Janet Hamilton

(1795-1873 / Scotland)

The Ballad O' Mary Muiren - Poem by Janet Hamilton

The pride o' the clachan, the rose o' the glen,
The flower o' oor lasses was Mary Muiren;
Sae modest, an' mensefu', an' winsome was she,
Sae couthie, an' blithesome, an' bonnie to see.


What wooers ha'e said, an' what poets ha'e sung,
'Bout bonnie Scotch lassies, sweet, lo'esome, an' young,
I needna repeat; sae I winna say mair,
But Mary was gentle, an' guileless, an' fair.


In a howe o' the muirlan'-they ca'd it the glen-
Stude a laigh-theekit hoose, wi' a but an' a ben,
An' gushin', an' rowin', an' wimplin' alang,
A clear, siller burnie was singin' its sang.


In the glen the young gowan first open'd her e'e,
The bluebell an' primrose there first ye micht see;
The bracken was greenest, the sweet heather bell
The reddest and richest that bloom'd on the fell.


Ae sweet simmer mornin' I gaed awa' doun
Thro' the glen, by the burn-I was gaun to the toun:
Sic a scene o' saft beauty ne'er fell to my e'en,
Sae dewy an' fragrant, sae flowery an' green.


Hoo saftly fell doon on my warl'-weary breast,
The beauty, the loneliness, silence, and rest
O' the glen, whaur nae soun' ye wad hear at ilk turn
But the sang o' the birdies, an' babblin' burn.


The gate I was gaun brocht me to the hoose-en',
The dwallin' o' Mary, the rose o' the glen.
Her faither-Aul' John-was the canny bit laird
O' the laigh-theekit hoose an' muckle kail-yard.


The hoose fire was luntin, I ken'd by the smeek
Rowin' oot o' the lum, an' the guff o' peat reek
I snufft wi' delight: sae the folk were asteer,
An' I thocht in the by-gaun for them I wad speer.


There was nae lockit yett, an' nae bow-wowin' tyke
To keep me frae stappin' inside o' the dyke;
It was juist when Aul' Johnnie was raisin' the saum-
The beuk it was ta'en in the quiet mornin' caum.


That voice it was naebody's, Mary, but thine,
The highest, the sweetest, the hauflins divine;
It rang in my lug like a clear siller bell,
An' my heart hoo it dinil't aneath the sweet spell.


The door it was open'd, an' Mary cam' oot,
As sweet as a rose an' as fresh as a trout.
She smiled when she saw me, an' bade me gae in;
It was time for the milkin', sae aff she boud rin.


There was naebody there as I stappit in ben,
But John an' his wife sittin' on the fire-en'.
'Your welcome,' quo' he, an' the licht on his face
Was the spirit o' peace an' caum prayerfu' grace.


The wife leukit up, an' I saw by her e'e
That her heart was as dowie as dowie micht be;
I thocht that some grief maun ha'e lain on it lang;
Wi' Mary, sweet Mary, sure nocht cou'd be wrang.


'O Nannie, it's weel ye ha'e come to the glen,
I ha'e something to speer that ye aiblins may ken.
O, I ha'e been dwinin' this towmond an' mair,
Gey doun i' the mouth, an' a heart fu' o' care.


Amang your acquaintance doun by in the toun,
Ken ye ocht o' a chiel whase name is Tam Broon?
He's a braw, swankie fallow as ever ye saw,
An' a tongue that wad wile e'en the egg frae the craw.


Three nichts i' the owk he comes doun to the glen,
An' aftener, maybe, for ocht that I ken;
He's a'thing wi' Mary, that's plain to be seen,
An' he's juist drawn the heuks owre my puir lassie's een.


Some freen's they ha'e tauld us he's aften seen fu',
An' atweel I jalouse that the tale is owre true;
But Mary, she says it's a' lees that they tell,
For Tam is the man can tak' care o' himsel'.


Her faither forbids her to speak to the man,
An' I greet, an' I pray, an' say what I can.
'O mither,' she says, 'I ha'e gi'en him my heart,
An' my haun he maun ha'e, for the twa canna part.''


'Weel, neebor, for you an' puir Mary I'm wae,
That a chiel like Tam Broon shou'd ha'e tack'lt ye sae;
I ken him fu' weel, an' he's gi'en to the dram,
But sleekit, an' pawkie, and guid at a sham.'


Alas! for puir Mary, sae sweet, an' sae fair,
She teuk nae advice, sae they priggit nae mair:
Ere lang she was wedded tae sleekie Tam Broon,
Nor lang till she faund him a fause, drucken loon.


Three towmonds an' mair I was far frae the glen,
An' ne'er cou'd hear tell o' puir Mary Muiren,
But whan I cam' back to my hame in the toun,
To speer for the bodies I gaed awa' doun.


Whan I stappit in by, no ane cou'd I see
But John by the fire, wi' a bairn at his knee-
A bonnie wee lassie, wi' lang gowden hair,
The image o' Mary, but she wasna there.


He rose when he saw me, an' grippit my haun;
His een were watshod, an' he cou'dna weel staun.
'O Nannie, my woman, sin' ye gaed awa',
My sorrows and losses they hinna been sma'.


It's a towmond come June sin' I lost my auld wife,
An' wi' her a' the comfort an' hope o' my life;
Wi' grief her grey hairs to the grave were brocht doon,
An' wha had the wyte o't but drucken Tam Broon.


An' syne my puir Mary, his heart-stricken wife,
Wha ance was the pleasure an' licht o' my life,
Sax months sin', wi' sorrow an' poortith oppressed,
Was laid on her mither's cauld bosom to rest.


I thought then to dee, but the Lord he has lent
This sweet bairn to me wi' her faither's consent;
An' my Mary's wee Mary is mine noo to keep,
To eat o' my bread, in my bosom to sleep.'


'Frien' Johnnie,' said I, as I dichtit my een,
'This bairn for a blessin' to you may be gi'en:
May the hap o' her mither ne'er darken her life,
May she ne'er dree the dule o' the drucken man's wife.'


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010



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