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Poem by William Dunbar

The Ballad of Kynd Kittock

My Gudedame was a gay wif, bot scho was ryght gend,
Scho duelt furth fer into France, apon Falkland fell;
Thay callit her Kynd Kittock. quhasa hir weill kend:
Scho was like a caldrone cruke cler under kell;
Thay threpit that scho deit of thrist, and maid a gude end.
Efter her dede, scho dredit nought in hevin for to duell,
And sa to hevin the hieway dreidless scho wend.
Yit scho wanderit and yeid by to an eldriche well.
Scho met thar, as I ween,
Ane ask ridant on a snaill,
Scho cryit, "ourtane fallow haill!"
And rade ane inche behind the taill,
Till it wes neir evin.

Sa scho had hap to be horsit to her herbry
Att an ailhous neir hevin it nyghttit thaim thare;
Scho deit of thrist in this warld, that gert hir be sa dry,
Scho never eit, bot drank our mesur and mair.
Scho slepit quhill the morn at none, and rais airly;
And to the yettis of hevin fast cowd scho fair,
And by Sanct Petir, in at the yet scho stall prevely;
God lukit and saw hir lattin in, an lewch his hairt sair.
And thar, yeris sevin,
Scho levit a gud life,
And was oor Ladyis hen wif;
And held Sanct Petir at strif,
Ay, quhill scho wes in hevin.

Scho lukit out on a day, and thoght verry lang
To se the alehous beside in till ane evill hour;
And out of hevin the hie gait cought the wif gaing
For to get hir ain fresche drink, the aill of hevin wes sour.
Scho come agane to Hevinis yet, quhen that the bell rang;
Saint Petir hat hir with a club, quhill a gret clour
Rais in hir heid, becaus the wif yeid wrang.
Than to the alehouse agane scho ran, the pycharis to pour,
And for to brew and baik.
Frendis, I pray yow hertfully,
Gif you be thristy or dry,
Drink with my Guddame, as ye ga by,
Anys for my saik.

English translation:

My Grandmother was an amazing woman but she was simple,
She lived a long way into France on Falkland hill.
Those that knew her well called her Kind Kittie.
She looked like the hook a cauldron hangs from, beautiful under her headdress.
They put it about that she died of thirst, and made a good end.
After she died she was not afraid to live in heaven.
And so fearlessly she followed the road to heaven.
But she strayed and came to an elfin well.
There she met, I believe, a newt riding on a snail,
She called out "Hi, overtaken fellow!"
And rode an inch behind its tail,
Till it was nearly evening.

So it turned out she got a lift to her lodging,
At an alehouse near heaven, they were there when night fell;
She died of thirst in this world, and that made her so thirsty,
She ate nothing but drank enough and more.
She slept till noon and got up early;
Then she went quickly to the gates of heaven;
She sneaked in at the gate past St. Peter secretly;
God looked and saw her getting in, and laughed till his heart was sore.
And there for seven years,
She led a good life,
And she kept our Lady's hens;
And was at odds with St. Peter
All the time she was in heaven.

One day she looked out and thought a long time
To see the alehouse near by, at a bad time;
And she went out of heaven by the main road.
To get herself a fresh drink, as the ale of heaven was sour.
She came back to Heaven's gate when the bell rang:
St Peter hit her with a club, which gave her a great bump on her head, Because the woman went wrong.
Then she ran back to the alehouse, to pour the jugs,
And to brew and bake.
Friends, I ask you sincerely,
If you are thirsty or dry,
Have a drink with my Grandmother, as you go past,
Once for my sake. 

William Dunbar

William Dunbar's other poems:
  1. The Tretis of the Twa Mariit Women and the Wedo
  2. To the King [Of benefice, sir, at everie feist]
  3. Best to Be Blithe
  4. On the Resurrection of Christ [Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro]
  5. To the King [In hansill of this guid New Yeir]

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