The Douglas Tragedy

Original Text: 
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Francis James Child, 5 vols. (1884-1898: New York: Dover, 1965), I: 100-101 (7B).
2  ."And put on your armour so bright;
3Let it never be said that a daughter of thine
5."Rise up, rise up, my seven bold sons,
6  And put on your armour so bright,
7And take better care of your youngest sister.
12  And lightly they rode away.
14  To see what he could see,
15And there he spy'd her seven brethren bold,
17."Light down, light down, Lady Margret,." he said,
18  ."And hold my steed in your hand,
19Until that against your seven brethren bold,
20  And your father, I mak a stand.."
21She held his steed in her milk-white hand,
22  And never shed one tear,
24  And her father hard fighting, who lovd her so dear.
25."O hold your hand, Lord William!." she said,
32  That were redder than the wine.
33."O chuse, O chuse, Lady Margret,." he said,
35."I'll gang, I'll gang, Lord William,." she said,
36  ."For ye have left me no other guide.."
37He 's lifted her on a milk-white steed,
38  And himself on a dapple grey,
39With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
41O they rade on, and on they rade,
42  And a' by the light of the moon,
44  And there they lighted down.
45They lighted down to tak a drink
46  Of the spring that ran sae clear,
47And down the stream ran his gude heart's blood,
48  And sair she gan to fear.
49."Hold up, hold up, Lord William,." she says,
50  ."For I fear that you are slain;."
51."'T is naething but the shadow of my scarlet cloak,
52  That shines in the water sae plain.."
53O they rade on, and on they rade,
54  And a' by the light of the moon,
55Until they cam to his mother's ha door,
57."Get up, get up, lady mother,." he says,
58  ."Get up, and let me in!
59Get up, get up, lady mother,." he says,
60  ."For this night my fair lady I 've win.
61."O mak my bed, lady mother,." he says,
62  ."O make it braid and deep,
63And lay Lady Margret close at my back,
64  And the sounder I will sleep.."
65Lord William was dead lang ere midnight,
67And all true lovers that go thegither,
68  May they have mair luck than they!
70  Lady Margret in Mary's quire;
71Out o the lady's grave grew a bonny red rose,
72  And out o the knight's a brier.
74  And fain they wad be near;
76  They were twa lovers dear.
78  And wow but he was rough!
79For he pulld up the bonny brier,


1] Sir Walter Scott states that this ballad "is one of the few to which popular tradition has ascribed complete locality. The farm of Blackhouse, in Selkirkshire, is said to have been the scene of this melancholy event. There are the remains of a very ancient tower, adjacent to the farm-house, in a wild and solitary glen, upon a torrent named Douglas burn, which joins the Yarrow after passing a craggy rock called the Douglas craig ... From this ancient tower Lady Margaret is said to have been carried by her lover. Seven large stones, erected upon the neighbouring heights of Blackhouse, are shown, as marking the spot where the seven brethren were slain; and the Douglas burn is averred to have been the stream at which the lovers stopped to drink: so minute is tradition in ascertaining the scene of a tragical tale, which, considering the rude state of former times, had probably foundation in some real event" (Child, I, 99; quoted from Scott's Minstrelsy (1803): III, 246).
The ballad, however, has analogues in many languages and is known as "Earl Brand" in Child's collections.
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4] under night: in secret. Back to Line
8] awa: away, eloped. Back to Line
9] He: Lord William. Back to Line
10] dapple: mottled. Back to Line
11] bugelet: small bugle. Back to Line
13] lookit: looked. oer: over. Back to Line
16] lee: lea, open pasture land. Back to Line
23] fa: fall. Back to Line
26] sair: sore. Back to Line
27] ane: one. Back to Line
28] mair: more. Back to Line
29] taen: taken. Back to Line
30] o: of. holland: linen. Back to Line
31] dighted: dressed. Back to Line
34] gang or bide: go or stay. Back to Line
40] baith: both. Back to Line
43] wan: dark. Back to Line
56] ha: hall. Back to Line
66] lang: long. Back to Line
69] kirk: church. Back to Line
73] plat: plaited [their troth]. Back to Line
75] ken: know. Back to Line
77] Likely this is the famous Sir James Douglas (1286?-1330), a ruthless Scots chieftain who destroyed English settlements in the north in the reigns of Edward II-III and the Scots hero Robert Bruce. Back to Line
80] St. Mary's Loch: in the central southern uplands of the Scottish Borders, midway between Selkirk and Moffat. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy (1803), III, 246.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: