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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
V. Ane Interlude of the Laying of a Gaist


V. Ane Interlude of the Laying of a Gaist

This burlesque poem is preserved in the Bannatyne MSS and is in the same strain with the verses concerning the Gyre Carline. As the mention of Bettokis Bowr occurs in both pieces, and as the scene of both is laid in East Lothian, they are perhaps composed by the same author. The humour of these fragments seems to have been directed against the superstitions of Rome; but it is now become very obscure. Nevertheless, the verses are worthy of preservation, for the sake of the ancient language and allusions.

Listen lordis, 'I sall you tell,
Off ane very grit marvell,
Off Lord Fergussis gaist (ghost),
How meikle Sir Andro it chest (chased),
Unto Beitokis bour,
The silly sawie to succour;
And he hes writtin unto me
Auld storeis for to se
Gif it appinis (happens) him to meit,
How he sall conjure the spreit,
And I haif red mony quars (quires; books).
Bath the Donet, and Dominus que pars,
Ryme maid, and als redene (also read)
Baith Inglis and Latene;
And ane story haif I to reid,
Passes Bonitatem in the creid
To conjure the litill gaist he mon haif
Of tod's tails (foxes tails) ten thraif (thereof)
And kast the grit holy water
With pater noster, pitter patter
And ye man sit in a compas,
And cry, Harbert tuthless,
Drag thow, and ye's draw,
And sit thair quhill cok craw.
The compass mon hallowit be
With aspergis me Domine;
The haly writ schawis als
Thair man be hung about your hals (neck),
Pricket in ane woll polk (wool pack)
Of neis powder (nose powder or snuff) and grit loik (great lots).
Thir thingis mon ye beir
Brynt in ane doggis eir (burnt in a dog's ear),
Ane pluck, ane pindill, and ane palme cors,
Thre tuskis of ane awol hors,
And of any yallow wob the warp,
The boddome of ane auld herp,
The heid of ane cuttit reill,
The band of an awid quheill,
The taill of ane yeild sow,
Ane ane bait of blew wow (blue wool),
Ane botene (button) and ane brechame (horse collar),
And ane quhorie made of lame (a whirl made of metal),
To luke out at the litill boir,
And cry, Crystis cross, you befoir;
And quhen you see the litill gaist,
Cumand to you in al haist,
Cry loud, Cryste eleisone.
And speir what law it levis on?
And gif it sayis on Godis ley,
Than to the litill gaist ye say,
With braid Benedictine;
-- "Litill gaist, I conjure the,
With liorie and larie (with laying and with lore),
First with ane fishis mouth,
And syne with ane sowis towth,
With ten pertane tais (with ten crab's claws),
And nyne knokis of windil strais,
With thre heids of curle doddy (a small plant in marshes)."
And bid the gaist turn in a boddy,
Then efter this conjuratioun,
The litill gaist will fall in soun,
And thair efter downly,
Cryand mercy peteously;
Then with your left heil sane (make the sign of the cross),
And it will nevir cum againe,
As meikle as a mige amaist.

Some lines here were apparently omitted.

He had a litill we leg,
And it wes cant as any cleg (gadfly),
It wes wyne in ane wynden schet, 
Baith the handis and the feit;
Suppose this gaist was litill,
Yit it stal Godis quhitell (knife);
It stal frae peteous Abrahame,
Ane quhorle and ane quhim quhame (whirl and whim-wham);
It stal frae ye carle of ye mone
Ane payr of awid yin schone (one-soled shoes);
It rane to Pencatelane,
And wirrit (worried) ane awid chaplane.
This litill gaist did na mair ill
But clok (clacked) lyk a corn mill;
And it wald play and hop,
About the heid ane stre strop (twist a straw about its head);
And it wald sing, and it wald dance
Oure fute, and Orliance (over foot and Orleans - two dancing steps).

Quha conjurit the litill gaist say ye?
None but the litill Spenzie fle (fly),
That with hir wit and her ingyne,
Gart the gaist leif againe;
And sune mareit the gaist the fle,
And croun'd him King of Kandelie;
And they gat theme between
Orpheus King and Elpha Quene.
To reid quha will this gentill geist,
Ye hard it not at Cockilby's feist.

Orpheus and Elpha seems to refer to the romance of Orfeo and Heurodes. The wife here is called Elpha, probably from her having been abstracted by the elves or fairies. The last line is probably alluding to a strange unintelligible poem in the Bannatyne MSS, called Cockleby’s Sow.


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