The Twa Gordons by George MacDonald


There was John Gordon an’ Archibold,
An’ a yerl’s twin sons war they;
Quhan they war are an’ twenty year auld
They fell oot on their ae birthday.

“Turn ye, John Gordon, nae brither to me!
Turn ye, fause an’ fell!
Or doon ye s’ gang, as black as a lee,
To the muckle deevil o’ hell.”

“An’ quhat for that, Archie Gordon, I pray?
Quhat ill hae I dune to thee?”
“Twa-faced loon, ye sail rue this day
The answer I’m gauin to gie!

“For it’ll be roucher nor lady Janet’s,
An’ loud i’ the braid daylicht;
An’ the wa’ to speil is my iron mail,
No her castle-wa’ by nicht!”

“I speilt the wa’ o’ her castle braw
I’ the roarin win’ yestreen;
An’ I sat in her bower till the gloamin sta’
Licht-fittit ahint the mune.”

“Turn ye, John Gordon–the twasum we s’ twin!
Turn ye, an’ haud yer ain;
For ane sall lie on a cauld weet bed–
An’ I downa curse again!”

“O Archie, Janet is my true love–
notna speir leave o’ thee!”
“Gien that be true, the deevil’s a sanct,
An’ ye are no tellin a lee!”

Their suerds they drew, an’ the fire-flauchts flew,
An’ they shiftit wi’ fendin feet;
An’ the blude ran doon, till the grun a’ roun
Like a verra bog was weet.

“O Archie, I hae gotten a cauld supper–
O’ steel, but shortest grace!
Ae grip o’ yer han’ afore ye gang!
An’ turn me upo’ my face.”

But he’s turnit himsel upon his heel,
An’ wordless awa he’s gane;
An’ the corbie-craw i’ the aik abune
Is roupin for his ain.

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Lady Margaret, her hert richt gret,
Luiks ower the castle wa’;
Lord Archibold rides oot at the yett,
Ahint him his merry men a’.

Wi’ a’ his band, to the Holy Land
He’s boune wi’ merry din,
His shouther’s doss a Christ’s cross,
In his breist an ugsome sin.

But the cross it brunt him like the fire.
Its burnin never ceast;
It brunt in an’ in, to win at the sin
Lay cowerin in his breist.

A mile frae the shore o’ the Deid Sea
The army haltit ae nicht;
Lord Archie was waukrife, an’ oot gaed he
A walkin i’ the munelicht.

Dour-like he gaed, wi’ doon-hingin heid,
Quhill he cam, by the licht o’ the mune,
Quhaur michty stanes lay scattert like sheep,
An’ ance they worshipt Mahoun.

The scruff an’ scum o’ the deid shore gleamt
An’ glintit a sauty gray;
The banes o’ the deid stack oot o’ its bed,
The sea lickit them as they lay.

He sat him doon on a sunken stane,
An’ he sighit sae dreary an’ deep:
“I can thole ohn grutten, lyin awauk,
But he comes whan I’m asleep!

“I wud gie my soul for ever an’ aye
Intil en’less dule an’ smert,
To sleep a’ nicht like a bairn again,
An’ cule my burnin hert!”

Oot frae ahint a muckle stane
Cam a voice like a huddy craw’s:
“Behaud there, Archibold Gordon!” it said,
“Behaud–ye hae ower gude cause!”

“I’ll say quhat I like,” quod Archibold,
“Be ye ghaist or deevil or quhat!”
“Tak tent, lord Archie, gien ye be wise–
The tit winna even the tat!”

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Lord Archibold leuch wi’ a loud ha, ha,
Eerisome, grousum to hear:
“A bonny bargain auld Cloots wad hae,
It has ilka faut but fear!”

“Dune, lord Archibold?” craikit the voice;
“Dune, Belzie!” cried he again.–
The gray banes glimmert, the white saut shimmert–
Lord Archie was him lane.

