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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Original Ballad of the Broom of Cowdenknows

The beautiful air of Codenknows is well known and popular. In Ettrick Forest the following words are uniformly adapted to the tune, and seem to be the original ballad. An edition of this pastoral tale, differing considerably from the present copy, was published by Mr. Herd, in 1772. Cowdenknows is situated upon the Leader, about four miles from Melrose, and is now the properly of Dr. Home.


O the broom, and the bonny bonny broom,
And the broom of the Cowdenknows!
And aye sae sweet as the lassie sang,
I' the bought, milking the ewes.

The hills were high on ilka side,
An' the bought i' the lirk* o' the hill,
And aye, as she sang, her voice it rang,
Out o'er the head o' yon hill.

There was a troop o' gentlemen
Came riding merrilie by,
And one o' them has rode out o' the way,
To the bought to the bonny may.

"Weel may ye save an' see bonny lass,
An' weel may ye save an' see." -
"An sae wi' you, ye weel-bred knight,
And what's your will wi' me?" -

"The night is misty and mirk, fair may,
And I have ridden astray,
And will you be so kind, fair may,
As come out and point my way?" -

"Ride out, ride out, ye ramp rider!
Your steed's baith stout and strang;
For out of the bought I dare na come,
For fear 'at ye do me wrang." -

"O winna ye pity me, bonny lass,
O winna ye pity me?
An' winna ye pity my poor steed,
Stands trembling at yon tree?" -

"I wadna pity your poor steed,
Though it were tied to a thorn;
For if ye wad gain my love the night,
Ye wad slight me ere the morn.

"For I ken you by your weel-busket hat,
And your merry twinkling ee,
That ye're the Laird o' the Oakland hills,
An' ye may weel seem for to be." -

"But I am not the Laird o' the Oakland hills,
Ye're far mista'en o' me;
But I'm ane o' the men about his house,
An' right aft in his companie." -

He's ta'en her by the middle jimp,
And by the grass-green sleeve;
He's lifted her over the fauld-dyke,
And speer'd at her sma' leave.

O he's ta'en out a purse o' gowd,
And streek'd her yellow hair,
"Now, take ye that, my bonny may
Of me till you hear mair." -

O he's leap'd on his berry-brown steed,
And soon he's o'erta'en his men;
And ane and a' cried out to him,
"O master, ye've tarry'd lang!" -

O I hae been east, and I hae been west, 
And' I hae been far o'er the knowes,
But the bonniest lass that ever I saw
Is i' the bought, milking the ewes." -

She set the cog** upon her head,
An' she's gane singing hame -
"O where hae ye been, my ae daughter?
Ye hae na been your lane." -

O naebody was wi' me , father,
O naebody has been wi' me;
The night is misty and mirk, father,
Ye may gang to the door and see.

"But wae be to your ewe-herd, father,
And an ill deed may he die;
He bug*** the bought at the back o' the knowe, 
And a tod+ has frighted me.

"There came a tod to the bought door,
The like I never saw;
And e'er he had ta'en the lamb he did,
I had lourd++ he had ta'en them a'." -

O whan fifteen weeks was come and gane,
Fifteen weeks and three,
That lassie began to look thin and pale,
An' to long for his merry-twinkling ee.

It fell on a day, on a het simmer day,
She was ca'ing out her father's kye,
Bye came a troop o' gentlemen,
A' merrilie riding bye.

"Weel may ye save an' see, bonny may,
Weel may ye save and see!
Weel I wat ye be a very bonny may,
But whae's aught that babe ye are wi'?" -

Never a word could that lassie say,
For never a ane could she blame,
An' never a word could the lassie say,
But "I have a gudeman at hame." -

"Ye lied, ye lied, my very bonny may,
Sae loud as I hear you lie;
For dinna ye mind that misty night
I was i' the bought wi' thee?

"I ken you by your middle sae jimp
An' your merry-twinkling ee,
That ye're the bonny lass i' the Cowdenknow,
An' ye may weel seem for to be." -

Then he's leapt off his berry-brown steed,
An' he's set that fair may on -
"Ca' out your kye, gude father, yourself,
For she's never ca' them out again.

"I am the Laird of the Oakland hills,
I hae thirty plows and three;
An' I hae gotten the bonniest lass
That's in a' the south countrie."

* Lirk - hollow
** Cog - milk pail
*** Bug - built
+ Tod - fox
++ Lourd - liefer

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