Freen's are like fiddle-strings:
They maunna be screwed ower ticht.
A SAGE auld fiddler's ower-wird this-
Yersel mey ken it's richt-
Oor freen's are like oor fiddle-strings,
Screw nane o them ower ticht.
* * *
The finest spring I ever play't
In Colonel Bertram's Ha'
Gaed rantin wi a birr, whan-snap!-
The gut brak aff in twa.
Says he, "M'culloch, what's gaen wrang?
Yer fiddle's oot o touch."
"Mysel's to blame," says I, "no her;
I screw't her ance ower much."
* * *
Ye mind o Sammle Simpson weel-
The fermer at Drumqueer?
The twa o us were unco pack,
An freen's for mony a year.
Week in, week oot, we haed oor crack,
An aye in blythest trim;
He, whiles, a guid turn did for me,
I, whiles, did ane for him.
But, Christmas-time, in auchty-sax,
Whan Patie Bruce got wed,
I speir't the len o Sammle's horse
To drive to Auchenstead.
An losh! the beast fell at the burn,
As we were comin hame,
An for the next twa weeks, or mair,
It hirpilt, ae leg lame.
An Sammle, frae that day to this,
Haes glowert the contrar airt,
Whane'er he met me on the road,
Or pass't me in the cairt.
Oor freen'ship's tint, an nippit throu
Like some worm-eaten crutch;
An aft it's vex't me; - but, ye see,
I screw't him ance ower much.
* * *
An sae, the fiddler's ower-wird here
Mey no be far frae richt-
Oor freen's are like oor fiddle-strings,
Screw naither unco ticht.
BLUE, AN BETTER BLUE
There's blue, an better blue.
THE auld folks haed a pithy wey
O reddin up the true:
They said, to draw distinctions clear,
There's blue, an better blue!
* * *
Whan Baker Ross, a cantie chiel,
Saw baps o Baker Reid,
He smell't them, flang them doon:- Says he,
"There's breid, an better breid!"
* * *
Whan Hughie Tamson o Rigside
Selt cattle at the mart
For twa-pound-ten abuin the price
That went to Robbie Bart,
The twa met at the gate; says Bart,
"Hoo got ye price sae hiech?"
An Hughie lauched a cunnin lauch-
"There's kye, an better kye!"
* * *
Whan Kirsty Laing, the doctor's lass,
Was mairit, come-a-year,
At Embro, to Jim Stevenson,
The ceevil engineer,
The neibours a' were fair amazed,
An stude aboot an stared;
For weel they kent the lass haed got
An offer frae the laird.
Gin she haed liked, she micht hae been
The Leddy at the Ha',
Wi cairiages an flunkey-chaps,
Aye dinkit up an braw;
But, losh! she teuk Jim Stevenson,
The ceevil engineer!
The thing seemed past a' reckonin,
The queerest o the queer.
Ae day a veesitor ca't in
At their hoose in the toon,
An to the great enigma brocht
The conversation roon'.
Says she, "Excuise me speirin this;
But what could be yer whim?
What for did ye refuse the laird,
An raither mairy Jim?"
Says Mrs. Jim, "The answer's plain,
Since ye're sae keen to ken;
I didna tak the laird, because
There's men, an better men!"
* * *
An sae we end whaur we began:
The auld folks spak the true;
We need to draw distinctions clear--
There's blue, an better blue!
THE YAIRD O THE FECKLESS SON
I gaed by the field o the slothfu,
An by the vineyaird o the man o nae mense;
An, here, it was a' grown ower wi thorns,
The face o it was covered wi nettles,
An the stane-wa aboot it was broken doun.
Then I saw,
An considered weel.
--Beuk o Proverbs, xxiv. 30-32.
THAT'S jist the fack! - I did consider't weel:
I stude a hale hauf-hoor, or mibbie mair,
An leukit ower; - the yaird was near the road;
The dyke was doon; the stanes a' here-an-there.
An sic a sicht! The fit-pads green wi gress;
The weeds, in rampant regiments, ower a';
For nettles, runches, dockens, an sic-like,
I couldna see the tattie-shaws ava.
The thristles raise as heich as his green-kail;
The grunshil smuired his persley an his leeks;
His cabbage an his neeps were a' reel-ral;
He haedna duin a haun's-turn there for weeks.
The muckle lazy lout! Gif throu his skin
It haed been possible to ding some shame,
I'd threipit ben his lug, that no ae dab
O richt haed he to claim his faither's name.
For, eh, I tell ye, that auld Andra Caird,
The faither o this feckless, wauchlin loon,
Was sic a workin body, steive an trig,
An kent for that in a' the pairish roon'.
Whan he was here the place was keepit snod;
He aye was trimmin something at odd hoors:
Hoo mensefu prood he leukit at his wark
Amang his plants, an a' his beds o flouers.
