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.
 
22. The Cruel Mother
 
 
I

SHE lean’d her back unto a thorn;
  Fine flowers in the valley
And there she has her two babes born,
  And the green leaves they grow rarely.
 
II

She’s ta’en the ribbon frae her hair,
        5
And bound their bodies fast and sair.
 
III

‘Smile na sae sweet, my bonny babes,
An’ ye smile sae sweet, ye’ll smile me dead.
 
IV

‘And, O bonny babes, if ye suck sair,
Ye’ll never suck by my side mair.’        10
 
V

She’s ta’en out her little penknife
And twinn’d the sweet babes o’ their life.
 
VI

She’s howket a grave baith deep and wide,
And there she’s buried them side by side.
 
VII

She’s buried them baith beneath the brier,
        15
And washed her hands wi’ mony a tear.
 
VIII

‘O ay, my God, as I look to thee,
My babes be atween my God and me!
 
IX

‘And ay their smiles wad win me in,
But I am borne down by deadly sin.’        20
 
X

She’s cover’d them o’er wi’ a marble stane,
Thinking she wad gang maiden hame.
 
XI

She lookit out owre her castle wa’
And saw twa naked boys play at the ba.’
 
XII

‘O bonny boys, gin ye were mine
        25
I wad cleed you in silk and sabelline.
 
XIII

‘O I would dress you in the silk,
And wash you ay in morning milk.’—
 
XIV

‘O mother dear, when we were thine,
You didna prove to us sae kind.        30
 
XV

‘O cruel mother, we were thine
And thou made us to wear the twine.
 
XVI

‘But now we’re in the heavens hie,
  Fine flowers in the valley
And ye have the pains o’ hell to drie’—        35
  And the green leaves they grow rarely;
Ten thousand times good night and be wi’ thee!
 
GLOSS:  twinn’d] robbed, deprived.  cleed] clothe.  sabelline] sable.  twine] twine-cloth, shroud.
 

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