is traditionally attributed to Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw, who produced it for the
public in 1719, claiming she had found it in shreds destined for recycling as
"the bottoms of clues" (basically, the starting spools for balls of
yarn). Its authenticity as ancient heroic poetry was quickly questioned. Today
it is generally accepted as Wardlaw's own composition, possibly based on her
hearing of oral versions of the tale.
Clyne, Norval. The Romantic Scottish Ballads and the Lady Wardlaw Heresy. Aberdeen, 1859. Reprinted Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Library Editions, 1974.
Percy, Thomas. Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. 1765. Thomas Y. Crowell: New York, 1876.
Todd, Janet. A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers,
1660-1800. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allenheld, 1985.
1.STATELY stepped he east the wa',
And stately stepped he west,
Full seventy years he now had seen,
Wi' scarce seven years of rest.
He lived when Britons' breach of faith, 5
Wrought Scotland mickle wae, *much
And ay his sword tauld to their cost,
He was their deadly fae.
2.High on a hill his castle stood,
Wi' ha's and tow'rs a height, 10
And goodly chambers fair to see,
Where he lodged many a knight.
His dame sae peerless anes and fair, *unique
For chast and beauty deem'd, *chastity
Nae marrow had in all the land, *match
Save ELENOR the queen. 16
3.Full thirteen sons to him she bare,
All men of valour stout:
In bloody fight with sword in hand
Nine lost their lives bot doubt; *without
Four yet remain, lang may they live 21
To stand by liege and land:
High was their fame, high was their might,
And high was their command.
4.Great love they bare to FAIRLY fair,
Their sister soft and dear, 26
Her girdle showed her middle gimp, *neat, slender
And gowden glist her hair. *golden; glistened
What waefu' wae her beauty bred,
Waefu' to young and auld, 30
Waefu' I trow to kith and kin,
As story every tauld.
5.The King of Norse in summer tyde,
Puffed up with pow'r and might,
Landed in fair Scotland the isle 35
With many a hardy knight.
The tydings to our good Scots king
Came as he sat at dine
With noble chiefs in brave array,
Drinking the blood-red wine. 40
6."To horse, to horse, my royal liege,
Your faes stand on the strand,
Full twenty thousand glittering spears
The King of Norse commands."
"Bring me my steed, Mage dapple gray," 45
Our good king rose and cry'd,
"A trustier beast in a' the land
A Scots king never try'd.
7."Go, little page, tell Hardyknute,
That lives on hill sae hie, 50
To draw his sword, the dread of faes,
And haste and follow me."
The little page flew swift as dart
Flung by his master's arm,
"Come down, come down, Lord Hardyknute, 55
And rid your king frae harm."
8.Then red, red grew his dark-brown cheeks,
Sae did his dark-brown brow;
His looks grew keen, as they were wont
In dangers great to do; 60
He's ta'en a horn as green as glass,
And gi'en five sounds sae shrill,
That trees in green wood shook thereat,
Sae loud rang ilka hill. *every
9.His sons in manly sport and glee 65
Had passed that summer's morn,
When low down in a grassy dale
They heard their father's horn.
"That horn," quo' they, "ne'er sounds in peace,
We've other sport to bide." 70
And soon they hied them up the hill,
And soon were at his side.
10."Late, late the yestreen I ween'd in peace
To end my lengthened life,
My age might well excuse my arm 75
Frae manly feats of strife;
But now that Norse does proudly boast
Fair Scotland to inthrall,
It's ne'er be said of Hardyknute
He fear'd to fight or fall. 80
11."Robin of Rothsay, bend thy bow;
Thy arrows shoot sae leal, *accurately
That many a comely countenance
They've turned to deadly pale.
Brade Thomas, take you but your lance, 85
You need nae weapons mair
If you fight wi't as you did anes *once
'Gainst Westmoreland's fierce heir.
12."And Malcolm, light of foot as stag
That runs in forest wild, 90
Get me my thousands three of men
Well bred to sword and shield;
Bring me my horse and harnessing,
My blade of metal clear:
If faes but ken'd the hand it bare 95
They soon had fled for fear.
13."Farewell, my dame, sae peerless good"
(And took her by the hand),
Fairer to me in age you seem
Than maids for beauty fam'd. 100
My youngest son shall here remain
To guard these stately towers,
And shut the silver bolt that keeps
Sae fast your painted bowers."
