Eighth Friend: Some Scottish Guy, “Edward, Edward”

Now, this is a bit awkward, because I don’t even know the name of today’s friend. All I do know is that he was a Scottish balladeer, and that this poem was collected in Thomas Percy’s 1765 collection Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Whoever our poet was, he lives on through his work, which is certainly worth something. The poem for today is “Edward, Edward,” which I first encountered in high school, alongside “Sir Patrick Spens.” I’ve remembered many individual lines ever since, which given the amount of repetition meant that I had decent chunks of the poem committed to memory before I even began this project. The old-fashioned Scottish spelling is a little confusing at first, but not too bad. Checking RPO’s notes may not be a bad idea, though, if this is your first time reading the poem.

Why dois your brand sae drap wi’ bluid,
Edward, Edward?
Why dois your brand sae drap wi’ bluid?
And why sae sad gang ye, O?
O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid,
Mither, mither,
O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid,
And I had nae mair bot hee, O.

Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
Edward, Edward,
Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
My deir son I tell thee, O.
O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
Mither, mither,
O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
That erst was sae fair and frie, O.

Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair,
Edward, Edward,
Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair,
Sum other dule ye drie, O.
O, I hae killed my fadir deir,
Mither, mither,
O, I hae killed my fadir deir,
Alas, and wae is mee, O.

And whatten penance wul ye drie for that,
Edward, Edward?
And whatten penance will ye drie for that?
My deir son, now tell me, O.
Ile set my feit in yonder boat,
Mither, mither,
Il set my feit in yonder boat,
And Ile fare ovir the sea, O.

And what wul ye doe wi’ your towirs and your ha’,
Edward, Edward?
And what wul ye doe wi’ your towirs and your ha’,
That were sae fair to see, O?
Ile let thame stand tul they doun fa’,
Mither, mither,
Ile let thame stand tul they doun fa’,
For here nevir mair maun I bee, O.

And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
Edward, Edward?
And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
Whan ye gang ovir the sea, O?
The warldis room, late them beg thrae life,
Mither, mither,
The warldis room, let them beg thrae life,
For thame nevir mair wul I see, O.

And what wul ye leive to your ain mither deir,
Edward, Edward?
And what wul ye leive to your ain mither deir?
My deir son, now tell mee, O.
The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir,
Mither, mither,
The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir,
Sic counseils ye gave to me, O.

The two-stanza delay in getting to the truth of Edward’s crime adds a good deal of tension to the poem’s narrative, as does the repetition, and we don’t get the second big revelation until the very last line. Though I like the entire poem, it’s the second half of that last stanza that’s stuck most in my mind. I’ve been tempted to tell certain bad preachers online “The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir, / Sic counseils ye gave to me, O” but it’s a line worth saving for the perfect moment. I have used “Alas, and wae is mee, O,” though not entirely seriously since, fortunately, nothing has happened to me to quite justify using the line sincerely.

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