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Scots Language
Poetry and Prose Quotes

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A Taste of the Scots Language from the 13th Century to Present Day

Robert Burns, the skeilie Makkar wi his fiddler's lug, addit wirds ti tunes whilk hae passit doun owre the hindmaist twa hunner yeir. He tuik auld sangs an gied thame noo lyfe - he tuik auld tunes an gied thame wirds.

He gied sang efter sang ti George Thomson an James Johnson fir thair respecktive Scottish sang collecktions an deil a haet did he tak fir this darg; he saw it as a servyce ti his cauf-kintra -

'That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
Some useful plan or book could make
Or sing a sang at least..........'

- weill he did mairnor sing ae sang. He sang nearhaun fower hunner.

Burns throu his poems an sangs, his monie skreeds ti aw ranks o societie, gied ti futur kithends a mukkil rich hairst. A hairst at, thank guidness, we kin aw enjoy the day.

Gin the day evir daws whan a kithend o Scots dinna haud Robert Burns i the heichmaist staunan - at Scotland wullna be warth a docken.

Fir Robert Burns is abune thaim aw Deed ay, a Toast ti Robert Burns is a Toast ti our auld respeckit Mither - Scotland herlane.

frae 'The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns' - Peter D Wright, given at Peebles Burns Club in the Tontine Hotel, Peebles, on Saturday 25 January 2003.

Weel, folks! Efter a gey lot o' priggin' frae a' the airts for these sangs, I hae pairted wi' them tae the Publishers. Nae doot a lot o' ye will enjoy singin' them, an' I hope, for mony a lang day tae come, ye will get some o' the pleesure that I hae gotten wi' them mysel'.

We are a' hame ower kin' o' folk in the Nor' East o' Scotland, and we like oor ain hame ower sangs. Some o' ye may dirl yer heels on the corn kist when ye sing them, bit whether in the stable or the parlour, aye dae yer best tae spread pleesure tae ithers. There's naethin' cheers the he'rt better when ye're in dumps than a guid he'rty Cornkister! It's the kin' o medicine that cures maist o' oor ills, and faith, we sometimes need a lot!

Fine feathers mak' fine birds, but faith, ye ken the peacock is nae a very bonnie singer! Likewise, the "BOTHY BALLADS" may nae be classics, but dash't ye ken, there's somethin' aboot them that speaks o' hame, and the countryside.

Whar'iver the buikie may gyang, may guid luck ging wi' it, and even tho' ye canna sing, ye can aye dunt yer feet!

                Foreword - Willie Kemp (The 'Cornkister') to ' Kerr's "Cornkisters" (Bothy Ballads) As Sang and Recorded by Willie Kemp" - Aberdeen 1950.

                        Nieve-neivie-nick-nack,
                        Whit haun wull ye tak?
                        Tak the richt or tak the wrang,
                        A'll beguile ye gin A can.

                            - This is a rhyme spoken in a guessing game, in which the reciter clinches his/her hands and invites his/her opponent to guess in which of the hands an article is hidden.

    18. And walking by the Loch o' Galilee, he saw twa brithers, Simon (ca'd Peter), and Andro his brither, castin aboot a net i' the Loch, for they war fisher-folk.
    19. And quo' he to them, "Follow ye me ! and I'se mak ye fishers o' men !"
    20. And they, withoot ado, left the nets, and gaed eftir him.
 
    21. And gangin forrit tharawa, he saw ither twa brithers, James, son o' Zebedee, and his brither John, in a smack wi' Zebedee their faither, workin on their nets : and he bad them "Come !"
    22. And they, forsakin the boat, and their faither, gaed eftir him.
    23. And Jesus gaed ower a' Galilee, instructin i' their kirks, and giean forth the Blythe-Message o' the Kingdom, and healin a' diseases, and a' infirmities amang the folk.
    24. And the sough o' him gard oot intil a' Syria : and they fesh't till him a' wha war ill wi' a' diseases and pains, and thae possess't wi' demons, and dementit, and that had a stroke : and he healed them.
    25. And unco thrangs follow't him - frae Galilee, and the Ten cities, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and ayont the Jordan.

                        Matthew Chaiptir Fower, Verses 18-25 frae ' The Four Gospels in Braid Scots' - Rev William W Smith

                        But gin ye be a brig as auld as me,
                        Though faith, that date I doubt ye'll never see;
                        There'll be, if days come, I'll wad a bodle,
                        Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle.

