Songs of Angus and More Songs of Angus

Produced by Andrew Sly

[Transcriber’s Note: Two small volumes of Violet Jacob’s poetry
have been combined together to produce this text.]

SONGS OF ANGUS

By

VIOLET JACOB

Author of “Flemington”

London
John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.
1919

(First published in 1915)

NOTE

I have to thank the Editors of the Cornhill Magazine,
Country Life, and The Outlook, respectively, for their
permission to reprint in this Collection such of the following
poems as they have published.

V. J.

PREFACE

There are few poets to-day who write in the Scots vernacular, and
the modesty of the supply is perhaps determined by the slenderness
of the demand, for pure Scots is a tongue which in the changes of
the age is not widely understood, even in Scotland. The various
accents remain, but the old words tend to be forgotten, and we may
be in sight of the time when that noble speech shall be degraded
to a northern dialect of English. The love of all vanishing things
burns most strongly in those to whom they are a memory rather than a
presence, and it is not unnatural that the best Scots poetry of our
day should have been written by exiles. Stevenson, wearying for his
“hills of home,” found a romance in the wet Edinburgh streets, which
might have passed unnoticed had he been condemned to live in the
grim reality. And we have Mr. Charles Murray, who in the South
African veld writes Scots, not as an exercise, but as a living
speech, and recaptures old moods and scenes with a freshness which
is hardly possible for those who with their own eyes have watched
the fading of the outlines. It is the rarest thing, this use of
Scots as a living tongue, and perhaps only the exile can achieve it,
for the Scot at home is apt to write it with an antiquarian zest, as
one polishes Latin hexameters, or with the exaggerations which are
permissible in what does not touch life too nearly. But the exile
uses the Doric because it is the means by which he can best express
his importunate longing.

Mrs. Jacob has this rare distinction. She writes Scots because
what she has to say could not be written otherwise and retain its
peculiar quality. It is good Scots, quite free from misspelt English
or that perverted slang which too often nowadays is vulgarising the
old tongue. But above all it is a living speech, with the accent of
the natural voice, and not a skilful mosaic of robust words, which,
as in sundry poems of Stevenson, for all the wit and skill remains
a mosaic. The dialect is Angus, with unfamiliar notes to my Border
ear, and in every song there is the sound of the east wind and the
rain. Its chief note is longing, like all the poetry of exiles,
a chastened melancholy which finds comfort in the memory of old
unhappy things as well as of the beatitudes of youth. The metres are
cunningly chosen, and are most artful when they are simplest; and
in every case they provide the exact musical counterpart to the
thought. Mrs. Jacob has an austere conscience. She eschews facile
rhymes and worn epithets, and escapes the easy cadences of hymnology
which are apt to be a snare to the writer of folk-songs. She has
many moods, from the stalwart humour of “The Beadle o’ Drumlee,” and
“Jeemsie Miller,” to the haunting lilt of “The Gean-Trees,” and the
pathos of “Craigo Woods” and “The Lang Road.” But in them all are
the same clarity and sincerity of vision and clean beauty of phrase.

Some of us who love the old speech have in our heads or in our
note-books an anthology of modern Scots verse. It is a small
collection if we would keep it select. Beginning with Principal
Shairp’s “Bush aboon Traquair,” it would include the wonderful
Nithsdale ballad of “Kirkbride,” a few pieces from Underwoods,
Mr. Hamish Hendry’s “Beadle,” one or two of Hugh Haliburton’s Ochil
poems, Mr. Charles Murray’s “Whistle” and his versions of Horace,
and a few fragments from the “poet’s corners” of country newspapers.
To my own edition of this anthology I would add unhesitatingly Mrs.
Jacob’s “Tam i’ the Kirk,” and “The Gowk.”

JOHN BUCHAN.

CONTENTS

TAM I’ THE KIRK
THE HOWE O’ THE MEARNS
THE LANG ROAD
THE BEADLE O’ DRUMLEE
THE WATER-HEN
THE HEID HORSEMAN
JEEMSIE MILLER
THE GEAN-TREES
THE TOD
THE BLIND SHEPHERD
THE DOO’COT UP THE BRAES
LOGIE KIRK
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE DITCH
THE LOST LICHT
THE LAD I’ THE MUNE
THE GOWK
THE JACOBITE LASS
MAGGIE
THE WHUSTLIN’ LAD
HOGMANAY
CRAIGO WOODS
THE WILD GEESE

TAM I’ THE KIRK

O Jean, my Jean, when the bell ca’s the congregation

Owre valley an’ hill wi’ the ding frae its iron mou’,

When a’body’s thochts is set on his ain salvation,

  Mine’s set on you.

There’s a reid rose lies on the Buik o’ the Word ‘afore ye

That was growin’ braw on its bush at the keek o’ day,

But the lad that pu’d yon flower i’ the mornin’s glory,

  He canna pray.

He canna pray; but there’s nane i’ the kirk will heed him

Whaur he sits sae still his lane at the side o’ the wa,

For nane but the reid rose kens what my lassie gie’d him—

  It an’ us twa!

He canna sing for the sang that his ain he’rt raises,

He canna see for the mist that’s ‘afore his een,

An a voice drouns the hale o’ the psalms an’ the paraphrases,

  Cryin’ “Jean, Jean, Jean!”

THE HOWE O’ THE MEARNS

Laddie, my lad, when ye gang at the tail o’ the plough

  An’ the days draw in,

When the burnin’ yellow’s awa’ that was aince a-lowe

  On the braes o’ whin,

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