Tuesday, 3 April 2012

An old Ulster-Scots poem

This evening I came across several poems in Ulster-Scots in the Belfast News-Letter for 1838.  The first was in the 7 December edition and was reprinted from the December edition of the Dublin University Magazine.  The poem, which was written in a light Ulster-Scots, was set in a graveyard in the Ulster-Scots community of Islandmagee.

It's up the hills, an' down the braes,
An' ower the heather green,
It's lang sin' ye were here before
It's langsome ye hae been -
There's mony a house, and mony a ha'
And mony a lass between.

Oh! Mary, wipe awa the tears,
They're happin'frae your een,
For mony a house, and mony a ha'
Sin' Beltane I hae seen
But no ae lass by the hearth-stane,
Sae bonny sits between.

Oh! Willy, tak' me to your bread,
An' let me greet my fill;
Ye're gaun awa again, Willy -
The sun blinks on the hill -
An' I maun bide the lee lang year
Sae mair again' my will.

Oh! let me kee you, my wee Mary,
For I maun gang my lane;
But will ye keep the tryst Mary,
When May flowers spring again?

Oh! weary are the lang, lang nichts,
An' driech the lanely hours,
Until the May comes back again,
Wi' a' her bonny flowers.

It's up the hills, an' down the braes,
An' ower the heather green,
It's lang sin' I was here before,
It's langsome I hae been -
An' mony a hill, an' mony a dale,
An' mony a mile between.

Weel hae ye kept yer tryst, Willy -
The red is in your cheek,
An' glancin' are your een, Willy;
An' pleasant words ye speak;
An' ye hae come frae the leevin' world
Your ain true love to seek.

What gars ye look sae pale, Mary?
What gars ye look sae wan?
Ye hae a smell o' the kirk-yard banes,
Amang the rotten san';
And I a leevin' man.

Come up wi' me to the kirk-yard,
Ye promised me to wed;
I sleep a' nicht in a deep. damp grave,
Wi' mouls sae newly spread;
An' lay ye down wi' me, Willy,
Upon our marriage bed.

Later that month, on 18 December 1838, the News-Letter carried the poem Tam o' the Balloch.

Some critics argue that Ulster-Scots is a recent invention but it is hard for them to argue that when we have examples such as the above, from 1838.

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