“Johnie of Breadislee” narrative


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Johnie of Breadislie

When Johnie of Breadislee calls for his dogs to be unchained so that he can go deer-hunting, his mother begs him not to go, saying he has plenty of bread and wine and has no need to kill deer for meat  However, Johnnie takes his bow and arrows and goes to Durrisdeer. At Merriemass, he shoots at a deer and wounds it and his dogs bring it down, and then they all gorge themselves on the venison and fall fast asleep. They are spied by an old man who hastens to report what he has seen to the seven foresters at Hislinton. They guess from his description that the poacher is Johnnie of Braidislee and are divided about whether they should leave him alone or kill him. They shoot arrows at him without warning and wound him on the knee. Johnnie takes up a defensive position with his back to a tree and kills six of the seven foresters. He then lays the wounded seventh forester across his horse’s back and bids him carry the news home.  Johnnie calls for a bird to take a message to his mother to tell her to fetch him; a starling conveys the message and many men make a bier and carry Johnie’s body to Breadislee.  His mother upbraids Johnnie for not heeding her warning and mourns for him, and then curses the old man, saying he will be hanged.  An elegiac stanza concludes the ballad. Johnie’s bow is broken and his dogs slain and  Johnnie himself lies dead with his hunting days over.