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In vain auld age his body batters;
Owre many a weary hag he limpit,
Now he proclaims, wi' tout o' trumpet,
When at his heart he felt the dagger,
Ilk hoary hunter mourn'd a brither;
There low he lies, in lasting rest;
When August winds the heather wave,
Tam Samson's dead!
Heaven rest his saul, whare'er he be !
Tam Samson's dead!
TAM SAMSON's weel-worn clay here lies,
Go, fame, and canter like a filly,
To cease his grievin,
*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.
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
UPON that night, when fairies light,
Beneath the moon's pale beams; There, up the cove,t to stray an' rove Amang the rocks and streams,
To sport that night.
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.
Amang the bonnie winding banks,
Some merry, friendly countra folks,
Together did convene,
Fu' blythe that night.
The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they're fine;
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.
+ Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cas
A noted cavern near Colean house, called the Cove of Colean which, as Cassilis Downans, is famed in country story for being a favourite haunt of fairies.
§ The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.
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',
He grippet Nelly hard an' fast;
The auld guidwife's weel hoordet nits§
Are there that night decided:
*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 prophetie 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.
+ 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;
He bleezed owre her, an' she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' fling,
An' her ain fit it burnt it; While Willie lap, and swoor by jing, 'Twas just the way he wanted 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: Rob, stowlins, prie'd her bonnie mou, Fu' cozie in the neuk for't, Unseen that night. XI.
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 Ld! 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 wha 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? Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it; For monie a ane has gotten a fright, An' lived an' died deleerit On sic a night.
"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
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,
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,
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."