« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
“'Tis not beneath the coronet,
Nor canopy of state ;
Nor arbour of the great :
In the glen without a name,
When the kye comes hame.”
There is probably, however, a deeper, though less obvious, cause of this association of love with natural scenery. In that feeling for nature which is awakened at the thought of crushing under the plough a "wee modest crimson-tipped flower,” and which realizes that
“ The meanest flower on earth can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,"
- in that feeling there is much that is akin to the tenderness of all benevolent affection; and, consequently, the heart which is subdued by the power of woman's beauty becomes more quickly sensitive t the manifold beauties of nature. It is not surprising therefore, that these love-songs should lead us out t green loans and shady glens, to wimpling burns an bonny knowes, should ring with the notes of laverock and lintie and mavis, should refresh us with the breath of heather and brier and broom. But no one whose attention has not been specially drawn to this circumstance, can have any idea of the extent to which it lends a charm to the love-songs of Scotland. There are few efforts of poetic art higher than that which brings out the mutual reaction of external nature and the moods of the soul; and whether it be in the combination of the various gladness of spring and summer with the joy of the successful lover, or in that of winter's desolation with the dreariness of disappointment, or in the contrast between external sunshine and the gloom of the spirit, the Scottish singer often exhibits a skill which is astonishing when it is seen to be the result of no conscious adherence to any theory of art.
Before passing from the love songs, there is one class of lyrics which cannot be wholly passed over. The prefatory or appended remarks which give value to several collections, occasionally furnish the information that a certain song is a refinement on older verses which are unfit for publication. In an essay like the present, it ought to be explained that the unfitness for publication of many old songs arises simply from the change of manners no longer allowing the freedom of allusion which shocked no one in former times. It is also interesting to mention at present, what will be explained more fully in the fifth chapter, that the poetical taste of successive generations has followed the growing moral refinement in rescuing from their primitive grossness many of the most popular themes in Scottish song. At the same time, in considering the influence of songs on the character of the Scottish people, it is hard to shut out the suspicion that there may perhaps be a connection between these songs, which are no longer admitted into our collections, and a dark feature in the social life, especially of the lower classes of the Scottish people, which has been forced into view by the unsparing statistics of registration.
§ 2.—Domestic Songs and Ballads.
Under this section may be noticed, first of all, those songs and ballads which describe the relations of man and wife. Few facts elicited by our inquiry can give more unalloyed satisfaction than the character of these lyrics. We have already observed the evidence which the Scottish love songs furnish of an influence refining sexual relations in the humbler ranks of life. We have also seen that in many of these songs love is felt as a cheering and softening power in the encounter with the sadder and harder realities of existence; and it may be noticed further, in the present connection, that when these songs refer to the prospect of marriage, they become charming with their enthusiastic trust in the sufficiency of love to make up for the want of external luxuries. For, though we have Burns' spirited Hey! for a Lass wi a Tocher, and Allan Ramsay's still more spirited Gie me a Lass wi' a Lump o' Land, with their laugh at “beauty and wit and virtue in rags,” their dislike of meddling with "poortith, though bonny,” and their hearty delight over “weel-tochered lasses and jointured widows," yet the extravagance, as well as the authorship of these songs, proves them to be merely ironical satires. The true love song triumphs in its heedlessness about the “warld's gear,” all thought of whose value is flooded over by the great wave of delicious emotion which fills the lover's soul. It is, in fact, this childlike, at times childish, unconcern about the hard necessities of exist
1 Kamsay has tried the same theme in The Widow, which is a refinement on an older song, Wap at the Widow, my Laddie,
ence, this unthinking trust in the omnipotence of love, that gives the keenest relish to many of these songs. In the old song, Jamie o' the Glen, for example, how charmingly is the heroine described as sticking to her choice of penniless Jamie, though her "minnie grat like daft,” to induce her to marry “auld Rob, the laird o' muckle land, wi' his owsen, sheep, and kye.” Sir Walter Scott never caught the spirit of Scottish song more perfectly than in that lyric, in which the heroine, while courted by the “chief of Errington and lord of Langley Dale," still "aye loot the tears down fa' for Jock o' Hazeldean," by whom she was at last carried off in triumph “o'er the Border and awa.” The same spirit runs through the beautiful tragic ballad, preserved by Buchan, of Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie, in which the friends of Jeanie, by contrasting the poverty of Auchanachie with the wealth of Lord Saltoun, use every effort to induce her to marry the latter; but in vain.
“ Wi' Auchanachie Gordon I would beg my bread Before that wi' Saltoun I'd wear gowd on my head; Wear gowd on my head or gowns fringed to the knee, And I'll die if I getna my love Auchanachie."
This imprudent unworldliness in marriage is sometimes, indeed, carried by the Scottish singers to an extravagance, the relish of which tests the vigour of the reader's palate. Not to dwell again upon the songs, mentioned in the previous section, which amuse by their beggarly inventories of the young couple's possessions, the destitution of trousseau and general outfit, which alarms the
1 “Ballads of the North of Scotland,” vol. ii. p. 133.
bride in the old song Wooed and Married and a,' is startling to the modern reader too. But, fortunately, Joanna Baillie's refinement of this for more delicate tastes is a splendid model for polishing a coarse old song without rubbing off its characteristic points.
“The bride she is winsome and bonnie,
Her hair it is snooded sae sleek;
Yet fast fa' the tears on her cheek.
New pearlings and plenishing too;
Wooed and married and a',
To be wooed and married and a'?
*The lassie is glaikit wi' pride ;
The day that I was a bride.
And draw out your thread in the sun;
Wooed and married and a',
'Toot, toot !' quo' the grey-headed faither;
She's less o' a bride than a bairn;
Wi' sense and discretion to learn.