                                    frae 'The Twa Brigs' - Robert Burns

                        A wee drappy dram that's weel sweetened and nappy,
                        Wi' a pipe o' tobacco to pass the time happy;
                        A reekin' hot pye, and a bicker o' ale,
                        And weel-butter'd haddocks ca'd capons o' Crail;
                        In rich ingan sauce, Scotch collops weel fried;
                        Gude beef and greens wi' mustard supplied;
                        Partans and lobsters, and whitings a score,
                        Invite to the fireside o' gude Mary More.
                        Then helter-skelter the punch flies around,
                        And such as other liquors as here may be found:
                        Deel care though they a' should fill themselves fou,
                        It's aften the case, and naething that's new.

                                frae 'A Macaronic' - Tom Dishington, Late Clerk of Crail (1824) 

                        O Freedom! you're muckle deservin'
                        A' the sangs that are sung in your praise,
                        An' me, ye've been servin' an' servin'
                        A' the blythest an best o' my days;
                        But we ne'er prize our pleasures eneuch
                        Till we see that frae us they are torn
                        Sae I'm singin' o' freedom the nicht,
                        For I'm to be married the morn.
 

                                frae 'Married the Morn' - Edward Polin (1816-1843)

FREDOME
Read by Marilyn Wright

                                                    A! Fredome is ane nobil thing!
                                                    Fredome makis man to have liking,
                                                    Fredome all solace to man givis:
                                                    He lives at ease that frely livis!
                                                    A nobil hart may have nane ease,
                                                    Na ellis nocht that may him please,
                                                    Gif fredome failye; for fre liking
                                                    Is yarnit owre all other thing.

frae 'The Brus' - John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen (c1320-1395)

    1. And sae it cam to pass, that whan Jesus had made an end o' thae sayins, he said till his disciples

    2. "Ye ken that twa days mair, and the Pasche comes ; and the Son o' Man is deliver't up to be crucify't."

    3. Than forgather't the Heid-priests and the Elders o' the nation intil the palace o' the Heigh-priest - the ane ca'd Caiaphas.

    4. And coonsell't thegither that they micht tak Jesus hidlins, and slay him.

    5. "But," quo' they, "no at the Feast-time ; or thar wad be a stramash amang the people."

    6. Noo, whan Jesus was in Bethanie, i' the hoose o' Simon the leper,

    7. Thar cam till him a wummam wi' an alabaster box o' unco precious perfume ; and she teemed it on his heid as he was at meat.

    8. And the disciples, seein it, war put aboot, and quo' they "For what is siccan a wastrie ?

    9. "For this micht hae been sell't for muckle, and gien to the puir."

   10. But Jesus takin tent, says to them, "Why fash ye the wumman? For a wark that is bonnie has she wrocht on me.

   11. "For ye aye hae the puir w'ye ; but ye hae-na me aye !

   12. "For she, strinklin this perfume on my heid, did it for my burial.

   13. "Truely say I t'ye, Whaursoe'er thir Gude-tidins sal be made kent i' the hail warld, this too o' what she has dune sal be tell't for a memorial o' her. 

   Matthew Chaiptir Twintie-Sax, verses 1 - 13 frae 'The Four Gospels in Braid Scots' - Rev William W Smith

    1, And at the hinner-end o' the Sabbath, as it begude to break to the first day o' the week, cam Mary the Magdalene, and the ither Mary, to see the tomb.

    2. And see ! a great yirdin ! for an Angel o' the Lord cam doon frae Heeven and cam and row't awa the stane, and sat on't.

    3. To look at him he was like the fire-flaught, and his cleedin was white as the snaw ;

    4. And, cuisten doon afore him, the gaird did trimmle, and war as deid men.

    5. But the angel, speaking to the weemen said, " Be-na ye fley't ! For I ken ye are seekin Jesus, the crucify't.

    6. " He isna here ! for he is risen, e'en as he said ! Come, see the bit whaur the Lord was lyin.

    7. " And gae quickly, and say ye till his disciples, " He is risen frae the deid ! And mark ! he gangs afore ye intil Galilee. Thar sal ye see him. See  ! I hae tell't ye ! "

    8. And quickly lea'in the tomb, in muckle fear and muckle joy, they ran to tak word to the disciples.

    9. And look ! Jesus met them, and says, " All hail ! " And they cam forrit, and grippit him by the feet, and worshipp't him.

   10. Than says Jesus to them, " Fear-na ! But gae tell my brethern, sae as they may gang intil Galilee ; thar sal they see me.

