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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

'I ken a thing
that's like a kist of ferlies gif ye read.
Frae Jamison's muckle buik the words tak wing,
auld douce or ramstam, lown or virrfu words,
for musardry o thocht or grame o dirds,
our forebears uisd to flyte or scryve or sing'
frae 'Thesaurus Paleo-Scoticus' - Douglas Young

'But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o Mice an Men
Gang aft agley,
An lea's us nought but grief an pain,
For promis'd joy!'
Frae 'To A Mouse' - Robert Burns

'The kye were late for milkin when he piped them up the closs,
The kitlin's got his supper syne, an he was beddit boss;
But he cared na doit nor docken what they did or thocht or said,
There was comfort in the whistle that the wee herd made.!
Frae 'The Whistle' - Charles Murray

'A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke and a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith he mauna fa that!'
Frae 'For A' That And A' That' - Robert Burns

'Whan merry Yule-day comes, I trow,
You'll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma are our cares, our stamacks fou
O gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our veiw
Sin fairn-year.'
Frae 'The Daft Days' - Robert Fergusson

'They hadna sail'd a league, a league
A league but barely three,
When the lift grewe dark and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grewe the sea.'
Frae 'Sir Patrick Spens' (Ballad)

'Dumfounert, the English saw - they saw -
Dumfounert they heard the blaw, the blaw,
Dumfounert, they a' ran awa, awa
Frae the hundred pipers an' a' , an' a'.'
Frae "The Hundred Pipers" - Lady Nairne

"Twas a bonnie day-and a day o dule
 The day I plunkit the Sawbath Schule!"
frae "Conscience" - Walter Wingate

"Dunnottar standin by the sea 
Lairdless sall they lands be, 
And underneath thy hearthstane 
The tod sall bring her brood hame."
"Dunnottar" - Thomas the Rhymer (13th Century)

"Rise up guid-wyfe an shak yir feathers,
 Dinna think that we ar beggers,
 We ar bit bairns cum ti play,
 Rise up an gie's our Hogmanay."

"The Lord's my herd, I sall nocht want
Whaur green the gresses grewe
   sall be my fauld. He caas me aye
whaur fresh sweet burniesrowe.
   He gars my saul be blyth aince mair
that wandert was frae hame,
and leads me on the straucht smaa gait
for sake o His ain name."
frae "The Twenty-Third Psalm o King Dauvid"  - Douglas Young

Scotch Education
I tellt ye
I tellt ye.
Scotch Optimism
Through a glass Darkly.
Scotch Pessimism
Nae Gless.
frae "Scotched" - Alexander Scott

"O thou grim mischeif-makin chiel,
 That gars the notes of discord squeal,
 Till daft mankind aft dances a reel
                        In gore a shoe-thick ;-
 Gie a' the faes o SCOTLAND'S weal
                      A towmond's Toothache."
frae "Address to the Toothache" - Robert Burns

"Scotland, my auld, respected mither !
 Tho whiles ye moistify your leather,
 Till whare ye sit on craps o heather,
                          Ye tine your dam ;
 Freedom and whisky gang thegither !
                           Tak aff your dram."
            frae "The Author's Ernest Cry and Prayer" - Robert Burns

If there's a sword-like sang
That can cut Scotland clear
O a' the warld beside
Rax me the hilt o't here.

For there's nae jewal till
Frae the rest o earth it's free,
Wi the starry separateness
I'd fain to Scotland gie....
frae "To Circumjack Cencrastus" - Hugh MacDiarmid

Quhen Alessandre oure King wes deid
        That Scotland lede in luf and le'
        Awa wes sonse of aill and breid,
        Off wyne and walx, of gamyn and gle;
        Oure gold wes chngeit into leid,
        The frute wes falyeit fra everie tree'
        Christ, born into virgynyte'
        Succour Scotland and remeid,
        That stad is in perplexitie !
frae Wyntoun's Original Chronykil - Andrew Wyntoun
( 1350?  - 1425? )

Bonnie Prince Charlie
A' isna gowd that glitters
And weel I mind ane came
And kindled in oor lyart hills
What look's like livin flame.

