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Laidley Worm

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The Laidley Worm

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The Laidley Worm

THE King is gone from Bamborough Castle,
Long may the Princess mourn;
Long may She stand on the castle wall,
Looking for his return.

It fell out on a day the King
Brought the Queen with him home;
And all the lords in our country
To welcome them did come.

"Oh! welcome, father" the lady cried,
"Unto our halls and bowers;
And so are you, my stepmother,
For all that's here is yours"

A lord said, wondering while she spake,
"This Princess of the north
Surpasses all of female kind
In beauty and in worth."

The envious Queen replied at last,
"Ye might have excepted me
In a few hours I will her bring
Down to a low degree.

"I will liken her to a Laidley worm,
That warps about the stone
And not till Childy Wynd comes back
Shall she again be won."

The Princess stood at her bower door
Laughing; who could her blame?
But e'er the next day's sun went down
A long worm she became.

For seven miles east and seven miles west
And seven miles north and south
No blade of grass or corn could grow
So venomous was her mouth.

Word went east and word went west,
And over the sea did go;
The Child of Wynd got wit of it,
Which filled his heart with woe.

He called straight his merry men all,
They thirty were and three
I wish were at Spindleston,
This desperate worm to see.

"We have no time now here to waste,
Hence quickly let us sail;
My only sister Margaret Something,
I fear, doth ail."

They built a ship without delay,
With masts of the rowan-tree,
With flutt'ring sails of silk so fine,
And set her on the sea.

The Queen looked out of her bower window
To see what she could see;
There she espied a gallant ship
Sailing upon the sea

When she beheld the silken sails
Full glancing in the sun,
To sink the ship she sent away
Her witch wives every one.

Their spells were vain; the hags returned
To the Queen in sorrowful mood,
Crying that "Witches have no power
Where there is rowan-tree wood"

The worm leapt up, the worm leapt down,
She plaited round the stane,
And aye as the ship came to the land,
She banged it off again.

The Child then ran out of her reach
The ship on Budle sand;
And jumping into the shallow sea,
Securely got to land.

And now he drew his berry-brown sword
And laid it on her head
And swore if she did harm to him,
That he would strike her dead.

"Oh, quit thy sword and bend thy bow,
And give me kisses three
If I'm not won e'er the sun go doon,
Won I shall never be.''

He quitted his sword, and bent his bow,
He gave her kisses three;
She crept into a hole a worm,
But out stept a lady.

He has taken his mantle from him about,
And it he wrapt her in
And they are up t' Bamborough Castle,
As fast as they could win.

Her absence and her serpent shape
The King had long deplored;
He now rejoiced to See them both
Again to him restored

The Queen they wanted, whom they found
All pale and sore afraid,
Because she knew her power must yield
To Childy Wynd's, who said:

"Woe be to thee, thou wicked witch,
An ill death mayst thou dee
As thou my sister has lik'ned,
So lik'ned shalt thou be.

"I will tutn you into a toad,
That on the ground doth wend
And won, won shalt thou never be
Till this world hath an end."

Now on the ground near Ida's tower
She crawls a loathsome toad,
And venom spits on every maid
She meets upon the road.

From Songs of Northern England, Stokoe
Child #34
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