Scotland’s Poetic Gimcracks 

Poems on fishes, train wrecks, gigantic cheeses…Scotland’s bad poetry ranges hugely in subject matter. What some Scottish poets created to inspire people in Victorian times, provides now (and probably then) quite a hoot!


At that tide when the voice of the turtle is dumh,
And winter wi’ drap at his nose doth come,

A whistle to mak o’ the castle lum
To sowf his music sae sairie, O !

And the roast on the speet is sapless an’ sma’,
And meat is scant in chamber and ha’,

And the knichts hae ceased their merry gaffaw,
For lack o’ their warm canarie, O !

Then the Harp and the Haggis began a dispute,
’Bout whilk o’ their charms were in highest repute :
The Haggis at first as a haddie was mute,
An’ the Harp went on wi’ her vapourin*, O !

An’ lofty an’ loud were the tones she assumed,
An’ boasted how ladies and knichts gaily plumed,
Through rich gilded halls, all so sweetly perfumed,
To the sound of her strings went a caperin’, O !

”While the Haggis, “she said, “ was a beggarly slave,
An’ never was seen “mang the fair an’ the bi-ave ;”
”Fuff! fuff !” quo’ the Haggis, “ thou vile lying knave,
Come tell us the use of thy twanging?

Can it fill a toom wame ? Can it help a man’s pack?
A minstrel when out may come in for his snack,
But when starving at hame, will it keep him, alack !
Frae trying his hand at the hanging, O ?”

The twa they grew wud as wud could be,
But a minstrel boy they chanced to see,

Wha stood list’ning bye, an’ to settle the plea,
They begged he would try his endeavour, O !
For the twa in their wrath had all reason forgot,
And stood boiling with rage just like peas in a pot,
But a Haggis, ye ken, aye looks best when it’s hot,
So his bowels were moved in her favour, O !

Nocht pleasures the lug half sae weel as a tune,
An’ whar hings the lug wad be fed wi’ a spoon ?”
The Harp in a triumph cried, “ Laddie, weel done,”
An’ her strings wi’ delight fell a tinkling, O !
The harp’s a braw thing,” continued the youth, “
But what is a harp to put in the mouth?

It fills na the wame, it slaiks na the drouth,—
At least,—that is my way o’ thinking, O.
”A tune’s but an air; but a Haggis is meat;—
An’ wha plays the tune that a body can eat ? “

When a Haggis is seen wi’ a sheep’s head and feet,
My word she has gallant attendance, O.

A man wi’ sic fare may ne’er pree the tangs,

But laugh at lank hunger though sharp be her fangs
But the bard that maun live by the wind o’ his sangs,
Waes me, has a puir dependence, O.

”How aften we hear, wi’ the tear in our eye,

Now the puir starving minstrel, exposed to the sky,
Lays his head on his harp, and breathes out his last sigh,
Without e’er a friend within hearing, O,
But wha ever heard of a minstrel so crost,—
Lay his head on a Haggis to gie up the ghost ?—
O never, since time took his scythe frae the post,
An truntled awa to the shearing, O.

” Now I’ll settle your plea in the crack o’ a whup ;—

Gie the Haggis the lead, be’t to dine or to sup :

Till the bags are weel filled, there can nae drone get up,
Is a saying I learned from my mither, O.

When the feasting is owre, let the harp loudly twang,
An’ soothe ilka lug wi’ the charms o’ her sang,

An’ the wish of my heart is, wherever ye gang,
Gude grant ye may aye be thegither, O.”

— Carrick.

God’s might so peopled hath the sea
With fish of divers sort,
That men therein may clearly see
Great Things for their comfort.
There is such a great varietie,
Of fishes of all kind,
That it were a great impiete
God’s hand there not to find.

The Puffin, Torteuse and Thorneback,
The Scillop and the Goujeon,
The Shrimpe, the Spit-fish, and the Sprat,
The Stock-fish, and the Sturgeon;
The Torteuse, Tench, and Tunnyfish,
The Sparling and the Trout
And Herring for the poor man’s dish.
Is all the land about.

The Groundling, Gilt-head, and the Crab.
The Gurnard, Cockle, Oyster,
The Cramp-fish and als the Sea-Dog,
The Crefish and the Conger;
The Periwinkle and Twinfish—-
It’s hard to count them all;
Some are for oyle, some for the dish;
The greatest is the Whale!

— —Zachary Boyd, (1585-1653) Minister of the Barony, Glasgow, and thrice Rector of Glasgow University

Founded on Fact, and written expressly for all the Hangers-on about the Dripping-Pan. The learned have said (but who can tell When learned folks are right) That there is no such thing in life As loving at first sight.
But I will now an instance bring, You may rely upon,
How Peter Black fell deep in love With Mary Mucklejohn.

He through the kitchen-window look’d,
When Mary just had got
A round of beef all newly cook’d,
And smoking from the pot.

And aye he gaz’d and aye he smelt,
With many a hungry groan,
Till Mary’s heart began to melt -
Like marrow in the bone.

And looking up, she sweetly smiled,
Her smile it seemed to say,
” Please, Mr. Black, if you’re inclined.
You’ll dine with me to-day.”

At least so Peter read her smile,
And soon tripp’d down the stair ;
When Mary kindly welcom’d him,
And help’d him to a chair.

There much he praised the round of beef,
And much he praised the maid
While she, poor simple soul, believed
Each flattering word he said.

Perhaps he made some slight mistakes,
Yet part might well be trew’d,

For though her face was no great shakes,
The beef was really good.

Then Peter pledged his troth, and swore
A constant man he’d be,
And daily, like a man of truth,
Came constantly at three.

And thus he dared, though long and lean,
Each slanderous tongue to say,
That, though when present he seem’d long,
That he was long away.

Three was the hour, when bits were nice,
And then he show’d his face,
But show’d it there so very oft
That Mary lost her place.

Some fair ones say that love is sweet,
And hideth many a fault
Our fair one found, when turn’d away,
Her love was rather salt.

Poor Mary says to Peter Black,
”Now wedded let us be,
Bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh
You promis’d to make me.”

”Flesh of your flesh, I grant I said,
Bone of your bone, I’d be
But now you know you’ve got no flesh,
And bones are not for me.”

Poor Cooky now stood all aghast
To find him on the shy,
And rais’d her apron-tail to wipe
The dripping from her eye.

She sobb’d “ Oh, perjured Peter Black,
The basest man I know,
You’re Black by name, you’re black at heart,
Since you can use me so.”

Yet, still to please her Peter’s taste
Gave her poor heart relief ;
So Mary went and hung herself,
And thus became hung beef.

That grief had cut her up, ‘twas plain
To every one in town,
But Peter, when he heard the tale,
He ran and cut her down.

Fast, fast his briny tears now flow’d
Yet Mary’s sands ran fleeter
Such brine could not preserve the maid,
Though from her own salt Peter.
— (From this let cookmaids learn to shun Men who are long and lean ; For when they talk about their love, 'Tis pudding that they mean. THE DEIL O' BUCKLYVIE. Carrick. )