Page images
PDF
EPUB

son-in-law, Francis Russel son to the Earl of Bedford, Cuthbert Colin. wood, James Ogle, Henry Fenwick, and several others were taken prisoners. Being carried to Morton, at Dalkeith, they were treated with the greatest humanity; but he detained them a few days, in order to give time for their resentment to subside, which might in its first fury have been the occasion of greater mischiefs. He also required them to subscribe engagements to make their appearance in Scotland at a certain day, and then dismissed them with great expressions of regard." The Ballad has recorded the day of the month, the year was, 1575.

JOHNIE ARMSTRANG.
Sum speiks of lords, sum speiks of lairds,

And sicklike men of hie degrie;
Of a gentleman I sing a sang,

Sumetime cald Laird of Gilnockie.
The King he wrytes a luving letter

Wi' his ain hand sae tenderlie,
And he hath sent it to Johnie Armstrang,

To cum and speik with him speedily.
The Elliots and Armstrangs did convene;

They were a gallant companie:
We'll ryde and meit our law full king,

And bring him safe to Gilnockie.
Make kinnen and capon ready then,

And venison in great plentie;
We'll welcum heir our royal king,

I hope he'll dyne at Gilnockie.
They ran their horse on the Langum Hawn,

And brake their speirs with meikle main;
The ladys lukit frae their loft windows,

“ God bring our men weil back again.”
Quhen Johnie came before the king,

With all his men sae brave to see,
The King he movit his bonnet to him,

He weind he was a king as well as he.

May I find grace, my sovereign Liege,

Grace for my loyal men and me, For my name it is Johnie Armstrang,

And subject of zours, my Liege, said he. Away, away, thou traytour strang,

Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be, I grantit nevir a traytor's lyfe,

And now I'll not begin with thee. Grant me my lyfe, my Liege, my King,

And a bonny gift I will gie to thee, Full four-and-twenty milk-whyt steids,

Were a' foal'd in ae zeir to me.

I'll gie thee all these milk-whyt steids,

That prance and nicher at a speir, With as meikle gude Inglish gilt,

As four of their braid backs dow beir.

Away, away, thou traytour strang,

Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be, I grantit nevir a traytor's lyfe,

And now I'll not begin with thee.
Grant me my life, my Liege, my King,

And a bonny gift I'll gie to thee,
Gude four-and-twenty ganging mills,
That
gang

throw a' the zeir to me.
These four-and-twenty mills complete,
Sall
gang.

for thee throw a' the zeir, And as meikle of gude reid quheit,

As all their happers dow to beir.

Away, away, thou traytour strang,

Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be, I graniit nevir a traytor's lyfe,

And now I'll not begin with thee,

Grant me my lyfe, my Liege, my King,

And a great gift I'll gie to thee, Bauld four-and-twenty sisters sons,

Sall for thee fecht tho' a' sould flee.

Away, away, thou traytour strang,

Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be, I grantit nevir a traytor's lyfe,

And now I'll not begin with thee.
Grant me my lyfe, my Liege, my King,

And a brave gift I'll gie to thee;
All between heir and Newcastle town,
Sall

pay thair zeirly rent to thee. Away, away, thou traytour strang,

Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be, I grantit nevir a traytor's lyfe,

And now I'll not begin with thee. Ze lied, ze lied now, King, he says,

Althocht a King and Prince ze be; For I luid naithing in all my lyfe,

I dare well say it, but honesty: But a fat horse and a fair woman,

Twa bonny dogs to kill a deir; But Ingland suld haif fund me meil and malt,

Gif I had liv'd this hundred zeir.

Scho suld haif fund me meal and malt,

And beef and mutton in all plentie; But neir a Scot's wyfe coud haif said, That eir I skaith'd her a pure

fie. To seik het water beneath cauld yce,

Surely it is a great folie;
I haif asked grace at a graceless face,

But there is nane for my men and me.

But had I kend or I cam frae hame,

How thou unkind wadst bene to me, I wad haif kept the border-syde,

In spyte of all thy force and thee. Wist Ingland's king that I was tane,

O gin a blyth man wad he be; For ance I slew his sister's son,

And on his briest-bane brak a trie.

John wore a girdle about his middle,

Imbroidred owre with burning gold, Bespangled with the same mettle,

Maist bewtiful was to behold.

Ther hang nine targats at Johnie's hat,

And ilka ane worth thrie hundred pound: What wants that knave that a king suld have,

But the sword of honour and the crown.

O quhar got thou these targats, Johnie,

That blink sae brawly abune thy brie! I gat them in the field fechting

Quher, cruel King, thou durst not be.
Had I my horse and my harness gude,

And ryding as I wont to be,
It suld haif bene tald this hundred zeir,

The meiting of my King and me.
God be wi' thee, Kirsty, my brither,

Lang live thou Laird of Mangertoun; Lang mayest thou dwell on the border-syde,

Or thou se thy brither ride up and doun: And God be wi' thee, Kirsty, my son,

Quhair thou sits on thy nurse's nee; But and thou live this hundred zeir,

Thy father's better thoult never be.

Farweil, my bonny Gilnockhall,

Quhair on Esk syde thou standest stout:
Gif I had lieved but seven zeirs mair,

I wuld haif gilt thee round about.
John murdred was at Carlinrigg,

And all his gallant companie;
But Scotland's heart was neir so wae,

To see sae mony brave men die.
Because they sav'd their country deir

Frae Inglishmen; nane were sae bald,
Quhyle Johnie liv'd on the border-syde,

Nane of them durst com neix his hald.

In the year, 1529, James V, made an expedition against the Border thieves, forty-eight of whom he hanged at once upon growing trees, among whom was the subject of this Ballad. “ He was the most redoubted Chiftain" says Pitscottie, “ that had been, for a long, on the borders, either of Scotland or England. He rode ever with twenty-four able gentlemen well horsed: yet he never molested any Scottishman. But it is said, that from the borders to Newcastle, every man, of whatsomever estate, paid him tribute to be free of his trouble. He came before the king, with his foresaid number richly apparelled, trusting that, in respect of his free offer of his person, he should obtain the king's favour. But the king, seeing him and his men so gorgeous in their apparel, with so many brave men under a tyrant's commandment, frowardly turning him about, he bade take the tyrant out of his sight, saying, 'what wants that knave that a king should have?' But John Armstrong 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, be seeing no hope of favour, said very proudly, 'It is folly to seek grace at a graceless face: But (said he) had i known this, I should have lived on the borders in despite of you both; for I know King Harry would down-weigh my best horse with gold, to know that I were condemned to die this day.”

Tradition records that one of his attendants, by the strength and swiftness of his horse, forced his way through the thousands that surrounded them, and carried the unhappy news to Gilnockie castle, which stood upon a rock, encompassed by the water of Esk, at a place now known by the name of the Hollows, a few miles below Longholm. Tradition likewise records that, in token of the king's injustice, the trees, upon which these thieves were hanged, immediately withereal away! So much for Border ideas of justice.

« PreviousContinue »