14.And first she wet her comely cheeks,
And then her boddice green, 106
Her silken cords of twirtle twist, *thoroughly twisted
Well plett with silver sheen; *plaited, braided; shining
And apron set with many a dice *pattern of squares
Of needle-work sae rare,
Wove by nae hand, as ye may guess 110
Save that of FAIRLY fair.
15.And he has ridden o'er muir and moss,
O'er hills and many a glen,
When he came to a wounded knight 115
Making a heavy mane; *moan
"Here maun I lye, here maun I dye *must
By treacherie's false guiles
Witless I was that e'er ga faith
To wicked woman's smiles." 120
16."Sir Knight, gin you were in my bower, *if
To lean on silken seat,
My lady's kindly care you'd prove,
Who ne'er knew deadly hate;
Herself would watch you a' the day,
Her maids a dead of night; 126
And FAIRLY fair your heart would cheer,
As she stands in your sight.
17."Arise, young Knight, and mount your steed,
Full lowns the shynand day; *grows calm ; shining
Choose frae my menzie whom ye please *retinue
To lead you on the way." 132
With smileless look and visage wan
The wounded knight reply'd,
"Kind Chieftain, your intent pursue,
For here I maun abyde. 136
18."To me nae after day nor night
Can e'er be sweet or fair,
But soon beneath some draping tree
Cauld death shall end my care." 140
With him nae pleading might prevail;
Brave Hardyknute to gain,
With fairest words and reason strong,
Strave courteously in vain.
19.Syne he has gone far hynde out o'er *next
Lord Chattan's land sae wide; 146
That lord a worthy wight was ay,
When faes his courage sey'd; *tried, tested
Of Pictish race by mother's side,
When Picts rul'd Caledon, 150
Lord Chattan claim'd the princely maid
When he sav'd Pictish crown.
20.Now with his fierce and stalwart train
He reach'd a rising height, 154
Quhair braid encampit on the dale *Where broadly encamped
Norse's menzie lay in sicht.
"Yonder, my valiant sons and feirs, *companions
Our raging reavers wait,
On the unconquered Scottish sward *field, greensward
To try with us their fate. 160
21."Make orisons to him that sav'd
Our souls upon the rood; *cross
Syne bravely show your veins are fill'd *then
With Caledonian blood."
Then furth he drew his trusty glaive, *sword
While thousands all around 166
Drawn frae their sheaths glanc'd in the sun;
And loud the bugles sound.
22.To joyn his king adoun the hill
In haste his march he made, 170
While, pleyand pibrochs, minstrels meet *playing martial airs
Afore him stately strade.
"Thrice welcome, valiant stoup of weir,
Thy nation's shield and pride;
Thy king nae reason has to fear 175
When thou art by his side."
23.When bows were bent and darts were thrown,
For throng scarce could they flee,
The darts clove arrows as they met,
The arrows dart the tree. 180
Lang did they rage and fight fu' fierce
With little skaith to mon, *harm to man
But bloody, bloody was the field,
Ere that lang day was done.
24.The King of Scots, that sindle brook'd *little endured
The war that looked like play, 186
Drew his braid sword and brake his bow,
Since bows seemed but delay,
Quoth noble Rothsay, "Mine I'll keep,
I wat it's bled a score." *know
"Haste up, my merry men," cried the king
As he rode on before.
25.The King of Norse he sought to find
With him to mense the faught, *do honor to the battle
But on his forehead there did light 195
A sharp, unsonsie shaft; *usu. unsousie: unlucky, unfortunate
As he his hand put up to feel
The wound, an arrow keen
O waefu' chance! there pinn'd his hand 199
In midst between his een. *eyes
26."Revenge, revenge," cried Rothsay's heir,
"Your mailcoat sha' na bide *shall not
The strength and sharpness of my dart:"
Then sent it through his side.
Another arrow well he marked, 205
It pierced his neck in twa,
His hands then quit the silver reins,
He low as earth did fa'.
27."Sair bleids my liege, sair, sair he bleeds!" *sorely
Again wi' might he drew, 210
And gesture dread his sturdy bow,
Fast the braid arrow flew.
Wae to the knight he ettled at; *aimed
Lament now Queen Elgreed;
High dames too wail your darling's fall 215
His youth and comely meed. *merit, excellence
28."Take off, take off his costly jupe *jacket
(Of gold well was it twin'd, 219
Knit like the fowler's net, through quhilk *which
His seelly harness shin'd), *useless
Take, Norse, that gift frae me and bid
Him venge the blood it bears;
Say, if he face my bended bow
He sure nae weapon fears."
