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Poem by Andrew Lang

Auld Maitland

There lived a king in southern land,
King Edward hight his name;
Unwordily he wore the crown,
Till fifty years were gane.

He had a sister's son o's ain,
Was large of blood and bane;
And afterward, when he came up,
Young Edward hight his name.

One day he came before the king,
And kneel'd low on his knee:
'A boon, a boon, my good uncle,
I crave to ask of thee!

'At our lang wars, in fair Scotland,
I fain ha'e wish'd to be,
If fifteen hundred waled wight men
You'll grant to ride with me.'

'Thou shall ha'e thae, thou shall ha'e mae;
I say it sickerlie;
And I myself, an auld gray man,
Array'd your host shall see.'

King Edward rade, King Edward ran--
I wish him dool and pyne!
Till he had fifteen hundred men
Assembled on the Tyne.

And thrice as many at Berwicke
Were all for battle bound,
[Who, marching forth with false Dunbar,
A ready welcome found.]

They lighted on the banks of Tweed,
And blew their coals sae het,
And fired the Merse and Teviotdale,
All in an evening late.

As they fared up o'er Lammermoor,
They burn'd baith up and down,
Until they came to a darksome house,
Some call it Leader-Town.

'Wha hauds this house?' young Edward cried,
'Or wha gi'est o'er to me?'
A gray-hair'd knight set up his head,
And crackit right crousely:

'Of Scotland's king I haud my house;
He pays me meat and fee;
And I will keep my gude auld house,
While my house will keep me.'

They laid their sowies to the wall,
With mony a heavy peal;
But he threw o'er to them agen
Baith pitch and tar barrel.

With springalds, stanes, and gads of airn,
Amang them fast he threw;
Till mony of the Englishmen
About the wall he slew.

Full fifteen days that braid host lay,
Sieging Auld Maitland keen;
Syne they ha'e left him, hail and feir,
Within his strength of stane.

Then fifteen barks, all gaily good,
Met them upon a day,
Which they did lade with as much spoil
As they you'd bear away.

'England's our ain by heritage;
And what can us withstand,
Now we ha'e conquer'd fair Scotland,
With buckler, bow, and brand?'

Then they are on to the land of France,
Where auld king Edward lay,
Burning baith castle, tower, and town,
That he met in his way.

Until he came unto that town,
Which some call Billop-Grace:
There were Auld Maitland's sons, all three,
Learning at school, alas!

The eldest to the youngest said,
'Oh, see ye what I see?
If all be true yon standard says,
We're fatherless all three.

'For Scotland's conquer'd up and down;
Landmen we'll never be!
Now, will you go, my brethren two,
And try some jeopardy?'

Then they ha'e saddled twa black horse,
Twa black horse and a gray;
And they are on to king Edward's host,
Before the dawn of day.

When they arrived before the host,
They hover'd on the lay:
'Wilt thou lend me our king's standard,
To bear a little way?'

'Where wast thou bred? where wast thou born?
Where, or in what countrie?'
'In north of England I was born;'
(It needed him to lee.)

'A knight me gat, a ladye bore,
I am a squire of high renown;
I well may bear't to any king
That ever yet wore crown.'

'He ne'er came of an Englishman,
Had sic an e'e or bree;
But thou art the likest Auld Maitland,
That ever I did see.

'But sic a gloom on ae browhead,
Grant I ne'er see again!
For mony of our men he slew,
And mony put to pain.'

When Maitland heard his father's name,
An angry man was he;
Then, lifting up a gilt dagger,
Hung low down by his knee,

He stabb'd the knight the standard bore,
He stabb'd him cruellie;
Then caught the standard by the neuk,
And fast away rode he.

'Now, is't na time, brothers,' he cried,
'Now, is't na time to flee?'
'Ay, by my sooth!' they baith replied,
'We'll bear you companye.'

The youngest turn'd him in a path,
And drew a burnish'd brand,
And fifteen of the foremost slew,
Till back the lave did stand.

He spurr'd the gray into the path,
Till baith his sides they bled:
'Gray! thou maun carry me away,
Or my life lies in wad!'

The captain lookit o'er the wall,
About the break of day;
There he beheld the three Scots lads
Pursued along the way.

'Pull up portcullize! down draw-brig!
My nephews are at hand;
And they shall lodge with me to-night,
In spite of all England.'

