"Willy's Lady"

Vernon Hill

Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912)

 

 

"Willy's Lady" is a traditional British ballad.

 

The ballad concerns Willy, who has has married against his mother's will. As his

mother is a witch, she has her revenge by cursing Willy's wife so that she cannot

be delivered of her child. Willy's attempts to bribe his mother with gold are futile

and she tells him his wife will die and he will marry elsewhere. The household

sprite, Billy Blind tells Willy to create a wax dummy of a baby and invite his mother to the Christening. Willy's mother came

to see and, on seeing the wax figure, burst into a rage, demanding to know who had undone each charm she had put. Willy hurried and undoes them himself, and his wife gives birth.

 

 

 

Vernon Hill's illustration from Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912)

 

 

Vernon Hill - 'Willy's Lady' from ''Ballads Weird and Wonderful'' (1912)

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Vernon Hill - Detail of 'Willy's Lady' from ''Ballads Weird and Wonderful'' (1912)

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'Willy's Lady' from Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912)

 

 

Willy's Lady

 

   

Willy has ta'en him o'er the faem,

He's woo'd a wife, and brought her hame;

He's woo'd her for her yellow hair,

But his mither wrought her mickle care;

 

And mickle dolour gar'd her dree,

For lighter she can never be;

But in her bower she sits wi' pain,

And Willy mourns o'er her in vain.

 

And to his mither he has gane,

That vile rank witch of vilest kind.

 

He says, "My lady has a cup,

Wi' gowd and silver set about;

This goodly gift shall be your ain,

And let her be lighter of her bairn."

 

"Of her bairn she'll never be lighter,

Nor in her bower to shine the brighter;

But she shall die, and turn to clay,

And you shall we another may."

 

"Another may I'll ne'er wed nane,

Another may I'll ne'er bring hame;"

But, sighing, says that weary wight,

"I wish my life were at an end!"

 

"Yet gae ye to your mither again,

That vile rank witch of vilest kind,

And say your lady has a steed,

The like of him 's no in the lands of Leed.

 

"For at ilka tett o' that horse's man,

There's a gowden chess, and a bell to ring;

This goodly gift shall be her ain,

And let me be lighter of my bairn."

 

"Of her bairn she'll never be lighter,

Nor in her bower to shine the brighter;

But she shall die, and turn to clay,

And you shall wed another may."

"Another may I'll ne'er wed nane,

Another may I'll ne'er bring hame;"

But, sighing, says that weary wight,

"I wish my life were at an end!"

 

"Yet gae ye to your mither again,

That vile rank witch of vilest kind,

And say your lady has a girdle,

It's a' red gowd unto the middle,

 

"And aye, at ilka siller hem,

Hang fifty siller bells and ten;

This goodly gift shall be her ain,

And let me be lighter of my bairn."

 

"Of her bairn she'll never be lighter,

Nor in her bower to shine the brighter;

But she shall die, and turn to clay,

And you shall wed another may."

 

"Another may I'll ne'er wed nane,

Another may I'll ne'er bring hame;"

But, sighing, says that weary wight,

"I wish my life were at an end!"

 

Then out and spake the billy-blin,

And he spake out in very good time:

 

"Yet gae yet to the market-place,

And there buy ye a loaf of wace;

Ye'll shape it bairn and barinly like,

And in't twa glassen een ye'll put;

 

"And bid her your boy's christ'nin' to,

Then notice weel what she shall do;

And do you stand a little away,

And notice weel what she will say."

 

He did him to the market-place,

And there he bought a loaf of wace;

He shaped it bairn and bairnly like,

And in't twa glassen een he put.

He did him to his mither then,

And bade her to his boy's christ'nin';

And he did stand a little away,

And noticed weel what she did say.

 

"O wha has loos'd the nine witch-knots,

That were amang that lady's locks?

And wha's ta'en out the kames o' care,

That were amang that lady's hair?

 

"And wha has ta'en down that bush o' woodbine,

That hung between her bower and mine?

And wha has kill'd the master kid,

That ran beneath that lady's bed?

And wha has loos'd her left foot shee,

And let that lady lighter be?"

 

Syne Willy 's loos'd the nine witch-knots,

That were amang that lady's locks;

And Willy 's ta'en out the kames o' care,

That were amang that lady's hair;

 

And he's ta'en down the bush o' woodbine,

Hung atween her bower and the witch carline;

And he has killed the master kid,

That ran beneath that lady's bed;

 

And he has loos'd her left foot shee,

And let that lady lighter be;

And now he has gotten a bonny son,

And mickle grace be him upon.

 

 

 

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