Tho a's no gowd that glitters
He keeps his meed o fame.
It's easier ti loe Prince Chairlie
Than Scotland - mair's the shame!....
frae "To Circumjack Cencrastus" - Hugh MacDiarmid

As I was walking all alane
I heard twa corbies making a mane:
The tane unto the tither did say
"Whar sall we gang and dine the day?"

"In behint you auld fail dyke.
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there
But his hawk, his hound, and his lay fair.
frae "The Twa Corbies" ( Ballad)

We hae nae need tae pruive anew
the honour sung in Scotland's story,
we pit nae trust in treach'rous pelf,
nor dae we seek the fause vainglory,
but ilk ane here will aye bide free
tho we be left alane a hundert -
be shair, that life itsel we'll gie,
mang slaves, we never sall be numbert.
frae 'Scrieve fae Aberbrothock Aprile 1320' - James S Adam

He played the pipes in Aiberdeen
Fin I wis a bit loon,
An pipes an temper, weel-a-wat,
War aften oot o tune.

His favourite springs war "Monymus",
"The Braes o Tullimet",
He'd mairch to "Aden's Barren Rock"
Till reamin owre wi sweat.
frae 'The Piper o Aiberdeen' - George Abel

In Aprile at the hicht of noon,
whan leean hauf-licht there was nane,
nae flichtie ferlie was to blame
for yon queer sicht: an aik in blume.
frae "On Seein an Aik-Tree Sprent Wi Galls" - Robert Garioch

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n Devotion!
frae "To A Louse" - Robert Burns

The ploomen hae lowsed an the day's darg is ower,
An hame comes the hauflin as hungry as fower;
Weel wabbit is he, but he's young an he's cheery
An, ance he has suppit, forgets that he's weary.
The yett swings ahint him, he's oot again roamin,
An walks doon the glen in the quate o the gloamin.
frae "The Hauflin" - W D Cocker

Still thou art blest compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee;
But Oh! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!
frae ' To A Mouse ' - Robert Burns

Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day:
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o' our land are cauld in the clay.
frae ' The Flowers of the Forest ' - Jean Elliot

OH Thou, wha in the heavens dost dwell!
Wha, as it pleases best thysel',
Sends ane to heaven, and ten to hell,
A' for thy glory,
And no' for ony gude or ill
They've done afore thee!
frae ' Holy Willie's Prayer ' - Robert Burns 

No bein fit to write in Greek,
I wrote in Lallans, 
Dear to my heart as the peat reek,
Auld as Tantallon.
frae ' The Maker to Posterity ' - Robert Louis Stevenson

Paint Scotland greetan owre her thrissle,
Her mutchkin stowp as toom's a whissle;
An' damn'd Excise-men in a bussle,
Seizan a Stell,
Triumphant crushan't like a mussel
Or laimpet shell.
frae ' The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer ' - Robert Burns 

Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toon,
Upstairs an' doonstairs in his nicht-gown,
Tirlin' at the window, crying at the lock
"Are the weans in their bed, for it's now ten o'clock?"
frae ' Willie Winkie ' - William Miller

The news frae Moidart cam yestreen
      Will soon gar mony ferlie;
For ships o war hae juist come in,
      And landit Royal Chairlie.
frae "Wha'll Be King But Charlie?" - Lady Nairne

Aweill, we staund bareheidit in the haar,
murnin a man that gaed back til the pool
twa-hunner year afore our time. The glaur

that haps his banes glowres back strang, present dool
ruggs at my hairt. Lichtlie this gin ye daur:
here Robert Burns knelt and kissed the mool.
frae "At Robert Fergusson's Grave" - Robert Garioch

In the cauld dreich days when it's nicht on the back o four,
I try to stick to my wark as lang as may be;
But though I gang close by to the window and glower,
I canna see.
frae "December Gloaming" - Sir Alexander Gray ( 1882 -1968 )

