Godly Ballant IV

Listen to David Jack recite George MacDonald’s Godly Ballant IV, “Him Wi’ the Bag", and follow along with both the original and David’s translation, below.


Once was a woman whose heart was great;

Her love was so dumb it was almost a grief;

She broke the box-it's told of her yet-

The bonny box for her heart's relief.

Ance was a woman wha’s hert was gret;

Her love was sae dumb it was 'maist a grief;

She brak the box-it’s tellt o’ her yet–

The bonny box for her hert’s relief.

One there was whose tale's but brief,

Yet was over/too long, the way he steered;

He looked a man, and was but a thief,

Mighty the gear/wealth to grip and hold.

Ane was there wha’s tale’s but brief,

Yet was ower lang, the gait he cawed;

He luikit a man, and was but a thief,

Michty the gear to grip and haud.

‘What good,' he cried, 'such a boxful to spoil?

Wilful waste I could never bear!

It might have been sold for ten pounds, I bet-

Sold for ten pounds, and given to the poor!'

‘What guid,’ he cried, ‘sic a boxfu to blaud?

Wilfu waste I couth never beir!

It micht hae been sellt for ten poun, I wad–

Sellt for ten poun, and gien to the puir!’

Saving he was, but for love of the gear/wealth;

Careful he was, but all for himself;

He carried the bag to his heart so near

What fell in the one in the other fell.

Savin he was, but for love o’ the gear;

Carefu he was, but a’ for himsel;

He carried the bag to his hert sae near

What fell i’ the ane i’ the ither fell.

And the strings of his heart hung down to hell,

They were pulled so tight about the mouth;

And hence it comes that I have to tell

The worst ill/evil tale that ever was true.

And the strings o’ his hert hingit doun to hell,

They war pu’d sae ticht aboot the mou;

And hence it comes that I hae to tell

The warst ill tale that ever was true.

The heart that's greedy must mischief brew,

And the devils pulled the strings down yonder in hell;

And he sold, ere the ageing moon was new,

For thirty shillings the Master himself!

The hert that’s greedy maun mischief brew,

And the deils pu’d the strings doon yon’er in hell;

And he sauld, or the agein mune was new,

For thirty shillins the Maister himsel!

Gear/wealth in the heart it's a canker fell:

Brothers don't let the money in!

Troth, if you do, I warn you you'll sell

The very Master before ever you know!

Gear i’ the hert it’s a canker fell:

Brithers, latna the siller ben!

Troth, gien ye du, I warn ye ye’ll sell

The verra Maister or ever ye ken!

Translated by David Jack