The Wife of Usher's Well

Original Text: 
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Francis James Child, 5 vols. (1884-1898; New York: Dover, 1965), II: 238-39 (79A). From Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, II (1802): 111, "from the recitation of an old woman residing near Kirkhill, in West Lothian" (238).
2  And a wealthy wife was she;
3She had three stout and stalwart sons,
4  And sent them oer the sea.
##.
5They hadna been a week from her,
8  That her three sons were gane.
##.
9They hadna been a week from her,
10  A week but barely three,
11Whan word came to the carlin wife
12  That her sons she 'd never see.
##.
13."I wish the wind may never cease,
15Till my three sons come hame to me,
16  In earthly flesh and blood.."
23But at the gates o Paradise,
24  That birk grew fair eneugh.
##.
25."Blow up the fire, my maidens,
26  Bring water from the well;
27For a' my house shall feast this night,
28  Since my three sons are well.."
##.
29And she has made to them a bed,
30  She 's made it large and wide,
31And she 's taen her mantle her about,
32  Sat down at the bed-side.
##.
33Up then crew the red, red cock,
34  And up and crew the gray;
35The eldest to the youngest said,
36  'Tis time we were away.
##.
37The cock he hadna crawd but once,
38  And clappd his wings at a',
39When the youngest to the eldest said,
40  Brother, we must awa.
43Gin we be mist out o our place,
##.
45."Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
47And fare ye weel, the bonny lass
48  That kindles my mother's fire!."

Notes

1] Usher's Well: evidently a fictitious place-name. Back to Line
6] ane: one. Back to Line
7] carline: old. Back to Line
14] fashes: tumults. Back to Line
17] Martinmass: November 11, the feast of St. Martin. Back to Line
18] lang: long. mirk: dark. Back to Line
19] hame: home. Back to Line
20] birk: birch. Back to Line
21] syke: trench. Back to Line
22] sheigh: furrow. Back to Line
41] daw: dawn. Back to Line
42] channerin': grumbling, fretting. Back to Line
44] sair: sore. maun: must. bide: endure. Back to Line
46] byre: cattle shed. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1802
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2002
Rhyme: 
Form: