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The Witch of the Westmorlands

[Archie Fisher]

Archie Fisher sang his own ballad The Witch of the West-Mer-Lands in 1976 on his Folk-Legacy album The Man With a Rhyme. He commented in his liner notes:

I have borrowed, for this song, the form of the narrative ballad. The ingredients are a mixture of legend, superstition, and ballad themes brought into focus by the Lakeland painter, Joni Turner. As far as i know, the female centaur is not a creature of mythology, and this role of witch disguise was suggested by the tales of antlered women with bodies of deer seen wading in the shallows of the lakes in the moonlight. There are many pleasant and hospitable inns in the Lake District.

Barbara Dickson sang Witch of the Westmorlands in 1971 on her album From the Beggar's Mantle. Archie Fisher played guitar and concertina on this album, too.

Stan Rogers sang The Witch of the Westmorland in April 1979 live at The Groaning Board, Toronto. This concert was released in the same year on his album Between the Breaks… Live!. He commented in the liner notes:

I first heard this song on Archie Fisher' beautiful album for Folk-Legacy Records, The Man With a Rhyme, where it is called The Witch of the West-Mer-Lands. In a recent letter, Archie referred to it as simply “Westmoreland”, and I've used that spelling here. We have edited three verses from the original, and modernized the language a little for the sake of having the story understood by the average North American listener at the first pass. I highly recommend Archie's version to those of you who want all the verses.

Grace Notes (Maggie Boyle, Lynda Hardcastle and Helen Hockenhull) sang Witch of the Westmorlands in 1998 on their Fellside CD Red Wine & Promises. Helen Hockenhull commented in the liner notes:

We first heard this song on a Stan Rogers album and learned his version. Later we discovered that it was written by Archie Fisher whose original words were rather different. As the words were difficult enough to learn in the first place we found it impossible to change them (Sorry Archie). The story remains intact however and it is a wonderful epic.

Lyrics

Archie Fisher sings The Witch of the West-Mer-Lands Grace Notes sings Witch of the Westmorlands

Pale was the wounded knight
That bore the rowan shield,
And cruel were the raven's cries
That feasted on the field,

Pale was the wounded knight
That bore the rowan shield,
Loud and cruel were the raven's cries
As they feasted on the field,

Saying, “Beck water, cold and clear,
Will never clean your wound.
There's none but the Maid of the Winding Mere
Can mak' thee hale and soond.”

Singing, “Beck water, cold and clear,
Will never heal your wound.
There's none but the Witch of the Westmorland
Can make thee hale and sound.”

“So course well, my brindled hounds,
And fetch me the mountain hare
Whose coat is as gray as the Wastwater
Or as white as the lily fair.”

Who said, “Green moss and heather bands
Will never staunch the flood.
There's none but the Witch of the West-mer-lands
Can save thy dear life's blood.”

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

“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 hill was the brightest star
When he heard the houlet cry,

Clear was the waning moon
When a shadow passed him by;
Below the hill were the brightest stars
When he heard the owlet cry.

Saying, “Why do you ride this way
And wharfore cam' you here?”
“I seek the Witch of the West-mer-lands
That dwells by the Winding mere.”

Singing, “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 intae the clouds
Above yon gay green wood.”

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

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

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

He said, “Lie down you brindled hound
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 ere the sun will rise this morn
You may serve me best of all.”

”Come when you hear my horn
And answer swift the call,
For I fear ere the sun will rise this morn
Ye 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 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 lake
And fast and fleet gaed she,
One half the form of a maiden fair
With a jet-black mare's body.

Wet rose she from the lake
And 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 his grey hawk flew
And swiftly he did ride,

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,
And fetch me the jet-black mare!
Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk,
And bring me the maiden fair!”

“Course well, my brindled hound,
Fetch me the jet-black mare!
Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk,
And bring me the maiden fair!”

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

She said, “Pray sheath 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,
She's kissed his pale lips aince and twice
And three times 'round again.

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

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.

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 your brindled hound at heel
And your good grey hawk in hand.
There's nane can harm the knight who's lain
With the Witch of the West-mer-land.”

“Ride with your brindled hound at heel
And your good grey hawk in hand.
And there's none can harm the knight who's lain
With the Witch of the Westmorland.”

She said, “Ride with your brindled hound at heel
And your good grey hawk in your hand.
And there's none can harm the knight who's lain
With the Witch of the Westmorland.”