29.Proud Norse with giant body tall, 225
Braid shoulders and arms strong,
Cried, "Where is Hardyknute sae famed
And feared at Britain's throne;
Though Britons tremble at his name,
I soon shall make him wail, 230
That e'er my sword was made sae sharp,
Sae soft his coat of mail."
30.That brag his stout heart could na bide,
It lent him youthfu' micht: *might
"I'm Hardyknute! this day," he cried 235
"To Scotland's king I heght *promised
To lay thee low as horses hoof
My word I mean to keep."
Syne with the first stroke e'er he strake, 239
He garr'd his body bleed. *made
31.Norse's een like gray goshawk's stared wild,
He sighed wi' shame and spite:
"Disgraced is now my far-famed arm
That left thee power to strike:"
Then ga' his head a blow sae fell, 245
It made him doun to stoup,
As laigh as he to ladies us'd
In courtly guise to lout.
32.Fu' soon he rais'd his bent body,
His bow he marvell'd sair, 250
Sin blows till then on him but darr'd
As touch of FAIRLY fair;
Norse marvell'd too as sair as he
To see his stately look;
Sae soon as e'er he strake a fae, 255
Sae soon his life he took.
33.Where like a fire to heather set,
Bauld Thomas did advance,
Ane sturdy fae with look enrag'd
Up toward him did prance; 260
He spurr'd his steid through thickest ranks
The hardy youth to quell,
Wha stood unmov'd at his approach
His fury to repell.
34."That short brown shaft sae meanly trimm'd 265
Looks like poor Scotland's gear,
But dreadfull seems the rusty point!"
And loud he leugh in jear.
"Oft Britons blood has dimm'd its shine;
This point cut short their vaunt:"
Syne pierc'd the boaster's bearded cheek; 271
Nae time he took to taunt.
35.Short while he in his saddle swang,
His stirrup was nae stay,
Sae feeble hang his unbent knee; 275
Sure taiken he was fey;
Swith on the harden't clay he fell,
Right far was heard the thud;
But Thomas look't nae as he lay
All waltering in his blud. 280
36.With careless gesture, mind unmov't,
On rode he north the plain;
His seem in throng of fiercest strife,
When winner aye the same;
Nor yet his heart dames dimplet cheek 285
Could mease soft love to bruik
Till vengefu' Ann return'd his scorn,
Then languid grew his luik.
37.In thraws of death with walowit cheek
All panting on the plain, 290
The fainting corps of warriors lay,
Ne'er to rise again;
Ne'er to return to native land,
Nae mair with blithsome sounds
To boast the glories of the day 295
And shaw their shining wounds.
38.On Norway's coast the widowit dame
May wash the rocks with tears,
May lang luik ow'r the shipless seas
Befor her mate appears. 300
Cease, Emma, cease to hope in vain;
Thy lord lyes in the clay;
The valiant Scots nae reavers thole
To carry life away!
39.Here on a lee, where stands a cross 305
Set up for monument,
Thousands fu' fierce that summer's day
Fill'd keen war's black intent.
Let Scots, while Scots, praise Hardyknute,
Let Norse the name ay dread, 310
Ay how he faught, aft how he spar'd,
Shall latest ages read!
40.Now loud and chill blew th' westlin wind,
Sair beat the heavy shower,
Mirk grew the night ere Hardyknute
Wan near his stately tower. 316
His tow'r, that us'd wi' torches blaze
To shine sae far at night,
Seem'd now as black as mourning weed,
Nae marvel sair he sigh'd. 320
41."There's nae light in my lady's bower,
There's nae light in my ha';
Nae blink shines round my FAIRLY fair,
Nor ward stands on my wa'.
What bodes it? Robert, Thomas, say;" 325
Nae answer fitts their dread.
"Stand back, my sons, I'le be your guide:"
But by they past with speed.
42."As fast I've sped owre Scotlands faes;
There ceas'd his brag of weir, 330
Sair sham'd to mind ought but his dame
And maiden FAIRLY fair.
Black fear he felt, but what to fear
He wist nae yet; wi' dread
Sair shook his body, sair his limbs,
And a' the warrior fled. 336* * * * * * * *
The title of the first edition was, "Hardyknute, a fragment, Edinburgh, printed for James Watson, &c., 1719," folio, twelve pages.
Stanzas not in the first edition are Nos. 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 34, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42.