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For Puir Auld Scotland's Sake
Lament for the Language


THEY’RE wearin* by, the gude auld times
O* hearty rants an1 hamet rhymes
In ilka biggin* said an1 sung
I* the familiar mither tongue,
When lads an* lasses had convenin'
Roun* the wide ingle at the eenin*!

They’re wearin’ by, the gude auld days
O’ simple faith an* seemly phrase,
Atween the maister an' the man
In ilka corner o' the Ian'
When faithfu' service, gien wi' pleasour,
Was kent an* coontit for a treasour.

They’re wearin’ by, the gude auld lives
O’ leal an' thrifty men an* wives;
They’re wearin' oot, the gude auld creeds,
That met a simple people’s needs;
The auld Scots character an' laws
That made oor kintra what it was—

Esteemed at hame, envied abroad,
Honoured o’ man and loved o’ God;
Oor nationality, oor name,
Oor patriotic love for hame—
I ’maist could greet; I can but sigh—
They’re wearin* oot, they’re a’ gaun by!

The gude auld honest mither tongue!
They kent nae ither, auld or young;
The cottar spak' it in his yaird,
An’ on his rigs the gawcie laird.

Weel could it a’ oor wants express,
Weel could it ban, weel could it bless;
Wi’ a’ oor feelin’s ’twas acquent,
Had words for pleasour an’ complent;
Was sweet to hear in sacred psalm
In simmer Sabbath momin’s calm;
An* at the family exerceese,
When auld gudeman, on bended knees,
Wrestled as Jacob did langsyne
For favours temporal an’ divine,
Hoo did its fervent accents roll
The load o’ sin frae aff the soul!
It had an ease an* strength o’ wirds
That fell’d like mells an' glanc’d like swirds'
Nae fine affeckit foreign soun',
Wi' frequent flexions up an' down,
But a straucht-for’at free-born speech,
A manly tongue to learn or teach,
Whaur ilka say was to the point,
An* ilka word in ilka joint
Gruppit the sense it carried wi' ’t,
An* stappit aff wi' decent speed—
An' ilka letter gat its due
The first page o' the Carritch thro’,
An' ne’er a lisp was tolerated,
An’ ‘lock' for 'loch’ like Sawtan hated,
An' aye the ‘r,' tho' crank awee,
Gaed birlin' aff the mooth-ruif free.

It was as yauld an' bauld a tongue
As roun’ the wa’s o’ Bawbel rung,
An* better rung, for plank or plaister;
Nae doot its author was a maister—
At least a foresman—owre the people,
The masons at the muckle steeple,
Wha swuir at lairge, and dang’d and deyvled,
That awfu* oor the tongues were reyvled!
An’ it had words were a’ its ain;
A gowlock was a gowlock thain;
A soughin’ wind amang the trees
Was bonnier than a gentle breeze;
The shut o’ day was aye the gloamin’,
An* daunder was the word for roamin’,
An* true was leal, an’ loss was tyne,
An’ long ago was auld langsyne.

Ye’ve heard, when May was new begun,
Amangs’ the gress a peepin’ wun'
That shook the blades an* swith awa’
As saft a breath as bairn could blaw!
Belyve it creepit owre the Tee,
An* up an* sang upon the tree
A strain sae plaintive that to hear it
Ye thocht some disembodied speerit,
Frae heaven forwander’t far its lane,
Was greetin' to win back again.

Anon it loupit to the wud,
An1, like a wulbeast nane can hud,
Seiz’d on the patient pines an' tare
An' whirl’d their branches high in air,
An' raged an' roared frae glade to glen
Till the haill wud, fra’ en’ to en’,
Thro' a' its caves an' corners rung,
An' to the tempest rock’d an' swung;
Whyle cattle, moaning, fled the bield,
Th’ umbrageous wud was wont to yield.

As wide could range the auld Scots tongue;
’Twas meet alike for auld an' young,
For jeast an' earnest, joy an' wae,
For cursin’ an' caressin’ tae.

’Twas gentler in a hushaba
Than a wud-muffled waterfa'
Or cushats wi’ their downie croon
Heard through a gowden afternoon,
Or streams that rin wi' liquid lapse,
Or winds among the pine-tree taps.

'Twas sweet at a' times i’ the mooth
O' woman moved wi* meltin' ruth;
But oh! when first love was her care,
’Twas bonnie far beyond compare.

