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The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes



"Broom of the Cowdenknowes" is a traditional Scottish love ballad. It is traceable back to the seventeenth century, but the exact origin is unknown. The title of the song references the Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) flower, a vibrant yellow flower found throughout Scotland, including in Cowdenknowes, in Berwickshire, where it covered the Black and White Hills of Cowdenknowes. The original and extended ballad was the story of a young shepherdess who falls in love with a stranger on horseback, who rides by her pasture every day. The song became popular across Scotland and England towards the end of the reign of James l & VI, and the earliest publication date found is 1651. Throughout the many versions of the popular folksong, the are many lyrical variations, but the plot remain consistent. The shepardess and stranger fall in love and have an affair. when she becomes pregnant, she is banished from her country. She seeks out her lover, finding him to now be a wealthy lord. They marry, but she is never truly happy away from her own country, and she pines for "the bonnie bonnie boom".Traditionally, the song is sung from the perspective of the shepherdess. The broom, a tall shrub which blooms with spikes of small golden flowers, once grew abundantly on hillsides of the Scottish Borders.

Cowdenknowes is an old Baronial estate east of the Leader Water river just below Earlston in the Scottish Borders, 32 miles southeast of Edinburgh. Cowdenknowes and Earlston are also closely associated with Thomas the Rhymer who was from Earlston (Ersiltoun)

Broom of Cowdenknowes

How blithe each morn was I tae see 
My lass came o'er the hill 
She skipped the burn and ran tae me 
I met her with rye good will. 


O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom 
The broom o the Cowdenknowes 
Fain would I be in the north country 
Herding her father's ewes 

We neither herded ewes nor lamb 
While the flock near us lay 
She gathered in the sheep at night 
And cheered me all the day 


Hard fate that I should banished be 
Gone way o'er hill and moor 
Because I loved the fairest lass 
That ever yet was born 


Adieu, ye cowdenknowes, adieu 
Farewell all pleasures there 
To wander by her side again 
Is all I crave or care




Listen to a sample tune of the
"Broom of Cowdenknowes"

"The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border"
Sir Walter Scott

O the broom, and the bonny bonny broom,
And the broom of the Cowdenknows!
And aye sae sweet as the lassie sang,
I' the bought, milking the ewes.

The hills were high on ilka side,
An' the bought i' the lirk o' the hill,
And aye, as she sang, her voice it rang,
Out o'er the head o' yon hill.

There was a troop o' gentlemen
Came riding merrilie by,
And one o' them has rode out o' the way,
To the bought to the bonny may.

"Weel may ye save an' see bonny lass,
An' weel may ye save an' see."
"An sae wi' you, ye weel-bred knight,
And what's your will wi' me?"

"The night is misty and mirk, fair may,
And I have ridden astray,
And will you be so kind, fair may,
As come out and point my way?"

"Ride out, ride out, ye ramp rider!
Your steed's baith stout and strang;
For out of the bought I dare na come,
For fear 'at ye do me wrang."

"O winna ye pity me, bonny lass,
O winna ye pity me?
An' winna ye pity my poor steed,
Stands trembling at yon tree?"

"I wadna pity your poor steed,
Though it were tied to a thorn;
For if ye wad gain my love the night,
Ye wad slight me ere the morn.

"For I ken you by your weel-busket hat,
And your merry twinkling ee,
That ye're the Laird o' the Oakland hills,
An' ye may weel seem for to be."

"But I am not the Laird o' the Oakland hills,
Ye're far mista'en o' me;
But I'm ane o' the men about his house,
An' right aft in his companie."

He's ta'en her by the middle jimp,
And by the grass-green sleeve;
He's lifted her over the fauld-dyke,
And speer'd at her sma' leave.

O he's ta'en out a purse o' gowd,
And streek'd her yellow hair,
"Now, take ye that, my bonny may
Of me till you hear mair."

O he's leap'd on his berry-brown steed,
And soon he's o'erta'en his men;
And ane and a' cried out to him,
"O master, ye've tarry'd lang!"
O I hae been east, and I hae been west, 
And' I hae been far o'er the knowes,
But the bonniest lass that ever I saw
Is i' the bought, milking the ewes."

She set the cog upon her head,
An' she's gane singing hame
"O where hae ye been, my ae daughter?
Ye hae na been your lane."

O naebody was wi' me , father,
O naebody has been wi' me;
The night is misty and mirk, father,
Ye may gang to the door and see.

"But wae be to your ewe-herd, father,
And an ill deed may he die;
He bug the bought at the back o' the knowe, 
And a tod has frighted me.

"There came a tod to the bought door,
The like I never saw;
And e'er he had ta'en the lamb he did,
I had lourd he had ta'en them a'."

O whan fifteen weeks was come and gane,
Fifteen weeks and three,
That lassie began to look thin and pale,
An' to long for his merry-twinkling ee.

It fell on a day, on a het simmer day,
She was ca'ing out her father's kye,
Bye came a troop o' gentlemen,
A' merrilie riding bye.

"Weel may ye save an' see, bonny may,
Weel may ye save and see!
Weel I wat ye be a very bonny may,
But whae's aught that babe ye are wi'?"

Never a word could that lassie say,
For never a ane could she blame,
An' never a word could the lassie say,
But "I have a gudeman at hame."

"Ye lied, ye lied, my very bonny may,
Sae loud as I hear you lie;
For dinna ye mind that misty night
I was i' the bought wi' thee?

"I ken you by your middle sae jimp
An' your merry-twinkling ee,
That ye're the bonny lass i' the Cowdenknow,
An' ye may weel seem for to be."

Then he's leapt off his berry-brown steed,
An' he's set that fair may on
"Ca' out your kye, gude father, yourself,
For she's never ca' them out again.

"I am the Laird of the Oakland hills,
I hae thirty plows and three;
An' I hae gotten the bonniest lass
That's in a' the south countrie."



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