The Braes of Yarrow

Original Text: 
The Ballad Book: A Selection of the Choicest British Ballads, ed. William Allingham (London: Macmillan, 1864). AR DeLury Collection (Fisher Rare Book Library)
3They set a combat them between,
5'What though ye be my sister's lord
6    We'll cross our swords to-morrow.'
7'What though my wife your sister be,
8    I'll meet ye then on Yarrow.'
9'O stay at hame, my ain gude lord!
11My cruel brither will you betray
13'O fare ye weel, my lady dear!
14    And put aside your sorrow;
15For if I gae, I'll sune return
16    Frae the bonny banks o' Yarrow.'
18    As oft she'd done before, O;
19She belted him with his gude brand,
20    And he's awa' to Yarrow.
22    As he gaed mony a morrow,
25'O come ye here to hunt or hawk
27Or come ye here to wield your brand
28    Upon the banks o' Yarrow?'
29'I come not here to hunt or hawk
30    As oft I've dune before, O,
31But I come here to wield my brand
32    Upon the banks o' Yarrow.
33'If ye attack me nine to ane,
34    That God may send ye sorrow!--
35Yet will I fight while stand I may,
36    On the bonny banks o' Yarrow.'
37Two has he hurt, and three has slain,
38    On the bloody braes o' Yarrow;
39But the stubborn knight crept in behind,
40    And pierced his body thorough.
41'Gae hame, gae hame, you brither John,
42    And tell your sister sorrow,--
44    On the dowie banks o' Yarrow.'
45Her brither John gaed ower the hill,
46    As oft he'd dune before, O;
47There he met his sister dear,
48    Cam' rinnin' fast to Yarrow.
49'I dreamt a dream last night,' she says,
50    'I wish it binna sorrow;
51I dreamt I pu'd the heather green
52    Wi' my true love on Yarrow.'
54    'I'll read it into sorrow;
55Ye're bidden go take up your love,
56    He's sleeping sound on Yarrow.'
57She's torn the ribbons frae her head
58    That were baith braid and narrow;
59She's kilted up her lang claithing,
60    And she's awa' to Yarrow.
61She's ta'en him in her arms twa,
62    And gi'en him kisses thorough;
63She sought to bind his many wounds,
64    But he lay dead on Yarrow.
66    'And let be a' your sorrow;
67I'll wed you to a better lord
68    Than him you lost on Yarrow.'
69'O haud your tongue, father,' she says,
70    'Far warse ye make my sorrow;
71A better lord could never be
72    Than him that lies on Yarrow.'
73She kiss'd his lips, she kaimed his hair,
74    As aft she'd dune before, O;
75And there with grief her heart did break
76    Upon the banks o' Yarrow.


1] The version here printed is a composite one, put together by William Allingham ("The Ballad Book," 1864), by selection and revision of the very numerous forms in which the ballad has been recorded. The story is a common one in ballad literature. A lover or husband is treacherously slain by the relatives of his lady, who bitterly resent his union with her. The narrative is here localized in the valley of the Yarrow, a beautiful tributary of the Tweed, in Selkirkshire. As in the case of "Sir Patrick Spens "we know nothing of the origin of the ballad. Back to Line
2] lawing. Reckoning. Back to Line
4] dawing. Dawning. Back to Line
10] marrow. Mate, companion, here, husband. Back to Line
12] dowie. Doleful. Back to Line
17] kaimed. Combed. Back to Line
21] Tennies. The name of a farm a little below Yarrow Kirk. Back to Line
23] den. Wooded hollow. Back to Line
24] braes. Steep banks. Back to Line
26] thorough. Through. Back to Line
43] leafu'. Lawful. Back to Line
53] read. Interpret. Back to Line
65] haud. Hold. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1912), pp. 4-7; RPO 1997.