"But, Prince, what sall cum o' my men?
When I gae back, traitour they'll ca' me. 300 I had rather lose my life and land, Ere my merryemen rebuked me."
"Will your merryemen amend their lives, And a' their pardons I grant thee?
Now, name thy landis where'er they lie, 305 And here I RENDER them to thee."--
"Fair Philiphaugh is mine by right, And Lewinshope still mine shall be; Newark, Foulshiells, and Tinnies baith, My bow and arrow purchased me. 310
"And I have native steads to me, The Newark Lee and Hanginshaw;[L312]
I have mony steads in the forest schaw, But them by name I dinna knaw."
The keys of the castell he gave the King, 315 Wi' the blessing o' his feir ladye; He was made sheriffe of Ettricke Foreste, Surely while upward grows the tree; And if he was na traitour to the King, Forfaulted he suld never be. 320
Wha ever heard, in ony times, Sicken an outlaw in his degre, Sic favour get befor a King, As did the OUTLAW MURRAY of the Foreste free?
38. Thomas Boyd, Earl of Arran, was forfeited, with his father and uncle, in 1469, for an attempt on the person of James III. He had a son, James, who was restored, and in favor with James IV. about 1482. If this be the person here meant, we should read, "The Earl of Arran his _son_ was he." Glenriddel's copy reads, "a Highland laird I'm sure was he."
Reciters sometimes call the messenger the Laird of Skene.--S.
60. Birkendale Brae, now commonly called _Birkendailly_, is steep descent on the south side of Minch-moor, which separates Tweeddale from Ettrick Forest; and from the top of which we have the first view of the woods of Hangingshaw, the Castle of Newark, and the romantic dale of Yarrow.--S.
63, Scott, _blows_: Aytoun, _bows_.
154. This is a place at the head of Moffat-water, possessed of old by the family of Halliday.--S.
173. This family were ancestors of the Murrays, Earls of Annandale; but the name of the representative, in the time of James IV., was William, not Andrew. Glenriddel's MS. reads, "the country-keeper."--S.
183. Before the Barony of Traquair became the property of the Stewarts, it belonged to a family of Murrays, afterwards Murrays of Black-barony, and ancestors of Lord Elibank. The old castle was situated on the Tweed.
The lands of Traquair were forfeited by Willielmus de Moravia, previous to 1464; for, in that year, a charter, proceeding upon his forfeiture, was granted by the crown to "Willielmo Douglas de Cluny." Sir James was, perhaps, the heir of William Murray. It would farther seem, that the grant in 1464 was not made effectual by Douglas; for another charter from the crown, dated the 3d February, 1478, conveys the estate of Traquair to James Stewart, Earl of Buchan, son of the Black Knight of Lorne, and maternal uncle to James III., from whom is descended the present Earl of Traquair. The first royal grant not being followed by possession, it is very possible that the Murrays may have continued to occupy Traquair long after the date of that charter. Hence, Sir James might have reason to say, as in the ballad, "The King has gifted my lands lang syne."--S.
195, A ford on the Tweed, at the mouth of the Caddon Burn, near Yair.--S.
247. Permanscore is a very remarkable hollow on the top of a high ridge of hills, dividing the vales of Tweed and Yarrow, a little to the eastward of Minch-moor. It is the outermost point of the lands of Broadmeadows. The Glenriddel MS., which, in this instance, is extremely inaccurate as to names, calls the place of rendezvous, "_The Poor Man's House_," and hints that the Outlaw was surprised by the treachery of the King:--
"Then he was aware of the King's coming, With hundreds three in company, 'I wot the muckle deel * * * * *
He learned Kingis to lie!
For to fetch me here frae amang my men, Here, like a dog for to die.'"
I believe the reader will think with me, that the catastrophe is better, as now printed from Mrs. Cockburn's copy. The deceit, supposed to be practised on the Outlaw, is unworthy of the military monarch, as he is painted in the ballad; especially if we admit him to be King James IV.--S.
312. In this and the following verse, the ceremony of feudal investiture is supposed to be gone through, by the Outlaw resigning his possessions into the hands of the king, and receiving them back, to be held of him as superior. The lands of Philiphaugh are still possessed by the Outlaw's representative. Hangingshaw and Lewinshope were sold of late years. Newark, Foulshiels, and Tinnies, have long belonged to the family of Buccleuch.--S.
"Johnie Armstrong, of Gilnockie, the hero of the following ballad, is a noted personage, both in history and tradition. He was, it would seem from the ballad, a brother of the Laird of Mangertoun, chief of the name. His place of residence (now a roofless tower) was at the Hollows, a few miles from Langholm, where its ruins still serve to adorn a scene, which, in natural beauty, has few equals in Scotland. At the head of a desperate band of freebooters, this Armstrong is said to have spread the terror of his name almost as far as Newcastle, and to have levied black-mail, or protection and forbearance money, for many miles round.
