Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Siller Croun - Susanna Blamire

And ye shall walk in silk attire,
And siller have to spare,
Gin ye'll consent to be his bride,
Nor think o' Donald mair.
O wha wad buy a silken goun
Wi' a poor broken heart!
Or what's to me a siller croun,
Gin frae my love I part!

The mind wha's every wish is pure
Far dearer is to me;
And ere I'm forc'd to break my faith,
I'll lay me down an' dee!
For I hae pledg'd my virgin troth
Brave Donald's fate to share;
And he has gi'en to me his heart,
Wi' a' its virtues rare.

His gentle manners wan my heart,
He gratefu' took the gift;
Could I but think to seek it back,
It wad be waur than theft!
For langest life can ne'er repay
The love he bears to me;
And ere I'm forc'd to break my troth,
I'll lay me doun an' dee.

Susanna Blamire was a Scottish poet who came to reside in the Cumberland region of England.  She lived from 1747-1794, and principally wrote poetry as a hobby to be shared with friends and relatives.  Little of it was published during her lifetime, which is a true shame, as she provides a wonderful perspective on the lives of ordinary people.  She herself was not of high birth, and her poetry is largely concerned with ordinary folk, and their lives.  She wrote in her native Scottish, English, and the Cumberland dialect, and also wrote lyrics.  Today's poem is a song she wrote, which was set to music by none other than Joseph Haydn.  That setting will be embedded towards the end of the post, as I want you to read the lyrics first without hearing the setting.

The lyric itself is a little difficult to read, so I encourage you to read it slowly, and aloud.  If it helps, imagine a Scottish accent.  I know that sounds silly, but this is a Scottish poem, after all.  Let's walk through it.  This is a beautiful poem of a doomed love.  A woman is being asked to leave her dear Donald to marry a wealthy man.  Blamire's narrator goes on to ask what good wealth is if she has to leave her love.  In the end, she'd rather die than break her promise to Donald, who has "gi'en to me his heart, Wi' a' its virtues rare."

I don't feel the Scots is so far from English as to merit translation.  What I do feel, however, is that this should rightly be thought of as among the best of Scottish poetry and lyrics from this time period.  I feel a similar sweet heartbreak reading and listening to this as I do to Loch Lomond, which is a favorite of mine.  Now, enjoy the gorgeous musical setting courtesy of Haydn.

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