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.
 
144. The Lochmaben Harper
 
 
I

O HEARD ye na o’ the silly blind Harper,
  How long he lived in Lochmaben town?
And how he wad gang to fair England,
  To steal King Henry’s Wanton Brown?
 
II

But first he gaed to his gude wyfe,
        5
  Wi’ a’ the haste that he could thole—
‘This wark,’ quo’ he, ‘will ne’er gae weel,
  Without a mare that has a foal.’—
 
III

Quo’ she, ‘Thou hast a gude gray mare,
  That’ll rin o’er hills baith laigh and hie;        10
Sae set thee on the gray mare’s back,
  And leave the foal at hame wi’ me.’
 
IV

So he is up to England gane,
  And even as fast as he can hie;
And when he cam to Carlisle gate,        15
  O whae was there but the King Henrye?
 
V

‘Come into my hall, thou silly blind Harper,
  And of thy harping let me hear!’—
‘O, by my sooth,’ quo’ the silly blind Harper,
  ‘I’d rather hae stabling for my mare.’        20
 
VI

The King look’d ower his left shoulder,
  And said unto his stable groom;
‘Gae take the silly blind Harper’s mare,
  And tie her beside my Wanton Brown.’
 
VII

Then aye he harpit, and aye he carpit,
        25
  Till a’ the lordlings footed the floor;
They thought the music was sae sweet,
  They had nae mind o’ the stable door.
 
VIII

And aye he harpit, and aye he carpit,
  Till a’ the nobles were fast asleep;        30
Then quietly he took aff his shoon,
  And saftly down the stair did creep.
 
IX

Syne to the stable door he hied,
  Wi’ tread as light as light could be;
And when he open’d and gaed in,        35
  There he fand thirty steeds and three.
 
X

He took a colt halter frae his hose,
  And o’ his purpose he didna fail;
He slipt it owre the Wanton’s nose,
  And tied it to his gray mare’s tail.        40
 
XI

He turn’d them loose at the castle gate,
  Owre muir and moss and ilka dale;
And she ne’er let the Wanton bait,
  But kept him still gaun to her tail.
 
XII

The mare she was right swift o’ foot,
        45
  She didna fail to find the way;
For she was at Lochmaben gate
  Fu’ lang three hours before the day.
 
XIII

When she came to the Harper’s door,
  There she gave mony a nicker and sneer—        50
‘Rise up,’ quo’ the wife, ‘thou lazy lass;
  Let in thy master and his mare!’
 
XIV

Then up she rose, put on her clothes,
  And keekit out through the lock-hole—
‘O! by my sooth,’ then cried the lass,        55
  ‘Our mare has gotten a braw brown foal!’—
 
XV

‘Come haud thy tongue, thou foolish lass!
  The moon ’s but glancing in your ee.
I’ll wad my hail fee against a groat,
  He ’s bigger than e’er our foal will be.’        60
 
XVI

Now all this while in merry Carlisle
  The Harper harpit to hie and law;
And the fiend dought they do but listen him to,
  Until that the day began to daw.
 
XVII

But on the morn at fair daylight,
        65
  When they had ended a’ their cheer,
Behold the Wanton Brown was gane,
  And eke the poor blind Harper’s mare!
 
XVIII

‘Allace! allace!’ quo’ the silly blind Harper,
  ‘And ever allace that I cam here!        70
In Scotland I’ve tint a braw colt-foal,
  In England they’ve stown my gude gray mare!’—
 
XIX

‘Come! cease thy allacing, thou silly blind Harper,
  And again of thy harping let us hear;
And weel paid sall thy colt-foal be,        75
  And thou sall have a far better mare.’
 
XX

Then aye he harpit, and aye Le carpit;
  Sae sweet were the harpings he let them hear!
He was paid for the foal he had never lost,
  And three times ower for the gude gray mare.        80
 
GLOSS:  thole] suffer, be capable of.  laigh] low.  carpit] sang, recited.  nicker and sneer] whinny and snort.  wad my hail fee] bet my whole wages.  fiend dought they do] the deuce could they do.
 

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