James V., of whom it was long remembered by his grateful people that he made the "rush-bush keep the cow," about 1529, undertook an expedition through the Border counties, to suppress the turbulent spirit of the Marchmen. But before setting out upon his journey, he took the precaution of imprisoning the different Border chieftains, who were the chief protectors of the marauders. The Earl of Bothwell was forfeited, and confined in Edinburgh Castle. The Lords of Home and Maxwell, the Lairds of Buccleuch, Fairniherst, and Johnston, with many others, were also committed to ward. Cockburn of Henderland, and Adam Scott of Tushielaw, called the King of the Border, were publicly executed.--LESLEY, p. 430. The King then marched rapidly forward, at the head of a flying army of ten thousand men, through Ettrick Forest and Ewsdale. The evil genius of our Johnie Armstrong, or, as others say, the private advice of some courtiers, prompted him to present himself before James, at the head of thirty-six horse, arrayed in all the pomp of Border chivalry. Pitscottie uses nearly the words of the ballad, in describing the splendor of his equipment, and his high expectations of favor from the King. "But James, looking upon him sternly, said to his attendants, 'What wants that knave that a king should have?' and ordered him and his followers to instant execution."--"But John Armstrong,"
continues this minute historian, "made great offers to the King: That he should sustain himself, with forty gentlemen, ever ready at his service, on their own cost, without wronging any Scottishman: Secondly, that there was not a subject in England, duke, earl, or baron, but, within a certain day, he should bring him to his majesty, either quick or dead.
At length, he seeing no hope of favor, said very proudly, 'It is folly to seek grace at a graceless face; but,' said he, 'had I known this, I should have lived upon the Borders in despite of King Harry and you both; for I know King Harry would _downweigh my best horse with gold_, to know that I were condemned to die this day."--PITSCOTTIE'S _History_, p. 145. Johnie and all his retinue were accordingly hanged upon growing trees, at a place called Carlenrig Chapel, about ten miles above Hawick, on the high road to Langholm. The country people believe, that, to manifest the injustice of the execution, the trees withered away.
Armstrong and his followers were buried in a deserted churchyard, where their graves are still shown.
"As this Border hero was a person of great note in his way, he is frequently alluded to by the writers of the time. Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, in the curious play published by Mr. Pinkerton, from the Bannatyne MS., introduces a pardoner, or knavish dealer in relics, who produces, among his holy rarities--
----"The cordis, baith grit and lang, Quhilk hangit Johnnie Armstrang, Of gud hempt, soft and sound.
Gud haly pepill, I stand ford, Quhavir beis hangit in this cord, Neidis nevir to be dround!"
PINKERTON'S _Scottish Poems_, vol. ii. p. 69.
"In _The Complaynt of Scotland_, John Armistrangis' dance, mentioned as a popular tune, has probably some reference to our hero." [See the _Musical Museum_, ed. 1853, vol. iv. p. 336.]--SCOTT'S _Minstrelsy_, i.
The ballad as here given is to be found in _A Collection of Old Ballads_, 1723, vol. i. p. 170. The whole title is: _Johnny Armstrang's Last Good-night, shewing how John Armstrong, with his eightscore men, fought a bloody battle with the Scotch King at Edenborough_. It had previously appeared in _Wit Restor'd_, 1658, p. 123, in very good shape, except the want of some stanzas towards the end. It is in this form, says Motherwell, that the story is preserved in the mouths of the people. Nevertheless, Allan Ramsay has inserted in his _Evergreen_ quite a different version, taken down from the mouth of a gentleman of the name of Armstrong, "the sixth generation from this John," which the reciter maintained to be the genuine ballad, "and the common one false."
Ramsay's copy is subjoined, and the imperfect edition from _Wit Restor'd_ finds a place in the Appendix.
The following verses, generally styled _Armstrong's Good-night_, are said to have been composed by one of that tribe who was executed in 1601 for the murder of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Middle Marches.
They are from Johnson's _Museum_, p. 620, and are also found in Herd's _Scottish Songs_, ii. 182. In Buchan's _Ballads of the North of Scotland_, ii. 127, there is a twaddling piece called _The Last Guid Night_, which is a sort of imitation of these stanzas.
The night is my departing night, The morn's the day I maun awa, There's no a friend or fae of mine, But wishes that I were awa.
What I hae done for lack o' wit I never never can reca'; I trust ye're a' my friends as yet, Gude night, and joy be wi' you a'.
Is there ever a man in all Scotland, From the highest estate to the lowest degree, That can shew himself now before our King?
Scotland is so full of treachery.
Yes, there is a man in Westmorland, 5 And Johnny Armstrong they do him call; He has no lands nor rents coming in, Yet he keeps eightscore men within his hall.
He has horses and harness for them all, And goodly steeds that be milk-white, 10 With their goodly belts about their necks, With hats and feathers all alike.
The King he writes a loving letter, And with his own hand so tenderly, And hath sent it unto Johnny Armstrong, 15 To come and speak with him speedily.
When John he look'd this letter upon, He lok'd as blith as a bird in a tree; "I was never before a King in my life, My father, my grandfather, nor none of us three. 20
"But seeing we must go before the King, Lord, we will go most gallantly; Ye shall every one have a velvet coat, Laid down with golden laces three.
"And every one shall have a scarlet cloak, 25 Laid down with silver laces five, With your golden belts about your necks, With hats and feathers all alike."
But when Johnny went from Giltnock-Hall, The wind it blew hard, and full fast it did rain; "Now fare thee well, thou Giltnock-Hall, 30 I fear I shall never see thee again."
Now Johnny he is to Edenborough gone, With his eightscore men so gallantly, And every one of them on a milk-white steed, 35 With their bucklers and swords hanging to their knee.
But when John came the King before, With his eightscore men so gallant to see, The King he mov'd his bonnet to him, He thought he had been a king as well as he. 40
"O pardon, pardon, my sovereign liege, Pardon for my eightscore men and me; For my name, it is Johnny Armstrong, And subject of yours, my liege," said he.