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At length, however, in a conflict near Sewing Shields, Lowes was worsted and taken prisoner. His rival had, it appears, laid aside his sanguinary intentions, as he took his captive home and chained him to the grate of his kitchen fire at Leehall; allowing him sufficient length of chain to get his victuals at the kitchen table along with the servants of the house, evidently desiring to shew him that he did not consider him worthy of the treatment of a man. The friends of Lowes were too weak to attempt his deliverance—and the arm of the law was weaker still (even at that advanced period). They therefore besought Stokoe to attempt his rescue, and as such an adventure suited his daring spirit, he very readily complied. The laird of Leehall was very much astonished therefore on arising from his bed one morning, to find his house in a state of siege. His followers were moreover unwilling—or afraid to act against Stokoe, whose resolute character was well known, and who was already requiring the release of the prisoner, and threatening the place with immediate destruction, if his demands were not speedily complied with. Leehall, seeing no alternative, reluctantly gave him up to Stokoe, who restored him to his family, and there ended the feud, neither party interrupting each other afterwards.
One winter night after retiring to rest, he was roused from his sleep by his daughter with the intelligence that some persons were trying to draw back the bolt of the door. As he had reason to suspect some of his neighbours of treacherous intentions toward him, he arose and stole gently to the door. There he perceived a knife passed through the open space between the door and the wall, by the lateral movement of which the oaken bolt was gradually drawn back a short way-so that in a few minutes the door would have been open.
He instructed his daughter to stand behind the door, and as the knife was withdrawn to push the bolt quietly back again, but without alarming the party. He then took his musquet and loading her with slugs descended through a trap door in the floor into the cowhouse below, all peels being built on this plan. A door also led outward from the cow-house, the door to the dwelling being reached by a flight of heavy stone stairs outside, as may yet be seen in many parts of Northumberland. Stokoe cautiously unbarred the outer door-and emerged at the bottom of the stairs, where, perched on the top of the platform, were four or five men with a dark lantern, busily employed in the task of drawing back the bolt in the manner already described, totally unconscious of the futility of their efforts, or of the proximity of an oponent so dangerous. After carefully surveying them for a few minutes in order to satisfy himself as to who they were, he broke silence in a thundering voice—“You damnd
treacherous rascals, I'll make the star-light shine through some of you," discharging his weapon at the same moment the holder of the lantern, staggered across the stair-head—and fell headlong down the steps, shot through the heart! His terrified companions jumped over the wall and fled in all directions. Stokoe hastily entered the house, closed the door and retired to his bed as if nothing particular had happened.
On the following morning, a frozen stream was upon the stairs a sheet of blood at the door, and a track of the same hue to a neighbouring wood, where, in a hastily formed grave, lay the body of the midnight robber.
In 1715, Stokoe, along with several other borderers, joined the unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater, in his ill-fated rebellion against the established government. He escaped from Preston by clearing a high wall with his horse, but arriving in the north was obliged to hide from his pursuers, his friends giving out that he had fled into France.
We next find him in London in disguise, in company with several others, with the intention of bringing the body of their ill-starred leader, to his native Dilston the government having thought proper to refuse the lifeless corpse to the wretched widow. During his stay there an Italian swordsman of considerable reputation, was challenging any man in England to a proof of his skill--and Stokoe at the persuasion of his companions was induced to accept his challenge. The skill of the foreigner consisted chiefly in perplexing his antagonist with his rapid movements, thus endeavouring to throw him off his guard—when at a favourable opportunity, he would plunge the sword into his heart. Stokoe instead of pursuing his nimble antagonist kept to one particular place warding off with apparent ease any attempt at a cut. The foreigner tired at length of the immoveable stolidity of his antagonist made a furious and unguarded lounge, when in a moment the sword was struck out of his hand and that of Stokoe passed through his heart. The adventurer writhed for a second and then expired. A voice from the crowd cryed at the moment he fell, “Well done Stokoe.” Astonished at finding himself known, he withdrew with precipitation. Stokoe and his friends succeeded in accomplishing the object of their journey, and the remains of the amiable and lamented Earl were safely deposited in the vault of his ancestors. The affairs of Stokoe after this began to decline. He was a proscribed man, and a certain family in that neighbourhood having taken possession of part of his property, threatened to give him up—when he appeared to claim it. He was, however, included in the general pardon, but his property was never restored—
part of it passing along with the Derwentwater estate to Greenwich Hospital, the other to the family already alluded to, and Stokoe sunk into the grave a poor man, in which station of life his descendants remain to this day.
