William Topaz McGonagall

(1830 - 1902 / Edinburgh / Scotland)

An Adventure in the Life of King James V of Scotland


On one occasion King James the Fifth of Scotland, when alone, in disguise,
Near by the Bridge of Cramond met with rather a disagreeable surprise.
He was attacked by five gipsy men without uttering a word,
But he manfully defended himself with his sword.

There chanced to be a poor man threshing corn in a barn near by,
Who came out on hearing the noise so high;
And seeing one man defending himself so gallantly,
That he attacked the gipsies with his flail, and made them flee.

Then he took the King into the barn,
Saying, "I hope, sir, you've met with no great harm;
And for five men to attack you, it's a disgrace;
But stay, I'll fetch a towel and water to wash your face."

And when the King washed the blood off his face and hands,
"Now, sir, I wish to know who you are," the King demands.
"My name, sir, is John Howieson, a bondsman on the farm of Braehead."
"Oh, well," replied the King, "your company I need not dread."

"And perhaps you'll accompany me a little way towards Edinburgh,
Because at present I'm not free from sorrow.
And if you have any particular wish to have gratified,
Let me know it, and it shall not be denied."

Then honest John said, thinking it no harm,
"Sir, I would like to be the owner of Braehead farm;
But by letting me know who you are it would give my mind relief."
Then King James he answered that he was the Gudeman of Ballingeich.

"And if you'll meet me at the palace on next Sunday,
Believe me, for your manful assistance, I'll you repay.
Nay, honest John, don't think of you I'm making sport,
I pledge my word at least you shall see the royal court."

So on the next Sunday John put on his best clothes,
And appeared at the palace gate as~you may suppose.
And he inquired for the Gudeman of Ballingeich;
And when he gained admittance his heart was freed from grief.

For John soon found his friend the Gudeman,
And the King took John by the han',
Then conducted John from one apartment to another,
Just as kindly as if he'd been his own brother.

Then the King asked John if he'd like to see His Majesty.
"Oh, yes," replied John, "His Majesty I would really like to see."
And John looked earnestly into the King's face,
And said, "How am I to know His Grace?"

"Oh, John, you needn't be the least annoyed about that,
For all heads will be uncovered: the King will wear his hat."
Then he conducted John into a large hall,
Which was filled by the nobility, crown officers, and all.

Then said John to the King, when he looked round the room,
"Sir, I hope I will see the King very soon."
Because to see the King, John rather dreaded,
At last he said to the King, "'Tis you! the rest are bare-headed."

Then the King said, "John, I give you Braehead farm as it stands,
On condition you provide a towel and basin of water to wash my hands,
If ever I chance to come your way.
Then John said, "Thanks to your Majesty, I'll willingly obey."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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