But save us a'! Ye see what like it's noo:
That lumberin lump, he disna care a rap!
The nettles, an the dockens, an the gress
Get ilka chance to growe the champion crap!
Gin Solomon haed keekit ower the dyke,
An seen the waesome scunner o the yaird,
The sluggard, that he spak o, micht hae been
The muckle lazy son o Andra Caird.
THE DEIL'S SMIDDY
An idle brain is the deil's smiddy.
THE deil haes got a smiddy: sae I read
Nae farer gane than jist the ither nicht;
An tho, I'se warrant, nane o us haes seen't,
I'm feart the story's richt.
It's nae auld biggin theekit ower wi strae,
An smuirin some bit clachan wi its smeek,
Or staun'in kenspeckle to warn folks back
Frae sic-like smiddy reek.
Na, na! Gin that were sae, we a' micht flit
A pairish-breid oot-ower the gate, atweel;
But this smith, that we're speakin o the noo,
Is cunnin as-the deil!
He hides his place o wark, an hides his trade;
It peys him best to play a crookit pairt;
He taks a lease o ilka idle heid,
An ilka glaikit hairt.
He maks the tack to fit himsel, as tho
He were the laird, an nane could daur him stop;
An there, in-by the ben-maist life o men,
He sterts his smiddy shop.
It's there he blaws his bleeze an heats his airns,
An edges tools for deevilment aff-haun;
It's there he forges a' his tricks o ill,
An keeps his business gaun.
Nae reek, or soon'; nae sign o ocht like fire;
But aye he's thrang - as thrang as meenit-throbs,
Gin only he can keep puir bodies blin'
To a' his ugly jobs.
He steers his wee ash-shule amang oor thochts;
He turns the wrang aye up, the guid aye doon,
An maks believe, as nane but he can dae,
He's meanin weel a' roon'.
He hammers at oor plans, to gar them shape
The plans that he haes shapit for himsel;
He dings the keen edge aff the true an richt
Wi some uncanny spell.
An aye he's at it: nae short hoors wi him;
An nae aff-days, wi wark a kennin slack;
The deil's a smith that wants nae rest to fling
A coat upon his back.
It's time we a' were speirin intil this,
An hiech time, certes! gif the things nae lee;
For nae sic tenant, or sic smiddy wark
Bodes guid for ye or me.
THE STRAUCHT ROAD
Lat thine een leuk richt on,
An lat thine eelids leuk straucht afore thee.
Turn na to the richt hand nor to the carr.
--Beuk o Proverbs, iv. 25, 27.
That'll fin' the road:
That'll tak to God.
* * *
AE nicht I cross't Barwhinnie muir,
Hauf-stranger to the place;
I thocht the muin wad serve my turn,
As I stepped on wi pace.
But jist as Huntfield ferm I reached,
Near-by the Wandel wuds,
My lamp gaed oot! - the muin, ye'll guess,
Was happit ower wi cluds.
An sae, to work by cautious plan,
I chapped at Huntfield door,
To speir directions ower the muir,
I ne'er haed cross't afore.
The fermer cam himsel: I telt
The pliskie I was in,
An wunnert gin he could dae ocht
The muirlan' track to fin'.
"But whaur is't that ye want to gang?
Because," says he, "the pad
Could ne'er be follow't throu the mirk
Save by some shepherd lad."
Sae I explain't the place an hoose
That I wad fain be at;
He lauched; - "O, then, the airt to tak
I suin can show ye that."
Alang we steppit side by side
Sax hunder yairds, or mair;
An on a bit knowe-heid, he says,
"Noo, I can set ye shuir.
"Ye see yon licht twa miles awa?
That's what they ca' Milldyke;
Tak ye the heather straucht for that-
The mainroad there ye'll strike;
"An no a quarter o a mile,
I wat, ayont that same,
As safe's ye like, ye'll step inside
The very hoose ye name."
I thanked him for his kindliness,
An as we bade Guid-nicht,
He cried again, "Noo, keep yer ee
Aye on that single licht;
"An aye haud forrit straucht for that,
As straucht as ye can gang,
An, track or no, there's my wird for't,
Ye canna dauner wrang."
An shuir as he haed said the thing,
I cross't the lanesome muir
Wi nae muin, an inside an hoor
I landit safely there.
* * *
That'll fin' the road:
Yon's the licht o God.
Ae swallow disna mak a simmer.
AE swallow disna mak a simmer:
Jimp! - ye're aiblins richt;
Atween yersel an me, hooever,
Ane's a bonnie sicht.
An, 'deed, I'm blythe to gie't a walcome,
That, wi a' my hairt;
It's loesome-like to see it jinkin,
Joukin ilka airt.
