Edom o' Gordon

Edom o' Gordon

Original Text
Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765); The Ballad Book: A selection of the Choicest British Ballads, ed. William Allingham (London: Macmillan, 1864). AR DeLury Collection (Fisher Rare Book Library)
2    When the wind blew shrill and cauld,
3Said Edom o' Gordon to his men,
6    My merry men and me?
8    To see that fair ladye.'
9The lady stood on her castle wa',
11There she was aware of a host of men
12    Came riding towards the town.
13'O see ye not, my merry men a',
14    O see ye not what I see?
15Methinks I see a host of men;
16    I marvel who they be.'
17She ween'd it had been her lovely lord,
18    As he cam' riding hame;
19It was the traitor, Edom o' Gordon,
20    Wha reck'd nor sin nor shame.
22    And putten on her gown,
23Till Edom o' Gordon an' his men
24    Were round about the town.
25They had nae sooner supper set,
26    Nae sooner said the grace,
27But Edom o' Gordon an' his men
28    Were lighted about the place.
29The lady ran up to her tower-head,
30    As fast as she could hie,
31To see if by her fair speeches
32    She could wi' him agree.
33'Come doun to me, ye lady gay,
34    Come doun, come doun to me;
36    To-morrow my bride sall be.'
37'I winna come down, ye fause Gordon,
38    I winna come down to thee;
39I winna forsake my ain dear lord,--
40    And he is na far frae me.'
41'Gie owre your house, ye lady fair,
42    Gie owre your house to me;
43Or I sall burn yoursell therein,
45'I winna gie owre, ye fause Gordon,
46    To nae sic traitor as thee;
47And if ye burn my ain dear babes,
49'Now reach my pistol, Glaud, my man,
50    And charge ye weel my gun;
52    My babes, we been undone!'
53She stood upon her castle wa',
54    And let twa bullets flee:
55She miss'd that bluidy butcher's heart,
56    And only razed his knee.
57'Set fire to the house!' quo' fause Gordon,
60    As ye burn in the fire!'
62    I paid ye weel your fee;
65'And e'en wae worth ye, Jock, my man!
66    I paid ye weel your hire;
67Why pu' ye out the grund-wa' stane,
68    To me lets in the fire?'
69'Ye paid me weel my hire, ladye,
70    Ye paid me weel my fee:
71But now I'm Edom o' Gordon's man,--
72    Maun either do or dee.'
73O then bespake her little son,
74    Sat on the nurse's knee:
75Says, '`O mither dear, gie owre this house,
76    For the reek it smothers me.'
78    Sae wad I a' my fee,
79For ae blast o' the western wind,
80    To blaw the reek frae thee.'
81O then bespake the daughter dear,--
85They row'd her in a pair o' sheets,
86    And tow'd her owre the wa';
87But on the point o' Gordon's spear
88    She gat a deadly fa'.
89O bonnie, bonnie was her mouth,
90    And cherry were her cheeks,
91And clear, clear was her yellow hair,
92    Whereon her red blood dreeps.
93Then wi' his spear he turn'd her owre;
95He said, 'Ye are the first that e'er
96    I wish'd alive again.'
97He cam and lookit again at her;
98    O gin her skin was white!
99'I might hae spared that bonnie face
100    To hae been some man's delight.'
102    For ill dooms I do guess;--
103I cannot look on that bonnie face
104    As it lies on the grass.'
106    Its freits will follow them;
107Let it ne'er be said that Edom o' Gordon
108    Was daunted by a dame.'
109But when the ladye saw the fire
110    Come--flaming o'er her head,
111She wept, and kiss'd her children twain,
113The Gordon then his bugle blew,
114    And said, 'Awa', awa'!
115This house o' the Rodes is a' in a flame;
116    I hauld it time to ga'.'
117And this way lookit her ain dear lord,
118    As he came owre the lea;
120    Sae far as he could see.
123For he that's hindmost o' the thrang
124    Sall ne'er get good o' me.'
125Then some they rade, and some they ran,
128    Baith lady and babes were brent.
129And after the Gordon he is gane,
130    Sae fast as he might dri'e;
131And soon i' the Gordon's foul heart's blude


1] This ballad is based on historical fact and was composed not long after the event it relates. In the year 1571, one Adam Gordon, brother of the Earl of Huntly, and a zealous partisan of the queen, dispatched his men to summon the Castle of Towie in Aberdeenshire. In the absence of the laird, Alexander Forbes his wife, Margaret Campbell, defended the castle. Thereupon Gordon or, according to some authorities, his deputy, Captain Thomas Ker, set fire to the house and burned to death the lady, her children, and servants, about twenty-seven persons in all. This barbarous deed was greeted even in that cruel time with horror and execration, but the ballad is wrong in stating that it was avenged. Versions of this ballad exist both in Scottish and in English; one of the latter was recorded before 1600. The form here given is a composite of a Scottish and an English version made by Bishop Percy, with a few touches of his own, for his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) and slightly changed by William Allingham for his Ballad Book (1864).

Martinmas. St. Martin's Day, November 11. Back to Line

4] maun. Must Back to Line
5] whatna. What kind of a. Back to Line
7] house of the Rodes. A castle which formerly stood a mile south of Duns in Berwickshire; the castle burned by Gordon was really Towie in Aberdeenshire. Back to Line
10] dale and down. Low-land and upland. Back to Line
21] buskit hersell. Got ready, dressed herself. Back to Line
35] lig. Lie. Back to Line
44] But an. And also. Back to Line
48] dree. Suffer. Back to Line
51] but an. Here means "but if unless". Contrast the use of the phrase in 1. 44. Back to Line
58] Wud. Mad.
dule. Grief. Back to Line
59] faus. False. Back to Line
61] wae worth ye. Woe be to you. Back to Line
63] grund-wa' stane. Foundation stone. Back to Line
64] reek. Smoke. Back to Line
77] goud. Gold. Back to Line
82] jimp. Slender. Back to Line
83] row. Roll. Back to Line
84] tow me. Let me down. Back to Line
94] O gin her face was wan! O but her face was wan! (gin literally means "if"). Back to Line
101] Busk and boun. Prepare to make ready (to go). The two words have the same meaning, but one intensifies the other. Back to Line
105] freits. Omens. Back to Line
112] we been but dead. We are nothing better than dead. Back to Line
119] lowe. Flame. Back to Line
121] put on. Make haste (see OED, "put," 462).
wighty. Strong. Back to Line
122] drie. Endure. Back to Line
126] outowre. Out over.
bent. Coarse grass. Back to Line
127] win up. Come up. Back to Line
132] wroken. Revenged. Back to Line
Publication Notes
late 16th century
RPO poem Editors
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition
RP (1912), pp. 7-11; RPO 1997.