'Twas mair sonorous than the Latin,
Cam' heavier on the hide o' Satan,
When frae his Ebal o' a poopit
The minister grew hearse an' roopit,
Bannin’ wi* energetic jaw
The author o' the primal fa'.
But if the poopit's sacred clangour
Was something awesome in its anger,
Gude keep oor Southlan' freen's fra’ hearin’
A rouch red-headit Scotsman swearin'!

But wha would hae audacity
To question its capacity?

The mither croon'd by cradle side,
Young Jockie woo’d his blushin' bride
The bargain at the fair was driven,
The solemn pray’r was wing'd to heaven,
The deein' faither made his will,
In gude braid Scots:
—A language still!

It lives in Freedom-Barbour’s lines,
In bauld Dunbar it brightly shines,
On Lyndsay’s page in licht it streams,
In Border ballads haunts my dreams ;
An’ like a simmer mornin’ plays
On Ettrick banks an’ Yarrow braes.
It lives for aye in Allan’s play,
In Coila’s sangs, the Shepherd’s lay,
The bird-like lilts fra’ Paisley side,
The Wizart’s tales that flew sae wide,
Forbye the vast an’ varied store
O’ later ballants by the score:
The gude auld Scots!—a language still,
Let fortune vary as it will.
Though banish’d from oor College ha’s,
It frames the siccar auld Scots laws;
Though from the lips, of speech the portal,
It lives in Literature immortal.

But oh, alas! the waefu’ change,
The customs new, the fashions strange,
Sin’ the auld patriarchal days
O’ sober thocht an’ simple phrase!

In thae auld days a heaven o’ calm
Hung owre the kintra like a balm
That still’d the fractious fretfu’ blude,
An* made a tranquil neighbourhude.

Ilk townie was a human fauld;
The young grew up amang the auld,
An’ learnt their ways, an’ settled down
Contentit i’ their native toun.
The sergeant whyles, sae brave an* braw,
Wad wile a flichty chier awa’,
An’ noo an’ than some book-lear’d birkie
Wad tak’ a hankerin’ for a kirkie;
But few they were to cities ran;
The village was a family than,
That fand in ilka hoose a hame,
An’ kent a neebour’s bairns by name.

Nor think it was a humdrum life,
A lang-continued wearin’ strife,
Withouten stop frae Yule to Yule
For the bare wants o’ milk an’ meal.
Ilk cottar had his ain bit land
He labbour’d wi’ an eident hand,
Afore the meikle farms came in,
Like Pharaoh's cattle lank an’ thin,
An’ swallow’d up—it’s e’en a sair joke—
The bien bit crafties o’ the puir folk.
Oh, wae the day the puir man tint it,
His cot an’ pendicle ahint it!
Tho’ short his boonds, an’ sma’ his gain,
A bit o’ Scotland was his ain.
What better guard or guarantee
O’ patriot love or loyaltie

Amang the common kintra cless—
The kintra’s mainstey in distress—
What stauncher safeguard could ye get
Than the auld crofter system yet?

That neuk o’ Scotland’s auld gray plaid
Was his—his shelter an’ his shade;
An’ jealous was he of his corner,
Quick to resent the scoff of scorner,
An' ready for his richt to stand
As ony lordling in the land.

Nae tourin’ schemes o’ foreign gain
Beyont the wide Atlantic main,
Nae sinfu’ thochts o’ wild ambition
Garr’d him despise his low condition;
His twa-’ree acres delv’d an’ plantit,
He whistled, and was weel-contentit.

An’ then the simple plays an’ ploys,
The healthfu’ games an’ hamely joys!—
A present pleasour to the mind,
They left nae efter-sting behind.
The time were surely idly spent
To speak o’ preachin’s fra’ the tent,
O’ kirns an’ foys an’ penny-waddin’s,
An’ back-en’ midnicht masqueraddin’s;
An’ Hallowe’en sae blythe an’ merry,
An’ the daft days o’ Janiwary;
An’ pranks an’ plays at Beltantide,
Wi’ frolics noos an’ than beside.