It capers wi the waffs o breezes,
Dancin on the wing:
I wonner gif it's no practeesin
It micht dae waur; an haith! I'm sayin
Fain I'd dae't mysel,
Jist thinkin o the news ae swallow
Cantily can tell.
It's this:- That snell an cauldrife winter
Wi its frost an snaw,
Haes clean skedaiddlt - no ane missin't-
Ower the knowes, awa.
An here's the spring upon us blinkin;
Man, afore it's lang,
Ye'll hear the mavis, at his crousest,
Dirlin oot his sang.
Ye'll see the flouers in brawest graithin
Buskit up fou sweet,
Bedinkin ilka neuk wi beauty
Roon' aboot yer feet.
Ye ken that's richt frae that ae swallow
Flashin throu the air;
For whaur there's ane, there's thoosands comin,
Ay, an thoosands mair.
I'll wad a groat, they're on the journey
Here, to Broomiedale;
An, seem ane, I see the simmer
Jist ahint its tail!
The Shuir Crap
He that saws richteousness haes a shuir reward.
--Beuk o Proverbs, xi. 18.
THEY say, there's no a year slips by
Atween the time o rents,
But feck o fermer folks scrape up
A bushel o complents:-
The frosts were late; the plooin dreich;
They couldna get seeds in;
The wire-worm yokit on the corn,
An made the crappin thin;
The spring was dry; the hey was puir;
The simmer haedna sun;
The craws drew up the neeps, an dodged
The smertest wi the gun;
The hairst was wat; the stooks were black,
An sprootin at the baun';
The tatties, wi disease, were scarce
Worth liftin aff the laun';
The days were short, the nichts were lang
Afore they built a stack:
Anither sic a year as this-
They'll a' fling up their tack!
Atweel, the fermin's kittle wark
Amang sic fell mishaps:-
Ye'd ken yersel, gif ye haed failed
To gether in yer craps.
But wheesht awee; an hear to this
Wi a' yer tentiest care:-
There's crappin o anither kind,
Whaur ilka hairst is shuir.
This ferm's yer ain; the field's yer life;
The tack is rinnin noo;
An ye're the very man yersel,
Wha hauds an airts the ploo;
Wha sees to daein a' that's duin;
Wha saws the various seeds;
Wha works the laun' frae morn to nicht,
Wha tackles wi the weeds.
Ye're laird, an fermer-baith in ane;
Results depend on ye;
Saw naething but what's Guid an Richt;
Saw ilka thing that's True;
Saw braidcast wi an open luif,
An wi an honest hairt:
There's Ane Abuin 'll siccar staun'
To tak sic fermer's pairt.
The frosts mey nip; the sun mey dwine;
The rains mey blatterin fa';
An aften ye mey dreid the warst-
Nae hairst to come ava!
But dinna fear: jist cultivate
Yersel - frae less to mair;
An shuir, as God is shuir Himsel,
Ye'll fin' the craps are shuir.
KEEP UP YER HAIRT
The faurer east, the shorter wast.
KEEP up yer hairt! An steively stump the road;
The dourest, dreichest mile, ye'll fin', gangs past;
Ae ither step, an that's anither less;
An mind! - The farer east, the shorter wast.
I ken, as weel's yersel, what like it is
To trauchle sae, an be forfeuchen sair,
Aye dreidin that the pith 'll leave oor shanks
An no serve oot, to tak us near-haun there.
But jist haud at it! Forrit! Face the braes!
We only need to speel them ane by ane;
Yet ane by ane 'll cover ane an a',
An, as the e'enin fa's, it's hame we'll win.
Keep up yer hairt! The track o life we trudge
Seems aften langsome, lanesome, dreich an dour,
Wi bits o't waur than ony, whaur oor een
Are fairly blint, atween the tears an stoor.
But tak a thocht-the hale o't's no like that;
It's no a' stiff, or staney, throu the hoors;
The're glints o sun, an blythesome sangs o birds,
An whiles the dyke-side boorockit wi flouers.
An, antrin times, a neibour, wi a smile,
Or couthie wirds o sympathy an cheer,
In-by oor side 'll breist the on-gaun road,
An mak its cankerin ills less ill to bear.
An, then, we aye can lippen Ane Abuin,
Whas tentie care is ilka day the same;
He'll airt, an kep oor trimlin, taiglin feet,
An, as the e'enin fa's, He'll bring us hame.
Keep up yer hairt! An still be haudin yont;
The langest, dreichest mile, ye'll fin', gangs past;
Ae ither step, an that's anither less;
An mind! - The farer east, the shorter wast.
TRY'T AGAIN, MAN!
Aften ettle, whiles hit.
