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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 it's rude state, in all ages and nations; and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such should honor the Author with a perusal, to see the remains of it, among the more unenlightened in our own.
* Is thought to be a night when Witches, Devils, and other mischief-making beings, are all abroad on their baneful, midnight errands: particularly, those aerial people, the Fairies, are said, on that night, to hold a grand Anniversary.
Yes! let the Rich deride, the Proud disdain,
The simple pleasures of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art.
1 UPON that night, when Fairies light,
2 On Cassilis Downans†
† Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis. dance,
3 Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
4 On sprightly coursers prance;[Page 102]
5 Or for Colean, the rout is taen,
6 Beneath the moon's pale beams;
7 There, up the Cove,*
* A noted cavern near Colean-house, called the Cove of Colean; which, as well as Cassilis Downans, is famed, in country story, for being a favourite haunt of Fairies. to stray an' rove,
8 Amang the rocks an' streams
9 To sport that night
10 Amang the bonie, winding banks,
11 Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear,
12 Where BRUCE†
† The famous family of that name, the ancestors of ROBERT the great Deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick. ance rul'd the martial ranks,
13 An' shook his Carrick spear,
14 Some merry, friendly, countra folks,
15 Together did convene,
16 To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
17 Au' haud their Halloween
18 Fu' blythe that night.
19 The lassies feat, an' cleanly neat,
20 Mair braw than when they're fine;
21 Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe,
22 Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':
23 The lads fae trig, wi wooer-babs,
24 Weel knotted on their garten,
25 Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs,
26 Gar lasses hearts gang startin
27 Whyles fast at night.
28 Then, first an' foremost thro' the kail,
29 Their stocks*[Page 104]
* 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 custoc, 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. maun a' be sought ance;
30 They steek their een, an' grape an' wale,
31 For muckle anes, an' straught anes.
32 Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
33 An' wander'd thro' the Bow-kail,
34 An' pow't, for want o' better shift,
35 A runt was like a sow-tail
36 Sae bow't that night.
37 'Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
38 They roar an' cry a' throw'ther;
39 The vera wee-things, toddlan, rin,
40 Wi' stocks out owre their shouther:
41 An' gif the custock's sweet or sour,
42 Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
43 Syne coziely, aboon the door,
44 Wi' cannie care, they've plac'd them
45 To lye that night.
46 The lasses staw frae 'mang them a',
47 To pou their stalks o' corn;*[Page 105]
* 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 want the Maidenhead.
48 But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
49 Behint the muckle thorn:
50 He grippet Nelly hard an' fast;
51 Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
52 But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
53 When kiutlan in the Fause-house*
* 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.
54 Wi' him that night.
VII. 55 The auld Guidwife's weel-hoordet nits†
† Burning the nuts is a favourite charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according; as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the Courtship will be.
56 Are round an' round divided,
57 An' monie lads an' lasses fates
58 Are there that night decided:[Page 106]
59 Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
60 An' burn thegither trimly;
61 Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
62 An' jump out owre the chimlie
63 Fu' high that night.
64 Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;
65 Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
66 But this is Jock, an' this is me,
67 She says in to hersel:
68 He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him,
69 As they wad never mair part,
70 Till fuff! he started up the lum,
71 An' Jean had e'en a fair heart
72 To see't that night.
73 Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
74 Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
75 An' Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,
76 To be compar'd to Willie:[Page 107]
77 Mall's nit lap out, wi' pridefu' fling,
78 An' her ain fit, it brunt it;
79 While Willie lap, an' swoor by jing,
80 'Twas just the way he wanted
81 To be that night.
82 Nell had the Fause-house in her min',
83 She pits hersel an' Rob in;
84 In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
85 Till white in ase they're sobbin:
86 Nell's heart was dancin at the view;
87 She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
88 Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonie mou,
89 Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
90 Unseen that night.
91 But Merran sat behint their backs,
92 Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
93 She lea'es them gashan at their cracks,
94 An' slips out by herfel:[Page 108]
95 She thro' the yard the nearest taks,
96 An' for the kiln she goes then,
97 An' darklins grapet for the bauks,
98 And in the blue-clue*
* 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 clew of blue yarn: wind it in a new clew off the old one; and towards the latter end, something will hold the thread: demand, wha hauds? i.e. who holds? and answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the christian and sirname of your future Spouse. throws then,
99 Right fear't that night.
100 An' ay the win't, an' ay the swat,
101 I wat she made nae jaukin;
102 Till something held within the pat,
103 Guid L — d! but she was quaukin!
104 But whether 'twas the Deil himsel,
105 Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
106 Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
107 She did na wait on talkin
108 To spier that night.
109 Wee Jenny to her Graunie says,
110 'Will ye go wi' me Graunie? [Page 109]
111 ' I'll eat the apple*
* 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. at the glass,
112 'I gat frae uncle Johnie:'
113 She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
114 In wrath she was sae vap'rin,
115 She notic't na, an aizle brunt
116 Her braw, new, worset apron
117 Out thro' that night
118 'Ye little Skelpie-limmer's-face!
119 ' I daur you try sic sportin,
120 'As seek the foul Thief onie place,
121 ' For him to spae your fortune:
122 'Nae doubt but ye may get a fight!
