Lady Odivere (Grey Silkie 3) In Norowa a lady bade A bonny lass in muckle gear And it was soothly sung and said She was a lady sweet and fair Them cam' fae east and west i' pride An' some cam' sailan owre the sea An' a' tae win her for a bride But never a bride wad the lady be She bade them gang heem an' mend their claes That they had worn in comin' sae far She ca'd them fules, she ca'd them flaes Set stooks on them and gae them a skar [frightened them] There was a man baith stoor and strang An' he wis neemed Odivere He lo'ed the sword, he lo'ed the sang But aye he lo'ed the ladies mair This Odivere fell on his knee An' vooed a voo upo' his life And swore b' him that hang on tree [Odin, not Christ] To mak' this lady fair his wife He's coorted her, he's wedded her An' they were blithe and blissfu' baith An' aye he bragged near and far He won his wife b' Odin's oath He's left her in his boorly ha' A-greetan sair that dolefu' day Tae Guthaland he's gaen awa' [The Holy Land, lit 'God's land'] The muckle pagan loons to slay As he cam' back fae Guthaland I' Muckle Garth he bade awhile [Byzantium] An' foys aand fiechtins had tae hand For ladies fair did him beguile At Muckle Garth he tarried lang Black sight on him for bidan there![The evil eye] While sat i' dule her maids amang Wi' tearful e'e his lady fair An' aft she boonied hersel sae braw An' aft her gowden hair wad keem An' then look owre the castle wa' To see her ain good-man come heem An' aye she looked and lippened lang [Expected] For many a dowie day and year But Ovidere, he didna come Nor word o' Oddie did she hear [The ballad singer pauses] At e'enin i' the mirkin o't [Darkening] A stately knight cam' tae her ha' Fu' lood he chapped on the yett And loodly at the yett did ca' 'A boon, a boon, ye porter loon Bed me this nicht within your ha' Me vista's lang, the night is mirk An' home and haudin' far awa'' 'Begone, begone, awa, awa To bed you here that may not be Nae stranger sleeps within' this ha' While my good lord's ayont the sea' 'Gin you wad no' find the weight o' me hand Gae tell your lady mistress fair That I hae come fae Guthaland An' bear her word of Odivere' The yett was opened at his word An' boldly strode he in the ha' And a' the women roond him said A stoorer knight they never saw An' he's taen off his silken cap An' he's gaen doon upo' his knee And he's laid a gowd ring on the lady's lap That she was unco fain to see 'A token fae thee husband dear I bring tae thee my lady fair I left him weel, i' jolly cheer They ca' him noo Sir Odivere 'An' weel he's won his knight's degree B' slaying many a soldier stoor An' makan hosts of pagans flee Afore his sword sae sharp an' door' When she the gowden ring had seen She took nae tent o' what he said [heed] But drew her kerchief owre her een An' colour fae her fair face fled But syne her bonny face grew bright [Afterwards] An' blithely blinked her bonny e'e 'Rise up, rise up, ye valiant knight For oncons guid ye bring to me [News, tidings] 'A stately bulie i' the ha' [Feast] Poor oot the best o' blude-red wine Wi' futh o' a' that's guid and braw [Abundance] That this brave knight fu' weel may dine' An' many a tale he told that nicht O' tulyies focht for ladies fair [Contests] An' a' aboot that worthy knight I' Guthaland, Sir Odivere He minted aye, tho he never said [Hinted] An' skeeted aye i' ilka tale [Insinuated] That Odivere was a rovin' blade An' liked the lasses ower weel An when the bulie was fairly done An' a' the servants gaen tae bed An' the twa themsels were left alane The lady to the stranger said 'Why bring ye back that gowden ring That brings to me sair dule and pain That minds me o' the blithesome days When I o' thee was ower fain?' 'Ye ken, fair dame, to me aye dear Lang syne ye gae that ring tae me An' on this ring i' moon-licht clear Ye swore forever mine to be 'An' I i' dule hae gaen sin' syne A lanely man on land an' sea An' never a face hae seen but thine That I could spier me wife to be' 'Noo wheest, noo wheest, ye fause-tongued knight Your words will work me muckle skaith [Harm, injury] Full weel ken ye what sundered us It was the dowie Odin's aith' He's taen her white hand i' his stately nave [Fist] An' fain was she, an' fain was he What happened next ye need no' speer [Inquire] In sooth I wisna dare to see The knight's awa' i' the morning grey He bade no' for a farewell foy What naebody kens, naebody can say But the lady's left i' peerie joy [Small] Her bonny e'en blinked no sae bright Her red and white grew white an' grey An' ilka day she wished for nicht An' ilka nicht she wished for day [The ballad singer pauses] I heard a lady ba'an her bairn An' aye she rockit, an' aye she sang An' took sae hard upo' the verse Till the he'rt within her body rang 'Ba loo, ba loo, me bonny bairn Ba loo, lillie, ba loo lay Sleep thu, me peerie bonie budo Thu little kens thee mither's