Waly, Waly

Waly, Waly

Original Text
Tea-table Miscellany, ed. Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh: T. Ruddiman for A. Ramsay, 1724). micf. no. 278 MICR
4    Where I and my love wer wont to gae!
6    I thocht it was a trustie tree,
10    A little time while it is new!
11But when its auld it waxeth cauld,
12    And fadeth awa' like the morning dew.
14    Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
15For my true love has me forsook,
16    And says he'll never lo'e me mair.
17Noo Arthur's seat sall be my bed.
18    The sheets sall neir be press'd by me;
20    Since my true love's forsaken me.
22    And shake the green leaves off the tree?
23O gentle death, when wilt thou come?
24    For of my life I am wearie.
25'Tis not the frost that freezes fell,
26    Nor blawing-snaw's inclemencie,
27'Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry;
28    But my love's heart grown cauld to me.
29Whan we cam' in by Glasgow toun,
30    We were a comely sicht to see;
31My love was clad in the black velvet,
33But had I wist before I kiss'd
34    That love had been so ill to win,
36    And pinn'd it wi' a siller pin.
37Oh, oh! if my young babe were born,
38    And set upon the nurse's knee;
39And I mysel' were dead and gane,
40    And the green grass growing over me!


1] This poem was first printed by Allan Ramsay in his Tea-Table Miscellany, a collection of Scottish songs and ballads (1724). Strictly speaking, it is not a ballad, but a folk-song or popular lyric. A ballad tells a story, this poem, the lament of a girl forsaken by her lover, merely hints at the course of her love affair. But it resembles the ballads in spirit and style. Several stanzas of "Waly, waly" occur also in the 17th-century narrative ballad of "Jamie Douglas", which relates the putting away of Lady Douglas by her husband in 1681.

Waly, waly. Alas, alas, "wary" is a Scottish interjection of lamentation, derived from Anglo-Saxon 'wa la wa' ("woe alas, woe"); the corresponding English word is "wellaway". Back to Line

2] brae. Steep bank. Back to Line
3] hum-side. Brook-side. Back to Line
5] aik. Oak. Back to Line
7] syne. Then Back to Line
8] lichtlie. Make light of, despise, hence, "to forsake in love". Back to Line
9] but love be bonnie. If love be not bonnie!--and exclamation, equivalent to "how delightful love is!" Back to Line
13] busk. Make ready, hence, adorn. Back to Line
19] St. Anton's Well. A well on the slope of Arthur's Seat. Back to Line
21] Martinmas. November 11. Back to Line
32] cramasie. Crimson. Back to Line
35] goud. Gold. Back to Line
Publication Start Year
RPO poem Editors
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition
RP (1912), pp. 15-16; RPO 1997.