Whiles ye'll hit:
Try't again, man-
TAMMAS ELDER, worthy chiel,
Kent by a', respeckit weel,
Throu the week-days cobbl't shuin,
But on Sundays raised the tune
In the auld Kirk o Dalbraith.
An I'se wadger, on guid faith,
Siccan a by-ordnar scene
Ne'er afore, nor syne, haes been,
Like what happen't, true as true,
Tho it's mony a year past noo;
Ae time, whan oor Doctor Graham
Was obleeged to be frae hame,
Preachin for a freen', I'se warrant,
Ower the kintra, at Glenfarnt.
Some lang, lanky student chap
Cam that day to fill the gap;
Teuk the poupit, gleg an caum,
Giein oot the Hunder Psaum.
Tammas raise wi liftit fork,
'tween his teeth he made it jork,
Set it on the desk to bum,
Answer't it wi canny hum,
Catchin, gin he could, the key
Wantit for the melodie.
Then he stertit, clear an fair,
Wi the auld fameeliar air;
But, afore the saicont line,
Whaur the kirk-folks thocht to jine,
Something-I'm nae haun at sang-
Something gaed a kennin wrang.
Tammas fumml't, stammerin,
Miss't a wird, an lost the tune;
Hanker't, for a meenit mair,
Ower anither note, an there
Stoppit, flabbergastit clean;
Man, ye could hae heard, I ween,
Dingle o a fa'in preen!
Tammas, tho, was nane put-oot;
Hoastit, leukit roon' aboot:-
"Freen's," says he, "I'm aff't, it's true;
Tak yer time, we'll stert anew."
Syne he gart his fork play dunt
On the desk that stude in front;
Ance again he clear't his throat,
Strauchtit up, an hummed the note;
Aff he set, as richt's could be,
Glint o triumph in his ee;
Folks amang the pews jined in,
Liltin at the graun' auld tune,
Whilk, to me, the lave oot-shines:-
A' gaed weel the first fower lines.
Whether 'twas his wun ran scarce
Ower the effort o that verse
Eftir what haed jist befel,
'Deed! I canna richtly tell;
Mibbie the success haed been
Glamour to Tam Elder's een,
That he couldna see, or think,
What was richt aheid a blink;
Nocht I ken, I maun confess,
Sae we'll leave't at that, a guess.
This, hooever, was the fack,
At the saicont verse's tack
Tam got aff Auld Hunder's track;
Missin, somehoo, I micht say,
What it was he meant to dae;
Struck a common metre tune,
Whaur the lines wad nane clink in-
"French," "Kilmarnock," or "Coleshill,"
(O the maisie I've nae skill
As I've said) I canna tell;
Haith, an mibbie Tam himsel
Didna ken; at ony rate,
Here was pliskie desperate.
Maist o folks, the kirk oot-ower,
Stude dumfoondit, at the glower;
Twa-three, wi the singin grup,
Tried to keep Auld Hunder up;
But they drappit to a whine
Warslin wi the saicont line.
As for Tammas-peety me!
Tammas was a sicht to see:
Hoo his chafts gaed oot an in
Strugglin wi the wrang-gaun tune,
Souchin, as tho suppin curds,
Tryin to eke oot the wirds.
Dourest o the dour was he,
Yieldin wisna in his ee;
But it wadna-e'en at that-
Dae ava: at last he quat.
Thinkna that he teuk his sate
Awnin up to black defeat:
Na, na! Straucht's a hey-cairt tram,
There he stude - for that was Tam!
"Freen's," says he again - deid-caum -
"We maun sing this Hunder Psaum;
Weel ye ken the proverb fit:-
'Aften ettle, whiles ye'll hit';
Failure here or there's nae crime,
Gin we maun't anither time;
I'm no ane to coort despair,
Sae we'll till't, an try't ance mair;
For, upon this day o days,
As the Haly Beuk here says,
We maun lift to God oor praise."
No a wheesht gaed throu the kirk,
No a snigger, no a smirk;
No a man or wumman there,
No a bairn wi gowden hair,
But kent Tammas for the pairt
That was guid within his hairt,
An they waitit, dowie noo,
Prayin, Tam wad yet win throu.
For mysel (altho, mibbie,
This anticipates awee)
Hoo the student preach't that day,
What he said, or didna say,
No ae jot can I reca',
Naither sermon, text, ava;
But, Tam's sermon, that he spak,
Ilka syllable comes back;
For it rang wi solemn braith
Throu the glen-kirk o Dalbraith.
Tam was servin Ane Abuin,
Fechtin wi that auld Psaum-tune.
Ay, I'll mind o't a' my days,
Hoo he airtit at God's praise,
Hoo he hallow't sic a scene,
Hoo the draps cam to oor een;
Mind o't! Lang's I gang in socks!
Tam's wirds frae the singer's box.
But I've daunner't frae my scheme;
Here's the rest, then, o my theme.