   11. Noo, e'en while they war gaun, some o' the gaird cam intil the citie, and tell't to the Heid-priests a' that had been dune.

   12. And whan they had foregather't wi' the Elders, and coonsell't thegither, they gied a rowth o' siller to the sodgers ;

   13. And quo' they, " Say ye, ' His disciples cam in the nicht, and slippit awa wi' him whan we war sleepin. '

   14. " And aiblins gin this come afore the Governor, we wull cajole him, and mak it siccar for ye ! "

   15. Sae they liftit the siller, and did as they war tell't ; and this tale was spread abreid amang the Jews - ay, e'en to this day.

   16. And the eleeven disciples gaed awa intil Galilee, to a mountain whaur Jesus had trystit them.

    17. And, seein him, they adored him ; hoobeit, some swither't.

    18. And Jesus, drawin nar, spak to them, sayin, " Thar has been gien to me a' pooer in Heeven, and on yirth !

    19. " Gang ye tharfor, and mak ye disciples o' a' the nations, bapteezin them intil the name o' the Faither, and o' the Son, and o' the Holie Spirit ;

    20. " Schawin them hoo till observe a' things, e'en as mony as I hae commandit ye. And tent ye ! I am wi' ye a' the days; e'en till a' time ! "  

    Matthew Chaiptir Twintie- Aucht frae 'The Four Gospels in Braid Scots' - Rev William W Smith   

            Bonnie Chairlie's nou awa,
            Safely owre the friendly main;
            Monie a hert will brek in twa,
            Should he ne'er come back again.
 

                frae 'Will ye no come back again?' - Lady Nairne

                He was a gash and faithfu' tyke
                As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.
                His honest, sonsie, bawsent face
                Aye gat him friends in ilka place.
 

                    frae 'The Two Dogs' - Robert Burns

'Robbie's nae makin' muckle o' the Little Mains.' In their pause their sorrow was palpable.
'No, he's nae that, puir chiel.'
'Puir grun, ye ken.'
'Coorse grun, richt enyeuch.'
'He's weel ben at the bank, they say.'
'Ay, likely so ... he took her, they say, wi' little enyeuch siller.'

            frae 'The Cotter's Bairn' - David Kerr Cameron

The supper owre, Brand redds up for the nicht.
Aiblins there's a schedule for to price
Or something nice
On at the picters - secont hoose -
Or some poleetical meetin wants his licht,
Or aiblins, wi him t-total aa his life
And no able to seek a pub for relief frae the wife,
Daunders oot the West Sands "on the loose".
Whitever tis,
The waater slorps frae his elbuck as he synds his phiz.
And this is aa the life he kens there is?
 

            frae 'Brand The Builder' - Tom Scott

    1. "Tak tent no to do yere gude warks i' the sicht o' men, that ye may be seen by them; else hae ye tint reward frae yere Faither wha is in Heeven.

    2. "Whan, than, ye wad do a gude wark, dinna hae a bugle-horn soondit afore ye, as the pretenders div in kirks and merkits, that they may be roosed o' men. Truly say I t'ye, they hae gotten a' their reward!"

    3. "But whan ye wad do a gude wark, lat yere left haun no jalouse what yere richt haun is thrang wi' !

    4. "That yere gude warks may be dune hidlins; and yere Faither wha sees i' the hidlin place, sal his ain sel reward ye.

    5. "And whane'er ye pray be-na as the pretenders; for weel they like to pray i' the kirks, and at the corners o' the braid causeys, sae as folk soud see them. Ay, ay ! say I; they hae gotten their reward! 

    6. "But ye, whan ye wad pray, gang intil yere bower; and, steekin yere door, pray till yere Faither wha is i' the hidlin place; and yere Faither, wha sees i' the hidlin place, sal his ain sel reward ye!

    7. "And in yere prayin, rhyme-na things ower and ower, incontinent, like the heather-folk: for they trow gin that they speak eneuvh, they sal be heard.

    8. "Come-na than to be like tae them; for yere Faither kens weel a' yere needs, e'en afore ye ask him.

    9. "And sae pray ye ; 'Faither o' us a', bidin Aboon ! Thy name be holie !

    10. " 'Lat thy reign begin ! Lat thy wull be dune, on the Yirth as in Heeven !

    11. " 'Gie as ilka day oor needfu' fendin.

    12. " 'And forgie us a' oor ill deeds, as we e'er forgae thae wha did us ill :

    13. " ' And lat us no be sifit; but save us frae the Ill-Ane ! For the croon is thine ain, and the micht and the glorie, for evir and evir, Amen !'

    Matthew Chaiptir Sax verses 1 - 13 frae ' The Four Gospels in Braid Scots' - Rev William A Smith

Here's tae ye aw yir days,
Plenty meat an plenty claes;
Plenty parritch an a horn spune,
An anither tattie whan aws dune.
    - Traditional Scots Toast

Eh, ma citie o rauchle sang,
ma braid stane citie wi dwaums o steel.
Eh, ma Glesca, ma mither o revolt,
dauran the wunds o time in a raggit shawl.
Eh, ma hanselt hinnie wi scaurs o war,
ma twalmonth lassock, ma carlin ages auld.
 

        frae 'A Glesca Rhapsodie' - John Kincaid

            In smeddum strang our sons hae gane
            tae fremmit lands tae staun alane
            wi Scotia's boast in ilka vien
               man maun aye be free;
            It maitters nocht whaure'er we bide,
            in Scotland's tryst we aye confide,
            lat Freedom rush like awesome tide,
               Lat us dae - no dee.
 

                frae 'Anthem for Mankind : Postscript to Scots Wha Hae' - James S Adam (1907-2003)

Folk wha tine their mither tongue are on the richt gate tae tine their sowls, an I am wae for Scotland. No that lang syne her folk spak their ain leid, the bonnie Lallans. Ance they kent weel the screivit wurd o thair ain makars ; o Barbour an Henryson an Blin Harry an Dunbar an a' the ithers. But speir noo gin ye wull at the laddies or lasses skailin frae the yetts o near ony Scots skuil ye like tae wale, speir wha wis Thomas o Erceldoune or Gawin Douglas or Andrew o Wynton ; speir gin they ken wha wrote 'Annie Laurie' or gin they can recite but ae verse o 'Auld Lang Syne.'  Juist speir, thats a'.

Ay, the auld leid is geyan near tint. Folk ettle tae knap suddron noo, an whats mair, I ken o skuils in this Scotland o oors whaur littleanes get licks gin they're hard speak the mither tongue. Its waesum ist no ?

Whan I was a bit laddock the guid folk on ilka side o the Ochil Hills, an in Stirlingshire, the Kingdom o Fife an aiblins intill Angus as weel, spak nearhan the same Lallans, an it cam tae me a whilie syne that I'd as weel write doon the wurds I minded or it was owre late. Syne I thocht it micht be a guid ploy tae spell the wurds as the folk spak them ; an at the hinner en I thocht tae mak an English-Scottish dictionary o the words I'd waled, for, said I, its no the Scots words brocht tae English that maist folk'll be needin but English words brocht tae Scots. It was a fashious kin o a job but here it is, an a' I seek is that the reader wha kens na the auld tongue, sall tak tent tae the list o vowel an consonant sounds afore he lippens his-sel tae the spoken word.

I'll lea ye till't noo an aiblins ance ye get the sough o the auld leid, ye'll loe it as I loe it, an ye'll be seekin a rale dictionary then. Ye'll speir aboot the Scottish National Dictionary. It wull be ready or lang.

            Introduction to 'Lallans - A Selection of Scots Words arranged as an English-Scottish Dictionary (1947)' - James Nicol Jarvie. The Scottish National Dictionar is nou available.

For we ha'e faith in Scotland's hidden poo'ers,
The present's theirs, but a' the past and future's oors.
 

        frae 'Gairmscoile' - Hugh MacDiarmid

    1. "For the Kingdom o' Heeven is like till a man, a laird, wha gaed oot i' the dawin, to hire workers intil his vine-yaird.

    2. "And whan he had 'gree't wi' the laborers for a hauf-merk a day, he sent them intil his vine-yaird.

    3. "And he gaed oot aboot the chap o' nine, and saw ither anes staunin idle i' the merkit.

    4. "And quo' he to them, ' Gang ye as weel intil the vine-yaird, and whate'er is richt, ye sall hae !' And they gaed their ways.

    5. "And again he gaed oot aboot twal, and thrie o'clock, and did the same.

    6. "And at fyve he gaed oot, and faund mair staunin ; and quo' he, ' Hoo is't ye staun here, idle a' the day ?'

    7. "They say, ' For that nae man fee'd us !' He says to them, ' Gang ye as weel intil the vine-yaird ; and whate'er is richt, that sal ye hae !'

    8. "Sae whan gloamin was come, the laird o' the vine-yaird says till his grieve, ' Ca the workers; and gie them their fee ; beginnin frae the hinmaist doon to the first.'

