As through the village she flitted by,
The watch-dogs howled aloud to the sky.
When she came to the castle gate,
There stood her eldest daughter in wait.
“Why standest thou here, dear daughter mine?
How fares it with brothers and sisters thine?”
“Never art thou mother of mine,
For my mother was both fair and fine.
“My mother was white, with cheeks of red,
But thou art pale and like to the dead.”
“How should I be fair and fine?
I have been dead; pale cheeks are mine.
“How should I be white and red,
So long, so long have I been dead?”
When she came in at the chamber door,
There stood the small children weeping sore.
One she braided and one she brushed,
The third she lifted, the fourth she hushed.
The fifth she took on her lap and pressed,
As if she would suckle it at her breast.
Then to her eldest daughter said she,
“Do thou bid Svend Dyring come hither to me.”
Into the chamber when he came
She spake to him in anger and shame.
“I left behind me both ale and bread;
My children hunger and are not fed.
“I left behind me the quilts of blue;
My children lie on the straw ye strew.
“I left behind me the great wax light;
My children lie in the dark at night.
“If I come again into your hall,
As cruel a fate shall you befall!
“Now crows the cock with feathers red,
Back to the earth must all the dead.
“Now crows the cock with feathers swart;
The gates of heaven fly wide apart.
“Now crows the cock with feathers white;
I can abide no longer to-night.”
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs wail,
They gave the children bread and ale.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bay,
They feared lest the dead were on their way.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bark,
I myself was young.
They feared the dead out there in the dark.
Fair words gladden so many a heart.
THE DEAD MOTHER: ROBERT BUCHANAN
As I lay asleep, as I lay asleep,
Under the grass as I lay so deep,
As I lay asleep in my cotton serk
Under the shade of Our Lady’s Kirk,
I waken’d up in the dead of night,
I waken’d up in my death-serk white,
And I heard a cry from far away,
And I knew the voice of my daughter May:
“Mother, Mother, come hither to me!
Mother, Mother, come hither and see!
Mother, Mother, Mother dear,
Another Mother is sitting here:
My body is bruised and in pain I cry,
On straw in the dark afraid I lie,
I thirst and hunger for drink and meat,
And Mother, Mother, to sleep were sweet!”
I heard the cry, though my grave was deep,
And awoke from sleep, and awoke from sleep.