Ance again Tam showed his pluck,
Ance again the fork he struck,
Ance again he stertit - "A'
People That on earth do dwall:"
No a quiver in his voice-
"Come before Him an rejoice:"
No a hanker in his wirds-
Man, the folks sang oot like birds;
Here an there, a' teuk their pairts,
Glaff o Heeven haed flamed their hairts;
Verse by verse they follow't throu,
Swallin looder, blythe an true;
Tam's ain thocht haed gruppit a',
Frae sic praise they couldna fa';
In His ain Hoose, God was near,
An they sang for Him to hear:
"Why? the Lord oor God is guid;
His wird at a' times haes stude;
Mercy aye, an mercy shuir,
Ages lang, for evermair."
Tam sat doon wi beamin face:
A' haed kent the touch o grace.
Mony wushed that Doctor Graham
Should hae been that day at hame:
Eh! he wad hae been uplift,
Roosed in speerit to the tift,
Preachin o the gospel baum,
Gin he'd heard that Hunder Psaum.
Sirss! but time flees quick awa:
That was auchteen-fifty-twa.
Saxty years, an mair, are gane-
Tammas, langsyne, haes been taen
To his rest; an geyan few
O the auld folks leevin noo;
But gin ye should fin' the track
To Dalbraith, get on the crack
Wi some bodies o langsyne-
O, they'll mind o Tammas fine:
"Weel-I-wat!" they'll crousely craw,
"Hoo could we forget ava:
Roon' the pairish, far an near,
Ilka ane aye named that year
No by auchteen-fifty-twa,
No the year o frost an snaw,
No the year o fell mishaps,
No the year o stuntit craps;
But they telt ye, in a trice,
Wi the ower-wird maist precyse
Year o Tam's Auld Hunder Thrice!
An that proverb held its claim,
Eftir saxty years the same,
Tackit to Tam Elder's name-
Whiles ye'll hit:
Try't again, man-
WASHIN AN PENTIN CRAWS AN FUILS
A craw's nane the whiter for bein washed.
A fuil's nae less a fuil for his finery.
O, a black craw's nane the whiter
For a dook in saipy suds;
An a feckless fuil's nae better
Tho he's buskit in braw duds.
For ye canna change the naitur
By some easy-gangin plan,
That wad snod an sort the ootside-
Be it aither bird or man-
An suppose that, throu yer ferlie,
Ye haed managed, trig an fell,
To mak this ane, or the ither,
Ony ither than himsel.
Ye micht pent a craw in colours,
Yellow, reid, or skyey-blue,
But as suin's yer brush is drappit
Wadna this be haudin true?
That the unco-leukin craitur
Haedna lost itsel ava,
An, for a' yer fancy jobbin,
Still was naething but a craw.
An a fule - gie him a pailace,
Or a castle on a knowe;
Set him doon amang the gentry;
Clap a coronet on his pow;
Cram his pooches fou o siller;
Send the flunkeys to his tail;
O the braws o a' the kintra
Let the body hae his wale;
Keep him dinkit oot in fluffles,
Like a peacock on the splore;
Gie him a' the whigmaleeries-
Gie him a' thing in galore;
Pent him up in yellow splatches,
Like the craw itsel-but, still,
In the name o common-sense, man,
What's the guid, gif he's a fule?
Gif he's that, aneth his coronet,
Ye mey dress him a' ye can;
But there's ae think that ye'll fail in-
Him ye'll never mak-a man!
For a feckless fule's nae ither,
Tho he's cled in finest duds;
An a craw's a craw, whan a's duin,
Tho it's wash't in saipy suds.
A Tummle to be Expeckit
Pride gangs afore destruction;
An an hauchty spirit afore a fa'.
--Beuk o Proverbs, xvi. 18.
O DINNA haud yer heid ower heich,
As tho ye'd crack wi nane;
Afore ye ken, yer taes mey tak
The edge o some lowse stane;
An, whummlin doon amang the glaur,
Ye'll gang wi unco soss,
Till a' yer bonnie fal-de-rals
Hae pairtit wi their gloss.
Ye needna be sae blawn wi pride,
Or daidle on sae croose;
Ye'll want some neibour-body noo
To tak ye ben the hoose;
An gie yer braw new silken goon
Fou carefully a dicht,
An sort ye a', an tosh ye up,
An snod, an set ye richt.
An, certes! wi a kindly haun,
She'll dae't-no grudge't ava;
But a' the same, she'll no be vex't
That ye got that bit fa'.
As suin's ye're aff, she'll rin next door,
An cry to Luckie Steel,
"I wish ye'd seen that prinkit wife-
An, 'deed, it served her weel!
"She trippit on the road oot-by,
An nearly brak her nose;
Her claes, perjink, wi clarty marks
Hae got an unco dose.
