1793 Poem, Samuel Thomson, ‘Watty and Meg. A Tale’

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1793

Source: Poem: ‘Watty and Meg. A Tale’, from Poems, on Different Subjects, partly in the Scottish Dialect by Samuel Thomson (Belfast: printed for the author, 1793).

Comments: Samuel Thomson (1766–1816) from Lyles Hill near Templepatrick in South Antrim was the editor of the ‘Poets’ Corner’ in the Belfast United Irishman newspaper Northern Star until the paper was closed down in 1797. He exchanged poems with, and visited, Robert Burns, and published three books containing Ulster-Scots poetry — in 1793, 1799 and 1806. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the Introduction to The Country Rhymes of Samuel Thomson, by Philip Robinson and Ernest Scott (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/023


Keen the frostly win’ was dashin’,

Deep the sna’ had wreath’d the plews,

Watty weary a day threshin’,

Doiter’d down to Mungo Blue’s.

Dryster Jock was there, and Pattie,

And Will that wins ayont the hill; —

“Come awa,” quo’ Johny, “Watty,

“Let us hae another gill.”

Watty, glad to see Jock jabas,

An sae monie nibors roun’,

Kicked frae aff his feet the sna-ba’s,

Syne ayont the fire sat down.

O’er a board wi’ bannaks heepit,

Cheese, and stoups an’ glasses stood,

Some were roarin, ithers sleepit,

Ithers quietly chew’d their cud.

Jock was selling Patt some tallow;

A’ the rest a rackit held,

A’ but Watty, wha, poor fellow!

Sat an’ smoakit by himsel’.

Mungo fill’d him up a toothfu’,

Drank his health an’ Meg’s in ane,

Watty puffin’ out a mouthfu’,

Pledg’d him wi’ a heavy graen.

“What’s the matter Watty, wi’ ye?

Trouth your chaps are fa’ing in,

Something’s wrang — I’m vext to see ye

Grown sae pale an unco thin.”

“Ay,” quo Watty, “times are altered,

But its past redemption now,

L----d, I wish I had been halter’d,

When I marry’d Maggy Howe.

I’ h’ been vext, right poor and raggy,

Try’d wi’ troubles no that sma’,

Them I bare, but marrying Maggy

Put the cape-stane on them a’.

Day an night she’s ever yelpin’:

Wi’ the weans she ne’er can gree:

When she’s tir’d wi’ perfect skelpin’,

Then she flees like fire on me.

“See ye Mungo, when she’ll clash on

Wi’ her everlasting clack,

Whiles I’ve had a stool in passion

Lifted up to break her back.”

“O for Gude-sake! keep frae cuffits,”

Mungo shook his head and said,

“Weel I ken was sort o’ life it’s, —

“Ken ye Watty, what I did?”

After Bess an’ I were kippled

Soon she grew like onie bear;

Kick’d my shins, an’ when I tippl’d

Hurl’d out my vera hair.

For a wee I quietly knuckl’d,

But when naithing wad prevail,

Up my claes and cash I buckl’d;

Bess, for ever, fare you weel!

Then her din grew less an’ less ay, —

Haith I gar’d her change her tune;

Now a better wife than Bessy

Never slept in leather shoen.

Try this Watty, when ye see her

Ragin like a roarin’ flood;

Swear that moment that ye’ll lea’ her,

That’s the way to mak her good.

Laughin sangs an’ lasses skirls,

Echo’d out now, thro’ the roof,

“Done” quo’ Jock, and syne his earls

Nail’d the dryster’s waukit loof.

In the thrang o’ stories telling,

Shaking han’s an ither cheer;

Swith! a rap cam on the hallan,

“Mungo, is our Watty here?

Maggy’s weel-kent tongue in hurry

Darted thro’ him like a knife; —

Up the door flew in a fury,

In comes Watty’s scoldin wife.

“Ah! ye gude for naething bein’!

Hang you for a nasty sow!

Bringin’ wife an’ weans to ruin,

Drinking here wi’ sic a crew.

Devil nor your neck were broken,

Sic a life nae flesh endures,

Toiling like a slave to sloken

You, you dyvor, and your whores!

Rise, ye drunken beast o’ Bethel!

Drink’s your night an’ day’s desire;

Rise, this precious hour or faith I’ll

Fling your whiskey in the fire!

Watty heard her tongue unhallow’d,

Pay’d his groat wi’ little din:

Left the house while Matty followed,

Flyting a’ the road behin’.

