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Percy's Reliques - Edom O' Gordon.

Edom O' Gordon.


††††††††††† This was printed at Glasgow, by Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1755, 8vo. 12 pages. We are indebted for its publication (with many other valuable things in these volumes) to Sir David Dalrymple, Bart. who gave it as it was preserved in the memory of a lady, that is now dead.

††††††††††† The reader will here find it improved, and enlarged with several fine stanzas, recovered from a fragment of the same ballad, in the Editor's folio MS. It is remarkable that the latter is intitled Captain Adam Carre, and is in the English idiom. But whether the author was English or Scotch, the difference originally was not great. The English ballads are generally of the north of England, the Scottish are of the south of Scotland, and of consequence the country of ballad-singers was sometimes subject to one crown, and sometimes to the other, and most frequently to neither. Most of the finest old Scotch songs have the scene laid within twenty miles of England, which is indeed all poetic ground, green hills, remains of woods, clear brooks. The pastoral scenes remain: of the rude chivalry of former ages happily nothing remains but the ruins of the castles, where the more daring and successful robbers resided. The house or castle of the RODES stood about a measured mile south from Duns, in Berwickshire: some of the ruins of it may be seen to this day. The Gordons were anciently seated in the same county: the two villages of East and West Gordon lie about ten miles from the castle of the Rodes.[ 1] The fact, however, on which the ballad is founded, happened in the north of Scotland, (See note *** at the end of the ballad) yet it contains but too just a picture of the violences practised in the feudal times all over Europe.

††††††††††† From the different titles of this ballad, it should seem that the old strolling bards or minstrels (who gained a livelihood by reciting these poems) made no scruple of changing the names of the personages they introduced, to humour their hearers. For instance, if a Gordon's conduct was blame-worthy in the opinion of that age, the obsequious minstrel would, when among Gordons, change the name to Car, whose clan or sept lay further west, and vice versa. In the third volume the reader will find a similar instance. See the song of Gil Morris, wherein the principal character introduced had different names given him, perhaps for the same cause.

††††††††††† It may be proper to mention, that in the folio manuscript, instead of the "Castle of the Rodes," it is the "Castle of Brittons-borrow," and also "Diactoars" or "Draitours-borrow," for it is very obscurely written, and "Capt. Adam Carre" is called the "Lord of Westertontown." Uniformity required that the additional stanzas supplied from that copy should be clothed in the Scottish orthography and idiom: this has therefore been attempted, though perhaps imperfectly.

IT fell about the Martinmas,
Quhen the wind blew shril and cauld,
Said Edom O' Gordon to his men,
"We maun draw till a hauld.

"And quhat a hauld sall we draw till,
My mirry men and me?
We wul gae to the house o' the Rodes,
To see that fair ladže."

The lady stude on her castle wa',
Beheld baith dale and down:
There she was ware of a host of men
Cum ryding towards the toun.

"O see ze nat, my mirry men a'?
O see
ze nat quhat I see?
Methinks I see a host of men:
I marveil quha they be."

She weend it had been hir luvely lord,
As he cam ryding hame;
It was the traitor Edom O' Gordon,
Quha reckt nae sin nor shame.

She had nae sooner buskit hirsel,
And putten on hir goun,
But Edom O' Gordon and his men
Were round about the toun.

They had nae sooner supper sett,
Nae sooner said the grace,
But Edom O' Gordon and his men
Were light about the place.

The lady ran up to hir towir head,
Sa fast as she could hie,
To see if by hir fair speeches
She could wi' him agree.

But quhan he see this lady saif,
And hir yates all locked fast,
He fell into a rage of wrath,
And his look was all aghast.

"Cum doun to me, ze lady gay,
Cum doun, cum doun to me:
This night sall ye lig within mine armes,
To-morrow my bride sall be."

"I winnae cum doun ze fals Gordon,
I winnae cum doun to thee;
I winna forsake my ain dear lord,
That is sae far frae me."

"Give owre zour house, ze lady fair,
Give owre
zour house to me,
Or I sall brenn yoursel therein,
Bot and
zour babies three."

"I winnae give owre, ze false Gordon,
To nae sik traitor as
And if
ze brenn my ain dear babes,
My lord sall make
ze drie."

"But reach me hither my guid bend-bowe
Mine arrows one by one
For, but an I pierce that bluidy butcher,
My babes we been undone."

She stude upon hir castle wa',
And let twa arrows flee;
She mist that bluidy butchers hart,
And only raz'd his knee.

