The Dowie Dens of Yarrow

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Left: from Child, Part III, early edition

Late at e'en, drinking the wine,
And ere they paid the lawing,
They set a combat them between,
To fight it in the dawing.

2. "Oh, stay at hame, my noble lord,
Oh, stay at hame, my marrow!
My cruel brother will you betray
On the dowie houms of Yarrow."

3. "Oh, fare ye weel, my ladye gaye!
Oh, fare ye weel, my Sarah!
For I maun gae, though I ne'er return,
Frae the dowie banks of Yarrow."

4. She kiss'd his cheek, she kaim'd his hair,
As oft she had done before, O;
She belted him with his noble brand,
And he's away to Yarrow.

5. As he gaed up the Tennies bank,
I wot he gaed wi' sorrow,
Till, down in a den, he spied nine arm'd men,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.

6. "Oh, come ye here to part your land,
The bonnie Forest thorough?
Or come ye here to wield your brand,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow?"

7. "I come not here to part my land,
And neither to beg nor borrow;
I come to wield my noble brand,
On the bonnie banks of Yarrow.

8. "If I see all, ye're nine to ane;
An that's an unequal marrow:
Yet will I fight, while lasts my brand,
On the bonnie banks of Yarrow."

9. Four has he hurt, and five has slain,
On the bloody braes of Yarrow;
Till that stubborn knight came him behind,
And ran his body thorough.

10. "Gae hame, gae hame, good-brother John,
And tell your sister Sarah,
To come and lift her leafu' lord;
He's sleepin' sound on Yarrow."

11. "Yestreen I dream'd a dolefu' dream;
I fear there will be sorrow!
I dream'd I pu'd the heather green,
Wi' my true love, on Yarrow.

12. "O gentle wind, that bloweth south,
From where my love repaireth,
Convey a kiss from his dear mouth,
And tell me how he fareth!

13. "But in the glen strive armed men;
They've wrought me dole and sorrow;
They've slain - the comeliest knight they've slain -
He bleeding lies on Yarrow."

14. As she sped down yon high, high hill,
She gaed wi' dole and sorrow,
And in the den spied ten slain men,
On the dowie banks of Yarrow.

15. She kiss'd his cheek, she kaim'd his hair,
She search'd his wounds all thorough,
She kiss'd them, till her lips grew red,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.

16. "Now, haud your tongue, my daughter dear!
For a' this breeds but sorrow;
I'll wed ye to a better lord
Than him ye lost on Yarrow."

17. "Oh, haud your tongue, my father dear!
Ye mind me but of sorrow:
A fairer rose did never bloom
Than now lies cropp'd on Yarrow."

There was a lady in the north,
I ne'er could find her marrow;
She was courted by nine gentlemen,
And a ploughboy lad from Yarrow.

2. These nine sat drinking at their wine,
Sat drinking wine at Yarrow;
They made a vow among themselves
To fight with him on Yarrow.

3. She's washed his face, she's combed his hair
As oft she's done before o
Gave him a brand down by his side
To fight for her on Yarrow.

4. As he walked up yon high, high hills,
And down the glens so narrow
Nine armed men lay waiting him
Upon the braes of Yarrow.

5. It's three he wounded, three withdrew,
And three he killed on Yarrow,
Till her brother, John, came in behind
And pierced his body thorough.

6. "O father, dear, I dreamed a dream,
I fear it will prove sorrow.
I dreamed I was pulling heather green
On the dowie dens of Yarrow."

7. "O daughter dear, I read your dream,
To you it will prove sorrow;
Your true love John lies dead and slain
On the dowie dens of Yarrow."

8. As she walked up yon high, high hill,
And down the glen so narrow,
Twas there she found her true love John,
Lying cold and dead on Yarrow.

9. She washed his face, she combed his hair,
As she had done before o,
And she kissed the blood from off his wounds,
On the dowie dens of Yarrow.

10. Her hair it being three quarters long,
The colour it was yellow,
She wrapped it round his middle so small,
And carried him home to Yarrow.

11. "O daughter dear, dry up your tears,
And weep no more for sorrow.
I'll wed you to a better man
Than the ploughboy lad of Yarrow."

12. "O father dear, you've seven sons,
You may wed them all tomorrow,
But the fairest flower among them all,
Was the lad I wooed on Yarrow."


Scott thought that the hero was Walter Scott, third son of Thirlestane, slain by Scott of Tushielaw. The "monument" (a standing stone near Yarrow) is really of a very early, rather Post-Roman date, and refers to no feud of Thirlestane, Oakwood, Kirkhope, or Tushielaw. The stone is not far from Yarrow Krik, near a place called Warrior's Rest. Hamilton of Bangour's version is beautiful and well known. Quite recently a very early interment of a corpse, in the curved position, was discovered not far from the standing stone with the inscription. Ballad, stone, and interment may all be distinct and separate. - A Collection of Ballads by Andrew Lang

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