"She'll mibbie no be jist sae big
The next time that we meet:
Her een's aye rakin mang the cluds;
She canna see her feet.
"She'd like to think that a' the toon
Aboot her grande'r tell,
An that we tak her at the hicht
She fain wad tak hersel.
"My wird! she's wrang-jist silly prood!
An that's aboot it a':
I'm gled that Solomon was richt,
An that she got the fa'!"
THE KENSPECKLE TRAP
A' for naething is the net spreid in the sicht o ony bird.
--Beuk o Proverbs, i. I7.
D'YE think it wad be Solomon
That gied us thir bit wirds,
Aboot the fuilish fash o nets
Set oot in sicht o birds?
An thocht that nane wad seek the girn,
Or ony siccan thing,
Gif onywhaur aroon' the trap
They saw a twist o string?
For ilka laddie at the schuil,
I wat, could brawly tell
Regairdin sparrows that he's taen-
An fegs! I've duin't mysel.
In nae a hiddlin wey ava,
Wi nae net oot o 'sicht;
But jist a riddle an a stick
Set up in braid daylicht.
An in they gaed: the sparrow first,
The shilfa, an tom-tit,
The mavis, blackbird, robin, tae,
A' keen to grab their bit;
An fechtin, mang themsels, for crumbs,
Whan, plunk! I drew the string:
The riddle drappit or a bird
Haed time to flaff a wing.
An hear to this! It's nae guess-wark-
I tell ye what I ken:
It's no jist birds that tak the girn,
But even leevin men.
The danger's there; temptation's plain;
It's nae hauf-hidden sin;
But aye they diddle roon' aboot,
An aye it lures them in.
They canna say they dinna see't;
They canna blame daylicht;
They're weel-eneuch awaur it's wrang-
The net's spreid in their sicht.
Yet in they gang, wi open een,
An, or it's lang, they're doon;
The riddle's clappit wi a clash,
An ploppit on their croon!
* * *
I dout it wisna Solomon
That gied us thir bit wirds,
For mony an open net, I'se warrant,
Haes trap't baith men an birds.
THE SHEARER AN HIS HEUK
An ill shearer never got a guid heuk.
HE blamed the heuk; he ca't it a' the names;
He claiver't on its fauts, first this, then that;
'Twas thowless stuff! It wadna tak an edge,
Altho he sherpit at it till he swat;
The haunle was a wild misshuppen thing;
It didna fit his richt-haun grup ava;
Sic bend o blade he ne'er haed seen afore;
The settin o't, if ocht, was warst o a'.
Nae mortal man could kemp to clean the rig,
Upsides wi ithers, throu the hairst-time thrang,
Whan, wi the best o will to dae his best,
He wrocht a dorty heuk, that aye gaed wrang.
The fermer, at the heid-rig, heard again
This waesome grummie: - "Hey, man, Ned," says he,
"Swap heuks wi Wull Dalgleish; an that should help
To keep ye gangin birlin for awee."
At least it shut his gab, an dang him quait;
The shearin sped fou briskly for a spell;
Till Ned, the silly gawkie, challenged Wull
To pass his verdict on "that heuk" himsel.
"O ho!" says Wull, "ye're there again, man, Ned;
I trow that ye're a doited, driddlin loon,
That disna ken a guid tool frae an ill,
Altho aneth yer een it's stappit doon.
"I haena haed a better heuk in haun
For a' the hairsts I've fee'd at Falla-sorn,
Than jist that ane ye swappit-swierin aye
It was the warst ye ever put to corn.
"I gied it a bit kittle wi the stane,
An, man, it teuk an edge to cut yer braith;
I'se wad, I gart the lifters streek their stumps,
An yerk it, as I swankit doon the swaith.
"Na, na! man, Ned; the heuk's a' richt an ticht;
The thing that's wrang is, somewhaur, wi yersel;
Ye aither want the will, or want the wit
To mak it yoke the shearin, sweet an fell.
"It's aye the wey-the man that's dreich, or slack,
Or, aiblins, disna ken the workin rules,
Is shuir to be the first to blatter oot
A great fraca, an, aff-haun, blame his tools.
"But, na! the blame's yer ain; tak ye the wyte;
Awa an stap yer heid ahint a stook,
An turn the auld saw ower anither time-
'A feckless shearer aye gets feckless heuk.'
TAKKIN A DOUG BY THE LUGS
Him that passes by,
An sticks his neb whaur it disna belang,
Is like a body that taks a dug bi the ears.
--Beuk o Proverbs, xxvii. 17.
I'VE nae dout the wyse man haed tried it,
An that's hoo he kent it sae weel:-
His neibours, ae day, were contendin;
He heard them gaun on like the deil.
