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Anna Jane Vardill

Sir Locrine [1]

A Northern Ballad

Brunhild is in her bow’r
 Wi’ the red gowd in her hair;
And Sir Locrine is stark and dour [2]
 To see his ladie there.

“Now where sall I find a ferryman
 To ferry me owr the brine?
Wi’ the gude red gowd he sall fill his hand,
 And his cup wi’ the gude red wine.”—

“Its I the ferryman will be,
 To ferry ye ow’r the brine;
But I’se ha’ neither cup nor gowden fee,
 But that gowd ring of thine.”

The boatie rows, the boatie rows
 Withouten sail or oar:
Ere he can blink his e’e, it goes
 A bowshot fra’ the shore.

“Now weel be wi’ thee, ferryman’
 Why is thy hand so thin?
I see a light on the waters glint,
 But no light in thine e’en!

Now boatman, Jesu give thee grace!
 Thou art no true man’s son—
The moon glims lightly on thy face,
 But shadow thou hast none.

And where got’st thou that scarf so rare,
 Wrought wi’ the lily flow’r?
I gave it to Burd Ellinor.
 Once in my mother’s bow’r.”

“I am thy sister Ellinor
 That sank aneath the sea.
And I come fra’ good King Laurin’s bow’r
 To speak again wi’ thee.

And I will shew thee the wee wee man
 That rides upon the wind,
And wi’ the clouds keeps company
 When they leave the sun behind.

His saddle is the May-fly’s coat,
 On the back of an elf-steed set,
And his foot-page is the smallest mote
 That plays at the sun’s gate.

I will dip thy son ere the blink of morn
 In the well of eternitie,
In the isle where babe was never born,
 And man shall never die: [3]

And I will shew thee all aboon,
 And all aneath the sea,
If thou wilt dip thy scarlet shoon,
 And follow a Merladiè.”

Brunhild is on her bride-bench sitting,
 Pouring the gude red wine;
Her maids the coronet are fitting—
 But where is Sir Locrine?

“Sing me a song, my nightingale,
 A true song sing to me;
Now tell me if my lord is leal,
 Or fause ayont the sea.”

Then up and spake the nightingale,
 His blue beak in a rose,
“The glass is green, the glass is sheen,
 Where thou may’st see thy woes.

But name thou not thy husband’s name,
 Whatever thine eye shall see
If thou shalt name Sir Locrine’s name,
 So surely he shall diè.”

The glass was green, the glass was sheen,
 Where Brunhild stoop’d to see—
“O woe! I see my husband lean
 On the lap of a merladiè!

And she is smoothing her yellow hair
 Wi’ a kame of pearlines strung—
O woe! I see her gay green bow’r
 Wi’ the emerald clusters hung!

Her hair is like the silken flax
 Drawn thro’ a silver loom—
Her cheek is like the lintwhite wax
 That burns in a king’s tomb—

Yet I will not name the awsome name,
 The name of gramarye,
For it was a curl of silken hair
 That he lo’ed once fra’ me.

I see her sit on the grey swan’s down,
 Her lute of ivorie playing:
And I see my love wi’ an amber crown
 Amang the green caves straying.

But I will not name the fause one’s name,
 Forgotten tho’ I be:
For one word of his winsome speech
 Is mair than her melodiè.

I see a cradle of roses bright,
 All fra’ one coral stem,
And every bud is of crysolite,
 And every leaf a gem.

Now evil betide thee, Sir Locrine!
 If ever thy name had power
Thou hast sto’un my babe for a water-fiend,
 And hid him in her bower!”—

Brunhild has spoken the awsome word,
 The word of death and sin—
She sees a boat on the waters turn’d,
 Sir Locrine’s corse within!

Now ev’ry eve ye may see a wreath
 Of diamonds in the wave;
W’ such a wreath the sea aneath
 They dress Sir Locrine’s grave.

The glass is green, the glass is sheen,
 When jalouse love would spy;
And when jalouse love enough has seen,
 The salt sea shall be dry.


  1. King Arthur’s son Locrine, and his daughter Burd or Prude Elinor, who married the sea-dwarf Laurin, are favourite subjects of old ballads. 
  2. “Stark and dour” imply eager impatience. 
  3. Such a well and such an island seem to have been discovered by Danish romancers; and such impertinent nightingales are very familiar with them. The Bride-bench, or place of honour, resembled our sofa. 

The European Magazine, Vol. 74, November 1818, pp. 439-440