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They watch'd--but nane saw him his brose ever sup,
Nor a spune sought Aiken-drum.

On Blednoch banks, an' on crystal Cree,
For mony a day a toil'd wicht was he;

And the bairns they play'd harmless roun' his knee,
Sae social was Aiken-drum.

But a new-made wife, fu' o' rippish freaks,
Fond 'o' a' things feat for the five first weeks,
Laid a mouldy pair o' her ain man's breeks
By the brose o' Aiken-drum.

Let the learn'd decide when they convene,
What spell was him an' the breeks between ;
For frae that day forth he was nae mair seen,
An' sair miss'd was Aiken-drum.

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He was heard by a herd gaun by the Thrieve,
Crying, Lang, lang now may I greet an' grieve;
For alas! I hae gotten baith fee an' leave,

O luckless Aiken-drum!'

Awa! ye wrangling sceptic tribe,

Wi' your pro's an' your con's wad ye decide
'Gainst the 'sponsible voice o' a'hale country-side
On the facts 'bout Aiken-drum?

Tho' the Brownie o' Blednoch' lang de gane,
The mark o' his feet's left on mony a stane;
An' mony a wife an' mony a wean

Tell the feats o' Aiken-drum?

E'en now, licht loons that gibe an' sneer
At spiritual guests an' a' sic gear,

and long used as a test by which to ascertain the orthodoxy of suspected persons. If, on taking it into his hand, the person trembled, or gave other symptoms of agitation, he was denounced as having bowed the knee to Baal, and sacrificed at the altar of idolatry.

At the Glasnock mill hae swat wi' fear,
An' look'd roun' for Aiken-drum,

An' guidly folks hae gotten a fricht,

When the moon was set, an' the stars gied nae licht,
At the roaring linn in the howe o' the nicht,

Wi' sughs like Aiken-drum.

We would rather have written these lines than any amount of Aurora Leighs, Festuses, or such like, with all their mighty 'somethingness,' as Mr. Bailey would say. For they, are they not the 'native wood-notes wild' of one of nature's darlings? Here is the indescribable, inestimable, unmistakable impress of genius. Chaucer, had he been a Galloway man, might have written it, only he would have been more garrulous, and less compact and stern. It is like Tam o' Shanter, in its living union of the comic, the pathetic, and the terrible. Shrewdness, tenderness, imagination, fancy, humour, word-music, dramatic power, even witall are here. I have often read it aloud to children, and it is worth any one's while to do it. You will find them repeating all over the house for days such lines as take their heart and tongue.

The author of this noble ballad was William Nicholson, the Galloway poet, as he was, and is still called in his own district. He was born at Tanimaus, in the parish of Borgue, in August 1783;

he died circa 1848, unseen, like a bird.


extremely short-sighted, he was unfitted for being a shepherd or ploughman, and began life as a packman, like the hero of the Excursion;' and is still remembered in that region for his humour, his music, his verse, and his ginghams; and also, alas! for his misery and his sin. After travelling the country for thirty years, he became a packless pedlar, and fell into a way of drinking;' this led from bad to worse, and the grave closed in gloom over the ruins of a man of true genius. Mr. M'Diarmid of Dumfries prefixed a memoir of him to the Second Edition of his Tales in Verse and Miscellaneous Poems. These are scarcely known out of Galloway, but they are worth the knowing: none of them have the concentration and nerve of the Brownie, but they are from the same brain and heart. 'The Country Lass,' a long poem, is excellent; with much of Crabbe's power and compression. This, and the greater part of the volume, is in the Scottish dialect, but there is a Fable—the Butterfly and Bee— the English and sense, the fine, delicate humour and turn of which might have been Cowper's; and there is a bit of rugged sarcasm called 'Siller,' which Burns need not have been ashamed of. Poor Nicholson, besides his turn for verse, was an exquisite musician, and sang with a powerful and sweet voice. One may imagine the delight of a lonely town-end, when Willie

the packman and the piper made his appearance, with his stories, and jokes, and ballads, his songs, and reels, and 'wanton wiles.'

There is one story about him which has always appeared to me quite perfect. A farmer in a remote part of Galloway, one June morning before sunrise, was awakened by music; he had been dreaming of heaven, and when he found himself awake, he still heard the strains. He looked out, and saw no one, but at the corner of a grass field he saw his cattle, and young colts and fillies, huddled together, and looking intently down into what he knew was an old. quarry. He put on his clothes, and walked across the field, everything but that strange wild melody, still and silent in this 'the sweet hour of prime.' As he got nearer the 'beasts,' the sound was louder ; the colts with their long manes, and the nowt with their wondering stare, took no notice of him, straining their necks forward entranced. There, in the old quarry, the young sun 'glintin' on his face, and resting on his pack, which had been his pillow, was our Wandering Willie, playing and singing like an angel an Orpheus; an Orpheus.' What a picture! When reproved for wasting his health and time by the prosaic farmer, the poor fellow said: 'Me and this quarry are lang acquant, and I've mair pleesure in pipin' to thae daft cowts, than if the best leddies in the land were figurin' away afore me.'


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