Page images


An honest man's the noblest work of God. POPE.

HAS auld K********* seen the deil?
Or great M********+ thrawn his heel?
Or R******* again grown weel,‡

To preach an' read. "Na, waur than a"!" cries ilka chiel, Tam Samson's dead!

K********* lang may grunt an' grane,
An' sigh, an' sab, an' greet her lane,
An' cleed her bairns, man, wife, an' wean,
In mourning weed;

To death she's dearly paid the kane,
Tam Samson's dead!

[blocks in formation]

In vain auld age his body batters; In vain the gout his ankles fetters; In vain the burns came down like waters, An acre braid!

Now every auld wife, greetin, clatters,

Tam Samson's dead!

Owre many a weary hag he limpit, An' aye the tither shot he thumpit, Till coward death behind him jumpit, Wi' deadly feide; Now he proclaims, wi' tout o' trumpet, Tam Samson's dead!

When at his heart he felt the dagger, He reel'd his wonted bottle swagger, But yet he drew the mortal trigger

Wi' weel aim'd heed;

"L-d, five!" he cried, and owre did stagger; Tam Samson's dead!

Ilk hoary hunter mourn'd a brither;
Ilk sportsman youth bemoan'd a father;
Yon auld gray stane, amang the heather,
Marks out his head,
Whare Burns has wrote, in rhyming blether
Tam Samson's dead!

There low he lies, in lasting rest;
Perhaps upon his mouldering breast
Some spitefu' muirfowl bigs her nest,
To hatch an' breed;

Alas! nae mair he'll them molest!

Tam Samson's dead!

When August winds the heather wave, And sportsmen wander by yon grave, Three volleys let his memory crave, O' pouther an' lead,

Till echo answer frac her cave,

Tam Samson's dead!

Heaven rest his saul, whare'er he be ! Is th' wish o' monie mae than me; He had twa faults, or may be three, Yet what remead?

Ae social, honest man want we:

Tam Samson's dead!


TAM SAMSON's weel-worn clay here lies,
Ye canting zealots, spare him!

If honest worth in heaven rise,
Ye'll mend or ye win near him.


Go, fame, and canter like a filly, Through a' the streets an' neuks o' Killie,* Tell every social, honest billie

To cease his grievin,

For yet, unskaith'd by death's gleg gullie,

Tam Samson's livin.

* Killie is a phrase the country folks sometimes use for Kilmarnock.


The following poem will, by many readers, be well enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unac quainted with the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast, notes are added, to give some account of the principal charms and spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and nations: and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such should honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our own.

[blocks in formation]

UPON that night, when fairies light,
On Cassilis Downanst dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,

Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray an' rove
Amang the rocks and streams,
To sport that night.

Amang the bonnie winding banks,

Where Doon rins, wimpling clear,

Where Bruces ance ruled the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear,

Some merry, friendly countra folks,
Together did convene,

To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween

Fu' blythe that night.

The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they're fine;
Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe,

Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs,
Gar lasses hearts gang startin
Whyles fast at night.

Is thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings, are all abroad on their baneful, midnight errands; particularly those aerial people the fairies, are said on that night to hold a grand anniversary.

+ Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cas


A noted cavern near Colean house, called the Cove of Colean which, as Cassilis Downans, is famed in country story for being a favourite haunt of fairies.

§ The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.


Then first and foremost, through the kail, Their stocks maun a' be sought ance; They steek their e'en, an' graip an' wale, For muckle anes an' straught anes. Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,

An' wander'd through the bow-kail, An pow't for want o' better shift, A runt was like a sow-tail, Sae bow't that night.


Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar and cry a' throu'ther
The vera wee things, todlin, rin,

Wi' stocks out-owre their shouther;
An' gif the custoc's sweet or sour,
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Syne coziely, aboon the door,
Wi' cannie care they place them
To lie that night.


The lasses staw frae 'mang them a',
To pou their stalks o' corn ;†
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippet Nelly hard an' fast;
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
When kiuttlin in the fause-house+
Wi' him that night.


The auld guidwife's weel hoordet nits§
Are round an' round divided,
An' monie lads' an' lasses' fates

Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side
An' burn thegither trimly;

The first ceremony of Halloween is, pulling each a stock, or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetie of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells-the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth, stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custoc, that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door: and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house, are, according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question.

+ They go to the barn-yard and pull each, at three several times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the top-pickle, that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage bed any thing but a maid.

When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green, or wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, &c., makes a large apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest exposed to the wind: this he calls a fause-house.

§ Burning the nuts is a famous charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire, and accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.

Some start awa wi' saucie pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.


Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;

Wha 'twas she wadna tell; But this is Jock, an' this is me,

She says in to hersel:

He bleezed owre her, an' she owre him,

As they wad never mair part;

Till fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.


Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,

Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie ; An' Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt, To be compared to Willie : Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' Aing, An' her ain fit it burnt it; While Willie lap, and swoor by jing, 'Twas just the way he wanted To be that night.


Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel an' Rob in ;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,

Till white in ase they're sobbin:
Nell's heart was dancin at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to look for't:
Rob, stowlins, prie'd her bonnie mou,
Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,

Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea'es them gashin at their cracks,
And slips out by hersel:

She through the yard the nearest taks,
An' to the kiln she goes then,
An' darklins grapit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue* throws then,
Right fear't that night.

An' aye she wint, an' aye she swat,
I wat she made nae jaukin;
Till something held within the pat,
Guid L-d! but she was quakin!
But whether 'twas the deil himsel,
Or whether 'twas a bauken,
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She did na wait on talkin
To spier that night.

Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and, darkling, throw into the pot a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and, towards the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand wha hauds ? i. e. who holds ? an answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future spouse.


Wee Jenny to her grannie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
I'll eat the apple* at the glass,
I gat frae uncle Johnie ;"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sac vap'rin,
She noticed na, an azle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night.

"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
How daur you try sic sportin,
As seek the foul thief ony place,

For him to spae your fortune?
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it ;
For monie a ane has gotten a fright,
An' lived an' died deleerit
On sic a night.

"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
I mind't as weel' yestreen,

I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
I was na past fyfteen:
The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
An' stuff was unco green;
An' aye a rantin kirn we gat,
An' just on Halloween

It fell that night. XVI.

"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever, sturdy fallow;
He's sin got Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed,† I mind it weel,
An' he made unco light o't;
But monie a day was by himsel,
He was sae sairly frighted
That vera night."

Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
An' he swoor by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense;
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
An' out a handful gied him ;

Syne bad him slip frae 'mang the folk,
Sometimes when nae ane seed him :
An' try't that night.

* Take a candle, and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say, you should comb your hair, all the time; the face of your conjugal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.

+ Steal out unperceived, and sow a handful of hempseed; harrowing it with any thing you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then, "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, come after me, and shaw thee," that is, show thyself: in which case it simply appears Others omit the harrowing, and say, "come after me, and harrow thee."


[blocks in formation]

*This charm must likewise be performed unperceived, and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being, about to appear, may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which, in our country dialect, we call a wecht; and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times; and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door, and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.


They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice:
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice,*
Was timmer propt for thrawin:
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black, grousome carlin;
An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes came haurlin
Aff's nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlen;

But och that night, amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu' settlin!

She through the whins, an' by the cairn,
An' owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds' lands met at a burnt
To dip her left sark sleeve in,

Was bent that night.

Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimplet:
Whyles round a rocky scar it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimplet;
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle ;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.


Amang the brachens, on the brae,
Between her an' the moon,

The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up an' gae a croon :

Poor Leezie's heart mais lap the hool;
Neer lav'rock height she jumpit,

But mist a fit, an' in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,

Wi' a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three‡ are ranged,

* Take an opportunity of going, unnoticed, to a Bear stack, and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time, you will catch in your arms the appear. ance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.

You go out, one or more, for this is a social spell, to a south running spring or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake; and some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.

Take three dishes; put clean water in one, foul water in another, leave the third empty: blindfold a person, and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged: he (or she) dips the left hand: if by chance in the clean water, the future husband or wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.

[blocks in formation]

Though now thou's dowie, stiff, an' crazy, An' thy auld hide's as white's a daisy, I've seen thee dappl't, sleek, and glaizie, A bonnie gray :

He should been tight that daur't to raize thee,
Ance in a day.

Thou ance was i' the foremost rank,
A filly buirdly, steeve, an' swank,
An' set weel down a shapely shank,
As e'er tread yird;
An' could hae flown out-owre a stank,
Like ony bird.

It's now some nine an' twenty year,
Sin' thou was my good father's meere;
He gied me thee, o' tocher clear,

An' fifty mark;
Though it was sma', 'twas weel-won gear,
An' thou was stark.

When first I gaed to woo my Jenny,
Ye then was trottin wi' your minnie:
Though ye was trickie, slee, an' funnie,
Ye ne'er was donsie ;
But hamely, tawie, quiet, an' cannie,
An' unco sonsie.

That day, ye pranced wi' muckle pride,
When ye bure hame my bonnie bride;
An' sweet, an' gracefu' she did ride,
Wi' maiden air!

Kyle Stewart I could bragged wide,

For sic a pair.

Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween supper.

[blocks in formation]

When thou was corn't, an' I was mellow, We took the road aye like a swallow: At brooses thou had ne'er a fellow, For pith an' speed: But every tail thou pay't them hollow, Where'er thou gaed.

The sma', droop-rumpl't, hunter cattle,
Might aiblins waur't thee for a brattle;
But sax Scotch miles thou try't their mettle,
An' gar't them whaizle:
Nae whip nor spur, but just a wattle
O' saugh or hazel.

Thou was a noble fittie-lan',
As e'er in tug or tow was drawn!
Aft thee an' I, in aught hours gaun,

On guid March weather,

Hae turn'd sax rood beside our han',

For days thegither.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »