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TAM SAMSON'S ELEGY.*
An honest man's the noblest work of God.
HAS auld K****** seen the deil? Or great M********† thrawn his heel? Or R******* again grown weel,‡
To preach an' read. "Na, waur than a"!" cries ilka chiel, Tam Samson's dead!
K******* lang may grunt an' grane, An' sigh, an' sab, an' greet her lane, An' cleed her bairns, man, wife, an' wean, In mourning weed; To death she's dearly paid the kane, Tam Samson's dead!
The brethren of the mystic level May hing their head in woefu' bevel, While by their nose the tears will revel, Like ony bead; Death's gien the lodge an unco devel: Tam Samson's dead!
When winter muffles up his cloak, And binds the mire like a rock; When to the loughs the curlers flock, Wi' gleesome speed, Wha will they station at the cock? Tam Samson's dead!
He was the king o' a' the core, To guard, or draw, or wick a bore, Or up the rink like Jehu roar
In time of need; But now he lags on death's hog-score, Tam Samson's dead!
Now safe the stately sawmont sail, And trouts bedropp'd wi' crimson hail, And eels weel kenn'd for souple tail, And geds for greed, Since dark in death's fish-creel we wail Tam Samson dead!
Rejoice, ye birring paitricks a';
Tam Samson's dead!
That woefu' morn be ever mourn'd, Saw him in shootin graith adorn'd, While pointers round impatient burn'd, Frae couples freed; But, och! he gaed and ne'er return'd! Tam Samson's dead!
* When this worthy old sportsman went out last muirfowl season, he supposed it was to be, in Ossian's phrase, "the last of his fields;" and expressed an ardent wish to die and be buried in the muirs. On this hint the author composed his elegy and epitaph.
+ A certain preacher, a great favourite with the million. Tide the Ordination, stanza ii.
Another preacher, an equal favourite with the few, who was at that time ailing. For him, see also the Ordination, stanza ix.
In vain auld age his body batters; In vain the gout his ankles fetters; In vain the burns came down like waters, An acre braid! Now every auld wife, greetin, clatters, Tam Samson's dead!
Owre many a weary hag he limpit, An' aye the tither shot he thumpit, Till coward death behind him jumpit, Wi' deadly feide;
Now he proclaims, wi' tout o' trumpet, Tam Samson's dead!
When at his heart he felt the dagger, He reel'd his wonted bottle swagger, But yet he drew the mortal trigger Wi' weel aim'd heed; "L-d, five!" he cried, and owre did stagger; Tam Samson's dead!
Ilk hoary hunter mourn'd a brither; Ilk sportsman youth bemoan'd a father; Yon auld gray stane, amang the heather, Marks out his head, Whare Burns has wrote, in rhyming blether Tam Samson's dead!
There low he lies, in lasting rest; Perhaps upon his mouldering breast Some spitefu' muirfowl bigs her nest, To hatch an' breed; Alas! nae mair he'll them molest! Tam Samson's dead!
When August winds the heather wave, And sportsmen wander by yon grave, Three volleys let his memory crave, O' pouther an' lead, Till echo answer frae her cave,
Tam Samson's dead!
Heaven rest his saul, whare'er he be ! Is th' wish o' monie mae than me; He had twa faults, or may be three, Yet what remead? Ae social, honest man want we:
Tam Samson's dead!
TAM SAMSON'S weel-worn clay here lies,
Go, fame, and canter like a filly, Through a' the streets an' neuks o' Killie,* Tell every social, honest billie
To cease his grievin, For yet, unskaith'd by death's gleg gullie, Tam Samson's livin.
*Killie is a phrase the country folks sometimes use for Kilmarnock.
The following poem will, by many readers, be well enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast, notes are added, to give some account of the principal charms and spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and nations: and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such should honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our own.
Then first and foremost, through the kail, Their stocks* maun a' be sought ance; They steek their e'en, an' graip an' wale,
For muckle anes an' straught anes. Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
An' wander'd through the bow-kail, An pow't for want o' better shift, A runt was like a sow-tail, Sae bow't that night.
Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
Wi' stocks out-owre their shouther;
Wi' cannie care they place them
The lasses staw frae 'mang them a',
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
He grippet Nelly hard an' fast;
The auld guidwife's weel hoordet nits§
Are there that night decided: Some kindle, couthie, side by side An' burn thegither trimly;
*The first ceremony of Halloween is, pulling each a stock, or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells-the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth, stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custor, that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door: and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house, are, according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question.
They go to the barn-yard and pull each, at three several times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the top-pickle, that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage bed any thing but a maid.
When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green, or wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, &c., makes a large apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest exposed to the wind: this he calls a fause-house.
§ Burning the nuts is a famous charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire, and accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.
Some start awa wi' saucie pride,
Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e ; Wha 'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, an' this is me,
She says in to hersel:
He bleezed owre her, an' she owre him,
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' Aling,
To be that night.
Nell had the fause-house in her min',
Till white in ase they're sobbin: Nell's heart was dancin at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to look for't:
Unseen that night.
But Merran sat behint their backs,
She through the yard the nearest taks,
And in the blue-clue* throws then,
An' aye she wint, an' aye she swat,
Guid L-d! but she was quakin!
To spier that night.
Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and, darkling, throw into the pot a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and, towards the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand tha hauds? i. e. who holds? an answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future spouse.
Wee Jenny to her grannie says, "Will ye go wi' me, grannie? I'll eat the apple* at the glass,
I gat frae uncle Johnie ;" She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt, In wrath she was sae vap'rin, She noticed na, an azle brunt Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night. XIV.
"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face! How daur you try sic sportin, As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune?
On sic a night.
"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor, I mind't as weel' yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
It fell that night.
"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen, A clever, sturdy fallow;
He's sin got Eppie Sim wi' wean,
Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
An' he swoor by his conscience, That he could saw hemp-seed a peck; For it was a' but nonsense;
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
Syne bad him slip frae 'mang the folk,
An' try't that night.
* Take a candle, and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say, you should comb your hair, all the time; the face of your conjugal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.
Steal out unperceived, and sow a handful of hempseed; harrowing it with any thing you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then, "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, come after me, and shaw thee," that is, show thyself: in which case it simply appears Others omit the harrowing, and say, "come after me, and harrow thee."
He marches through amang the stacks,
An' every now an' then he says,
An' her that is to be my lass,
He whistled up Lord Lenox' march To keep his courage cheerie; Although his hair began to arch,
He was sae fley'd an' eerie : Till presently he hears a squeak, An' then a grane an' gruntle; He by his shouther gae a keek, An' tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.
He roar'd a horrid murder-shout, In dreadfu' desperation !
An' young an' auld came rinnin out, To hear the sad narration:
He swoor 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Meg fain wad to the barn gaen,
To win three wechts o' naething;* But for to meet the deil her lane, She pat but little faith in :
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
That vera night.
She turns the key wi' cannie thraw, An' owre the threshold ventures But first on Sawnie gies a ca',
Syne bauldly in she enters; A ratton rattled up the wa',
An' she cried L-d preserve her, An' ran through midden-hole an' a', An' pray'd wi' zeal an' fervour, Fu' fast that night.
*This charm must likewise be performed unperceived, and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being, about to appear, may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which, in our country dialect, we call a wecht; and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times; and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door, and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.
They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice:
They hecht him some fine braw ane; It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice,* Was timmer propt for thrawin: He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black, grousome carlin; An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke, Till skin in blypes came haurlin Aff's nieves that night. XXIV.
A wanton widow Leezie was,
But och that night, amang the shaws,
She through the whins, an' by the cairn,
Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays, As through the glen it wimplet: Whyles round a rocky scar it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimplet; Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays, Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle ; Whyles cookit underneath the braes, Below the spreading hazel, Unseen that night.
Amang the brachens, on the brae,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Wi' a plunge that night. XXVII.
In order, on the clean hearth-stane, The luggies three‡ are ranged,
* Take an opportunity of going, unnoticed, to a Bear stack, and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time, you will catch in your arms the appearance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.
+ You go out, one or more, for this is a social spell, to a south running spring or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake; and some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.
Take three dishes; put clean water in one, foul water in another, leave the third empty blindfold a person, and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged: he (or she) dips the left hand: if by chance in the clean water, the future husband or wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.