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The Witch of the Westmorland

Pale was the wounded knight
That bore the rowan shield
Loud and cruel were the ravens' cries
That feasted on the field, saying:

"Beck water, cold and clear,
Will never cleanse your wound
There's none but the maid of the winding mere
Can make thee hale and sound.

"So turn, turn your stallion's head
Till his red mane flies in the wind
And the rider of the moon goes by
And the bright star falls behind."

And clear was the paley moon
When his shadow passed him by
Below the hills were the brightest stars
And he heard the owlet cry, saying

"Why do you ride this way,
And wherefore came you here?"
"I seek the witch of the Westmorland
Who dwells by the winding mere."

"Then fly free your good grey hawk
To gather the goldenrod,
And face your horse into the clouds
Above yon gay green wood."

And it's weary by the Ullswater
And the misty brake fern way
Till through the cleft of the Kirkstane Pass
The winding water lay.

He said, "Lie down, my brindled hounds,
And rest ye, my good grey hawk,
And thee, my steed, may graze thy fill,
For I must dismount and walk.

"But come when you hear my horn
And answer swift the call,
For I fear e'er the sun shall rise this morn
You will serve me best of all."

And it's down to the water's brim
He's borne the rowan shield,
And the goldenrod he has cast in
To see what the lake might yield.

And wet rose she from the waves,
Fast and fleet went she,
One half the form of a maiden fair
With a jet black mare's body.

And loud, long, and shrill he blew
Till his steed was by his side,
High overhead the grey hawk flew
And swiftly he did ride, saying:

"Course well, my brindled hounds,
Fetch me the jet black mare,
Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk,
And bring me the maiden fair."

She said, "Pray sheathe thy silvery sword,
Lay down thy rowan shield,
For I see by the briny blood that flows
You've been wounded in the field."

And she stood in a gown of the velvet blue,
Bound 'round with a silver chain.
And she's kissed his pale lips once and twice
And three times 'round again.

And she's bound his wounds with the goldenrod,
Full fast in her arms he lay,
And he has risen hale and sound
With the sun high in the day.

She said, "Ride with you brindled hounds at heel,
And your good grey hawk in hand,
There's none can harm the knight who's lain
With the witch of the Westmorland.

Words and music by Archie Fisher, ©1976 Ard-Ri Music.

Our version leaves out a couple of Archie's verses and "de-accents" much of the rest, making it closer to Stan Rogers' rendition than to Archie's. For the original version, see the Mudcat Cafe archive.

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