123 ' Great cause ye hae to fear it;
124 'For monie a ane has gotten a fright,
125 ' An' liv'd an' di'd deleeret,
126 'On sic a night.
127 'Ae Hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
128 ' I mind't as weel's yestreen,
129 'I was a gilpey then, I'm sure,
130 ' I was na past fyfteen:
131 'The Simmer had been cauld an' wat,
132 ' An' Stuff was unco green;
133 'An' ay a rantan Kirn we gat,
134 ' An' just on Halloween
135 'It fell that night.
136 'Our Stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
137 'A clever, sturdy fallow;
138 'His Sin gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,
139 That liv'd in Achmacalla:
140 ' He gat hemp seed,*
* Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp seed; 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. 'I mind it weel,
141 ' An' he made unco light o't;[Page 111]
142 'But monie a day was by himsel,
143 ' He was sae sairly frighted
144 'That vera night.'
145 Then up gat fechtan Jamie Fleck,
146 An' he swoor by his conscience,
147 That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
148 For it was a' but nonsense:
149 The auld guidman raught down the pock,
150 An' out a handfu' gied him;
151 Syne bad him slip frae 'mang the folk,
152 Sometime when nae ane see'd him,
153 An' try't that night.
154 He marches thro' amang the stacks,
155 Tho' he was something sturtan;
156 The graip he for a harrow taks,
157 An' haurls at his curpan:[Page 112]
158 And ev'ry now an' then, he says,
159 'Hemp-seed I saw thee,
160 ' An' her that is to be my lass,
161 'Come after me an' draw thee
162 ' As fast this night. '
163 He whistl'd up lord Lenox' march,
164 To keep his courage cheary;
165 Altho' his hair began to arch,
166 He was sae fley'd an' eerie:
167 Till presently he hears a squeak,
168 An' then a grane an' gruntle;
169 He by his showther gae a keek,
170 An' tumbl'd wi' a wintle
171 Out owre that night.
172 He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
173 In dreadfu' desperation!
174 An' young an' auld come rinnan out,
175 An' hear the sad narration:[Page 113]
176 He swoor 'twas hilchan Jean M'Craw,
177 Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
178 Till stop! she trotted thro' them a';
179 An' wha was it but Grumphie
180 Asteer that night?
181 Meg fain wad to the Barn gaen,
182 To winn three wechts o' naething;*
* This charm must Iikewise be performed, unperceived and alone. You 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 thro' all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times: and the third time, an apparition will pass thro' 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.
183 But for to meet the Deil her lane,
184 She pat but little faith in:
185 She gies the Herd a pickle nits,
186 An' twa red cheeket apples,
187 To watch, while for the Barn she sets,
188 In hopes to see Tam Kipples
189 That vera night.
190 She turns the key, wi' cannie thraw,
191 An' owre the threshold ventures;
192 But first on Sawnie gies a ca',
193 Syne bauldly in she enters:
194 A ratton rattl'd up the wa',
195 An' she cry'd, L — d preferve her!
196 An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a',
197 An' pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
198 Fu' fast that night.
199 They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;
200 They hecht him some fine braw ane;
201 It chanc'd the Stack he faddom't thrice,*
* 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.
202 Was timmer-propt for thrawin:
203 He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
204 For some black, grousome Carlin;[Page 115]
205 An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
206 Till skin in blypes cam haurlin
207 Aff's nieves that night.
208 A wanton widow Leezie was,
209 As cantie as a kittlen;
210 But Och! that night, amang the shaws,
211 She gat a fearfu' fettlin!
212 She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn,
213 An' owre the hill gaed scrievin,
214 Whare three Lairds' lan's met at a burn,*
* 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. Ly awake; and sometime 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.
215 To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
216 Was bent that night.
217 Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
218 As thro' the glen it wimpl't;[Page 116]
219 Whyles round a rocky scar it strays;
220 Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't;
221 Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
222 Wi' bickerin, dancin dazzle;
223 Whyles cooket underneath the braes,
224 Below the spreading hazle
225 Unseen that night.
226 Amang the brachens, on the brae,
227 Between her an' the moon,
228 The Deil, or else an outler Quey,
229 Gat up an' gae a croon:
230 Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool;
231 Near lav'rock-height she jumpet,
232 But mist a fit, an' in the pool,
233 Out owre the lugs she plumpet,
234 Wi' a plunge that night.
235 In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
236 The Luggies*[Page 117]
* Take three dishes; put clean water in one, foul water in another, and 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. three are ranged;
237 And ev'ry time great care is taen,
238 To see them duely changed:
239 Auld, uncle John, wha wedlock's joys,
240 Sin' Mar's-year did desire,
241 Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
242 He heav'd them on the fire,
243 In wrath that night.
244 Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
245 I wat they did na weary;
246 And unco tales, an' funnie jokes,
247 Their sports were cheap an' cheary:
248 Till butter'd So'ns,*
* Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween Supper. wi' fragrant lunt,
249 Set a' their gabs a steerin;
250 Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
251 They parted aff careerin
252 Fu' blythe that night.