Thursday, 5 February 2009

What's In a Name, or Tune ... Part 1

A friend recently suggested I start a blog and I replied saying, "Sure I don't do anything interesting any more. Who'd be interested in what I had for dinner last night, or what the cat did?" It got me thinking anyway and I decided "Why not?" It mightn't be earth-shattering stuff, but it's what interests me and maybe some folk might enjoy it too.

Anyway, the other day I was re-reading the works of the Ulster-Scots folk poet James Orr (1770-1816) the Bard of Ballycarry and I happened to notice that a few works are listed as songs with the author's suggested airs listed. That got me thinking ... I already knew that Orr's poem Ballycarry Fair was set to the same tune as Burns' Green Grow The Rashes O as performed by Willie Drennan's Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra but I wanted to see what the others would sound like.

The tune listed for The Spae Wife (see below for text) was Come Under My Plaidie, which I'd heard of, but never heard out loud. However, a quick dig through my music books and I found the words to Come Under My Plaidie (by Hector MacNeill 1746-1818) and the music. It turns out I actually knew the tune already, only I knew it as the well-know Robert Burns song Tibbie Dunbar (link to the sheetmusic) and the original tune name is apparently Johnny McGill. O what a tangled web. Anyway, here it is:

The Spae-Wife

Ye frien’s o’ deep knowledge, if wise ye wad be,
Creep into my cave an’ a’ secrets ye’ll see;
If maiden, or mother, uncertainty bother,
Frae doubt an’ frae darkness, their min’s I can free:
Ilk lass, no told lees on, wha deems, an’ wi’ reason,
The youth she oblig’t frae her fond arms will flee,
An’ wife, in a fear ay, that jilts meet her dearie,
May learn the hale truth by applyin’ to me.

Gif Chanticlear’s ta’en frae tha roost whare he craw’t;
Or horse, kye or sheep, frae the pasture-fiel’ ca’t.
My head I’ll bestow ye, if I dinna shew ye
The leuks in a glass, o’ the loun that’s in faut:
Or else if ye cleek up, an’ toss my delft tea cup,
If danger, or death’s near, the gruns plain will shaw’t:
By cuttin’ o’ cartes folk, an’ no’ by black arts, folk,
O past, present, future, I’ll read ye a claut.

A spunkie reply’t, wha oureheard the dark dame –
“Guid wife! They wha trust ye defeat their ain aim;
“The henpecket taupie, wha’d wiss to be happy,
“Sud ax nane wha kens – what the wife does at hame:
“Ilk sport-lovin’ weary, might dread to come near ye,
“Wha ken’st the dark neuk where she try’t the blythe game-
“The grand plan of Nature’s conceal’d frae a’ creatures;
"Nor cud their skill chang’t gif they kent the hale scheme.

“Ye promise promotion, an’ sin’ frae the mead
“The shepherd to sea, whare some shark soon he’ll feed;
“The young thing, sae bonie, weds some canker’t clownie,
“Because ye’ve presage’d that nae ither’s decreed –
“While dupes trust the sybil far mair than the bible,
“An’ change the last sixpence that ye may be fee’d,
“I’ll scorn the to-morrow, an’ banishin’ sorrow,
“Learn mair light frae whiskey than e’er fill’t your head.

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