The Twa Sisters o' Binnorie

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)
2    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
3A knight cam' there, a noble wooer,
4    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
5He courted the eldest wi' glove and ring,
6    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
7But he lo'ed the youngest aboon a' thing,
8    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
9The eldest she was vexed sair,
10    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
11And sair envìed her sister fair,
12    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
13Upon a morning fair and clear,
14    (Binnorie, O Binnorie !)
15She cried upon her sister dear,
16    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
17`O sister, sister, tak' my hand,'
18    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
19`And let's go down to the river-strand,'
20    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
21She's ta'en her by the lily hand,
22    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
23And down they went to the river-strand
24    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
25The youngest stood upon a stane,
26    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
27The eldest cam' and pushed her in,
28    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
29'O sister, sister, reach your hand!'
30    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
31'And ye sall be heir o' half my land'--
32    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
33'O sister, reach me but your glove!'
34    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
35'And sweet William sall be your love'--
36    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
38    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
39Till she cam' to the mouth o' yon mill-dam,
40    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie
41Out then cam' the miller's son
42    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
44    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
46    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
47'There's either a mermaid or a swan,'
48    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
49The miller quickly drew the dam,
50    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
51And there he found a drown'd womàn,
52    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
53Round about her middle sma'
54    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
56    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
57All amang her yellow hair
58    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
59A string o' pearls was twisted rare,
60    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
61On her fingers lily-white,
62    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
63The jewel-rings were shining bright,
64    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
65And by there cam' a harper fine,
66    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
67Harpèd to nobles when they dine,
68    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
69And when he looked that lady on,
70    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
71He sigh'd and made a heavy moan,
72    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
73He's ta'en three locks o' her yellow hair,
74    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
75And wi' them strung his harp sae rare,
76    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
77He went into her father's hall,
78    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
79And played his harp before them all,
80    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
81And sune the harp sang loud and clear,
82    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
83`Fareweel, my father and mither dear!'
84    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
86    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
87'Twas 'Fareweel, sweetheart!' said the string,
88    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.
89And then as plain as plain could be,
90    (Binnorie, O Binnorie!)
91'There sits my sister wha drownèd me!
92    By the bonny mill-dams o' Binnorie.'


1] One of the most widespread of the English and Scottish ballads. Twenty-four versions or fragments of versions have been recorded, one as early as the seventeenth century. The form here given is a composite made by William Allingham for his Ballad Book. The numerous handlings of this story in verse and prose which have been found among the popular ballads and tales of England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland; its union of unconscious tragic power and naive acceptance of the supernatural, and the combined directness and lingering repetition with which it is here told,--all indicate that "The Twa Sisters o' Binnorie" is a product of mediaeval times and derives its incidents not, like "Hind Horn", from an elaborate metrical romance and not, like "Edom o' Gordon", from historical fact, but from the story-making instinct of the common people. Back to Line
37] swam. Floated. Back to Line
43] swimmin'. Floating. Back to Line
45] draw your dam. Either "draw off the water from your mill-race" or "drag the mill-race for the body". 'Dam' in South Scotland means "a mill-race". Back to Line
55] gouden. Golden.
bra'. Braw, i.e. splendid. Back to Line
85] neist. Next. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
17th century.
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1912), pp. 12-15; RPO 1997.