More CELTIC FAIRY TALES
The Farmer of Liddesdale
There was in Liddesdale (in Morven)
a Farmer who suffered great loss within the
space of one year. In the first place, his wife and children died, and shortly
after their death the Ploughman left him. The hiring-markets were then over, and
there was no way of getting another ploughman in place of the one that left.
When spring came his neighbours began ploughing; but he had not a man to hold
the plough, and he knew not what he should do. The time was passing, and he was
therefore losing patience. At last he said to himself in a fit of passion, that
he would engage the first man that came his way, whoever he should be.
Shortly after that a man came to the house. The Farmer met him at the door,
and asked him whither was he going, or what was he seeking? He answered that he
was a ploughman, and that he wanted an engagement. "I want a ploughman, and
if we agree about the wages, I will engage thee. What dost thou ask from this
day to the day when the crop will be gathered in?" "Only as much of
the corn when it shall be dry as I can carry with me in one burden-withe."
"Thou shalt get that," said the Farmer, and they agreed.
Next morning the Farmer went out with the Ploughman, and showed him the
fields which he had to plough. Before they returned, the Ploughman went to the
wood, and having cut three stakes, came back with them, and placed one of them
at the head of each one of the fields. After he had done that he said to the
Farmer, "I will do the work now alone, and the ploughing need no longer
give thee anxiety."
Having said this, he went home and remained idle all that day. The next day
came, but he remained idle as on the day before. After he had spent a good while
in that manner, the Farmer said to him that it was time for him to begin work
now, because the spring was passing away, and the neighbours had half their work
finished. He replied, "Oh, our land is not ready yet." "How dost
thou think that?" "Oh, I know it by the stakes."
If the delay of the Ploughman made the Farmer wonder, this answer made him
wonder more. He resolved that he would keep his eye on him, and see what he was
The Farmer rose early next morning, and saw the Ploughman going to the first
field. When he reached the field, he pulled the stake at its end out of the
ground, and put it to his nose. He shook his head and put the stake back in the
ground. He then left the first field and went to the rest. He tried the stakes,
shook his head, and returned home. In the dusk he went out the second time to
the fields, tried the stakes, shook his head, and after putting them again in
the ground, went home. Next morning he went out to the fields the third time.
When he reached the first stake he pulled it out of the ground and put it to his
nose as he did on the foregoing days. But no sooner had he done that than he
threw the stake from him, and stretched away for the houses with all his might.
He got the horses, the withes, and the plough, and when he reached the end of
the first field with them, he thrust the plough into the ground, and cried:
"My horses and my leather-traces, and mettlesome
lads; the earth is coming up!"
He then began ploughing, kept at it all day at a terrible rate, and before
the sun went down that night there was not a palm-breadth of the three fields
which he had not ploughed, sowed, and harrowed. When the Farmer saw this he was
exceedingly well pleased, for he had his work finished as soon as his neighbours.
The Ploughman was quick and ready to do everything that he was told, and so
he and the Farmer agreed well until the harvest came. But on a certain day when
the reaping was over. the Farmer said to him that he thought the corn was dry
enough for putting in. The Ploughman tried a sheaf or two, and answered that it
was not dry yet. But shortly after that day he said that it was now ready.
"If it is," said the Farmer, "we better begin putting it
in." "We will not until I get my share out of it first," said the
Ploughman. He then went off to the wood, and in a short time returned, having in
his hand a withe scraped and twisted. He stretched the withe on the field, and
began to put the corn in it. He continued putting sheaf after sheaf in the withe
until he had taken almost all the sheaves that were on the field. The Farmer
asked of him what he meant? "Thou didst promise me as wages as much corn
as I could carry with me in one burden-withe, and here I have it now," said
the Ploughman, as he was shutting the withe.
The Farmer saw that he would be ruined by the Plough-man and therefore said:
"Twas in the Màrt I sowed,
Instantly the withe broke, and it made a loud report, which echo answered
from every rock far and near. Then the corn spread over the field, and the
Ploughman went away in a white mist in the skies, and was seen no more.
Twas in the Màrt I baked,
Twas in the Màrt I harrowed.
Thou who hast ordained the three Màrts,
Let not my share go in one burden-with."