witchofthewestmoreland

Witch of the Westmorland is probably one of my favourite songs of all time. Its written by Archie Fisher a scottish folk singer and song-writer…but I heard it sung by Stan Rogers for the first time and I was enchanted by the story which goes like this:

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

Saying, “Beck water cold and clear
Will never clean your wound
There’s none but the witch of the Westmoreland
Can make thee hale and sound

“So 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 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 wherefore came you here?”
“I seek the witch of the Westmoreland 
Who dwells by the winding mere”

And it’s weary by the Ullswater
And the misty brakefern way
Till through the cleft of the Kirkstane pass
The winding water lay

He said, “Lie down my brindled hound
And rest ye my good gray 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
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 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 the gray hawk flew
And swiftly he did ride

Saying, “Course well, me brindled hound
And fetch me the jet-black mare
Stoop and strike, me good gray hawk
And bring me the maiden fair”

She said, “Pray sheathe 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 a velvet blue
Bound round with a silver chain
And she’s kissed his pale lips once and twice
And three times round again

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 gray hawk in hand
There’s none can harm the knight who’s lain
With the Witch of the Westmoreland”

For years I’ve been meaning to make a series of paintings based on some of the tales sung by Stan Rogers –and looking at this drawing, I am thinking it has potential to be the first painting of that series. Whenever I listen to Stan’s music, I am reminded of the 8 years I spent living and studying in Hamilton, Ontario where I met David and Beth, and their super awesome mom, Ariel🙂 who were always up-front and direct with me. For that, they will always have a special place in my heart. Okay, starting to tear up …Time to leave you pretties with this: 

Witch of the Westmorland, Stan Rogers

and of course more about the man.

lastly, every year there is the Stan Rogers Folk Music Festival out in Canso, Nova Scotia so if you ever plan to visit beautiful Nova Scotia, you should try to plan it around this fest :)