I am na fou sae muckle as tired - deid dune.
It's gey and hard work coupin gless for gless
Wi Cruivie and Gilsanquhar and the like,
And I'm no juist as bauld as aince I wes.
frae "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle" - Hugh MacDiarmid

Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums ;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.
frae "To A Haggis" - Robert Burns

A cheery guid-nicht, ay, a cheery guid-nicht,
A cheery guid-nicht to ye a',
By my sang ye can tell I've haed plenty mysel',
Sae a cheery guid-nicht to ye a'!
frae "A Cheery Guid-nicht" - Charles Murray

In Poosie Nancy's held the splore,
To drink their orra duddies:
Wi' quaffing and laughing
They ranted and they sang;
Wi' jumping an' thumping
The vera girdle rang.
frae "The Jolly Beggars" - Robert Burns

Auld Scotland's howes, and Scotland's knowes
And Scotland's hills for me;
I'll drink a cup to Scotland yet,
Wi' a' the honours three.
frae "Scotland Yet" - Henry Scott Riddell

Juist a wee deoch-an-doris,
Juist a wee yin, that's a',
Juist a wee deoch-an-doris
Afore we gang awa.
frae "Juist a Wee Deoch-an-Doris" - Harry Lauder

Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
frae "Tam O' Shanter - Robert Burns

Scotland is like a bonnie woman pent
Ahint castle waas. The castle maun be
Forced and she delivered frae her bands.
frae "The Wallace" - Sydney Goodsir Smith

The mitherless bairn gangs till his lane bed,
Nane covers his cauld back, or haps his bare head;
His wee hackit heelies are hard as the airn,
An' litheless the lair o' the mitherless!
frae "The Mitherless Bairn" - William Thom ( 1798-1848 )

Some merry, friendly, countra folks,
    Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks
    An' haud their Halloween
                       Fu' blythe that night.
Frae "Halloween" - Robert Burns

Come gie's a sang Montgomery cried
An' lay your disputes a' a-side;
What nonsense is't folks tae chide
For what's been done afore them.
Frae "Tullochgorum" - Rev John Skinner

Wee Davie Daylicht
Keeks o'er the sea
Early in the morning
Wi' a clear ee;
Waukens a' the birdies
That were sleepin soun' -
Wee Davie Daylicht
Is nae lazy loon.
frae 'Wee Davie Daylicht' - R Tennant

Katie Bairdie had a coo
Black and white aboot the mou
Wasna that a denty coo?
Dance Katie Bairdie.
frae 'Katie Bairdie' - Bairn's Rhyme

Waesuck for him wha has nae feck o't!
                For he's a gowk they're sure to geck at,
                A chiel that ne'er will be respeckit
                                        While he draws breath
                Till his four quarters are bedeckit
                                        Wi' gude Braid Claith
                    frae 'Braid Claith' - Robert Fergusson

The piper cam to oor toun,
To oor toun, to oor toun,
The piper cam to oor toun,
And he played bonnilie.
He played a spring the laird to please,
A spring brent new frae owre the seas;
And then he ga'e his bags a wheeze,
And played anither key.

 And wasna he a roguey,
A roguey, a roguey,
And wasna he a roguey,
The piper o Dundee ?
frae 'The Piper o Dundee'  -  anon

A Guid New Year to ane an' a',
An' mony may ye see !
An' durin' a' the years to come,
O happy may ye be !
An' may ye ne'er hae cause to mourn,
To sigh or shed a tear !
To ane an' a', baith great an' sma',
   A hearty, Guid New Year !
   frae 'A Guid New Year' - Peter Livingstone

A guid New-year I wish you Maggie!
Hae, there's a ripp to thy auld baggie:
Tho' thou's howe-backet, now, an knaggie,
I've seen the day,
Thou could hae gaen like ony staggie
Out owre the lay.
Frae 'The Auld Farmer's New-Year - Morning Salutation to his Auld Mare, Maggie' - Robert Burns