Whene'er they came within the yate,
They thrust their horse them frae,
And took three lang spears in their hands,
Saying--'Here shall come nae me!'

And they shot out, and they shot in,
Till it was fairly day;
When mony of the Englishmen
About the draw-brig lay.

Then they ha'e yoked the carts and wains,
To ca' their dead away,
And shot auld dykes abune the lave,
In gutters where they lay.

The king, at his pavilion door,
Was heard aloud to say:
'Last night, three of the lads of France
My standard stole away.

'With a fause tale, disguised they came,
And with a fauser trayne;
And to regain my gaye standard,
These men where all down slayne.'

'It ill befits,' the youngest said,
A crowned king to lee;
But, or that I taste meat and drink,
Reproved shall he be.'

He went before king Edward straight,
And kneel'd low on his knee:
'I wou'd ha'e leave, my lord,' he said,
'To speak a word with thee.'

The king he turn'd him round about,
And wistna what to say:
Quo' he, 'Man, thou's ha'e leave to speak,
Though thou should speak all day.'

'Ye said that three young lads of France
Your standard stole away,
With a fause tale and fauser trayne,
And mony men did slay;

'But we are nane the lads of France,
Nor e'er pretend to be:
We are three lads of fair Scotland,--
Auld Maitland's sons are we.

'Nor is there men in all your host
Daur fight us three to three.'
'Now, by my sooth,' young Edward said,
'Weel fitted ye shall be!

'Piercy shall with the eldest fight,
And Ethert Lunn with thee;
William of Lancaster the third,
And bring your fourth to me!

'Remember, Piercy, aft the Scot
Has cower'd beneath thy hand;
For every drap of Maitland blood,
I'll gi'e a rig of land.'

He clanked Piercy o'er the head
A deep wound and a sair,
Till the best blood of his body
Came running down his hair.

'Now, I've slayne ane; slay ye the twa;
And that's gude companye;
And if the twa shou'd slay ye baith,
Ye'se get nae help frae me.'

But Ethert Lunn, a baited bear,
Had many battles seen;
He set the youngest wonder sair,
Till the eldest he grew keen.

'I am nae king, nor nae sic thing:
My word it shanna stand!
For Ethert shall a buffet bide,
Come he beneath my brand.'

He clankit Ethert o'er the head
A deep wound and a sair,
Till the best blood in his body
Came running o'er his hair.

'Now, I've slayne twa; slay ye the ane;
Isna that gude companye?
And though the ane shou'd slay ye baith.
Ye'se get nae help of me.'

The twa-some they ha'e slayne the ane,
They maul'd him cruellie;
Then hung him over the draw-brig,
That all the host might see.

They rade their horse, they ran their horse,
Then hover'd on the lee:
'We be three lads of fair Scotland,
That fain wou'd fighting see.'

This boasting when young Edward heard,
An angry man was he:
'I'll take yon lad, I'll bind yon lad,
And bring him bound to thee!

'Now, God forbid,' king Edward said,
'That ever thou shou'd try!
Three worthy leaders we ha'e lost,
And thou the forth wou'd lie.

'If thou shou'dst hang on yon draw-brig,
Blythe wou'd I never be.'
But, with the poll-axe in his hand,
Upon the brig sprang be.

The first stroke that young Edward ga'e,
He struck with might and main;
He clove the Maitland's helmet stout,
And bit right nigh the brain.

When Maitland saw his ain blood fall,
An angry man was he;
He let his weapon frae him fall,
And at his throat did flee.

And thrice about he did him swing,
Till on the ground he light,
Where he has halden young Edward,
Tho' he was great in might.

'Now let him up,' king Edward cried,
'And let him come to me;
And for the deed that thou hast done,
Thou shalt ha'e earldomes three!'

'It's ne'er be said in France, nor e'er
In Scotland, when I'm hame,
That Edward once lay under me,
And e'er gat up again!'

He pierced him through and through the heart,
He maul'd him cruellie;
Then hung him o'er the draw-brig,
Beside the other three.

'Now take frae me that feather-bed,
Make me a bed of strae!
I wish I hadna lived this day,
To make my heart sae wae.

'If I were ance at London Tow'r,
Where I was wont to be,
I never mair shou'd gang frae hame,
Till borne on a bier-tree.' 

Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang's other poems:
  1. In Ithaca
  2. Les Roses de Sâdi
  3. Ballade of the Tweed
  4. Ballade of His Books
  5. Dizain

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