Digital Tradition Mirror

Lady Odivere (Grey Silkie 3)

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

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

Contents: ? A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Main Page