And auld-warld cracks an’ eldritch stories
O’ wizart caves an’ haunted corries;
An* eerie tales o’ water witches,
That to the foord decoy’d puir wretches;
An’ lang accounts o’ doughty deeds,
By heroes wroucht in yetlin’ weeds
For puir auld Scotland’s honoured sake
When Scotland’s Freedom was at stake.
Then chiefly in the lang forenicht
Was tauld the tale o’ Wallace wicht—
Hoo like a lion roused he rose,
An’ rush’d on his insulting foes;
Before his glance like deer they fled,
Behind him lay a line of dead—
Till, breathless from the chase at length,
He sought the woods to gather strength,
Whence issuing ever and again,
He bled an’ battled to the en’.
An’ here the tale would tak’ a turn
To Robert Bruce o’ Bannockburn;
How through the lang eventfu’ strife,
Ere glory crooned his later life,
He rather chose the woods and caves
Wi’ freedom an’ his band o’ braves
Than sit upon a silken seat
An’ wear a crown at Edward’s feet.

Or aiblins that daft lassie, Sang,
Would slip unseen amang the thrang
O’ lads an* lasses busy jokin’
Roun’ the wide ingle at the rokin’.
Tho’ sn aw-white was the robe she wore,
An* strung wi’ gold the harp she bore,
She mair than tholed the reek an’ coom—
The auld clay-biggin was her hame!
She micht hae sat in city ha’s,
An’ listened to refined applause;
But dearer to her heart the cot,
The kintra, an* the puir man’s lot.
She sang to children o’ the soil
The dignity of honest toil,
The independence o’ the mind,
An’ better days for a’ mankind.

She sang o’ love and youthfu’ joys,
O’ friendship’s frank an’ social noise,
An’ toasted in her moods o’ glee
Scotland wi’ a’ the honours three.

She sang auld Scotland’s broomy knowes,
Her tourin’ hills where heather grows,
Her glens to youthfu’ memory dear,
Her burnies wimplin’ thro’ them clear.

She flang owre cairn o’ mountain stane
Familiar wi’ the midnicht’s maen,
Owre moory monumental fiel’,
Owre river wi’ its ruin’d peel,
A beauty mair than sun could gi’e,
Or blue-bells noddin’ bonnilie.

The glamour o’ the vanish’d past
On bare, forsaken scenes she cast,—
The licht o’ lang-descendit suns,
The wail o’ lang-exhaustit wun’s,
The shouts o’ heroes in the dust,
The gleam o’ glaives noo red wi' rust.

At ither times, late i’ the gloaming
When win’s aroon’ the wa’s were roamin’—
ike warl’y cares aroond a mind
To heaven’s high will serene resigned—
While slept the heavy-laboured young,
And owre the fire the auld folk hung,
A holy radiance would illume
The cottage wi’ a gowden bloom,
And i* the midst would seem to stand
Wi’ peacefu’ olive in her hand,
A matron of supernal air—
Religion was the name she bare.

Nae mere emotional face had she,
But a clear intellectual e’e,
Where Faith and Truth, as from a dookit
Or open lattice-window, lookit.

Her lips, o’ gracefu’ curve divine,
Had that placidity of line
Whose sweet severity alway
Repels the rude and awes the gay.
Hie was her broo an’ fair to see—
A temple of serenitie,

On whilk a glance, how short soe’er,
Dispell’d the faith-disturbin’ fear,
An’ gave the heart a lively sense
Of peace an’ patient confidence.

She spake wi’ calmness o’ the grave
As of an entrance gate that gave,
Withouten tax of man or toll,
Admission to the ransom’d soul—
Admission purchased with a price,
To the fair fields of paradise.

Her teachings nourished hopes sublime
Beyond the dreams of earth or time;
Before their brilliance paled away
Sceptres an’ swords of widest sway,
The flashing crown, the purpled robe,
The glory of a conquer’d globe.

Nor less the splendour of a name
Hailed by a wondering world’s acclaim,
For triumphs nobler than the swird’s,
Achieved by noiseless thochts an’ wirds
In the much wider world of mind,
Unenvied fell their hopes behind.

The boast of rank, the pride of state,
The airs and orders of the great;
The cushion’d coach, the silken bed,
The prancing steeds, the banners spread;
The flash, the glitter, an’ the glare,
The brass, the glass, the trumpet blare—
What were they but a toom pretence,
The fleeting shapes an’ shows of sense?

Not more enduring by a day
Than the puir cottar’s hodden gray,
His staff, his bannet, an* his plaid,
The sweaty emblems of his trade,
His horny loof, his thristly soil,
His back sair bent wi’ lifelong toil,
His bitter cares, his vexin’ crosses,
His disappointments, pains, an’ losses.

