Johnie Armstrong

No: 169; variant: 169C

  1. SUM speiks of lords, sum speiks of lairds, And siclyke men of hie degrie; Of a gentleman I sing a sang, Sumtyme calld Laird of Gilnockie.
  2. The king he wrytes a luving letter, With his ain hand sae tenderly: And he hath sent it to Johny Armstrang, To cum and speik with him speidily.
  3. The Eliots and Armstrangs did convene, They were a gallant company: ‘We’ill ryde and meit our lawful king, And bring him safe to Gilnockie.
  4. ‘Make kinnen and capon ready, then, And venison in great plenty; We’ill welcome hame our royal king; I hope he’ill dyne at Gilnockie!’
  5. They ran their horse on the Langum howm, And brake their speirs with mekle main; The ladys lukit frae their loft-windows, ‘God bring our men weil back again!’
  6. When Johny came before the king, With all his men sae brave to see, The king he movit his bonnet to him; He weind he was a king as well as he.
  7. ‘May I find grace, my sovereign liege, Grace for my loyal men and me? For my name it is Johny Armstrang, And subject of yours, my liege,’ said he.
  8. ‘Away, away, thou traytor, strang! Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be! I grantit never a traytors lyfe, And now I’ll not begin with thee.’
  9. ‘Grant me my lyfe, my liege, my king, And a bony gift I will give to thee; Full four-and-twenty milk-whyt steids, Were a’ foald in a yeir to me.
  10. ‘I’ll gie thee all these milk-whyt steids, That prance and nicher at a speir, With as mekle gude Inglis gilt As four of their braid backs dow beir.’
  11. ‘Away, away, thou traytor strang! Out o’ my sicht thou mayst sune be! I grantit never a traytors lyfe, And now I’ll not begin with thee.’
  12. ‘Grant me my lyfe, my liege, my king, And a bony gift I’ll gie to thee; Gude four-and-twenty ganging mills, That gang throw a’ the yeir to me.
  13. ‘These four-and-twenty mills complete Sall gang for thee throw all the yeir, And as mekle of gude reid wheit As all their happers dow to bear.’
  14. ‘Away, away, thou traytor, strang! Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be! I grantit never a traytors lyfe, And now I’ll not begin with thee.’
  15. ‘Grant me my lyfe, my liege, my king, And a great gift I’ll gie to thee; Bauld four-and-twenty sisters sons, Sall for the fecht, tho all sould flee.’
  16. ‘Away, away, thou traytor, strang! Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be! I grantit nevir a traytors lyfe, And now I’ll not begin with thee.’
  17. ‘Grant me my lyfe, my liege, my king, And a brave gift I’ll gie to thee; All betwene heir and Newcastle town Sall pay thair yeirly rent to thee.’
  18. ‘Away, away, thou traytor, strang! Out of my sicht thou mayst sune be! I grantit nevir a traytors lyfe, And now I’ll not begin with thee.’
  19. ‘Ye lied, ye lied, now, king,’ he says, ‘Althocht a king and prince ye be, For I luid naithing in all my lyfe, I dare well say it, but honesty;
  20. ‘But a fat horse, and a fair woman, Twa bony dogs to kill a deir: But Ingland suld haif found me meil and malt, Gif I had livd this hundred yeir!
  21. ‘Scho suld haif found me meil and malt, And beif and mutton in all plentie; But neir a Scots wyfe could haif said That eir I skaithd her a pure flie.
  22. ‘To seik het water beneth cauld yce, Surely it is a great folie; I haif asked grace at a graceless face, But there is nane for my men and me.
  23. ‘But had I kend, or I came frae hame, How thou unkynd wadst bene to me, I wad haif kept the border-syde, In spyte of all thy force and thee.
  24. ‘Wist Englands king that I was tane, O gin a blyth man wald he be! For anes I slew his sisters son, And on his breist-bane brak a tree.’
  25. John wore a girdle about his midle, Imbroiderd owre with burning gold, Bespangled with the same mettle, Maist beautifull was to behold.
  26. Ther hang nine targats at Johnys hat, And ilk an worth three hundred pound: ‘What wants that knave that a king suld haif, But the sword of honour and the crown!
  27. ‘O whair gat thou these targats, Johnie, That blink sae brawly abune thy brie?’ ‘I gat them in the field fechting, Wher, cruel king, thou durst not be.
  28. ‘Had I my horse, and my harness gude, And ryding as I wont to be, It sould haif bene tald this hundred yeir The meiting of my king and me.
  29. ‘God be withee, Kirsty, my brither, Lang live thou Laird of Mangertoun! Lang mayst thou live on the border-syde Or thou se thy brither ryde up and doun.
  30. ‘And God be withee, Kirsty, my son, Whair thou sits on thy nurses knee! But and thou live this hundred yeir, Thy fathers better thoult never be.
  31. ‘Farweil, my bonny Gilnock-Hall, Whair on Esk-syde thou standest stout! Gif I had lived but seven yeirs mair, I wald haif gilt thee round about.’
  32. John murdred was at Carlinrigg, And all his galant companie; But Scotlands heart was never sae wae, To see sae mony brave men die.
  33. Because they savd their country deir Frae Englishmen; nane were sae bauld, Whyle Johnie livd on the border-syde, Nane of them durst cum neir his hald.