Percy's Reliques - Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament

Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament


            [ 1]The subject of this pathetic ballad the Editor once thought might possibly relate to the Earl of Bothwell, and his desertion of his wife Lady Jean Gordon, to make room for his marriage with the Queen of Scots; but this opinion he now believes to be groundless: indeed Earl Bothwell's age, who was upwards of sixty at the time of that marriage, renders it unlikely that he should be the object of so warm a passion as this elegy supposes. He has been since informed, that it entirely refers to a private story: A young lady of the name of Bothwell, or rather Boswell, having been, together with her child, deserted by her husband or lover, composed these affecting lines herself; which are here given from a copy in the Editor's folio manuscript, corrected by another in Allan Ramsay's Miscellany.

BALOW, my babe, lye still and sleipe!
It grieves me sair to see thee weipe
If thoust be silent, Ise be glad,
Thy maining maks my heart ful sad.
Balow, my boy, thy mothers joy,
Thy father breides me great annoy.
Balow, my babe, ly stil and sleipe,
It grieves me sair to see thee weepe.

Whan he began to court my luve,
And with his sugred[ 2] wordes to muve,
His faynings fals, and flattering cheire
To me that time did not appeire:
But now I see, most cruell hee
Cares neither for my babe nor mee.
Balow, &c.

Lye still, my darling, sleipe a while,
And when thou wakest, sweitly smile:
But smile not, as thy father did,
To cozen maids: nay, God forbid
Bot yett I feire, thou wilt gae neire
Thy fatheris hart, and face to beire.
Balow, &c.

I cannae chuse, but ever will
Be luving to thy father still:
Whair-eir he gae, whair-eir he ryde,
My luve with him doth still abyde:
In weil or wae, whair-eir he gae,
Mine hart can neire depart him frae.
Balow, &c.

But doe not, doe not, prettie mine,
To faynings fals thine hart incline;
Be loyal to thy luver Crew,
And nevir change hir for a new:
If gude or faire, of hir have care,
For womens banning's wonderous sair.
Balow, &c.

Bairne, sin thy cruel father is gave,
Thy winsome smiles maun eise my paine;
My babe and I'll together live,
He'll comfort me when cares doe grieve:
My babe and I right saft will ly,
And quite forgeit man's cruelty.
Balow, &c.

Fareweil, fareweil, thou falsest youth,
That evir kist a womans mouth!
I wish all maides be warnd by mee
Nevir to trust mans curtesy;
For if we doe bot chance to bow,
They'le use us then they care not how.
Balow, my babe, ly stil, and sleipe,
It grives me sair to see thee weipe.


1. It is now an established fact that the unhappy Anne was daughter to Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney. The faithless "father" was the lady's cousin, Alexander Erskine,son to the Earl of Mar.  While in the service of the Covenanters, he came to his death in Douglass castle, 1640. See Child's English and Scottish ballads, IV., 123.-- Editor.

2. When sugar was first imported into Europe, it was a very great dainty; and therefore the epithet sugred is used by all our old writers metaphorically to express extreme and delicate sweetness. (See above, no. xi.) Sugar at present is cheap and common; and therefore suggests now a coarse and vulgar idea.


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