Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 4 of 8 from 1860 edition -online book

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Dunbar. In 1643, several years after their union, ■when the Countess had given birth to two or three children, her husband being absent from home on a mission to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, Sir John presented himself at Cassilis Castle, at­tended by a small band of gypsies, and himself dis­guised as one. The recollection of her early passion proved stronger than the marriage v ow, and the lady eloped with her former lover. But before she had got far from home, the Earl happened to return. Learning what had occurred, he set out in pursuit with a considerable body of followers, and, arresting the fugitives, brought them back to his castle, where he hanged Sir John and his companions on a great tree before the gate. The Countess was obliged to wit­ness the execution from a chamber window, and after a short confinement in the castle, was shut up for the rest of her life in a house at Maybole, four miles dis­tant, which had been fitted up for her, with a staircase on which were carved a set of heads representing her lover and his troop.
Unfortunately for the truth of the story, letters are in existence, written by the Earl of Cassilis to the Lady Jean after the date of these events, which prove the subsistence of a high degree of mutual affection and confidence; and Finlay assures us that after a diligent search, he had been able to discern nothing that in the slightest confirmed the popular tale. The whole story is perhaps the malicious invention of an enemy of the house of Cassilis, and as such would not be unparalleled in the history of ballad poetry. See Dauney's Ancient Scottish Melodies, p. 2G9, and Chambers's Scottish Ballads, p. 143.

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