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Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly courses prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray an' rove,
Amang the rocks an' streams
To sport that night.

Amang the bonnie, winding banks
Where Doon rins, "wimplin", clear,
Where Bruce ance rul'd the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, countra folks,
Together did convence,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.

The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they 're fine;
Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs,
Gar lasses' hearts gang startin'
Whiles fast at night.

Then, first and foremost, thro' the kail,
Their stocks [1] maun a' be sought ance;
They seek their een, an' graip an' wale,
For muckle anes an' straught anes,
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
An' wander'd through the bow-kail,
An' pou't, for want o' better shift,
A runt was like a sow-tail,
Sae bow't that night.

Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
The roar an' cry a' throu'ther;
The vera wee-things, todlin', rin,
Wi' stocks out-owre their shouther;
An' gif the custoc's sweet or sour,
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Syne coziely, aboon the door,
Wi' cannie care, they 've placed them
To lie that night.

The lasses staw frae 'mang them a'
To pou their stalks o' corn [2]
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippet Nelly hard an' fast;
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
When kuittlin' in the fause-house
Wi' him that night.

The auld guidwife's weel-hoorded nits [3]
Are round an' round divided,
An' monie lads' an' lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
An' burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa wi' saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.

Jean slips in twa wi' tentie e'e;
Wha 't was the she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, an' this is me,
She says in to hersel':
He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
'Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
An' Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see 't that night.

Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
An' Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compar'd to Willie;
Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' fling,
An' her ain fit it brunt it;
While Willie lap, an' swoor, by jing,
'T was just the way he wanted
To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel' an' Rob in;
In loving breeze they sweetly join,
'Till white in ase they 're sobbin';
Nell's heart was dancin' at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to leuk for 't:
Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonnie mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk for 't,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behind their backs
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea'es them gashin' at their cracks,
An' slips out by hersel':
She thro' the yard the nearest taks,
An' to the kiln she goes then,
An' darklins graipit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue [4] throws then,
Right fear 't that night.

An' aye she win't, an' aye she swat,
I wat she made nae jaukin';
'Till something hedl within the pat,
Guid L-d! but she was quaukin'!
But whether 't was the Deil hinsel',
Or whether 't was a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She did na wait on talkin'
To spier that night.

Wee Jenny to her grannie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
I 'll eat the apple [5] at the glass,
I gat frae uncle Johnnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin',
She notic't na, an aizle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out thro' that night.

"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
How daur you try sic sportin',
As seek the foul thief onie place,
For him to spae your fortune?
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
An' liv'd an' di'd deleert
On sic a night.

"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor, -
I mind't as weel 's yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I 'm sure
I was nae past fyfteen;
The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
An' stuff was unco green;
An' ay a rantin' kirn we gat,
An' just on Halloween
It fell that night.

"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever, sturdy fallow:
He 's sin' gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That liv'd in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, [6] I mind it weel,
An' he made unco light o't;
But monie a day was by himsel',
He was sae sairly frighted
That vera night."

Then up gat fechtin' Jamie Fleck,
An' he swoor by his conscience,
That he would saw hemp-seeda peck;
For it was a' but nonsense.
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
An' out a handfu' gied him;
Syne bad him slip frae 'mang the folk,
Sometime when nae ane see'd him,
An' try 't that night.

He marches thro' amang the stacks,
Tho' he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks,
An' haurls at his curpin;
An' every now an' then he says,
"Hemp-seed, I saw thee,
An' her that is to be my lass,
Come after me, an' draw thee
As fast this night."

He whistl'd up Lord Lennox' march,
To keep his courage cheery;
Altho' his hair began to arch,
He was sae fley'd an' eerie:
'Till presently he hears a squeak,
An' then a grane an' gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
An' thumbl'd wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.

He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadful' desperation!
An' young an' auld came rinnin' out,
To hear the sad narration:
He swoor 't was hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
'Till, stop! she trotted thro' them a';
An' wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!

Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen,
To win three wechts o' naething; [7]
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
An' twa red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That vera night.

She turns the key wi' cannie thraw,
An' owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca'
Syne bauldly in she enters:
A ratton rattled up the wa',
An' she cried, L-d, preserve her!
An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a',
An' pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night.

They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice,
Was timmer-propt for thrawin';
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black, grousome carlin;
An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
'Till skin in blypes cam haurlin'
Aff's nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlen;
But, och! that night, amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu' settlin'!
She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn,
An' owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds' lands met at aburn, [8]
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.

Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As thro' the glen it wimpl't;
Whiles round a rocky scaur it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.

Amang the brachens, on the brae,
Between her an' the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up an' gae a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool!
Near Lav' rock-height she jumpit;
But mist a fit, an' in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three [9] are ranged,
And ev'ry time great care is ta'en,
To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
Sin' Mar's-year did desire,
Because he gat the toom-dish thrice,
He heav'd them on the fire
In wrath that night.

Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
I wat they did na weary;
An' unco' tales, an' funny jokes,
Their sports were cheap an' cheery;
Till butter'd so'ns, [10] wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin';
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin'
Fu' blythe that night.

[1] The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a stock, or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells - the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth, stick to the root, that is tocher, or fortune, and the taste of the custoc, that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and diposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house, are, according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question. - R. B.

[2] They go to the barn-yard and pull each, at three several times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the top-pickle, that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage-bed any thing but a maid. - R. B.

[3] Burning the nuts is a famous charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire, and, accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be. - R. B.

[4] Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: - Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and darkling, throw into the pot a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and, towards the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand "Wha hauds?" i.e. who holds? An answer will be returned from the kiln-pot by naming the christian and surname of your future spouse. - R. B.

[5] Take a candle, and go alone to a looking glass; eat an apple before it, and, some traditions say, you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjugal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder. - R. B.

[6] Steal out unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp-seed, harrowing it with any thing you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then, "Hemp-seed I saw thee, hemp-seed I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, "Come after me, and shaw thee," that is, show thyself; in which case it simply appears. Others omit the harrowing, and say, "Come after me, and harrow thee." - R. B.

[7] This charm must likewise be performed, unperceived, and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being about to appear may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which, in our country dialect, we call a wecht; And go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times; and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door, and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life. - R. B.

[8] You go out, one or more, for this is a social spell, to a south running spring or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt-sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake: and, some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it. - R. B.

[9] Take three dishes; put clean water in one, foul water in another, leave the third empty: blindfold a person, and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand: if by chance in the clear water, the future husband or wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretels, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered. - R. B.

[10] Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween supper. - R. B.

Robert Burns . 1759-1796


Poetry facsimile for "Halloween" of Burns

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Halloween - Robert Burns - poetry, poems

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