Ramsay an' famous Fergusson
Gied Forth an' Tay a lift aboon ;
Yarrow an' Tweed, to monie a tune
Owre Scotland rings,
While Irwin, Lugar, Ayr, an' Doon,
Naebody sings.
frae "To William Simpson" - Robert Burns

Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem;
To spare thee now is past by power,
Thou bonnie gem.
frae ' To A Mountain Daisy ' - Robert Burns

Kilmarnock wabsters fidge an' claw
An' pour your creeshie nations ;
An' ye wha leather rax an' draw,
Of a' denominations ;
Swith to the Laigh Kirk, ane an' a',
An' there tak up your stations ;
Then aff to Begbie's in a raw,
An' pour divine libations
For joy this day.
frae ' The Ordination'  - Robert Burns

You canna gang to a Burns Supper even
    Wi'oot some wizened scrunt o' a knock-knee
    Chinee turns roon to say, 'Him Haggis-velly goot!'
And ten to wan the piper is a Cockney
frae 'A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle' - Hugh MacDiarmid

A canty neuk whaur Almond joins the Forth.
Ye duner doun the brae
Wi views o Fife's green "Kingdom" to the north
Ayont the wee bit bay
Whaur Cramond Island rises frae the sand,
It's "haufwey" causey raxin oot frae land.
Frae 'Cramond' - Douglas Fraser

True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;
A ferlie he spied wi' his e'e;
And there he saw a ladye bricht
Come riding doun by the Eildon Tree. 

Her skirt was o' the grass-green silk,
Her mantle o' the velvet fyne;
At ilka tett o' her horse's mane
Hung fifty siller bells and nine.
frae ' Thomas the Rhymer ' - A Border Ballad

When Winter muffles up his cloak,
And binds the mire like a rock;
When to the loughs the Curlers flock,
Wi' gleesome spied,
Wha will they station at the cock,
Tam Samson's dead ?

He was the king of a' the Core,
To guard, or draw, or wick a bore,
Or up the rink like Jehu roar
In time o' need;
But now he lags on Death's hog-score,
Tam Samson's dead !

   frae ' Tam Samson's Elegy ' - Robert Burns

General Haig's famous dispatch in April 1918 began " With our backs at the wall and believing in the justice of our cause."  

                    And we'll gang nae mair a-roving
                        Sae late into the nicht;
                    And we'll gang nae mair aroving, boys
                        Let the mune sheen ne'er sae bricht.

                            frae 'The Jolly Beggar' - Trad. attr. James V, King o Scots 

Rauch the wind in the clear day's dawin',
Blaws the cloods heelster gowdie ow'r the bay,
But there's mair nor a rauch wind blawin'
Through the great glen o' the warld the day,
It's a thocht that wad gar oor rottans -
A' they rogues that gang gallus fresh and gay -
Tak the road an' seek ither loanins                      
For their ill ploys tae sport and play.
frae 'The Freedom Come-All-Ye' - Dr Hamish Henderson ( 1919 - 2002 )

Leeze me on Drink ! it gies us mair
Than either School or Colledge;
It kindles Wit, it waukens Lear,
It pangs us fou o' Knowledge.
Be't whisky-gill or penny-wheep,
Or ony stronger potion,
It never fails, on drinkin deep,
To kittle up our notion,
By night or day. 
frae ' The Holy Fair ' - Robert Burns

Wha bares a blade for Scotland ? she's needin' ye sairly noo,
What will ye dae for Scotland for a' she has dane for you ?
Think o' the auld-time slogans, the thread runnin' throu' your plaid,
The cairns o' the Covenanters whaur the martyrs' banes are laid ;
Ay, the faith o' your godly fathers, is it naething to you the day ?
Wha bares a blade for Scotland ? noo is the time to say.
frae ' Wha Bares A Blade For Scotland ' - Charles Murray

A Scottish poet maun assume
The burden o' his people's doom,
And dee to brak' their livin' tomb. 