Fok to every door came lampin’,

Maggy curs’d them ane an’ a’,

Clappin’ wi’ her han’s, an stamping,

Lost her bachels in the sna’.

Hame at last she turn’d the gavel,

Wi’ a face as white’s a clout:

Ragin’ like a vera devil,

Kickin’ stools an’ chairs about.

“You’ll sit wi’ a’ your limmers round you, —

Hang you Sir, I’ll be your death!

Little hauds my han’s — confoun’ you!

But I’ll cleave you to the teeth!”

Watty wha midst this oration

Ey’d her whiles, but durstna speak,

Sat like patient Resignation,

Trembling by the ingle-cheek.

Sad, his wee drap brose he suppit;

Maggy’s tongue gaed like a bell —

Quietly till his bed he slippit,

Sighin’ aftin to himsel.

“Nane are free frae some vexation;

Ilk ane has his ills to dree:

But thro’ a’ the hale creation

Is there onie vext like me?”

A’ night lang he row’d an’ grunted,

Sleep nor rest he cou’dna tak’,

Maggy oft wi’ horror haunted,

Mumbling, started at his back.

Soon as e’er the mornin’ peepit,

Up rose Watty, waefu’ chiel,

Kiss’d his weanies while they sleepit,

Waken’d Meg, an’ sought fareweel. —

“Fareweel, Meg! and O! may Heaven

Keep you ay, within its care;

Watty’s heart you’ve lang been grievin’,

Now he’ll never fash you mair.

Happy cou’d I been beside you,

Happy baith at morn an’ e’en;

A’ the ill did e’er betide you,

Watty ay turn’d out your frien’.

“But you ever lik’d to see me

Vexed an’ sighin’ late an’ air —

Fareweel, Meg! I’ve sworn to lea’ thee,

So you’ll never se me mair.”

Maggy sighin fain to loss him,

Sic a change had never wist:

Clapt his hand close to her bosom,

While her heart was like to burst.

“O! my Watty will ye lea’ me

Frien’less, helpless, to despair!

O! for this ae time forgie me:

Never will I fash you mair.”

“Aye you’ve aft said that, an’ broken

A’ your vows ten times a week;

No, — no, Meg, see here’s a token

Glittering on my bonnet cheek.

“O’er the seas I sail this mornin’

Busked, listed, sworn an’ a’,

Forc’d by your confounded girnin’,

Fareweel Meg! for I’m awa.”

Then poor Maggy’s tears and clamour

Gush’d afresh an’ louder grew;

While the weans wi’ monie a yamour,

Roun’ their sabbin mither flew.

“See your poor young bairnies pleading:

Will ye gang an’ break our heart!

No a house to hide our head in,

No a frien’ to tak our part.

Thro’ the warl I’ll wan’er wi’ ye, —

Stay, O Watty! stay at hame!

Here, upon my knees I’ll gie ye

Onie vow ye like to name.

Ilka word cam’ like a bullet:

Watty’s heart began to shake;

On a kest he flang his wallet,

Dighted baith his e’en an’ spake. —

“If ance mair I should by writing,

Lea’ the Sogers, an’ stay still,

Wad ye swear to quat your slyting?

Yes! — O! Watty! — yes, I will! —”

“Weel,” quo’ Watty, “min’ be honest,

An to keep your temper strive;

Gif thou crack this vow, thou can’st

Never mair expect to thrive.”

Maggy, now this hour you solemn

Swear by every thing that’s good;

Ne’er again your spouse to scaul him,

While life does warm your heart an’ blood.

That you’ll ne’er in Mungo’s seek me,

Ne’er put drunken to my name,

Never out at e’enin’ steek me,

Never gloom whan I come hame.

That you’ll ne’er, like Bessy Millar,

Kick my shins, nor rug my hair, -

Lastly, I’m to keep the Sillar, -

This upon your saul you swear.”

“O!” — Quo’ Meg, — “A weel,” quo’ Watty,

“Fareweel! faith, I’ll try the seas,

“O! stan’ still,” quo’ Meg, an’ grat ay,

“Onie! — onie way ye please.”

Maggy syne, because he pressed her,

Swore to a’ things o’er again;

Watty star’d, an’ stend, and kiss’d her:

Wow! but he was won’rous fain!

Down he threw his staff victorious;

Aff gaed bonnet, breeks an’ shoen,

Syne beneath the blankets, glorious,

They held anither hinney moon!


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