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|According to Helen Hopekirk The Laird o'Cockpen is "very ancient Scottish melody" for which Lady Carolina Nairne (1766-1845) adopted these lyrics.
The original tune was When she came ben she bobbed which appears in a manuscript in 1692. It later appeared as Buckingham's Horse in Twenty Four New Country Dances for the Year 1708.
Digital Tradition has a set of similar lyrics, except Jean changes her mind and becomes his wife. Verses where she accepts the Laird were later additions to the song. One set of these lyrics was added by Sir Andrew Boswell,* another version of her acceptance was added by Miss Ferrier, a Scottish authoress**.
The Laird of Cockpen was a companion-in-arms to Charles II who fought with him at Worcester and was in exile with him in the Netherlands. He was a musician who wrote the air Brose and Butter. After the Restoration the Laird appealed for the return of his property, but was not granted an audience. Cockpen then reportedly gained admission to a play Charles attended. When the play was over Brose and Butter played. Charles went to Cockpen remarking that the air had almost made him dance. The Laird replied, "I could dance, too, if I had my lands again." Charles thereupon restored his lands.**
For a complete list of Lady Nairne tunes at this site, enter Lady Nairne in the search engine.
The Laird o' Cockpen, he's proud and he's great,
His mind is ta'en up wi' the things o' the state;
He wanted a wife his braw house to keep,
But favour wi' wooin' was fashious to seek.
Now doon by the dykeside a lady did dwell,
At his table head he thocht she'd look well;
MacCleish's ae dochter o' Clavers ha' Lee,
A penniless lass wi' a lang pedigree.
He mounted his mare an' he rade cannilie,
An' rapp'd at the yett o' Claver ha' Lee,
"Gae tell mistress Jean to come speedily ben,
She's wanted to speak wi' the Laird o' Cockpen.
Mistress Jean she was makin' the elder flow'r wine,
"what the deil brings the Laird here at sic a like time?"
She put off her apron and on her silk gown,
her mutch wi'red ribbons, an gae'd awa'doon.
An' when she came ben she bobbit fu'low,
And what was his errand he soon let her know;
Amaz'd was the Laird, when the lady said, "Na!"
An' wi' a laigh curtise she tuned awa'
Dumbfounded was he, but nae sigh did he gie;
He mounted his mare an' he rode cannilie;
And aften he thocht, as he gae'd thro' the glen,
"She was daft to refuse the Laird o'Cockpen."
Seventy Scottish Songsand
*Songs of Scotland
The Royal Edition, Volume I and
**The World's Best Music
See Bibliography for full information.
Additional Information from Bruce Olsen's Roots of Folk Website