my guid auld house, While my house will keep me."
They laid their sowies to the wall, 45 Wi' mony a heavy peal; But he threw ower to them agen Baith pitch and tar barrel.
With springalds, stanes, and gads of airn, Amang them fast he threw; 50 Till mony of the Englishmen About the wall he slew.
Full fifteen days that braid host lay, Sieging Auld Maitland keen; Syne they hae left him, hail and feir, 55 Within his strength of stane.
Then fifteen barks, all gaily good, Met them upon a day, Which they did lade with as much spoil As they could bear away. 60
"England's our ain by heritage; And what can us withstand, Now we hae conquer'd fair Scotland, With buckler, bow, and brand?"
Then they are on to the land o' France, 65 Where auld King Edward lay, Burning baith castle, tower, and town, That he met in his way.
Until he came unto that town, Which some call Billop-Grace;[L70] 70 There were Auld Maitland's sons, a' three, Learning at school, alas!
The eldest to the youngest said, "O see ye what I see?
Gin a' be trew yon standard says,[L75] 75 We're fatherless a' three.
"For Scotland's conquer'd up and down; Landmen we'll never be: Now, will you go, my brethren two, And try some jeopardy?" 80
Then they hae saddled twa black horse, Twa black horse and a gray; And they are on to King Edward's host, Before the dawn of day.
When they arrived before the host, 85 They hover'd on the lay-- "Wilt thou lend me our king's standard, To bear a little way?"
"Where wast thou bred? where wast thou born?
Where, or in what countrie?" 90 "In north of England I was born:"
(It needed him to lie.)
"A knight me gat, a lady bore, I am a squire of high renowne; I well may bear't to any king, 95 That ever yet wore crowne."
"He ne'er came of an Englishman, Had sic an ee or bree; But thou art the likest Auld Maitland, That ever I did see. 100
"But sic a gloom on ae browhead, Grant I ne'er see again!
For mony of our men he slew, And mony put to pain."
When Maitland heard his father's name, 105 An angry man was he!
Then, lifting up a gilt dagger, Hung low down by his knee,
He stabb'd the knight the standard bore, He stabb'd him cruellie; 110 Then caught the standard by the neuk, And fast away rode he.
"Now, is't na time, brothers," he cried, "Now, is't na time to flee?"
"Ay, by my sooth!" they baith replied, 115 "We'll bear you company."
The youngest turn'd him in a path, And drew a burnish'd brand, And fifteen of the foremost slew, Till back the lave did stand. 120
He spurr'd the gray into the path, Till baith his sides they bled-- "Gray! thou maun carry me away, Or my life lies in wad!"
The captain lookit ower the wa', 125 About the break o' day; There he beheld the three Scots lads, Pursued along the way.
"Pull up portcullize! down draw-brigg!
My nephews are at hand; 130 And they sall lodge wi' me to-night, In spite of all England."
Whene'er they came within the yate, They thrust their horse them frae, And took three lang spears in their hands, 135 Saying, "Here sall come nae mae!"
And they shot out, and they shot in, Till it was fairly day; When mony of the Englishmen About the draw-brigg lay. 140
Then they hae yoked carts and wains, To ca' their dead away, And shot auld dykes abune the lave, In gutters where they lay.
The king, at his pavilion door, 145 Was heard aloud to say, "Last night, three o' the lads o' France My standard stole away.
"Wi' a fause tale, disguised, they came, And wi' a fauser trayne; 150 And to regain my gaye standard, These men were a' down slayne."