Scottish Poetry Selection
- from The Wee Raggit Laddie to the Laird of Blackford Hill

View from Blackford Hill

These days, there is legislation that enshrines the "right to roam" across open land in Scotland, including areas owned privately. That was not always the case, and in the 19th century wealthy individuals could buy up areas that had been previously been accessed by all - and put up "keep out" signs. One such area was Blackford Hill, close to Edinburgh and with magnificent views across the city to Arthur's Seat. A campaign was mounted to persuade the landowner to allow access and eventually he sold it in 1884 to the Provost (Mayor) of Edinburgh. Citizens have enjoyed its open spaces ever since.

The author of this poem, James Ballantine (1808-1877), supported the campaign to persuade the Laird of Blackford Hill to allow access, but did not live to see the efforts crowned with success.

The Wee Raggit Laddie
to the Laird of Blackford Hill

Stout Laird o' Blackford Hill, let me
But gain your honour's lug a wee,
I fain wad let your lairdship see
                     Sufficient cause
To mak your hill to a' as free
                     As ance it was.

Weel mind I o' the joyous days
I gathered hips, an' haws, an' slaes,
Climbing ower Blackford's heathy braes
                     Birds' nests to herry,
Or smearing face, an' hands, an' claes,
                     Wi' bramble berry ...

Then shall a laird whase kindly heart
Has ever ta'en the puir man's part,
Be reckon'd like some mean upstart,
                     O' saulless stature,
Wha sells, as at an auction mart,
                     The face o' nature?

Though bairns may pu', when yap or drouthy,
A neep or bean, to taste their mouthy,
Losh, man! their hames are no sae couthy
                     As your bien Ha';
Though puir folks' bairns are unco toothie,
                     Their feeding's sma'.

An' a' the neeps, an' a' the beans,
The hips, the haws, the slaes, the geens,
That e'er were pu'ed by hungry weans,
                     Could ne'er be missed
By lairds like you, wi' ample means
                     In bank and kist.

Then listen to my earnest prayer,
An' open Blackford Hill ance mair;
Let us a' pree the caller air
                     That sweeps its braes.
An' mak it worth the poet's care
                     To sing your praise.

Meaning of unusual words:
Raggit = ragged
lug = ear
fain = eagerly, anxiously
hips, an' haws, an' slaes = berries of wild roses, hawthorn and whitethorn
herry = plunder, rob
bramble berry = blackberry
yap or drouthy = hungry or thirsty
neep = turnip, swede
couthy = kind, agreeable
bien Ha' = comfortable house
unco = uncommon
geens = wild cherries
kist = cest
pree = taste
caller = fresh

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