"Set fire to the house," quo' fals Gordon,
All wood wi' dule and ire:
"Fals lady,
ze sall rue this deid,
ze bren in the fire."

"Wae worth, wae worth ze, Jock my man,
I paid
ze weil zour fee;
Quhy pow
ze out the ground-wa' stane,
Lets in the reek to me?

"And ein wae worth ze, Jock my man,
I paid
ze weil zour hire;
Quhy pow
ze out the ground-wa' stane,
To me lets in the fire?"

"ze paid me weil my hire, lady;
ze paid me weil my fee:
But now I'm Edom O' Gordons man,
Maun either doe or die."

O than bespaik hir little son,
Sate on the nourice' knee:
Sayes, "Mither deare, gi' owre this house,
For the reek it smithers me."

"I wad gie a' my gowd, my childe,
Say wad I a' my fee,
For ane blast o' the westlin wind,
To blaw the reek frae thee."

O then bespaik hir dochter dear,
She was baith jimp and sma:
"O row me in a pair o' sheits,
And tow me owre the wa."

Thuy rowed hir in a pair o' sheits,
And towd hir owre the wa:
But on the point of Gordons spear
She gat a deadly fa.

O bonnie bonnie was hir mouth,
And cherry were her cheiks,
And clear clear was hir
zellow hair,
Whereon the reid bluid dreips.

Then wi' his spear he turnd hir owre,
O gin[ 2] hir face was wan!
He sayd, "
ze are the first that eir
I wisht alive again."

He turnd hir owre and owre againe,
O gin' hir skin was white!
"I might ha spared that bonnie face
To hae been sum mans delyte.

"Busk and boun, my merry men a',
For ill dooms I doe guess;
I cannae luik in that bonnie face,
As it lyes on the grass.

"Thame luiks to freits, my master deir,
Then freits wil follow thame: [ 3]
Let neir be said brave Edom O' Gordon
Was daunted by a dame."

But quhen the ladye see the fire
Cum flaming owre hir head,
She wept and kist her children twain,
Sayd, "Bairns, we been but dead."

The Gordon then his bougill blew,
And said, "Awa', awa';
This house o' the Rodes is a' in flame,
I hauld it time to ga'."

O then he spyed hir ain dear lord,
As hee cam owr the lee;
He sied his castle all in blaze
Sa far as he could see.

Then sair, O sair his mind misgave,
And all his hart was wae;
"Put on, put on, my wighty men,
So fast as
ze can gae.

"Put on, put on, my wighty men,
Sa fast as
ze can drie;
For he that is hindmost of the thrang
Sall neir get guid o' me."

Than sum they rade, and sum they rin,
Fou fast out-owr the bent;
But eir the foremost could get up,
Baith lady and babes were brent.

He wrang his hands, he rent his hair,
And wept in teenefu' muid:
"O traitors, for this cruel deid
ze sall weep teirs o' bluid."

And after the Gordon he is gane,
Sa fast as he might drie.
And soon i' the Gordon's foul hartis bluid
He's wroken his dear ladže.

*** Since the foregoing Ballad was first printed, the subject of it has been found recorded in Abp. Spotswood's History of the Church of Scotland, p. 259; who informs us, that

††††††††††† "Anno 1571. In the north parts of Scotland, Adam Gordon (who was deputy for his brother the earl of Huntley) did keep a great stir; and under colour of the queen's authority, committed divers oppressions, especially upon the Forbes's . . . Having killed Arthur Forbes, brother to the lord Forbes . . . Not long after he sent to summon the house of Tavoy pertaining to Alexander Forbes. The Lady refusing to yield without direction from her husband, he put fire unto it, and burnt her therein, with children and servants, being twenty-seven persons in all.

††††††††††† "This inhuman and barbarous cruelty made his name odious, and stained all his former doings; otherwise he was held very active and fortunate in his enterprises."

††††††††††† This fact, which had escaped the Editor's notice, was in the most obliging manner pointed out to him, by an ingenious writer who signs his name H. H. (Newcastle, May 9.) in the Gentleman's Magazine for May, 1775. p. 219.


1. This ballad is well known in that neighbourhood, where it is intitled Adam O' Gordon. It may be observed, that the famous freebooter, whom Edward I. fought with, hand to hand, near Farnham, was named Adam Gordon.

2. "O gin," &c., A Scottish idiom to express great admiration.

3. Thame &c. i.e. them that look after omens of ill luck, ill luck will follow.


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