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When malt-men come for siller,

And gaugers with wands o'er soon,
Wives, tak them down to the cellar,

And clear them as I have done.
This bewith, when cunzie is scanty,

Will keep them frae making din;
The knack I learn'd frae an auld aunty,

The snackest of a' my kin.

The malt-man is right cunning,

But I can be as slee,
And he may crack of his winning,

When he clears scores with me :
For come when he likes, I'm ready;

But if frae hame I be,
Let him wait on our kind lady,

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.


There was a wife wonn'd in a glen,
And she had dochters nine or ten,
That sought the house baith but and ben,

To find their mam a snishing.
The auld wife beyont the fire,
The auld wife aneist the fire,
The auld wife aboon the fire,

She died for lack of snishing.

Her mill into some hole had faun,
What recks? quoth she, let it be gaun, A
For I maun hae a young goodman

Shall furnish me with snishing.

Her eldest dochter said right bauld,
Fy, mother, mind that now ye're auld,
And if ye with a younker wald,

He'll waste away your snishing.

The youngest dochter ga'e a shout,
O‘mother dear! your teeth's a' out,
Besides half blind, you have the gout,

Your mill can haud nae snishing.

Ye lie, ye limmers! cries auld Mump,
For I hae baith a tooth and stump,
And will nae langer live in dump

By wanting of my snishing.

Aweel, says Peg, that pauky slut,
Mother, if you can crack a nut,
Then we will a' consent to it,

That you shall have a snishing.

The auld ane did agree to that,
And they a pistol-bullet gat;
She powerfully began to crack,

To win hersell a snishing.

Braw sport it was to see her chow't,
And 'tween her gums sae squeeze and row't,
While frae her jaws the slaver flow'd,

And ay she curs’d poor stumpy.

At last she gae a desperate squeeze,
Which brak the lang tooth by the neez,

syne poor stumpy was at ease, But she tint hopes of snishing.

She of the task began to tire,
And frae her dochters did retire,
Syne lean'd her down ayont the fire,

And died for lack of snishing.

Ye auld wives, notice well this truth,
As soon as ye're past mark of mouth,
Ne'er do what's only fit for youth,

And leave aff thoughts of snishing:
Else, like this wife beyont the fire,
Ye'r bairns against you will conspire;
Nor will ye get, unless ye hire,

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;
The buds did bow with silver dew,

Ten thousand birds were singing :
When on the bent, with blithe content,
Young Jamie


Nae bonnier lass e'er trod the

grass, On Leader-haughs and Yarrow.

How sweet her face, where ev'ry grace

In heavenly beauty's planted;
Her smiling een, and comely mien

That nae perfection wanted.
I'll never fret, nor ban my fate,

But bless my bonny marrow;
If her dear smile my doubts beguile,

My mind shall ken nae sorrow.

Yet though she's fair, and has full share

Of every charm enchanting,
Each good turns ill, and soon will kill

Poor me, if love be wanting.

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