He heard the stramash in the by-gaun,
An, 'deed, 'twad been best for himsel,
Gin only he'd keepit the causey,
An left them to feenish't themsel.
But frichtit to think o the endin
O siccan a tulzie an din,
The sneck o the door he jist liftit,
An richt to the fluir-heid gaed in.
He tried what he could to be stoppin
Their fechtins, an tuggins, an rugs;
But, meddlin wi ither folks' rippets,
He fand he'd a doug by the lugs.
Ye ken the predicament that is-
Or, thankfu ye should be, gif no-
For, noo that he haed got a grup o't,
He didna ken hoo to lat gae.
The same wi the squabble he'd enter't,
Sae deivesome, an bitter, an grim;
They stoppit their fury amang hauns,
But only to turn't upon him.
They rived, an they rampit, an stampit,
An ca'd him for a' that was bad;
Nor could he win oot ower the doorstep
Withoot gettin shares in a daud.
At last, whan their anger he jinkit,
An drew a guid braith o fresh air,
He step't to the croon o the causey,
An plainly was heard to declare:
He never again wad be meddlin,
Tho neibours should quarrel like thugs;
For ane, he could say, he haed plenty
O gruppin a doug by the lugs.
Sic wisdom he bocht by experience-
The best kind to hae, ye'll admit;
An doon in this proverb he set it,
To coonsel ilk ane it micht fit.
An noo, should ye care to tak stock o't,
Lat ither folks rowdy an cry,
But, gin ye hear ocht in the by-gaun,
Hae mind o the hint, an gang by!
WAIT AN SEE
Dinna forecast till ye ken: till ye ken, wait an see.
A GUID, but cranky freen' o mine,
Whas name was Dan M'nee,
Teuk thocht that providence haed waled
On him, by graun' decree,
To be a prophet-naething less!-
To tell his leevin lane
What wather fermer-folks micht get
Next week, or next again.
Dan undertook the job wi hairt
As licht's a bum-bee's wing;
Nae dout he was the very man
To tackle sic a thing.
Wha kent, as he kent, what was what
By ilka driftin clud?
By ilka souch or screich o wun
That wauken't Shawburn Wud?
An wha, like him, could read the signs
O rings aboot the muin,
Or tell what for the corbie-craws
Were makin sic a din?
An, straucht aff-luif, could he no say-
An say it to be richt-
At sax o morn what wather-hap
Wad be by sax at nicht?
Ay! guid or bad, or shine or rain,
He'd tell ye withoot fail,
Gin he but saw the weegle-wag
O ony wagtail's tail.
Aweel, aweel! The hairst cam on,
An Dan himsel was fee'd
To stook on Geordie Gibson's ferm
Ower-by at Miltonheid.
The hairst was suin, the crap graun' wecht,
The simmer at its best,
An a'body weel pleased but Dan-
An Dan got sair distress't.
"Within a month," he warned them a',
"The wather 'll brak doon;
I saw the signs yestreen-the muin
Was aiblins aff the roon'.
"An gin the crap's no aff the grun'
In twa weeks' time, or sae,
Ye'll loss the hauf o't, ay, an mair,
An, faith, ye'll rue the day."
Puir Dan! his great prophetic airt
Was heedit no ae grain;
An hale sax weeks an odds gaed by
Withoot a drap o rain.
But no ae day was miss't, ye'll guess,
By lad, or lass, or man,
In castin joke, or sneist, or lauch
At "oor ain prophet, Dan."
He teuk it a' in humour guid,
An even-sae they tell-
He sometimes, whan the fun was lood,
Jined in the lauch himsel.
An lang afore the rain cam on
The crap was safe an soon';
An wi the last sheaf in his haun,
The fermer turn't him roon';
An says, "Noo, lads, that's guid wark duin:
But whaur's oor freen' M'Nee?
What wather's gaun to be the morn?"
Says Dan, "We'll wait an see."
"Ay, ay! that's best; a wyse-like rule,
By whilk wyse folk mey gang,
An lat it rain, or lat it shine,
They canna, then, be wrang.
"Tak that gate, aye, I say, my freen',
An dinna be sae shuir:
Mibbie ye are a prophet's son-
A wee thing less, or mair;
"But mair or less, it's risky wark
To say what's gaun to be,
An, gif ye're wyse, ye'll steek yer gab
As suin's ye've said, 'we'll see.'"
Ye'll ne'er tine ocht by daein a guid turn.
NA! ye wadna ken auld Jenny-
Jenny Willocks was her name:
Weel, awa back 'mang the saxties,
There she stey't next-door my hame.
Jenny's biggin was a sma' ane,
Jist a cosie but-an-ben,
Staun'in straucht fornent the play-grun'
O the bairns, at the toon-en'.
