Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
142. Dick o’ the Cow
 
 
I

NOW Liddesdale has lain lang in,
  There is na ryding there at a’;
The horses are a’ grown sae lither fat,
  They downa stir out o’ the sta’.
 
II

Fair Johnie Armstrong to Willie did say—
        5
  ‘Billie, a-ryding then will we;
England and us have been lang at feid;
  Aiblins we’ll light on some bootie.’—
 
III

Then they’re come on to Hutton Ha’;
  They rade that proper place about.        10
But the laird he was the wiser man,
  For he had left nae gear without:
 
IV

For he had left nae gear to steal,
  Except sax sheep upon a lea:
Quo’ Johnie—‘I’d rather in England die,        15
  Ere thir sax sheep gae to Liddesdale wi’ me.
 
V

‘But how ca’ they the man we last met,
  Billie, as we cam owre the know?’—
‘That same he is an innocent fule,
  And men they call him Dick o’ the Cow.’        20
 
VI

‘That fule has three as good kye o’ his ain,
  As there are in a’ Cumberland, billie,’ quo’ he.
‘Betide me life, betide me death,
  These kye shall go to Liddesdale wi’ me.’
 
VII

Then they’re come on to the pure fule’s house,
        25
  And they hae broken his wa’s sae wide;
They have loosed out Dick o’ the Cow ’s three kye,
  And ta’en three co’erlets off his wife’s bed.
 
VIII

Then on the morn when the day grew light,
  The shouts and cries raise loud and hie:        30
‘O haud thy tongue, my wife,’ he says,
  ‘And o’ thy crying let me be!
 
IX

‘O haud thy tongue, my wife,’ he says,
  ‘And o’ thy crying let me be;
And aye where thou hast lost ae cow,        35
  In gude sooth I shall bring thee three.’
 
X

Now Dickie ’s gane to the gude Lord Scroope,
  And I wat a dreirie fule was he;
‘Now haud thy tongue, my fule,’ he says,
  ‘For I may not stand to jest wi’ thee.’        40
 
XI

‘Shame fa’ your jesting, my lord!’ quo’ Dickie,
  ‘For nae sic jesting grees wi’ me;
Liddesdale ’s been in my house last night,
  And they hae awa’ my three kye frae me.
 
XII

‘But I may nae langer in Cumberland dwell,
        45
  To be your puir fule and your leal,
Unless you gie me leave, my lord,
  To gae to Liddesdale and steal.’—
 
XIII

‘I gie thee leave, my fule!’ he says;
  ‘Thou speakest against my honour and me,        50
Unless thou gie me thy troth and thy hand,
  Thou’lt steal frae nane but wha sta’ frae thee.’—
 
XIV

‘There is my troth, and my right hand!
  My head shall hang on Hairibee;
I’ll never cross Carlisle sands again,        55
  If I steal frae a man but wha sta’ frae me.’
 
XV

Dickie ’s ta’en leave o’ lord and master;
  I wat a merry fule was he!
He ’s bought a bridle and a pair o’ new spurs,
  And packed them up in his breek thie.        60
 
XVI

Then Dickie ’s come on to Puddingburn house,
  Even as fast as he might dree:
Then Dickie ’s come on to Puddingburn,
  Where there were thirty Armstrangs and three.
 
XVII

‘O what ’s this come o’ me now?’ quo’ Dickie;
        65
  ‘What mickle wae is this?’ quo’ he;
‘For here is but ae innocent fule,
  And there are thirty Armstrangs and three!’
 
XVIII

Yet he has come up to the fair ha’ board,
  Sae well he became his courtesie!        70
‘Well may ye be, my gude Laird’s Jock!
  But the dèil bless a’ your companie.
 
XIX

‘I’m come to plain o’ your man, Johnie Armstrang,
  And syne o’ his billie Willie,’ quo’ he;
‘How they hae been in my house last night,        75
  And they hae ta’en my three kye frae me.’—
 
XX

‘Ha!’ quo’ Johnie Armstrang, ‘we will him hang.’
  —‘Na,’ quo’ Willie, ‘we’ll him slae.’—
Then up and spak another young Armstrang,
  ‘We’ll gie him his batts, and let him gae.’        80
 
XXI

But up and spak the gude Laird’s Jock,
  The best in a’ the companie,
‘Sit down thy ways a little while, Dickie,
  And a piece o’ thy ain cow’s hough I’ll gie ye.’
 
XXII

But Dickie’s heart it grew sae grit,
        85
  That the ne’er a bit o’t he dought to eat—
Then he was aware of an auld peat-house,
  Where a’ the night he thought for to sleep.
 
XXIII

Then Dickie was ware of an auld peat-house,
  Where a’ the night he thought for to lye—        90
And a’ the prayers the puir fule pray’d,
  Were, ‘I wish I had mends for my gude three kye!
 
XXIV

It was then the use of Puddingburn house,
  And the house of Mangerton, all hail,
Them that cam na at the first ca’,        95
  Gat nae mair meat till the neist meal.
 
XXV

The lads, that hungry and weary were,
  Abune the door-head they threw the key;
Dickie he took gude notice o’ that,
  Says—‘There will be a bootie for me.’        100
 
XXVI

Then Dickie has into the stable gane,
  Where there stood thirty horses and three;
He has tied them a’ wi’ St. Mary’s knot,
  A’ these horses but barely three.
 
XXVII

He has tied them a’ wi’ St. Mary’s knot,
        105
  A’ these horses but barely three;
He ’s loupen on ane, ta’en another in hand,
  And out at the door is gane Dickie.
 
XXVIII

But on the morn, when the day grew light,
  The shouts and cries raise loud and hie.        110
‘Ah! wha has done this?’ quo’ the gude Laird’s Jock,
  ‘Tell me the truth and the verity!
 
XXIX

‘Wha has done this deed?’ quo’ the gude Laird’s Jock;
  ‘See that to me ye dinna lee!’—
‘Dickie has been in the stable last night,        115
  And my brother’s horse and mine ’s frae me.’—
 
XXX

‘Ye wad ne’er be tauld,’ quo’ the gude Laird’s Jock;
  ‘Have ye not found my tales fu’ leil?
Ye never wad out o’ England bide,
  Till crooked and blind and a’ would steal.’—        120
 
XXXI

‘But lend me thy bay,’ fair Johnie can say;
  ‘There ’s nae horse loose in the stable save he;
And I’ll either fetch Dick o’ the Cow again.
  Or the day is come that he shall dee.’—
 
XXXII

‘To lend thee my bay!’ the Laird’s Jock ’gan say;
        125
  ‘He ’s baith worth gowd and gude monie:
Dick o’ the Cow has awa’ twa horse:
  I wish na thou may make him three.’
 
XXXIII

He has ta’en the laird’s jack on his back,
  A twa-handed sword to hang by his thie;        130
He has ta’en a steel cap on his head,
  And on he is to follow Dickie.
 
XXXIV

Dickie was na a mile aff the town,
  I wat a mile but barely three,
When he was o’erta’en by Johnie Armstrong,        135
  Hand for hand, on Cannobie lee.
 
XXXV

‘Abide, abide, thou traitour thiefe!
  The day is come that thou maun dee!’
Then Dickie look’t ower his left shoulder,
  —‘Johnie, hast thou nae mae in thy companie?        140
 
XXXVI

‘There is a preacher in our chapell,
  And a’ the lee-lang day teaches he:
When day is gane and night is come,
  There ’s ne’er a word I mark but three.
 
XXXVII

‘The first and second is—Faith and Conscience;
        145
  The third—Johnie, take heed o’ thee!
But, Johnie, what faith and conscience was thine,
  When thou took awa’ my three kye frae me?
 
XXXVIII

‘And when thou had ta’en awa’ my three kye,
  Thou thought in thy heart thou wast no well sped,        150
Till thou sent thy billie owre the know,
  To tak three co’erlets off my wife’s bed!’—
 
XXXIX

Then Johnie let a spear fa’ laigh by his thie,
  Thought weel to hae run the innocent through,
But the powers above were mair than he,        155
  For he ran but the pure fule’s jerkin through.
 
XL

Together they ran, or ever they blan;
  This was Dickie the fule and he!
Dickie couldna win at him wi’ the blade o’ the sword,
  But fell’d him wi’ the plummet under the ee.        160
 
XLI

Thus Dickie has fell’d fair Johnie Armstrong,
  The prettiest man in the south country:
‘Gramercy!’ then ’gan Dickie say,
  ‘I had but twa horse, thou hast made me three!’
 
XLII

He ’s ta’en the laird’s jack aff Johnie’s back,
        165
  The twa-handed sword that hung low by his thie;
He ’s ta’en the steel cap aff his head—
  ‘Johnie, I’ll tell that I met wi’ thee.’
 
XLIII

When Johnie waken’d out o’ his dream,
  I wat a dreirie man was he:        170
‘And is thou gane? Now, Dickie, than
  The shame and dule is left wi’ me.
 
XLIV

‘And is thou gane? Now, Dickie, than
  The deil gae in thy companie!
For if I should live these hundred years,        175
  I ne’er shall fight wi’ a fule after thee.’
 