Mony ha'e tried, but a' ha'e failed.
Their sacrifice has nocht availed.
Upon the thistle they're impaled.

frae 'A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle' - Hugh MacDiarmid

The lovely lass o' Inverness,
Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e'en and morn she cries, alas!
And aye the saut tear blin's her e'e:
Drumossie Moor, Drumossie day,
A waefu' day it was to me;
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear, and brethren three.
frae 'The Lovely Lass O' Inverness' - Robert Burns

The rime lies cauld on ferm an' fauld,
The lift's a drumlie grey;
The hill-taps a' are white wi' snaw,
An' dull an' dour's the day.
The canny sheep thegither creep,
The govin' cattle glower;
The plooman staunds to chap his haunds
An' wuss the storm were ower.
frae 'a Winter View' - "Hugh Haliburton" ( James Logie Robertson )

Aweel, take notice, Jenny, of that dour, stour-looking carle that sits by the cheek of the ingle, and turns his back on a' men. He looks like ane of the hill-folk, for I saw him start a wee when he saw the red-coats, and I jalouse he wad hae liked to hae ridden by, but his horse ( it's a guid gelding ) was ower sair travailed; he behoved to stop whether he wad or no. Serve him cannily, Jenny, and with little din, and dinna bring the sodgers on him by speering ony questions at him; but let na him hae a room to himsell, they wad say we were hiding him .........

            frae 'Old Mortality' - Sir Walter Scott : Neil Blane, the landlord of a howff near Drumclog gives advice to his daughter on how to handle the Covenanters and Royalist soldiers in the pub.

"Heely, heely, Tam, ye glaiket stirk - ye hinna on the hin shelvin' o ' the cairt. Fat hae ye been haiverin' at, min? That cauf saick'll be tint owre the back door afore we win a mile fae hame. See't yer belly-ban' be ticht aneuch noo. Woo, lassie! man, ye makin' a hantle mair adee aboot blaikin that graith o' yours, an' kaimin the mear's tail, nor balancin' yer cairt, an' gettin' the things packit in till't."
                frae "Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk" - William Alexander. This extract is the opening of his great Doric novel and discrices farmer Johnny Gibb giving instructions to his worker, tam, on loading the cart which will carry the Gibb family to take the waters at Tarlair.
About the end o' July there cam' a spell o' weather, the like o't never was in that countryside; it was lown an' het an' heartless; the herds couldna win up the Black Hill, the bairns were ower weariet to play; an' yet it was gousty too, wi' claps o' het wund that rumm'led in the glens, and bits o' shouers that slockened naething. We aye thoucht it to thun'er on the morn; but the morn cam', an' the morn's morning, and it was aye the same uncanny weather, sair on folks and bestial. Of a' that were the waur nane suffered like Mr Soulis; he could neither sleep nor eat, he tauld his elders; an' when he wasnae writin' at his weary book, he wad be stravaguin' ower a' the countryside like a man possessed, when a'body else was blythe to keep caller ben the house.

frae 'Thrawn Janet' - Robert Louis Stevenson. An extract from RLS's short story entirely written in Scots.Complete Poem

I met wi' twa dink quines in particlar, ane o' them a sonsie, fine fodgel lass, baith braw and bonie; the tither was a clean-shankit, straught, tight, weel-far'd winch, as blythe's a lintwhite on a flowerie thorn, and as sweet and modest's a new blawn plumrose in a hazle shaw. - they were baith bred to mainners by the beuk, and onie ane o' them has a muckle smeddum and rumblegumption as the half o' some Presbyteries that you and I baith ken. - They play'd me sik a deevil o' a shavie that I daur say if my harigals were turn'd out, ye wad see twa nicks i' the heart o' me like the mark o' a kail-whittle in a castock.

            frae 'A Skreed ti Willie Nicol' - Robert Burns. This extract is from the only surviving letter in Scots written by Robert Burns. He sent it to his friend William Nicol in Edinburgh from Carlisle towards the end of his Border tour in 1787.

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