Scottish Poetry Selection
- The Village of Balmaquhapple
James Hogg (1770-1835), the Ettrick Shepherd, published a practical guide to the care of sheep in the same year as his his first book of poetry. He was a prolific writer in both verse and prose, mainly on countryside subjects. He is not particularly known for humorous poetry - the work below is an honourable exception. It perhaps owes a little to "Holy Willie's Prayer" by Robert Burns.
The Village of BalmaquhappleD'ye ken the big village of Balmaquhapple,
The great muckle village of Balmaquhapple?
'Tis steep'd in iniquity up to the thrapple,
An' what's to become o' poor Balmaquhapple?
Fling a' aff your bannets, an' kneel for your life, fo'ks,
And pray to St Andrew, the god o' the Fife fo'ks;
Gar a' the hills yout wi' sheer vociferation,
And thus you may cry on sic needfu' occasion:
'O, blessed St Andrew, if e'er ye could pity fo'k,
Men fo'k or women fo'k, country or city fo'k.
Come for this aince wi' the auld thief to grapple,
An' save the great village of Balmaquhapple
Frae drinking an' leeing, an' flyting an' swearing.
An' sins that ye wad be affrontit at hearing,
An' cheating an' stealing; O, grant them redemption,
All save an' except the few after to mention:
'There's Johnny the elder, wha hopes ne'er to need ye,
Sae pawkie, sae holy, sae gruff, an' sae greedy;
Wha prays every hour as the wayfarer passes,
But aye at a hole where he watches the lasses;
He's cheated a thousand, an' e'en to this day yet,
Can cheat a young lass, or they're leears that say it;
Then gie him his gate; he's sae slee an' sae civil,
Perhaps in the end he may wheedle the devil.
'There's Cappie the cobbler, an' Tammie the tinman,
An Dickie the brewer, an' Peter the skinman,
An' Geordie our deacon, for want of a better,
An Bess, wha delights in the sins that beset her.
O, worthy St Andrew, we canna compel ye,
But ye ken as weel as a body can tell ye,
If these gang to heaven, we'll a' be sae shockit,
Your garret o' blue will but thinly be stockit.
'But for a' the rest, for the women's sake, save them,
Their bodies at least, an' their sauls, if they have them;
But it puzzles Jock Lesley, an' sma' it avails,
If they dwell in their stamacks, their heads, or their tails.
An' save, without word of confession auricular,
The clerk's bonny daughters, an' Bell in particular;
For ye ken that their beauty's the pride an' the staple
Of the great wicked village of Balmaquhapple!'
Meaning of unusual words:
thrapple = throat
bannets - bonnets
Gar = make
yout = roar
aince = once
flyting = calling names
pawkie = sly, cunning
leears = liars
ken = know
stamacks = stomachs
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