LAY THE BENT TO THE BONNY BROOM,
A Border Ballad.
SALLADS of a similar metrical construction to the following, seem common to all the Northern nations. In the celebrated Dan
ish book the “ Kæmpe Viser” there are 8
several ; and many such are met with, in ancient collections of Swedish and Norwegian poems.
Amongst the old ballads of England, particularly those of which
snatches are given in the plays of Shakspeare, there occur some good specimens, as “ Willow willow," " Heigho the wind and the rain," “ It was a lover and his lass,” &c. In the present work, we have an example, in “ The fair flower of Northumberland."
The first attempts of our carly “ ballad mongers,” were very rude and simple compositions, and consisted of verses of two lines only, and we may conceive, that the Minstrels who set them to music, would at the end of each line, (either to lengthen the subject, or to display their musical skill) play a symphony. Vocalists when singing such ballads, without musical accompaniment, would, we may conjecture, frequently to the air of such symphonies, either sing some unmeaning burden, (such as our fal de rals and tol de rols,) or add some line having little or no connection with the subject.
Such I consider, to be the origin of the burdens, to our old duolinear ballads.
“ Lay the bent to the bonny broom," under the foolish title of “ The noble riddle wisely expounded, or the Maid's answer(s) to the Knight's three questions,” may be found in the Bodleian Library collection of ballads, in a folio printed in Black Letter, in the reign 0. Charles II. There is another version to be met with in D'Urfey's “ Wit and Mirth, or Pills to purge Melancholy,” 1719, with a “fal lal la ra la ” chorus. This copy, (as well as one published by Jamieson, i
“Popular ballads and songs," 1806) seems to be copied from the Bodleian folio. Jamieson in his accompanying remarks pronounces the ballad to be English.* Davies Gilbert, esq., F.R. S. and F. A.S. has also published a version, (a Suffolk one) under the title of “ The Three Sisters.” It is traditional, and very imperfect, and the third question and answer are wanting ; it commences thus
“ There were three sisters fair and bright,
“Jenniver, Gentle, and Rosemary;
“ As the dew flies over the mulberry tree.”
D'Urfey gives a tune to his version of “ Lay the bent,” and Mr. Gilbert gives another: the latter is a graceful flowing melody, and much superior as a musical composition, to the one given by D'Urfey, whose set is however of a more antient character, and, in Mr. Rimbault's opinion, the original.
Jamieson makes as much fun of “ Lay the bent,” as Cruickshank does of " Lord Bateman;" ex gr. he thinks, if the lady who answered the questions, had lived in later times, she would have made a distinguished figure among the ingenious correspondents of the “ Lady's Diary ” !! and he talks of the “exceeding brilliancy” of the lady's
wit," and the “ beautiful strains of the illustrious bard.” The present reprint, formed from a collation of the different sets enumerated, is not offered to the readers of the Table Book on account of any intrinsic value in the ballad, of which I have as humble an opinion as Jamieson, though I think it quite as good and poetical as several inserted by him without comment quizzical or otherwise. As a specimen of an English enigmatical ballad, it is however worth preserving. Enigmatical ballads, though somewhat rare with us, are common in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway-sometimes the riddle is propounded to a knight, sometimes to a lady, and sometimes to one of the elementary spirits—in the latter case, the Demon is of course sure to be puzzled, and unable to solve the questions.
J. H. Dixon.
* Jamieson, with all his Scotch predilections, was too acute an antiquary to consider a ballad as belonging to Scotland, merely because it happened to contain the phrases “ North countrie," or “ North lands,” well knowing that by those expressions the old ballad writers meant Northumberland and the English border, and not Scotland.
LAY THE BENT TO THE BONNY BROOM,
HERE was a ladie of the north country,
(Lay the bent to the bonny broom) And she had lovely daughters three.
(Lay the bent to the bonny broom)
There was a knight of noble worth,
(Lay &c.) Which also lived in the north.
This knight was of courage stout and brave;
(Lay &c.) Nothing but love could his heart enslave.
The knight he knocked at the ladie's gate,
(Lay &c.) On evening when it was full late.
The eldest sister let him in,
(Lay &c.) And pinn'd the door with a silver pin.
The second sister she made his bed,
(Lay &c.) And laid soft pillows under his head.
The youngest sister fair and bright,
(Lay &c.) Was resolved for to wed with this valiant knight.
And in the morning when it was day,