Legend of the Fair Emergilde: Scot


Thou little god of meikle sway, Who rul’st from pole to pole,

And up beyond yon milky way, Where wondrous planets roll:

Oh! tell me how a power divine, That tames the creatures wild,

Whose touch benign makes all men kin, Could slay sweet Emergilde?

It’s up the street, and down the street, And up the street again,

And all the day, and all the way, She looks at noble men;

But him she seeks she cannot find, In all that moving train;

No one can please that anxious gaze, And own to “Ballenden.”

From the high castle on the knowe,  Adown the Canongate,

And from the palace in the howe, Up to the castle yett,

A hizzy here, a cadie there, She stops with modest mien;

All she can say four words convey: “I seek for Ballenden.”

Nor more of our Scotch tongue she knew, For she’s of foreign kin,

And all her speech can only reach “I seek for Ballenden.”

No Ballenden she yet could find, No one aught of him knew;

She sought at night dark Toddrick’s Wynd, Next morn to search anew.

And who is she, this fair ladye, To whom our land is strange?

Why all alone, to all unknown, Within this city’s range?

Her face was of the bonnie nut-brown, Our Scotch folk love to view,

When ‘neath it shows the red, red rose, Like sunlight shining through.

Her tunic was of the mazerine, Of scarlet her roquelaire,

And o’er her back, in ringlets black, Fell down her raven hair.

Her eyes, so like the falling sterns, Seen on an August night,

Had surely won from eastern sun,  Some rayons of his light.

And still she tried, and still she plied, Her task so sad and vain,

The words still four–they were no more–  “I seek for Ballenden.”

No Ballenden could she yet find, No one aught of him knew,

And still at night down Toddrick’s Wynd, Next morn to search anew.

In Euphan Barnet’s lowly room,  Adown that darksome wynd,

A ladye fair is lying there, In illness sair declined;

Her cheeks now like the lily pale, The roses waned away,

Her eyes so bright have lost their light, Her lips are like the clay.

On her fair breast a missal rests, Illumed with various dyes,

In which were given far views of heaven, In old transparencies.

There hangs the everlasting cross, Of emerald and of gold,

That cross of Christ so often kissed,  When she her beads had told.

Those things are all forgotten now, Far other thoughts remain;

And as she dreams she ever renes, “I seek for Ballenden.”

Oh Ballenden! oh Ballenden! Whatever, where’er thou be,

That ladye fair is dying there, And all for love of thee.

In the old howf of the Canongate, There is a little lair,

And on it grows a pure white rose, By love implanted there;

And o’er it hangs a youthful man, With a cloud upon his brow,

And sair he moans, and sair he groans, For her who sleeps below.

No noble lord nor banneret, Nor courtly knight is he,

No more than a simple advocate, Who pleadeth for his fee.

He holds a letter in his hand, On which bleared eyes are bent,

It came afar from Almanzar, The Duke of Bonavent-

A noble duke whom he had seen, In his castle by the sea,

When for one night he claimed the right, Of his high courtesie;

And that letter said, “Kind sir, I write In sorrow, sooth to say,

That my dear child, fair Emergilde, Hath from us flown away;

And all the trace that I can find,  Is this, and nothing more,

She took to sea at Tripoli, For Scotland’s distant shore.

It is a feat of strange conceit, That fills us with alarms:

Oh seek about, and find her out, And send her to our arms.”

And who is he this letter reads,  With tears the words atween?

Yea! even he she had sought to see, The sair-sought Ballenden.

Yet little little had he thought, When away in that far countrie,

That a look she had got of a humble Scot, Would ever remembered be.

But tho’ he had deemed himself forgot, By one so far away,

Her image had still, against his will, Him haunted night and day.

And when he laid him on his bed, And sair inclined to sleep,

That face would still, against his will, Its holy vigil keep.

Oh gentle youth, thou little thought,  When away in our north countrie,

That up and down, thro’ all the town,  That ladye sought for thee.

And little little did thou wot,  What in Euphan’s room was seen,

Where, as she died, she whispering sighed,  “I die for Ballenden.”

Angry and sad shall be my way,  If I behold not her afar,

And yet I know not when that day,  Shall rise, for still she dwells afar.

God, who has formed this fair array,  Of worlds, and placed my love afar,

Strengthen my heart with hope, I pray,  Of seeing her I love afar.


TITLE: Wilson’s Tales of the Borders and of Scotland, Volume XXIV. (1884)

Author: Revised by Alexander Leighton

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway


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