    9. "And whan they o' fyve o'clock cam, they gat ilk man a hauf-merk.

    10. "And whan the first cam, they trow'd to hae gotten mair ; and they, as well, gat ilka man a hauf-merk.

    11. "And whan they gat it, they yammer't again the gude-man.

    12. "Saying, ' Thir last anes hae putten-in ae 'oor, and ye hae made them even wi' us, wha hae dreed the weary cark and scouther o' the day !'

    13. But he answert't ane o' them. and quo' he, 'Freend, I do ye nae wrang. Did-ye-na tak-on wi' mi for a hauf-merk !'

    14. "Tak what belangs t'ye, and gang yere gate ! It is my wull to gie to this e'en as to you.

    15. "Is't no richt to hae my ain wull in my ain things ? Is yere ee skellied because I am upricht ?'

    16. "Sae the hinmaist sal be first, and the first hinmaist. For mony are biddin, but no a' acceptit."

            Matthew Chaiptir XX, verses 1 - 16, frae 'The Four Gospels in Braid Scots' - Rev William W Smith

        Lourd on my hert as winter lies
        The state that Scotland's in the day.
        Spring to the north has aye come slow
        But noo dour winter's like to stay
            For guid,
            And no' for guid !
 

                frae 'To Circumjack Cencrastus' - Hugh MacDiarmid

                        Lament in rhyme, lament in prose,
                        Wi' saut tears trickling down your nose;
                        Our Bardie's fate is at a close,
                                                Past a' remead!
                        The last, sad cape-stane of his woes;
                                                Poor Mailie's dead!
 

                                frae 'Poor Mailie's Elegy' - Robert Burns

                        Lament him, Mauchline husbands a',
                        He aften did assist ye;
                        For had ye staid whole weeks awa',
                        Your wives they ne'er had miss'd ye!
 

                        Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye pass
                        To school in bands thegither;
                        O tread ye lightly on his grass,
                        Perhaps he was your faither.
 

                            'Epitaph On  A Wag In Mauchline' - Robert Burns

                        The gairy-bee gangs by me
                        Bummin' wi' the news,
                        Pollen o' the catkins
                        Yalla on his trews.
                        The cordial o' springtime
                        Wiles him frae his byke
                        To feast amang the willow-saughs
                        By the rushin' syke.

                            frae 'Spring Gangs By Me' - Helen B Cruikshank 

                        Gin scenic beauty had been a' I sook
                        I never need ha' left the Muckle Toon.
                        I saw it there as weel as ony man
                        (As I'll sune prove); and sin syne I've gane roon'
                        Hauf o' the warld wi' faculties undulled
                                    And no' seen't equalled.

                                        frae 'Kinsfolk' - Hugh MacDiarmid

    1. Noo it cam abootthat on the Sabbath-day he was gaun throwe the corn-fields ; and his disciples pu'd the heads o' corn, and war eatin, rubbin them i' their loof.

    2. But some o' the Pharisees said, "Why div ye an unlawfu' thing on the Sabbath-day ?"

    3. And Jesus answerin them said, "Hae ye no e'en read this, what Dauvid did, whan he was hunger't, he and thae wi' him ;

    4. "Hoo he gaed intil God's hoose, and did tak and eat o' the Breid o' Presentation, and gied to thae that war wi' him ; whilk wasna lawfu' for him to eat - but for the priests alane ?"

    5. And he said to them, "The Son o' Man is Lord e'en o' the Sabbath."

           Luke Chaiptir Sax, verses 1-5, frae 'The Four Gospels in Braid Scts' - Rev William W Smith 

                The gude auld Kirk o' Scotland,
                The wild winds round her blaw,
                And when her foemen hear her sough,
                They prophecy her fa' ;
                But what although her fate has been
                Amang the floods to sit -
                The gude auld Kirk o' Scotland,
                She's nae in ruins yet!
 

                    frae 'The Auld Kirk o' Scotland' - George Murray (1819-1868)

                        I've helped to build a wheen o' them in mony a different yaird,
                        Frae barges up to battleships the Empire for to guaird,
                        An' eh, the names I could reca' o' men noo passed awa'
                        Wha planned and built the boats lang syne, aye trig and strang and braw.
                        The men hae gane, but left ahint a legacy o' fame,
                        For honest wark an' bonny boats that gied the Clyde its name.

                                                    frae 'The Yairds' - J F Fergus

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