wae 'Aloor! I dinna ken thee faither Aloor, aloor, me waeful sin I dinna ken me bairn's faither Nor yet the land that he lives in 'Aloor, aloor, ca'd sall I be A wicked woman b' a' men That I, a married wife, soud hae A bairn tae him I dunno ken' Then up an' spake a grimly gest [Apparition] That stood sae lech at her bed feet 'O here I am, thee bairn's faither Although I'm no' thee husband sweet' 'Me bairn's faither I ken thu are Nae luve sae sweet I'll ever hae And yet I hae a guid, guid man That's far awa' fae me this day' 'I care no' for thee wedded earl I wish his face I'll never see But when six months is come an' gane I'll come and pay the noris fee [Nursing fee] 'It's no be said thu tint b' me [Lost] A bodle worth o' worldly gare So when I come, thu'll get thee fee An' I me bairn to be me heir' 'Noo, for the love I bore tae thee A love that's brought me muckle shame O tell me where thee home may be An' tell me true thee vera name' 'San Imravoe it is me name I gang on land and swim on sea Amang the ranks o' selkie folk I am a yarl o' high degree 'I am a man upo' the land I am a selkie i' the sea My home it is the Soolis-Skerry An' a' that's there is under me 'Mair or a thoosand selkie folk Tae me a willing service gae An' I am king o' a' the folk An' law to them is what I say' 'O hoo can thu thee bairn tak' An' hoo can thu thee bairn save? I' thee caald home thu'll only mak' The grimly sea me bairn's grave' 'Me peerie bairn I'll safely ferry Tho' I hae neither ship nor skift Wi' muckle care tae Soolis-Skerry Afore the sun's hich i' the lift' 'But hoo sall I me young son ken An' hoo sall I me bairn know?' 'O' a' the selkies i' Soolis-Skerry He'll be the middlemaist o' them a' 'His megs sall a' be black as soot [Flippers] His croopan white as driven snaw [Body] An' I beside him, like the sam' I was tae thee i' times awa' 'Me ain guidman's a warrior prood An' aye a stival nave has he [Strong fist] An' he may prick or club me bairn When he's a selkie i' the sea' 'I fear no that, I fear but this That cockcraa comes an' finds me here But come what may, I come again An' fetch me bairn in ae half-year 'For then will be a seventh stream An' then again a man I'll be An' tak' me bonny peerie bairn A' tae the boons o' Soolis-Skerry' When the six months were come and gane He cam' to pay the noris fee The tane o' his hands was fu' o' gowd The tither fu' o' white monie The lady's taen a gowden chain Her waddin' boon fae Odivere She tied it roond her bairn's haas [Neck] It for her sake she bade him wear 'I'm come to fetch me bairn awa' Farewell for thu're anither's wife' 'I'll wad thee wi' a gowden ring An' bide beside thee a' me life' 'Thu wadna when I wad, goodwife I winno when thu're willan noo That day thu tint thu'll never find It's late, it's owre late tae rue The lady lives a lanely life An' aften looks upo' the sea Still lipenan her first luve ta fin' [Expecting] But jubish that can ever be [Doubtful] [The ballad singer pauses] So Odivere's come home again Wi' muckle store o' wardly gear An' he, his lady, an' his men Mak' holidays wi' bulies rare They danced and sang, they told their tales An' syne sat doun tae drink and dine Wi' joles of flesh and fuman cogs [Ale kegs] An' wallie horns o blude-red wine Ae day says Oddie tae his men 'I doot gin here we langer link We a' grow fat as butterba's An' dee wi' futh of meat and drink [Excess] 'It's weel enough a peerie while I canna thole it lang ava Let's hunt the otters on the shore An' start the morn a' blink o' da'' They hunted otters on the shore A selkie ran oot o' a geo [Large crag fissure] An' Odivere he took no lang To fell him wi' a mester blow Then oot and spak een o' his men 'Far hae I sailed and muckle seen But never gowd on a selkie's haas Till noo I see 't with baith me e'en' They bore the selkie tae the ha' An' never a word said Odivere His face was black an' lowed his e'en Though he did neither ban nor swear 'Co' doon, co' doon, Lady Odivere Co' doon and see me ferly fang [Strange capture] Ye's read tae me this riddle-rae B' a' the saints that ever sang' The lady she cam' doon tae see They made sae muckle steer 'Here's the gowd chain ye got fae me Tell me, goodwife, hoo cam' it here?' 'Aloor, aloor, me bonny bairn Me bairn, what am I born tae see? Me malison lie on the hand That's wrought this deed o' blude on thee!' The lady wi' her torn hair She was a doleful sicht tae see Her greetan lood and sabban sair Her arms aroond the dead selkie 'Yer bairn, guidwife! No bairn o' mine An' yet ye were me wedded wife I doot, when I've been far fae home Ye've led a wicked woman's life' 'An' gin I be thee wedded wife A wedded man wur thu tae me? Ye left me tae a lanely life An' bade lang years ayont the sea' 'I left thee with baith lands and gare An' made thee mistress o' them a' An' thocht thu wad be true to me As I to thee when far awa'' 'Black sight upo' thee lands and gare! Thu little kens a woman's he'rt To think thee gift o' worldly gare Is a' the lovin' husband's pert' 'When doughty deeds were to be done It wad hae been a bonny pass Had I ly'n hame tae culye thee [Fondle] An' bore me fingers i' the asse 'I couldna thole a sluggard life An', lady, I wad hae thee ken When I took thee to be me wife I did no' want a cluckan hen' 'Gin I can cluck, saul thu can craw Owre a' thee deeds wi' women done Hoo ilka bonny wench thu saw Thu coorted her and ca'd it fun 'But ae deid bairn, aloor, hae I An' if this deed was wrang i' me Hoo many bairns hes thu tae shaw Hoo true a man thu's been tae me? 