Wi’ a their prizes, a’ their pains,
Their petty losses, paltry gains,
Th’ allotted threescore years an’ ten—
What were they after a’ to men
Whas view of human life was less
A tent life in a wilderness
Than a short passage owre a muir
To mansions waitin’ them secure?

Present abasement they could bide,
Sustained by a supernal pride;
For were they not the absent heirs
Of heaven, predestinated theirs?
The exiled children journeyin’ hame
Of a great Prince of powerfu’ name?
Yea, were they not upon the road
Princes and priests disguised of God?

The present age, I maun alloo,
Is keen an’ cultured in its view,
Sherp to spy oot, an’ sure to damn
The hoar hypocrisy an’ sham
That in the silent growth o’ years
Deform wi’ superstitious fears
The purest faith, the noblest truth,
That ever cam' fra' human mouth,—
As ye have seen the lichen hide
The ootlines o’ the sculptor’s pride.
But, oh! I canna but lament
The slackenin’ o’ a’ restraint
Halesome to social life ; but chief
The rootin’ up o’ a’ belief
In life on earth to heaven translated,
In God, and man as God-created;
Nor least that reverential tone
Of oor grave elders changed or gone.

Others there are, but these the chief—
Licence, irreverence, unbelief—
Evils that follow in the train
Of forms exposed and held as vain,
Tho’ cherished long, to suit the gentry
Of this omniscient nineteent cent’ry.

In thae auld days noo on the wing,
In thae auld ways I’ve tried to sing,
The youth of Scotland’s hopes were reared,
An' Scotland’s ancient name revered.

Dear were her mountains, knocks, an' knowes,
Her fells an’ forests, haughs an’ howes,
Not for their natural beauty only,
Or grandeur, lofty, grim, an’ lonely,
But that they were an heritage
Bequeathed by men from age to age,
That greatly daring grandly stude,
An’ bled an’ bocht them wi' their blude.

Thus were those feelings kept alive
That still for independence strive
Against a power that would control
Freedom o' body, mind, or soul.

Thus, too, the passion was begot
That Scotsman feels for brither Scot
When they amang the frem’d forgaither,
Tho' perfect strangers to ilk ither;
For they were rear’d on common fare,
An’ breathed the same wild mountain air,
Their hearts wi’ mutual memories glowed,
Their blude wi’ kindred instincts flowed,
Their sympathies in common ran,
Their likes an’ dislikes were at wan.

But wae befa’ the weary toun
That brought the sad reverse aroun’,
An’ lowsed the tender social ties
Wherein a nation’s vigour lies.
It like a black-wamb’d speeder flang
Its telegraphic wires alang
The fields where rural industry,
Maist like an unambitious bee
Contentit wi’ a modest spoil,
Had humm’d sae happy at its toil.

It laid its lines o’ iron doun,
An* sallied forth wi' clatterin’ soun’,
Wi’ puff an’ snort an’ startlin’ shriek,
Envelop’d in a cludd o' smeek—
To scare the little folks awa’,
To bleck wi’ coom the greenwud shaw,
To fill the youthfu’ peasant breast
Wi’ discontentment and unrest,
An’ drag sweet Innocence within
The city’s whirlin’ gulf o’ sin.

A panic owre the kintra spread,
To towns the simple peasants sped,
Where, disappointed in their dreams,
They listened to the wildest schemes,
An’ crossed the ocean faem to find
Nae hame like what they left behind.

O then was heard by foreign streams
The exile’s wail owre vanished dreams;
An’ nichtly to their dashing wave
Perhaps some banish’d bard would rave
The blindin’ saut tear in his e’e—
O’ Devon haughs or links o’ Dee.

The lesser venturesome that stey’d,
Gaed wanderin’ thro’ the kintra wide—
Here for a year, an’ there for twa,
As flittin* fortune seem’d to ca’.

O thou accursed lust of gain,
For whilk we madly strive an' strain,
What offerings on thine altar laid,
What sacrifices maun be made!

And a’ for what? It’s no’ in gear—
It’s no’ in cent per cent per year—
It’s no’ in gowd although we hed it—
The wise can see’t, the rich hae said it—
It’s no’ in mountain heaps o’ wealth
To purchase happiness an’ health!

But what avails this lang narration,
This protest an’ expostulation?
Oh, Ichabod! The better plan
Were just to end as I began—
To note the waefu’ change, an’ cry
The guid auld times are a’ gaun by!


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