Back he gaed straught, by the glowerin mune,
An’ doun in his plaid he lay,
An’ soun’ he sleepit.–A ghaist-like man
Sat by his heid quhill the day.

An’ quhanever he moanit or turnit him roun,
Or his broo gae token o’ plycht,
The waukin man i’ the sleepin man’s lug
Wud rown a murgeon o’ micht.

An’ the glint o’ a smile wud quaver athort
The sleepin cheek sae broun,
An’ a tear atween the ee-lids wud stert,
An’ whiles rin fairly doun.

An’ aye by his lair sat the ghaist-like man,
He watchit his sleep a’ nicht;
An’ in mail rust-broun, wi’ his visorne doun,
Rade at his knee i’ the fecht.

Nor anis nor twyis the horn-helmit chiel
Saved him frae deidly dad;
An’ Archie said, “Gien this be the deil
He’s no sac black as he’s ca’d.”

But wat ye fu’ weel it wasna the deil
That tuik lord Archie’s pairt,
But his twin-brother John he thoucht deid an’ gone,
Wi’ luve like a lowe in his hert.


Hame cam lord Archibold, weary wicht,
Hame til his ain countree;
An’ he cried, quhan his castle rase in sicht,
“Noo Christ me sain an’ see!”

He turnit him roun: the man in rust-broun
Was gane, he saw nocht quhair!
At the ha’ door he lichtit him doun,
Lady Margaret met him there.

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Reid, reid war her een, but hie was her mien,
An’ her words war sharp an’ sair:
“Welcome, Archie, to dule an’ tene,
An’ welcome ye s’ get nae mair!

Quhaur is yer twin, lord Archibold,
That lay i’ my body wi’ thee?
I miss my mark gien he liesna stark
Quhaur the daylicht comesna to see!”

Lord Archibold dochtna speik a word
For his hert was like a stane;
He turnt him awa–an’ the huddy craw
Was roupin for his ain.

“Quhaur are ye gaein, lord Archie,” she said,
“Wi’ yer lips sae white an’ thin?”
“Mother, gude-bye! I’m gaein to lie
Ance mair wi’ my body-twin.”

Up she brade, but awa he gaed
Straucht for the corbie-tree;
For quhaur he had slain he thoucht to slay,
An’ cast him doon an’ dee.

“God guide us!” he cried wi’ gastit rair,
“Has he lien there ever sin’ syne?”
An’ he thoucht he saw the banes, pykit an’ bare,
Throu the cracks o’ his harness shine.

“Oh Johnnie! my brither!” quo’ Archibold
Wi’ a hert-upheavin mane,
“I wad pit my soul i’ yer wastit corp
To see ye alive again!”

“Haud ye there!” quod a voice frae oot the helm,
“A man suld heed quhat he says!”
An’ the closin joints grippit an’ tore the gerse
As up the armour rase:–

“Soul ye hae nane to ca’ yer ain
An’ its time to hand yer jaw!
The sleep it was thine, an’ the soul it is mine:
Deil Archie, come awa!”

“Auld Hornie,” quo’ Archie, “twa words to that:
My burnin hert burns on;
An’ the sleep, weel I wat, was nae reek frae thy pat,
For aye I was dreamin o’ John!

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“But I carena a plack for a soul sae black–
Wae’s me ‘at my mither bore me!
Put fire i’ my breist an’ fire at my back,
But ae minute set Johnnie afore me!”

The gantlets grippit the helm sae stoot
An’ liftit frae chin an’ broo:
An’ Johnnie himsel keekit smilin oot:–
“O Archie, I hae ye noo!

“O’ yer wee bit brod I was little the waur,
I crap awa my lane;
An’ never a deevil cam ye nar,
‘Cep ye coont yer Johnnie ane!”

Quhare quhylum his brither Johnnie lay,
Fell Archie upon his knees;
The words he said I dinna say,
But I’m sure they warna lees.

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