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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Ulster Ballad

Willy Reilly

  • [The story on which this ballad is founded happened some eighty years ago; and as the lover was a young Catholic farmer, and the lady’s family of high Orange principles, it got a party character which, no doubt, contributed to its great popularity.]

  • “O RISE up, Willy Reilly! and come along with me;

    I mean for to go with you and leave this counterie,—

    To leave my father’s dwelling, his houses and free land:”

    And away goes Willy Reilly and his dear Coolen Bawn.

    They go by hills and mountains, and by yon lonesome plain,

    Through shady groves and valleys all dangers to refrain;

    But her father followed after with a well-armèd band,

    And taken was poor Reilly and his dear Coolen Bawn.

    It’s home then she was taken, and in her closet bound;

    Poor Reilly all in Sligo jail lay on the stony ground,

    ’Till at the bar of justice before the judge he’d stand,

    For nothing but the stealing of his dear Coolen Bawn.

    “Now in the cold, cold iron my hands and feet are bound;

    I’m handcuffed like a murderer, and tied unto the ground:

    But all the toil and slavery I’m willing for to stand,

    Still hoping to be succored by my dear Coolen Bawn.”

    The jailer’s son to Reilly goes, and thus to him did say:—

    “O get up, Willy Reilly,—you must appear this day;

    For great Squire Foillard’s anger you never can withstand;—

    I’m afeared you’ll suffer sorely for your dear Coolen Bawn.

    “This is the news, young Reilly, last night that I did hear:

    The lady’s oath will hang you or else will set you clear.”

    “If that be so,” says Reilly, “her pleasure I will stand;

    Still hoping to be succored by my dear Coolen Bawn.”

    Now Willy’s drest from top to toe all in a suit of green;

    His hair hangs o’er his shoulders most glorious to be seen;

    He’s tall and straight and comely as any could be found:

    He’s fit for Foillard’s daughter, was she heiress to a crown.

    The judge he said, “This lady being in her tender youth,

    If Reilly has deluded her she will declare the truth.”

    Then, like a moving beauty bright, before him she did stand—

    “You’re welcome there, my heart’s delight and dear Coolen Bawn.”

    “O gentlemen,” Squire Foillard said, “with pity look on me:

    This villain came amongst us to disgrace our family;

    And by his base contrivances this villainy was planned.

    If I don’t get satisfaction I’ll quit this Irish land.”

    The lady with a tear began, and thus replièd she:—

    “The fault is none of Reilly’s,—the blame lies all on me:

    I forced him for to leave his place, and come along with me;—

    I loved him out of measure, which wrought our destiny.”

    Out bespoke the noble Fox,—at the table he stood by,—

    “O gentlemen, consider on this extremity!

    To hang a man for love is a murder you may see:

    So spare the life of Reilly,—let him leave this counterie.”—

    “Good my lord, he stole from her her diamonds and her rings,

    Gold watch and silver buckles, and many precious things,

    Which cost me in bright guineas more than five hundred pounds.

    I’ll have the life of Reilly should I lose ten thousand pounds.”—

    “Good my lord, I gave them him as tokens of true love;

    And when we are a-parting I will them all remove.—

    If you have got them, Reilly, pray send them home to me.”—

    “I will, my loving lady, with many thanks to thee.”—

    “There is a ring among them I allow yourself to wear,

    With thirty locket diamonds well set in silver fair;

    And as a true-love token wear it on your right hand,

    That you’ll think on my poor broken heart when you’re in foreign lands.”

    Then out spoke noble Fox, “You may let the prisoner go:

    The lady’s oath has cleared him, as the jury all may know;

    She has released her own true love, she has renewed his name;—

    May her honor bright gain high estate, and her offspring rise to fame.”