The Cout of Kielder
In a previous post, I gave quite a bit of history on the Cout (or Colt) of Kielder. I came across him in my research of Hermitage Castle, where the evil Simon spends an uncomfortable night, in search of any magic or mystery the Wicked Lord Soulis, rumored to dabble in the black arts, may have left behind. (You can see a short film of the old kirkyard of Hermitage Castle here.)
Thanks to the original post, a reader has sent me a fantastic resource: The Local Historian's Table Book of Remarkable Occurrences, Historical Facts, Traditions, Legendary and Descriptive Ballads, etc etc Connected with the Counties of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, and Durham. (Yes, I've found a book with a title (far) longer than my own Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles: a gastronomic historic poetic music romp in thyme!) The book is by M.A. Richardson, dated MDCCCXLIV, better known as 1844.
Within this book is a ballad entitled The Cout of Keeldar. It is quite lengthy. Settle in with a jug of mead!
The eiry blood-hound howl'd by night,
The streamers flaunted red,
Till broken streaks of flaky light
O'er Keeldar's mountains spread
The lady sigh'd as Keeldar rose:
"Come tell me, dear love mine,
Go you to hunt where Keeldar flows,
Or on the banks of Tyne?"
The heath-bell blows where Keeldar flows,
By Tyne the primrose pale;
But now we ride on the Scottish side,
To hunt in Liddesdale."
"Gin you will ride on the Scottish side,
Sore must thy Margaret mourn;
For Soulis abhorr'd is Lydall's lord,
And I fear you'll ne'er return.
"The axe he bears, it hacks and tears;
'Tis form'd of an earth-fast flint;
No armour of knight, tho' ever so wight,
Can bear its deadly don't.
"No danger he fears, for a charm'd sword he wears,
Of adderstone the hilt;
No Tynesdale knight had ever such might,
But his heart-blood was spilt."
"In my plume is seen the holy green,
With the leaves of the rowan-tree;
And my casque of sand, by a mermaid's hand,
Was formed beneath the sea.
"Then Margaret dear, have thou no fear!
That bodes no ill to me,
Though never a knight, by mortal might,
Could match his gramarye."
Then forward bound both horse and hound,
And rattle o'er the vale;
As the wintry breeze through leafless trees
Drives on the pattering hail.
Behind their course the English fells
In deepening blue retire;
Till soon before them boldly swells
The muir of dun Redswire.
And when they reach'd the Redswire high,
Soft beam'd the rising sun;
But formless shadows seem'd to fly
Along the muir-land dun.
And when he reach'd the Redswire high,
His bugle Keeldar blew;
And round did float, with clamorous note
And scream, the hoarse curlew.
The next blast that young Keeldar blew,
The wind grew deadly still;
But the sleek fern, with fingery leaves,
Waved wildly o'er the hill.
The third blast that young Keeldar blew,
Still stood the limber fern;
And a Wee Man, of swarthy hue,
Upstarted by a cairn.
His russet weeds were brown as heath,
That clothes the upland fell;
And the hair of his head was frizzly red,
As the purple heather-bell.
An urchin, clad in pickles red,
Clung cowering to his arm;
The hounds they howl'd, and backward fled,
As struck by Fairy charm.
"Why rises high the stag-hound's cry,
Where stag-hound ne'er should be?
Why wakes that horn the silent morn,
Without the leave of me?"
"Brown Dwarf, that o'er the muirland strays,
Thy name to Keeldar tell!"
"The Brown Man of the Muirs, who stays
Beneath the heather-bell.
"Tis sweet, beneath the heather-bell,
To live in autumn brown;
And sweet to hear the lav'rocks swell
Far from the tower and town.
"But woe betide the shrilling horn,
The chase's surly cheer!
And ever that hunger is forlorn,
Whom first at morn I hear."
Says, "Weel nor woe, nor friend nor foe,
In thee we hope nor dread."
But, ere the bugles green could blow,
The Wee Brown Man had fled.
And onward, onward, hound and horse,
Young Keeldar's band have gone;
And soon they wheel, in rapid course,
Around the Keeldar Stone.
Green vervain round its base did creep,
A powerful seed that bore;
And oft, of yore, its channels deep
Were stain'd with human gore.
And still, when blood-drops, clotted thin,
Hang the gray moss upon,
The spirit murmurs from within,
And shakes the rocking stone.
Around, around, young Keeldar wound,
And call'd, in scornful tone,
With him to pass the barrier ground,
The Spirit of the Stone.
The rude crag rock'd; "I come for death,
I come to work thy woe!"
And 'twas the Brown Man of the Heath
That murmur'd from below.
But onward, onward, Keeldar past,
Swift as the winter wind,
When, hovering on the driving blast,
The snow-flakes fall behind.
