Phantasmagoria and Other Poems/The Lang Coortin'


The ladye she stood at her lattice high,
Wi' her doggie at her feet;
Thorough the lattice she can spy
The passers in the street.

"There's one that standeth at the door,
And tirleth at the pin:
Now speak and say, my popinjay,[1]
If I sall let him in."

Then up and spake the popinjay
That flew abune her head:
"Gae let him in that tirls the pin,
He cometh thee to wed."

O when he cam' the parlour in,
A woeful man was he!
" And dinna ye ken your lover again,
Sae well that loveth thee?"

"And how wad I ken ye loved me, Sir,
That have been sae lang away?
And how wad I ken ye loved me, Sir?
Ye never telled me sae!"

Said—"ladye dear," and the salt salt tear
Cam' rinnin' doon his cheek,
"I have sent thee tokens of my love
This many and many a week.

"O didna ye get the rings, ladye,
The rings o' the gowd sae fine?
I wist that I have sent to thee
Four score, four score and nine."

"They cam' to me," said that fair ladye,
"Wow, they were flimsie things!"
Said—"that chain o' gowd, my doggie to houd,
It is made o' thae self-same rings."

"And didna ye get the locks, the locks,
The locks o' my ain black hair,
Whilk I sent by post, whilk I sent by box,
Whilk I sent by the carrier?"

"They cam' to me," said that fair ladye,
"And I prithee send nae mair!"
Said—"that cushion sae red, for my doggie's head,
It is stuffed wi' thae locks o' hair."

"And didna ye get the letter, ladye,
Tied wi' a silken string,
Whilk I sent to thee frae the far countrie,
A message of love to bring?"

"It cam' to me frae the far countrie
Wi' its silken string and a';
But it wasna prepaid," said that high-born maid,
"Sae I gar'd them tak' it awa'."

"O ever alack that ye sent it back,
It was written sae clerkly and well!
Now the message it brought, and the boon that it
I must even say it mysel'."

Then up and spake the popinjay,
Sae wisely counselled he:
"Now say it in the proper way,
Gae doon upon thy knee I"

The lover he turned baith red and pale,
Gaed doon upon his knee:
"O ladye, hear the waesome tale
I have to tell to thee!

"For five lang years, and five lang years,
I coorted thee by looks;
By nods and winks, by smiles and tears,
As I had read in books.

"For ten lang years, O weary hours!
I coorted thee by signs;
By sending game, by sending flowers,
By sending Valentines.

"For five lang years, and five lang years,
I have dwelt in the far countrie,
In hopes thy mind might be inclined
Mair tenderly to me.

"Now thirty years are gane and past,
I am come frae a foreign land:
I am come to tell thee my love at last;
O ladye, gie me thy hand!"

The ladye she turned not pale nor red,
But she smiled a pitiful smile:
"Sic' a coortin' as yours, my man," she said,
"Takes a lang and a weary while!"

And out and laughed the popinjay,
A laugh of bitter scorn:
"A coortin' done in sic' a way,
It ought not to be borne!"

Wi' that the doggie barked aloud,
And up and doon he ran,
And tugged and strained his chain o' gowd,
All for to bite the man.

"O hush thee, gentle popinjay!
O hush thee, doggie dear!
There is a thing I fain wad say,
It needeth he should hear!"

Aye louder screamed that ladye fair
To still her doggie's bark;
Ever the lover shouted mair
To make that ladye hark:

Shrill and more shrill the popinjay
Kept up his angry squall:
I trow the doggie's voice that day
Was louder than them all!

The serving-men and serving-maids
Sat by the kitchen fire:
They heard sic' a din the parlour within
As made them much admire.

Out spake the boy in buttons,
(I ween he wasna thin,)
"Now wha will tae the parlour gae,
And stay this deadlie din?"

And they have taen a kerchief,
Casted their kevils[2] in,
For wha should tae the parlour gae,
And stay that deadlie din.

When on that boy the kevil fell
To stay the fearsome noise,
"Gae in," they cried, "whate'er betide,
Thou prince of button-boys!"

Syne, he has taen a supple cane
To beat that dog sae fat:
The doggie yowled, the doggie howled
The louder aye for that.

Syne, he has taen a mutton-bane—
The doggie hushed his noise,
And followed doon the kitchen stair
That prince of button-boys!

Then sadly spake that ladye fair,
Wi' a frown upon her brow:
"O dearer to me is my sma' doggie
Than a dozen sic' as thou!

"Nae use, nae use for sighs and tears:
Nae use at all to fret:
Sin' ye've bided sae well for thirty years,
Ye may bide a wee langer yet!"

Sadly, sadly he crossed the floor,
And tirled at the pin:
Sadly gaed he through the door
Where sadly he cam' in.

"O gin I had a popinjay,
To fly abune my head,
To tell me what I ought to say,
I had by now been wed.

"O gin I find anither ladye,"
He said with sighs and tears,
"I wist my coortin' sall not be
Anither thirty years.

"For gin I find a ladye gay,
Exactly to my taste,
I'll pop the question, aye or nay,
In twenty years at maist."

  1. Popinjay. This bird appears to have been a regular domestic institution with our forefathers (see the 'Minstrelsy of the Border'), and to have volunteered advice and moral reflections on all possible occasions—much after the fashion of the Chorus in Greek Tragedy.
  2. Kevils, lots. A method of deciding on a course of action, which was probably most popular with those who could not afford to keep a popinjay.