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This is a very popular story about Ettrick Forest, as well as a part of Annandale and Tweeddale, and is always told with the least variation both by young and old, of any legendary tale I ever heard. It seems, like many others, to be partly founded on facts, with a great deal of romance added; for, if tradition can be in aught believed, the murder of the priest seems well attested: but I do not know if any records mention it. His sirname is said to have been Binram, though some suppose that it was only a nickname ; and the mount, under which he was buried, still retains the name of Binram's Corse.
If I may then venture a conjecture at the whole of this story, it is now ise improbable that the lass of Craigyburn was some enthusiast in religious matters, or perhaps a lunatic; and that, being troubled with a sense of guilt, and a squeamish conscience, she had, on that account, made several visits to Saint Mary's Chapel to obtain absolution: and it is well known, that many of the Mountain-men wanted only a hair to make a tether of. Might they not then frame this whole story about the sorcery, on purpose to justify their violent procedure in the eyes of their countrymen, as no bait was more likely to be swallowed at that time? But, however it was, the reader has the story, in the following ballad, much as I have it.
Mess John stood in St. Mary's kirk,
And preached and prayed so mightilie, No priest nor bishop through the land,
Could preach or pray so well as he :
The words of peace flowed from his tongue,
His heart seemed rapt with heavenly flame And thousands would the chapel thrung,
So distant flew his pious frame.
His face was like the rising moon,
Imblushed with evening's purple die; His stature like the graceful pine
That grew on Bourhop hills so high.
Mess John lay on his lonely couch,
And now he sighed and sorely pined, A smothered flame consumed his heart,
And tainted his capacious mind.
It was not for the nation's sin,
Nor kirk oppressed, that he did mourn; 'Twas for a little earthly flowerThe bonny Lass of Craigyburn.
Whene'er his eyes with her's did meet,
They pierced his heart without remede; And when he heard her voice so sweet,
Mess John forgot to say his creed.
“Curse on our stubborn law," he said,
“That chains us back from social joy ; Those sweet desires, by nature lent,
I cannot taste without alloy!
“ Give misers wealth, and monarchs power;
Give heroes kingdoms to o'erturn; Give sophists talents depth to scan
Give me the lass of Craigyburn."
Pale grew his cheek, and howe his eye,
His holy zeal, alas! is flown; A priest in love is like the grass,
That fades ere it be fairly grown.
When thinking on her cherry lip,
Her maiden bosom, fair and gay, Her limbs, the ivory polished fine,
His heart, like wax, would melt away!
He tried the sermons to compose,
He tried it both by night and day; But all his lair and logic failed,
His thoughts were aye on bonny May.