They pass'd the muir of berries blae,
The stone cross on the lee;
They reach'd the green, the bonny brae,
Beneath the birchen tree.
This is the bonny brae, the green,
Yet sacred to the brave,
Where still, of ancient size, is seen,
Gigantic Keeldar's grave.
The lonely shepherd loves to mark
The daisy springing fair;
Where weeps the birch of silver bark,
With long dishevell'd hair.
The grave is green, and round its spread
The curling lady-fern;
That fatal day the mould was red,
No moss was on the cairn.
And next they pass'd the chapel there;
The holy ground was by,
Where many a stone is sculptured fair,
To mark where warriors lie.
And here, beside the mountain flood,
A massy castle frown'd,
Since first the Pictish race in blood
The haunted pile did found.
The restless stream its rocky base
Assails with ceaseless din;
And many a troubled spirit strays
The dungeons dark within.
Soon from the lofty tower there hied
A knight across the vale;
"I greet your master well," he cried,
"From Soulis of Liddesdale.
"He heard your bugle's echoing call,
In his green garden bower;
And bids you to his festive hall,
Within his ancient tower."
Young Keeldar call'd his hunter tain;
"For doubtful cheer prepare!
And, as you open force disdain,
Of secret guile beward.
"'Twas here for Mangerton's brave lord
A bloody feast was set,
Who, weetless, at the festal board,
The bull's broad frontlet met.
"Then ever, at uncourteous feast,
Keep every man his brand;
And as you 'mid his friends are placed,
Range on the better hand.
"And, if the bull's ill-omen'd head
Appear to grace the feast,
Your whingers, with unerring speed,
Plunge in each neighbor's breast."
In Hermitage they sat at dine,
In pomp and proud array;
And oft they fill'd the blood-red wine,
While merry minstrels play.
And many a hunting song they sung,
And song of game and glee;
Then turned to plaintive strains their tongue,
"Of Scotland's luve and lee."
To wilder measures next they turn:
"The Black Black Bull of Noroway!"
Sudden the tapers cease to burn,
The minstrels cease to play.
Each hunter bold, of Keelear's train,
Sat an enchanted man;
For cold as ice, through every vein,
The freezing life-blood ran.
Each rigid hand the whinger rung,
Each gazed with glaring eye;
But Keeldar from the table sprung,
Unharm'd by gramarye.
He burst the doors; the roofs resound;
With yells the castle rung;
Before him, with a sudden bound,
His favorite blood-hound sprung.
Ere he could pass, the door was barr'd;
And, grating harsh from under,
With creaking, jarring noise, was heard
A sound like distant thunder.
The iron clash, the grinding sound,
Announce the dire sword-mill;
The piteous howlings of the hound
The dreadful dungeon fill.
With breath drawn in, the murderous crew
Stood listening to the yell;
And greater still their wonder grew,
As on their ear it fell.
They listen'd for a human shriek
Amid the jarring sound;
they only heard, in echoes weak,
The murmurs of the hound.
The death-bell rung, and wide were flung
The castle gates amain;
While hurry out the armed rout,
And marshal on the plain.
Ah! ne'er before in Border feud
Was seen so dire a fray!
Through glittering lances Keeldar hew'd
A red corse-paven way.
His helmet, formed of mermaid sand,
No lethal brand could don't;
No other arms could e'er withstand
The axe of earth-fast fling,
In Keeldar's plume the holly green,
And rowand leaves, nod on,
And vain Lord Soulis's sword was seen,
Though the hilt was adderstone.
Then up the Wee Brown Man he rose,
By Soulis of Liddesdale;
"In vain," he said, "a thousand blows
Assail the charmed mail.
"In vain by land your arrows glide,
In vain your falchions gleam--
No spell can stay the living tide,
Or charm the rushing stream."
And now young Keeldar reach'd the stream,
Above the foamy linn;
The Border lances round him gleam,
And force the warrior in.
The holly floated to the side,
And the leaf of the rowan pale;
Alas! no spell could charm the tide,
Nor the lance of Liddesdale.
Swift was the Cout o' Keeldar's course
Along the lily lee;
But home came never hound nor horse,
And never home came he.
Where weeps the birch with branches green,
Without the holy ground,
Between two old grey stones is seen
The warrior's ridgy mound.
And the hunters bold, of Keeldar's train,
Within you castle's wall,
In a deadly sleep must aye remain,
Till the ruin'd towers down fall.
Each in his hunter's garb array'd,
Each holds his bugle horn;
Their keen hounds at their feet are laid,
That ne'er shall wake the morn.
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I will plan a future blog post that explains some of the terminology and history behind words not so familiar to us today.
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