Monday, 31 March 2014

The Maiden Stone

The Maiden Stone is a red granite, Pictish standing stone near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. Its name is derived from a local legend, which explains the triangular notch toward its top. The legend states that the daughter of the Laird of Balquhain made a bet with a stranger that she could bake a bannock faster than he could build a road to the top of Bennachie. The prize would be the maiden's hand. However, the stranger was the Devil, who finished the road and claimed the forfeit. The maiden ran from the Devil, praying to be saved. The story concludes by claiming that God turned her to stone, with the notch being where the Devil grasped her shoulder as she ran.

The Ballad below is a Pictish Ballad, written by a loon frae Huntly in Aberdeenshire. It's derived from the above paragraph about the Laird of Balquhain's daughter [It’s two syllables; pronounced ‘Bal-kwane’ or ‘Bal-whain’].

The Lairdie's daughter of Balquhain,
a fair and bonnie quine,

looked out upon a stranger met
one day at lousing time.

He had approached, from where, who knew,
appearing tall and dark
with coat and cap, and unco smart,
a collar tae his sark.

Behold kind sir, I'm not my best,
up to my eyes in flour,
but come on in and sit you down,
for now 's my baking hour.

A bite to eat for hungry man,
she said and then remarked,
I wonder why I didn't hear
the dog, he never barked?

Why thank you, Lady, said the man
as if he hadn't heered
her mention of the silent dog
and stroked his goatee beard.

He eyed her up and down, a look
so candid, forthright, frank,
assessing what he could of her,
before he spoke, point-blank,

I see you're such a bonnie lass,
my Lady of Balquhain.
O Belle of Garioch; yes, you are!
I'd make of you, my ain.

Wouldst thou agree to bide with me?
Oh come, here's what's in store;
you'll be inflamed, you'll writhe ablaze,
you'll feel the heat and more.

She blushed at that and felt her cheeks,
while trembling to her toes,
she fain would swoon into his arms
or so the story goes.

He looked at her as if he'd drink
her every private thought
through eyes that seemed to her like coals,
like nothing God had wrought

and though she felt the stranger bold,
yet sensed, somehow, his charm
she spoke aloud, dispelling fears;
there'd surely be no harm,

If you would marry me, my man,
you have one chance to show
that you're a canty, couthy chiel
whose love I'd come to know.

I'll prove that I'm a worthy man,
deserving of your kiss,
I'll build a road up Bennachie,
said he, a challenge, miss!

I'd win your hand, I'd wed you lass,
I'd have you bride ye ken,
my prize would be your maidenhead
if I can pave the Ben

before you bake a bannock girl,
before the table's set,
before your griddle's hot you'll see
I'll win you, there's the bet.

If I can bake a bannock first
before you grade the Ben,
a brand new road up to the top;
you what? Say that again!

With folded arms across her chest,
she matched the stranger's pride,
If you can build as fast 's I bake,
I'll be your blushing bride.

But unbeknownst to her, the quean
the man who made the deal
was not a man, but Old Saint Nick,
abroad for souls tae steal

and so before her bannocks baked
he showed he had the knack
as gravel ran like batter down
the hill and set-- fast-track.

With mouth agape, astonished girl
abruptly went quite weak,
she thought she'd faint for what she'd seen,
could hardly even speak

as stranger sauntered back to her,
supported by the door,
a victim who had fallen for
a trick he'd played before.

And now I'll claim my prize, he said
I'll have you now my Belle,
we'll settle down as man and wife
before the fires of Hell.

To late she 'stood her own mistake,
the wager sealed her fate,
'twas something she should not have done
with De'il out seeking mate.

Oh no, she cried and ran for life
and prayed, Oh, God! Please save
me from the De'il, he'll tak' me doon,
I'd rather see my grave.

And God, he stirred from forty-winks,
a nap he took each day
and bent his will to help the girl
whose cries had come his way,

but not before the De'il had grasped
her shoulder as she ran,
but then she turned to stone and stood
as still as granite can.

Her God, in wisdom, turned to stone
the Laird of Balquhain's quine,
to save her from the Devil's grasp
he did it just in time,

but thwarted, De'il got souvenir,
a shoulder blade of rock
that left a notch in Maiden Stone
--a Class II Pictish block.

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