'Could I no tak what cam tae me Tae tempt me i' me langsome life While thu were skalan frank and free [Throwing away] Thee dearest tocher o' a wife?' 'Ye lee, ye lee, ye leean limmer! Whare'er we drank abune them a' Thee wee-faur'd face I toasted aye An' focht wi' him that said me na 'An' when i' battles saviest pall [Darkest] Me he'rt grew strang when maist ootmoucht [Exhausted] B' thinkan on me lovan wife That she was faus I little toucht 'Wi' selkie folk thu's led a life! Awa,, ye limmer slut, fae me! I wadna hae thee for a wife For a' the gowd i' Chistindee!' She's whipped the chain fae the selkie's haas An' waped it on Oddie's croon [Swung it down] 'Gae, tak' ye that, ye ill-tongued tyke [Hound] An' keep it for a parting boon!' The lady they put i' a hich hich toor Wi' nae sweet light t'row hole or bore They hae gaen her meat and water there An' streeked fast the iron door [The ballad singer pauses] The Ting has passed her awfu' doom [Assembly] That for her fauts an' sinfu' deed She s'ud be taen an' brunt tae asse Withoot mercy or remeed 'Aloor, aloor, the dolefu' day Aloor, what am I born tae see? I' the red-hot fire I man be brunt O waes me he'rt and waes me 'O gin me faither been i' life He wad hae doorly focht for me Deid mither's gest will thu no come An' set thy dolefu' dochter free? 'When I lay on thee cother breest [Comfortable] An' thu thee peerie bairn did rus [Praise] Thu little thocht thy bonny bairn Wad be a cinder i' the asse' Then up and spake San Imravoe An' a lood and waillie cry gaed he 'Ye selkie folk, tae Norowa Ca' a' the whal's i' the Nort Sea' [Drive] The day before that lady fair Was tae be brunt wi' muckle woe A cry was raised aroond the ha' 'Whal's, whal's i' ilka bay and voe!' Then Odivere an' a' his men Ran tae the ca' wi' muckle speed An' there was rowin', rootin', yowlin' And noise that micht hae raised the deid They rowed an' rooted a' the day But never a whal' got for their pains An' i' the mirken home they gaed Wi' sweean laevs an tiftan banes [Smarting palms and aching bones] An' when they cam' tae the ha' They got a gluf, ye may be sure [Shock] For ilka door stood open wide An' the door o' the toor lay on the floor An' they ran up and they ran doon An' glower'd aboot wi' a' their een The lady fair was clean awa An' never mair b' mortal seen An' Odivere's a lanely man An' weary o' his sicker skathe [Hard fate] An' aye an' sair he rues the day He ever took the Odin aith Tae menye-singers t'anks we gae [Wandering singers] Tae menye-singers drink we a' Wur foys they wur no worth a strae Withoot their songs an' ballans bra' The recent thread on seal songs reminded me of this. I am not posting it for the DT - epics such as this (93 verses and 2688 words) have limited appeal in this age of the 30-se cond grab - but simply for the interest of those who enjoy ballads. 'The Great Silkie (Child 11 3), the basic text of which is in the DT, is but a fragment. The other DT entrant , 'The Grey Silk ie', from the singing of Jean Redpath, is longer, but still a fraction of the complete story. Her source was the ballad as recovered by Professor Otto Andersson of Finland from John Sinclair o f Flotta in the Orkney Islands. Jean confessed to being confused by the text until she had read the epic 'Lady Odivere'. Here is the epic in its full glory. My source is George Mackay Brown 'An Orkney Tapestry' London 1978, Chapter 5 'The Ballad Singer' - a reading of which I com mend to all; a poet writing brilliantly about folk poetry. Mackay's source was Ernest W. Marwi ck 'An Anthology of Orkney Verse'. This is a glorious example of folk poetry. The acti on unfolds in 5 acts, like a play. There was little consistency in the mixture of English and dialect in the printe d text - for example, 'nicht' and 'night' both occur - so I simply went with the flow and re produced exactly the text in Mackay's book. Sule Skerry (Soolis-Skerry in the ballad) is a rocky islet 25 miles west of Hoy Head in Orkney. In square brackets are Mackay's occasional elucidat ions of the dialect - Child's glossary is also useful. Most of it should be easy enough for those a knowledge of Scots balladry. Child #113 SX apr00
Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!