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When malt-men come for siller,
And gaugers with wands o'er soon,
And clear them as I have done.
Will keep them frae making din;
The snackest of a' my kin.
The malt-man is right cunning,
But I can be as slee,
When he clears scores with me :
But if frae hame I be,
She'll answer a bill for me.
The genuine pithy humour of this clever song is in Ramsay's best manner; the air is reckoned very old, and an air in those days (when sounds were unwelcome which conveyed no meaning) seldom went out unattired with words. This ready-witted landlady seems to have been a descendant or a friend of the far-famed wife of Whittlecockpen, in whose praise some old minstrel has sung with less delicacy than humour. They arranged the payment of their debts and entertained their visitors in the same agreeable way. Even the manner in which she proposes to charm the gauger is hereditary in her family; and a similar spirit of good will and accommodation also belongs to the “ kind lady,” the owner, perhaps, of the house. I have heard this song often making wall and rafter ring again, when the liquor was plenty and the ways weary, on the night of a summer fair.
THE AULD WIFE BEYONT THE FIRE.
There was a wife wonn'd in a glen,
To find their mam a snishing.
She died for lack of snishing.
Her mill into some hole had faun,
Shall furnish me with snishing.
Her eldest dochter said right bauld,
He'll waste away your snishing.
The youngest dochter ga'e a shout,
Your mill can haud nae snishing.
Ye lie, ye limmers! cries auld Mump,
By wanting of my snishing.
Aweel, says Peg, that pauky slut,
That you shall have a snishing.
The auld ane did agree to that,
To win hersell a snishing.
Braw sport it was to see her chow't,
And ay she curs’d poor stumpy.
At last she gae a desperate squeeze,
syne poor stumpy was at ease, But she tint hopes of snishing.
She of the task began to tire,
And died for lack of snishing.
Ye auld wives, notice well this truth,
And leave aff thoughts of snishing:
A young man with your snishing.
There can be little doubt that the “ Auld Wife beyont the fire" has been “ pruned and starched and lander'd” by Allan Ramsay; he marks it in his collection as an old song with corrections and any one who compares the corrected songs of Ramsay with the old verses which survive in their original state will conclude that he has striven to purify the ancient song, which perhaps spoke a plainer and less mystical language. The note which he has found it necessary to add as a supplement to the text shows the embarrassment of the bard, for he explains "snishing," about which the old dame is so ludicrously clamorous, to mear, sometimes contentment, a husband, love, money, and, literally, snuff. Was there ever such allegorical confusion
where seen, except in some of our national monuments ? It has its use; it gives the more prudent reader an opportunity of escaping from a moral scruple, through the open door of any favourite figure of speech.
The morn was fair, saft was the air,
All nature's sweets were springing;
Ten thousand birds were singing :
grass, On Leader-haughs and Yarrow.
How sweet her face, where ev'ry grace
In heavenly beauty's planted;
That nae perfection wanted.
But bless my bonny marrow;
My mind shall ken nae sorrow.
Yet though she's fair, and has full share
Of every charm enchanting,
Poor me, if love be wanting.