Sir James The Rose (Kenneth Peacock)

1. Of all the Scottish northern chiefs
Of high and war-like name
The bravest was Sir James the Rose,
A knight of meikle fame.

2. Lord Boland's daughter dear he loved,
A maid of beauty rare,
Then Margaret on the Scottish throne
Was never half so fair.

3. Long had he wooed, still she refused
With seeming scorn and pride,
Yet often her eyes confessed the love
Her fearful words denied.

4. Concealed among the underwood
The crafty Donald lay,
The brother of Sir John the Graeme,
To hear what they would say.

5. When thus the maid began: "My sire,
Your passion disapproves,
And bids me wed Sir John the Graeme,
So here must end our loves.

6. "My father's will must be obeyed,
Nought boots me to withstand,
Some fairer maid in beauty's bloom
Must bless thee with her hand.

7. "Matilda soon shall be forgot,
And from thy mind effaced,
But may that happiness be thine
Which I can never touch."

8. "What do I hear, is this thy vow?"
Sir James the Rose replied,
"And will Matilda wed the Graeme
Though sworn to be my bride?

9. "This sword shall sooner pierce my heart
Than reave me of thy charms."
Then clasped her to his beating breast
Fast locked into his arms.

10. "I spoke to try thy love," she said,
"I'll ne'er wed man but thee,
My grave shall be my bridal bed
Ere Graeme my husband be.

11. "Take then, dear youth, this faithful kiss
In witness of my troth,
And every plague become my lot
That day I break my oath."

12. They parted thus, the sun was set,
Up hasty Donald flies.
"Oh turn thee, turn thee, beardless youth!"
He loud insulting cries.

13. Soon turned about the fearless chief,
And soon his sword he drew,
For Donald's blade before his breast
Had pierced his tartans through.

14. "This for my brother's slighted love,
His wrongs sit on my arm."
Three paces back the youth retired
And saved himself from harm.

15. Returning swift, his hand he raised
Frae Donald's head above,
And through the brain and crashing bones
His sharp-edged weapon drove.

16. He staggering reeled, then tumbled down,
A lump of breathless clay.
"So fall my foes!" quoth valiant Rose,
And stately strode away.

17. Through the greenwood he quickly hied
Unto Lord Boland's hall,
And at Matilda's window stood,
And thus began to call:

18. "Art thou asleep, Matilda dear?
Awake, my love, awake,
Thy luckless lover on thee calls
A long farewell to take.

19. "For I have slain fierce Donald Graeme,
His blood is on my sword;
And distant are my faithful men
Nor can assist their lord.

20. "To Skye I will direct my way
When my two brothers bide,
I'll raise the valiant of the Isles
To combat on my side."

21. "Oh stay, Sir James the Rose," she cried,
"With me till morning stay,
For dark and dreary is the night,
And dangerous is the way.

22. "All night I'll watch thee in the park,
My faithful page I'll send,
And he'll go rise brave Rose's men,
Their master to defend."

23. Beneath a bush he laid him down,
And wrapped him in his plaid,
While trembling for her lover's fate
At distance stood the maid.

24. Swift ran the page o'er hill and dale
Till in a lonely glen
He met the furious Sir John the Graeme
With twenty of his men.

25. "Where goest thou, little page?" he said,
"So late, who did thee send?"
"I go to raise the Rose's clan
Their master to defend.

26. "For he has slain Sir Donald Graeme,
His blood is on his sword,
And far, far distant are his men
That should assist their lord."

27. "And he has slain my brother dear,"
The furious Graeme replies,
"Dishonour blast my name, but he
By me ere morning dies.

28. "Tell me where is Sir James the Rose?
I will thee well reward."
"He sleeps within Lord Boland's park,
Matilda is his guard."

29. They spurred their steeds in furious speed
And scoured along the lea,
They reached Lord Boland's lofty towers
By dawning of the day.

30. Matilda stood without the gate,
To whom the Graeme did say:
"Saw ye Sir James the Rose last night,
Or did he pass this way?"

31. "Last day at noon," Matilda said,
"Sir James the Rose passed by,
He furious pricked his sweaty steed,
And onward fast did hie.

32. "By this he is at Edinburgh
If horse and man hold good."
"Your page then lied who said he was
Now sleeping in the wood."

33. She wrung her hands and tore her hair:
"Brave Rose thou art betrayed,
And ruined by those means," she cried,
"From whence I hoped thine aid."

34. By this the valiant knight awoke,
The virgin's shrieks he heard,
And up he rose and drew his sword
When the fierce band appeared.

35. "Your sword last night my brother slew,
His blood yet dims its shine,
And ere the setting of the sun
Your blood shall reek on mine."

36. "You word it well," the chief replied,
"But deeds approve the man,
Set by your band and hand to hand
We'll try what valour can.

37. "If boasting hides a coward's heart
My weighty sword you fear
Which shone in front of Flodden Field
When you kept in the rear."

38. With dauntless step he forward strode
And dared him to the fight,
But Graeme gave back and feared his arm,
For well he knew its might.

39. Four of his men, the bravest four,
Sunk down beneath his sword,
But still he scorned the poor revenge
And sought their haughty lord.

40. Behind him basely came the Graeme
And pierced him in his side,
Out spurting came the purple tide,
And all his tartans dyed.

41. But yet his sword kept hot the grip,
Nor dropped he to the ground
Till through his enemy's heart his steel
Had forced a mortal wound.

42. Graeme like a tree with wind o'erthrown
Fell breathless on the clay,
And down beside him sank the Rose
The hero of the day.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of Sir James The Rose [Child ballad #213] The English And Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898) edited by Francis James Child (Dover, 1965). Also a variant of a 19th century broadside ballad, Tragedy Of Sir James The Rose, published in 1869 by the Poet's Box (Glasgow) and archived at the National Library of Scotland's Word On The Street, shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(50) ....####
Collected in 1961 by Kenneth Peacock from Peter R Ryan [1908-1978] of Aquaforte, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.715-719, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that the one twenty-two verse variant given by Child is quite different from this Newfoundland version, which comes from two sources. The tune and the first two verses were remembered by Peter Ryan, and the remainder of the song comes from a school notebook of the late William Jones [1881-1950] of Aquaforte, NL, who copied it from oral tradition in 1893 (from his grandmother's singing). It is a pity Mr Ryan could recall just two verses because his version promised to be more in the folk tradition than the Jones variant with its rather literary turn of phrase. However, one should be thankful for the beautiful and noble tune remembered by Mr Ryan, and for the fact that the text survived at all. The Jones notebook is kept by the surviving members of his family as an heirloom. In the Ryan variant the hero is Rose, and Matilda's father is Lord Boland. The Jones variant has either Rose or Ross, and Lord Buchan is the girl's father.

A variant was collected in 1930 by Maud Karpeles [1885-1976] from James Walsh ?[1884-1968] or [1881-1959]? of Ferryland, NL, and published in Folk Songs From Newfoundland, Faber & Faber, London, 1971.

Another variant was collected in 1951 from John C (Jack) Molloy [1864-1955] of St Shott's, NL, and published as James The Ross in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

See more Child Ballad variants from NL.


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