Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

NOTES TO THE JOLLY BEGGARS.

SUCH a motley group of vagrants as Burns has so happily described, may yet be found in many districts of Scotland. There are houses of rendezvous where the maimed supplicating soldier, the travelling balladsinging fiddler, the sturdy wench, with hands ever ready to steal the pittance when it is not bestowed; the rough black-haired tinker, with his soldering irons 'and pike-staff, and all the children of pretended misfortune, assemble on a Saturday night to pawn their stolen clothes, to sell their begged meal, and on their produce to hold merriment and revelry.

The gypsies, or tinkers, form themselves into gangs or parties, roaming from parish to parish, hanging loose on the skirts of society. Their laws and regu.. lations are of their own framing. They cohabit with one another, neither asking nor giving in marriage. Their visible calling is the making of horn-spoons, mending påns and kettles, and clasping and cemento ing broken china ware. But the robbery of hen

[merged small][ocr errors]

roosts and hedges, lifting lambs from their folds, and other acts of contribution, are the natural and expected consequences of their troublesome neighbourhood. So much are they noted for petty acts of depredation, that the exclamation of an old woman in Galloway is there treasured up as a phrase of caution. On the morning after the arrival of the tinker squad, she was calling her poultry for the purpose of feeding

them ;

“ Chuckie! chuckie! chuckie !- Ay, haith! sae I may! Our new-come neebors like feather'd flesh owre weel!"

These gypsies are an undaunted and vigorous set of vagrants, lodging, as it suits them, a few days or weeks in the first empty barn or kiln they can find. Here they set up their little forges and shops without the ceremony of asking permission of their owners. They were formerly very formidable among the lonesome cottages, forcibly stealing and pillaging every thing that fell in their way; but when the Legislature disarmed the peasantry, they were compelled to lay aside their short swords and daggers. They are now dwindled into little parties, seldom exceeding six or seven in number, men, women, and children, with a couple of asses to carry their spoon-making apparatus and bartering wares

Note I.

When hailstones dride wi' bitter skyte.

The slanting stroke of hail when carried by the wind.

Note II.

Ae night at e'en a merry core

O randie, gangrel bodies,
In Posie-Nansie’s held the splore,

To drink their orra duddies.

Randie, gangrel bodies, are blackguard vagrants. The splore is a frolic, a merry meeting. In the slang language of the inhabitants of St. Giles's, in London, it is called a spree, or a go.

Orra duddies are superfluous rags. Posię Nansie is an expressive Scottish nickname for one whose fingers are too familiar with the purses of others. A pose signifies a purse of money, a quantity of coin, &c. Posie Nansie's was also a designation for a well-known barn in the outskirts of Mauchline, belonging to a whiskeyhouse, in which the Beggars held their orgies, and where the present group actually met.

Note III.

While she held up her greedy gab

Just like an aumos dish.

The box, or bag, in which a beggar receives the handfuls of meat, given as an aumos, or charitable donation. It is also a Scottish phrase applied to a sturdy beggar;

Work or want ye’re nae amous.'

Note IV.

Ilk smack still, did crack still,

Like ony cadger's whip. A cadger is a man who travels the country with a horse or an ass, carrying two panniers loaded with various merchandize for the country people.

Note V.

He ended; and the kebars sheuk

Aboon the chorus roar;
While frighted rattons backward leuk,

An seek the benmost bore.

Kebars are the rafters of the barn. Sometimes in old Scotch poetry they are called bougers.

Wi' bougers o' barns they beft blue caps,
While they o bairns made brigs.'

Chi ťs Kirk on the Green.

The benmost bore is the deepest hole or recess of the place.

No. VI.

Then neist outspak a raucle carlin,

Wha kenn'd fu' weel to cleek the sterlin'.

A raucle carlin; a sturdy, raw-boned, weatherbeaten, outspoken Dame, finely explained in familiar Scotch, as, ' Ane wha wad gie a bluidy snout sooner than a mensfu' word.

The word cleek alludes to the crooking of the fingers when employed in the act of picking a pocket:

•For mony a pursie she had hooked.?

No. VII.

Her love had been a Highland laddie,

But weary fa' the waefu' woodie ! The woodie, a sort of rope formed of twisted willow-wands used occasionally, in ancient times, in the summary executions of prisoners of war, or thieves caught in woods.

« AnteriorContinuar »