But, I'se wad, in a' yer life-time-
An I'm speakin nane ower big-
That ye never passed the door-cheek
O a hoose mair snod an trig.
Jenny's man haed been a bailiff
On the laun's o Corrievent;
An the laird gied her a pension,
An socht naething for her rent.
Sae, her awmries werena scrimpit,
An her wallet wisna lean:
Gin ye crackit wi her neibours,
"Losh!" they said, " the body's bien."
Weel, aweel! I trow maist likely
That they werena far frae richt;
But I've something else to tell ye,
Lass, afore we say Guid-nicht.
Ye'll hae kent, nae dout, a hantle,
Wha haed routh o this warld's gear;
Wha haed gowd come trowin till them
In a humplock ilka year;
Wha haed mair than Jenny Willocks
Ever dream't that she micht see;
Wha haed ten times mair than Jenny
Ever thocht sic walth could be;
But they kent-na hoo to pairt wi't:
Na! they ne'er haed ocht to spare;
An the mair o't that they gruppit
Aye they wantit mair an mair.
Baith their hairt an pooch they steekit
'gainst their nearest neibour's need:
Oot their walth they could gie naething,
For their cauldrife, glaumin greed.
Ay! ye say ye've kent o sic-like:
Sae, I daursay, hae we a';
But, effeirin till auld Jenny,
She was nocht like that ava.
Tho she haedna feck o fortune-
Jist a bittock 'buin the scant-
Baith her pooch an hairt were open,
Gleg ower onything like want:
Gin she heard o ony neibour
On the edge o bein bare,
She was yont afore the gloamin
Wi a something she could spare:
She was there wi tea an sugar;
Wi a hauf-croon to get breid:
"An ye'll tell me," she says kindly,
"Gif there's ocht else ye micht need."
An she made nae sang aboot it:
Ne'er a ane heard Jenny say
Wird o mooth anent the thochtfu,
Couthie actions she wad dae.
But, I'se wadger, they were mony;
Mony blessin's on her name-
Mair than she hersel heard tell o-
Raise frae this an that bit hame.
Dowie hairts, an lives forjeskit
By the trauchle an the sair,
Kent her blythesome, halesome helpin,
An her tentie, loesome care.
Darksome days the wumman brichten't:
Days o lanesomeness an fear
Got the gliff o Jenny's kindness,
Got the blink o Jenny's cheer.
She was "Guid auld Jenny Willocks"
Throu the crack o ane an a':-
Noo it's mony, mony years syne,
Since auld Jenny slipp't awa.
But I mind - Eh, me! my lassie-
I was then a lass mysel,
At the schuil, wi that soor craitur,
Crabbit Dominie Dalzell.
Fegs! we could hae thrawn his thrapple,
Or we could hae clour't his heid:-
But hoot-toot! - I'm aff my story,
An I'm like to loss the threid.
But tak tent! Ae day at play-time,
We haed quat oor playin splore,
An haed airtit ower by Jenny,
At the cheek o Jenny's door.
She was smilin, an the licht o't
Glintit a' athort her face:
"Ye're a hantle o braw lassies,
Ye're a credit to the place.
"An," quo she, "nae dout yer mithers
Think the very same, I ween,
Whan they see the glisk o simmer
Dancin in yer bonnie een.
"An ye've a' yer life foment ye-
A' the comin, unkent years;
A' their uncos o experience;
A' their houps, an a' their fears:
"An I wonner what ye'll mak o't-
Mak o this graun' gift o life?
Wad ye herken till the coonsel
O an auld an thowless wife?
"Jenny kens - I'm mair than auchty-
But I ance was young like ye;
An I wadna be for tellin
Ocht that's onything but true.
"Haud ye yont the straucht-gaun airtins;
Keep yer gangins in the licht;
Swee the thochts, that ye'll be thinkin,
By the pure an by the richt.
"Dinna lippen yersels muckle;
Mak yer tryst wi Him abuin,
An He'll bield ye a' fou brawlie,
Till, like me, yer days are duin.
"Dinna think, as thocht by mony,
That, ower a' thing, gear excels;
Dinna dream that ye'll be happy,
Gin ye leeve to please yersels.
"Leeve for ithers, for yer neibours;
Leeve for kindness, I wad say;
An for ilka bit o service
Oot o love, that ye can dae.
"Leeve to bring a glint o sunshine
Intil hairts whaur it's some scant,
An the glint o that same glorie
In yer ain ye'll never want.
"Tak ye that frae Jenny Willocks:
Set it ben in-by yer hairt:
Gang yer weys, my bonnie lassies:
Leeve a braw, unselfish pairt;
"An ye'll ken the heichest blessin,
For,"-quo she, jist whaur she stude-
"For ye'll never line a bodle
By a turn at daein guid."