He looked over his left shoulder, And for to see what he might see; 50 There was he aware of his auld father, Came tearing his hair most piteouslie.
"O hald your tongue, my father," he says, "And see that ye dinna weep for me!
For they may ravish me o' my life, 55 But they canna banish me fro' Heaven hie.
"Fair ye weel, fair Maggie, my wife!
The last time we came ower the muir, 'Twas thou bereft me of my life, And wi' the Bishop thou play'd the whore. 60
"Here, Johnie Armstrang, take thou my sword, That is made o' the metal sae fine; And when thou comest to the English side, Remember the death of Hughie the Graeme."
In the year 1596, Mr. Salkeld, the deputy of Lord Scroope, the English warden of the West Marches, and Robert Scott, the representative of the Laird of Buccleuch, then keeper of Liddesdale, held a meeting on the border line of the kingdoms, according to the custom of the times, for the purpose of arranging such differences, and redressing such grievances, as either party might have to allege. On these occasions a truce was always proclaimed, inviolable on pain of death, from the day of the meeting to the next day at sunrise. After the conference in question, as William Armstrong of Kinmonth, a notorious freebooter, whose ordinary style was Kinmont Willie, was returning to his home, accompanied by only three or four persons, he was pursued by a couple of hundred Englishmen, taken prisoner, and in contravention of the truce, lodged in the castle of Carlisle. The Laird of Buccleuch sought to obtain the enfranchisement of his client and retainer, through the mediation, first of the English warden, and then of the Scottish ambassador. Receiving no satisfaction, he took the matter into his own hands, raised a party of two hundred horse, surprised the castle of Carlisle, and carried off the prisoner by main force. This dashing achievement was performed on the 13th of April, 1596.
According to a rhymester who celebrated the daring feat of Buccleuch about a hundred years later, Kinmont Willie was a descendant of Johnie Armstrong of Gilnockie.
Interesting details of the surprise of the castle, and further notices of Kinmont Willie are given by Scott in the _Border Minstrelsy_ (ii.
32), where the ballad was first published.
"This ballad is preserved," says Scott, "on the West Borders, but much mangled by reciters, so that some conjectural emendations have been absolutely necessary to render it intelligible."
O have ye na heard o' the fause Sakelde?
O have ye na heard o' the keen Lord Scroope?
How they hae ta'en bauld Kinmont Willie, On Haribee to hang him up?[L4]
Had Willie had but twenty men, 5 But twenty men as stout as he, Fause Sakelde had never the Kinmont ta'en, Wi' eight score in his cumpanie.
They band his legs beneath the steed, They tied his hands behind his back; 10 They guarded him, fivesome on each side, And they brought him ower the Liddel-rack.
They led him thro' the Liddel-rack,[L13]
And also thro' the Carlisle sands; They brought him to Carlisle castell, 15 To be at my Lord Scroope's commands.
"My hands are tied, but my tongue is free, And whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the Border law?
Or answer to the bauld Buccleuch?" 20
"Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver!
There's never a Scot shall set thee free: Before ye cross my castle yate, I trow ye shall take farewell o' me."
"Fear na ye that, my lord," quo' Willie: 25 "By the faith o' my body, Lord Scroope," he said, "I never yet lodged in a hostelrie, But I paid my lawing before I gaed."
Now word is gane to the bauld Keeper, In Branksome Ha' where that he lay, 30 That Lord Scroope has ta'en the Kinmont Willie, Between the hours of night and day.
He has ta'en the table wi' his hand, He garr'd the red wine spring on hie-- "Now Christ's curse on my head," he said, 35 "But avenged of Lord Scroope I'll be!
"O is my basnet a widow's curch?
Or my lance a wand of the willow-tree?
Or my arm a ladye's lilye hand, That an English lord should lightly me! 40
"And have they ta'en him, Kinmont Willie, Against the truce of Border tide, And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch Is keeper here on the Scottish side?
"And have they e'en ta'en him, Kinmont Willie, 45 Withouten either dread or fear, And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch Can back a steed, or shake a spear?
"O were there war between the lands, As well I wot that there is none, 50 I would slight Carlisle castell high, Though it were builded of marble stone.
"I would set that castell in a low, And sloken it with English blood!
There's never a man in Cumberland, 55 Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.
"But since nae war's between the lands, And there is peace, and peace should be; I'll neither harm English lad or lass, And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!" 60
He has call'd him forty Marchmen bauld, I trow they were of his ain name, Except Sir Gilbert Elliot, call'd The Laird of Stobs, I mean the same.
He has call'd him forty Marchmen bauld, 65 Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch; With spur on heel, and splent on spauld, And gleuves of green, and feathers blue.
There were five and five before them a', Wi' hunting-horns and bugles bright: 70 And five and five came wi' Buccleuch, Like warden's men, array'd for fight.
And five and five, like a mason gang, That carried the ladders lang and hie; And five and five, like broken men; 75 And so they reach'd the Woodhouselee.[L76]
And as we cross'd the Bateable Land, When to the English side we held, The first o' men that we met wi', Whae sould it be but fause Sakelde? 80
"Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?"
Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell to me!"
"We go to hunt an English stag, Has trespass'd on the Scots countrie."
"Where be ye gaun, ye marshal men?" 85 Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell me true!"
"We go to catch a rank reiver, Has broken faith wi' the bauld Buccleuch."
"Where are ye gaun, ye mason lads, Wi' a' your ladders lang and hie?" 90 "We gang to herry a corbie's nest, That wons not far frae Woodhouselee."
"Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?"
Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell to me!"
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band, 95 And the nevir a word of lear had he.
"Why trespass ye on the English side?
Row-footed outlaws, stand!" quo' he; The nevir a word had Dickie to say, Sae he thrust the lance through his fause bodie. 100
Then on we held for Carlisle toun, And at Staneshaw-bank the Eden we cross'd;[L102]
The water was great and meikle of spait, But the nevir a horse nor man we lost.
And when we reach'd the Staneshaw-bank, 105 The wind was rising loud and hie; And there the Laird garr'd leave our steeds, For fear that they should stamp and nie.
And when we left the Staneshaw-bank, The wind began full loud to blaw; 110 But 'twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet, When we came beneath the castle wa'.
We crept on knees, and held our breath, Till we placed the ladders against the wa'; And sae ready was Buccleuch himsell 115 To mount the first before us a'.