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Young Lochinvar & Fair Ellen
Young Lochinvar & Fair Ellen
(Courtesy of the Lochinvar Hotel)

The Ballad of
Young Lochinvar




[William Gordon of Kenmure, Laird of Lochinvar]
[History of Kenmure Castle]

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The Ballad

1

Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west !
Through all the wide border his steed was the best;
And, save his good broadsword, he weapon had none;
He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone !
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war;
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar !

2

He stay'd not for brake, and he stopp'd not for stone;
He swam the Esk river where ford there was none -
But, ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late;
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war;
Was to wed the fair Ellen of young Lochinvar !

3

So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all ! -
Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword, -
For the past craven bridegroom said never a word, -
'Oh come ye in peace here, or come ye in war ?
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar ?'

4

'I long woo'd your daughter, my suit you denied;
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide !
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There be maidens in Scotland, more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar !'

5

The bride kiss'd the goblet, the knight took it up,
He quaff'd off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
She look'd down to blush, and she look'd up to sigh, -
With a smile on her lip, and a tear in her eye:
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar, -
'Now tread we a measure !' said young Lochinvar.

6

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace !
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume,
And the bride-maidens whispered 'Twere better by far
To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar !'

7

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear
When they reach'd the hall door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croup the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung !
'She is won, we are gone, over bank, bush and scaur;
They'll have fleet steeds that follow !' quoth young Lochinvar.

8

There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby Clan,
Fosters, Fenwicks and Musgraves, they rode and they ran;
There was racing and chasing on Cannonbie Lea,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see !
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar ?

~ Marmion, Canto V, lines 313-360 by Sir Walter Scott, 1808

Finding the Truth ...

As always, one has to be careful with Sir Walter Scott, when separating fact from fancy. Sir James Balfour Paul's 1908 '' Scots Peerage'' Volume Five, covers the noble Scottish families from Innermeath to Mar. The section on 'Gordon, Viscount of Kenmure' begins on page 100. The sixth footnote at the bottom of page 101 reads as follows.

''The song of 'Lochinvar' in the fifth canto of Marmion was modelled on the old ballad of 'Katharine Jaffray,' the story of which, though possibly originating in fact, cannot now be traced to any historical source. In five versions of the ballad the lover is Lochinvar, in three Lamington, and in two Lauderdale. (Child iv.216). No known copy has the name Graeme or the place Netherby, and the family tree of the Gordons of Lochinvar will be scanned in vain for any match such as that to which Sir Walter Scott has given immortality, or any union with a Jaffray. Lochinvar also figures in two versions of another romantic or non-historical ballad, 'The Broom of Cowdenknowe' (Child, iv.191).''

So the song is a fantasy, but the Gordons of Lochinvar, titled Viscount of Kenmure, actually existed and their castle's ruins still survive.

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last updated 23rd May 2004.


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