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.
 
29. Clerk Colven
 
 
I

CLERK COLVEN, and his gay ladie,
  As they walk’d in yon garden green,
The belt about her middle jimp
  It cost Clerk Colven crowns fifteen.
 
II

‘O hearken weel now, my good lord,
        5
  O hearken weel to what I say;
When ye gang to the wall o’ Stream
  O gang nae near the weel-faur’d may.
 
III

‘O haud your tongue, my gay ladie,
  Now speak nae mair of that to me;        10
For I nae saw a fair woman
  [That I cou’d] like so well as thee.’
 
IV

He’s mounted on his berry-brown steed,
  And merry, merry rade he on,
Till that he came to the wall o’ Stream,        15
  And there he saw the mermaiden.
 
V

‘Ye wash, ye wash, ye bonny may,
  And ay’s ye wash your sark o’ silk.’—
‘It’s a’ for ye, you gentle knight,
  My skin is whiter than the milk.’        20
 
VI

He’s ta’en her by the milk-white hand,
  He’s ta’en her by the sleeve sae green,
And he’s forgotten his gay ladie,
  And he’s awa’ wi’ the mermaiden.
 
VII

—‘Ohone, alas!’ says Clerk Colven,
        25
  ‘And aye so sair as akes my head!’
And merrily leugh the mermaiden,
  ‘O ’twill win on till you be dead.
 
VIII

‘But out ye tak’ your little pen-knife,
  And frae my sark ye shear a gare;        30
Row that about your lovely head,
  And the pain ye’ll never feel nae mair.’
 
IX

Out he has ta’en his little pen-knife,
  And frae her sark he’s shorn a gare;
She’s ty’d it round his whey-white face,        35
  But and ay his head it akèd mair.
 
X

‘Ohone, alas! says Clerk Colven,
  O sairer, sairer akes my head!’—
‘And sairer, sairer ever will,
  And aye be war’ till ye be dead.’        40
 
XI

Then out he drew his shining blade
  And thought wi’ it to be her deid,
But she’s become a fish again,
  And merrily sprang into the fleed.
 
XII

He’s mounted on his berry-brown steed,
        45
  And dowie, dowie rade he hame,
And heavily, heavily lighted down
  When to his ladie’s bower he came.
 
XIII

‘O mither, mither, mak’ my bed,
  And, gentle ladie, lay me down;        50
O brither, brither, unbend my bow,
  ’Twill never be bent by me again!’
 
XIV

His mither she has made his bed,
  His gentle ladie laid him down,
His brither he has unbent his bow,        55
  —’Twas never bent by him again.
 
GLOSS:  snae] snow.  jimp] slim, slender.  wall] well.  weel-faur’d may] well-favoured maiden.  leugh] laughed.  win on] continue.  gare] gore, strip.  row] roll, wrap.  war’] worse.  deid] death.  fleed] flood.  dowie] dolefully.
 

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