XLV

Then Dickie ’s come hame to the gude Lord Scroope,
  E’en as fast as he might hie;
‘Now, Dickie, I’ll neither eat nor drink,
  Till hie hangèd that thou shalt be.’—        180
 
XLVI

‘The shame speed the liars, my lord!’ quo’ Dickie;
  ‘This was na the promise ye made to me!
For I’d ne’er gang to Liddesdale to steal,
  Had I not got my leave frae thee.’—
 
XLVII

‘But what gar’d thee steal the Laird’s Jock’s horse?
        185
  And, limmer, what gar’d ye steal him?’ quo’ he;
‘For lang thou mightst in Cumberland dwelt
  Or the Laird’s Jock had stown aught frae thee.’—
 
XLVIII

‘Indeed I wat ye lied, my lord!
  And e’en sae loud as I hear ye lie!        190
I wan the horse frae fair Johnie Armstrang,
  Hand to hand, on Cannobie lee.
 
XLIX

‘There is the jack was on his back;
  This twa-handed sword hung laigh by his thie;
And there ’s the steel cap was on his head;        195
  I brought a’ these tokens to let thee see.’—
 
L

‘If that be true thou to me tells
  (And I think thou dares na tell me a lee),
I’ll gie thee fifteen punds for the horse,
  Well tauld on thy cloak lap they shall be.        200
 
LI

‘I’ll gie thee ane o’ my best milk kye,
  To maintain thy wife and children three;
And that may be as gude, I think,
  As ony twa o’ thine wad be.’—
 
LII

‘The shame speed the liars, my lord!’ quo’ Dickie;
        205
  ‘Trow ye aye to make a fule o’ me?
I’ll either hae twenty punds for the gude horse,
  Or he ’s gae to Mortan Fair wi’ me.’
 
LIII

He ’s gi’en him twenty punds for the gude horse,
  A’ in the goud and gude monie;        210
He ’s gi’en him ane o’ his best milk kye,
  To maintain his wife and children three.
 
LIV

Then Dickie ’s come down thro’ Carlisle toun,
  E’en as fast as he could drie:
The first o’ men that he met wi’        215
  Was my Lord’s brother, Bailiff Glozenburrie.
 
LV

‘Weil be ye met, my gude Ralph Scroope!’—
  ‘Welcome, my brother’s fule!’ quo’ he;
‘Where didst thou get Johnie Armstrang’s horse?’—
  ‘Where did I get him, but steal him,’ quo’ he.        220
 
LVI

‘But wilt thou sell me the bonny horse?
  And, billie, wilt thou sell him to me?’ quo’ he.—
‘Ay; if thou’lt tell me the monie on my cloak lap:
  For there ’s never ae penny I’ll trust thee.’—
 
LVII

‘I’ll gie thee ten punds for the gude horse,
        225
  Weil tauld on thy cloak lap they shall be;
And I’ll gie thee ane o’ the best milk kye,
  To maintain thy wife and children three.’—
 
LVIII

‘The shame speed the liars, my lord!’ quo’ Dickie;
  ‘Trow ye aye to make a fule o’ me!        230
I’ll either hae twenty punds for the gude horse,
  Or he ’s gae to Mortan Fair wi’ me.’—
 
LIX

He ’s gi’en him twenty punds for the gude horse,
  Baith in goud and gude monie;
He ’s gi’en him ane o’ his milk kye,        235
  To maintain his wife and children three.
 
LX

Then Dickie lap a loup fu’ hie,
  And I wat a loud laugh laughèd he:
‘I wish the neck o’ the third horse was broken,
  If ony of the twa were better than he!’        240
 
LXI

Then Dickie ’s come hame to his wife again;
  Judge ye how the puir fule had sped!
He has gi’en her twa score English punds,
  For the three auld co’erlets ta’en aff her bed.
 
LXII

‘And tak thee these twa as gude kye,
        245
  I trow, as a’ thy three might be;
And yet here is a white-footed nag,
  I trow he’ll carry baith thee and me.
 
LXIII

‘But I may nae langer in Cumberland bide;
  The Armstrangs they would hang me hie.’—        250
So Dickie ’s ta’en leave at lord and master,
  And at Burgh under Stanmuir dwells Dickie.
 
GLOSS:  ryding] raiding.  lither] here an adverb, vilely.  aiblins] perchance.  know] knop of the hill.  Hairibee] the place of execution at Carlisle.  breek thie] thigh-pocket of his breeches.  dree] last, endure.  plain] complain.  batts] beating.  grit] great, i.e. his heart swelled so.  dought to] could.  mends] amends.  tied wi’ St. Mary’s knot] hamstrung.  jack] short coat-of-mail.  laigh] low.  blan] checked, stopped.  plummet] pommel.  lap a loup] leapt a leap.
 

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