Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 42: Sule Skerry

The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry

An earthly nourrice sits and sings,
And aye she sings, ‘Ba, lily wean!
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.’

Then ane arose at her bed-fit,
An’ a grumly guest I’m sure was he:
‘Here am I, thy bairn’s father,
Although that I be not comèlie.

‘I am a man, upo’ the lan’,
An’ I am a silkie in the sea;
And when I’m far and far frae lan’,
My dwelling is in Sule Skerrie.’

‘It was na weel,’ quo the maiden fair,
‘It was na weel, indeed,’ quo’ she,
‘That the Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie
Suld hae come and aught a bairn to me.’

Now he has ta’en a purse of goud,
And he has pat it upo’ her knee,
Sayin’, ‘Gie to me my little young son,
An’ tak thee up thy nourrice-fee.

‘An’ it sall pass on a simmer’s day,
When the sin shines het on evera stane,
That I will tak my little young son,
An’ teach him for to swim his lane.

‘An’ thu sall marry a proud gunner,
An’ a proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
An’ the very first schot that ere he schoots,
He’ll schoot baith my young son and me.’

— trad.

suggested by Ian Blyth

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