Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

Ballad Of The Monkland Cottar

It's no a tale o' luve I sing,
Nor ane o' war an' glory:
It's juist a lay o' Scottish life-
A guid auld-warl' story.
Far in the Monklan' muirs langsyne,
Amang the whins an' heather,
There leev'd an honest, godly man-
A husband an' a faither.
A hunner years, an' fifty mair,
Ha'e gane sin' he was leevin';
Sic poortith then as puir men dree't
We scrimply noo believe in.
Three pennies, maybe four, a day
The cottar gat for toilin',
In fiel' or fauld, at dyke or sheugh,
Wi' muckle care an' moilin.
For widows auld an' helpless puir
Was made but sma' provision,
An' wha cou'd get, an' what they got,
Was at the kirk's decision.
Short gate frae whaur this guid man leev'd
There stood a lanely shielin',
Whaur leev'd a widow, auld an' puir,
That had nae ither bielin'.
Ae saxpence in a month was a'
Alloo'd her by the session;
An' to ha'e wished or socht for mair
Wad been a great transgression.
The honest man weel kenn'd her need,
An' sae he sent a letter,
An' tauld the minister for shame
To mak' her something better.
He read the letter owre an' owre,
Wi' rage maist like to choke-
'Ye craw fu' cruse,' quo' he, 'I trow
I'll clip your wings, my cock.'
Syne to the toun o' Hamilton
A letter swith has gane,
That brocht the sodgers up ae nicht,
An' sae the man was ta'en.
They put him up intil the jail,
Alang wi' mony mae,
And tauld them that they boud to list,
An' wi' the sodgers gae.
A fearfu' stoun gaed thro' his heart,
The tear fell frae his e'e,
At thocht o' his dear wife an' bairns,
Wham he nae mair wad see.
He thocht what holy David did
Whan he was sair bestead,
An' fleein' frae his ruthless foes,
He to King Achish fled.
An' whan the sergeant cam' to see,
An' march his men awa',
He glower'd and blether'd like a fule,
An' lat his spittle fa'.
The sergeant had a cunning e'e,
An' sune saw thro' the wile-
Quo' he, 'The man's gane oot his min'
An' maun be left awhile.'
'What is't that brocht ye here,' quo' he,
'What ill thing ha'e ye dune?
I see it's but a feint ye mak',
Sae tell me true an' sune.'
He tauld him sune, he tauld him true-
'I've dune nae ill ava;
An' oh, I fear my wife an' bairns
Will starve whan I'm awa'.'
'Cheer up, my man,' the sergeant said,
'I'se dae the maist I can
For you: ye've done the thing that's richt,
Like ony honest man.'
Swith to the officer he gaed,
Was highest in comman'-
Quo' he, 'The Monklan' man's gane mad,
As I can understan'.'
'Nae need ha'e we o'madmen here-
Fie! sen' him swith awa',
Clean oot the gate; it's nocht to me
Whate'er sall him befa'.'
Then back the sergeant cam' wi' speed,
'Guid news, my frien',' quo' he,
An' put three shillin's in his han',
'Mak' hameward speedily.'
'God bless ye, frien',' the guid man said,
'Sae muckle gear afore
Has seldom lain within my luif,
Or yet within my door.'
He took the bannet aff his heid
An' raised to Heaven his e'e-
'The Lord be praised, wha in my need
Sent sic a frien' to me.'
The sergeant lat him through the yett,
An' shook him by the haun'-
'Fareweel, my frien', we'll meet again
In yonder happy lan'.'
They pairted ne'er to meet on yirth,
He took the road for hame,
An' whiles he prayed, an' whiles he sang
Praise to the blessed Name.
The sun gaed doon, the gloamin' fell,
The nicht was fair an' calm,
Whan he stood on his ain door-stane,
An' heard the e'enin' psalm
Sung by his wife an' bairns, wha pray'd
Wi' mony a sab an' tear,
That God wad sen' their faither back-
They thocht nae he was near.
His heart was duntin' in his breast,
The tears ran doun his cheek;
He chappit saftly at the door,
But oh, he couldna speak.
An' whan the wife cam' to the door,
A screigh o' joy gied she,
An' fell intil his open arms;
Sae did the bairnies three.
An' whan they were come till themsel's,
'My dearest wife,' said he,
'An' you, my bairnies, come an' sit
Aroun' yer faither's knee.
'Ye raised the psalm in dule an' wae,
An' prayed wi' sabs an' tears;
We'll sing a psalm o' joy an' praise
To Him wha prayer hears.'
They sang the psalm wi' joyfu' hearts,
An' poured the gratefu' prayer;
Laigh was the roof, an' mean the cot,
But God himsel' was there.
An' aye at e'en an' mornin' prayer,
Within that lanely cot,
The faither's Christian sodger frien'
Was never ance forgot.
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