Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Greetin' Bairn

A Legend of Luggie Burn (Langloan)

Wow, Maggie, hae ye seen a ghaist?
Your maist as white as ane yoursel,'
Wi' een like wull-cats glowerin' wild,
What awsome tale hae ye to tell?
I saw ye at the gloamin' fa',
Gaun linkin' doun by Luggie burn,
Juist whaur aroun' the eerie howm,
Ca'd Spunkie Howe, it taks a turn.
Speak, woman, tell what ye hae seen;
Was it some black uncanny thing?
Or was it Spunkie, eldritch elf,
That owre ye did his glamour fling?
I canna say that ocht I saw
O' bogle, ghaist, or worrikow,
That haunt, folk say, the eerie howm
Whaur Spunkie dances in the howe.
I gaed to gather in my claes
That bleachin' lay by Luggie burn,
But ere I wan the eerie howm
I grew sae fley'd I thocht to turn.
But leukin' down, I saw the yirth
New howkit frae the aul' thorn dyke,
An' thocht this maun hae been the wark
O' Robin's moudie-huntin' tyke.
A gullie knife, a' roustit red,
Had been turn'd up; I lootit doun,
An' took it up-sweet mercy! May
My lugs ne'er hear sic fearsome soun'.
It rase frae 'mang my verra feet,
I cou'dna steer frae whaur I stude,
It set my verra hair on en,'
An' grue't an' chitter't thro' my bluid.
It was a wild, unyirthly skirl,
Like some wee bairn in mortal pain;
At ilka skirl it louder grew,
As if it nee'r wad stop again.
The knife fell frae my powerless haun',
The skirlin' ceas'd, I heard na mair;
An' syne I faund my feet, an' ran
For hame, like ony huntit hare.
Noo, Maggie, I cou'd wad a groat
That ye hae faund the vera knife
Wi' whilk a puir misguided lass
Had ta'en her new-born bairnie's life.
An' I ha'e heard my Grannie tell
That whan a lass she teuk a turn
Ae nicht at een, to meet her Jo,
Doun by the Luggie's hauntit burn,
They dauner't up an' doun a while,
But whan they turn'd the aul' dyke back
They heard the cryin' o' a bairn,
That skirl'd as if it ne'er wad slack.
They leukit roun', but nocht cou'd see-
Nae leevin' thing, nor bairn, nor beast,
But Grannie grippit fast her Jo,
An' hid her face upon his breast.
They cou'dna lift their feet for fear,
But sune as they gat power to rin,
They turn'd an' fled, as if for life,
Dang up the door, an' swith gaed in.
The hoose was dark, the folk asleep,
They stood a wee to tak' their breath;
But Grannie swarf't, an' on the floor
She fell as white an' caul' as death.
He rais'd her up, she sune cam' roun',
(Ere lang the twa were man an' wife,)
But ne'er, whan dark, by Luggie burn
She gaed as lang as she had life.
Mony a time the greetin' bairn,
Whan it grew dark, an' late at nicht,
Gaed wailin' up an' doon the burn,
An' mony gat an awfu' fricht.
The brutes, they say, aye sooner ken
Whan some uncanny thing is near
Than man; an' aften start an' shy,
An' turn, an' howl, an' sweat for fear.
My gutcher tauld when he was young,
He an' his mate were on the spree;
'The wee short hour ayont the twal''
Had struck; an' they at hame maun be.
His brisk wee doggie ran before,
An' aft ran back in gamesome mood,
Whan a' at ance a fearfu' howl
He geid, an' like a stane he stood.
An' syne he turn'd him on his back,
An' howl'd an' whin'd maist piteouslie:
The chiels in terror glour'd aroun',
But no a leevin' thing cou'd see.
Wi' cowrin' heid, and clappit tail,
He raise an' crawl'd their legs atween;
Frae there a fit he wadna steer:
The lads were sairly fley'd, I ween.
A mile or twa they were frae hame,
An' fast alang the road they sped;
The dog ran cowrin' 'mang their feet,
An' shook an' whined wi' fear an' dread.
They wan the door, an' drave it up,
In sprang the dog before them baith,
An' gutcher said, 'His name be prais'd
Wha' fended us this nicht frae skaith!'
He never gaed the bogle brae
Again at witchin' time o' nicht;
An' but that nicht at Luggie burn
He ne'er gat sic anither fricht.
Ye'll say that's juist an' aul' wife's tale,
An' there's no ane believes it noo;
Yet they were truthfu' honest folk
Wha tauld the tale I tell to you.
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