Scottish Poetry Selection
- The Highland Crofter

The crofting system of smallholdings in the Highlands of Scotland originally gave the tenant few, if any, rights. He could be removed at any time at the whim of the landowner or, as took place during the Clearances when sheep farmers moved in, another tenant was prepared to pay a higher rent. While some of the worst aspects of the crofting system have been removed by legislation, it is still a hard life, full of uncertainties on poor soil and in a harsh climate and dependent on UK and European Union subsidies.

This poem, by an unknown author, points to the omnipotence of the titled landowner in those days.

The Highland Crofter

Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
The land is a' the Marquis's;
The mossy howes, the heathery knowes
An' ilka bonnie park is his;
The bearded goats, the towsie stots,
An' a' the braxie carcases;
Ilk crofter's rent, ilk tinkler's tent,
An ilka collie's bark is his;
The muir-cock's craw, the piper's blaw,
The ghillie's hard day's wark is his;
Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
The warld is a' the Marquis's.

The fish that swim, the birds that skim,
The fir, the ash, the birk is his;
The Castle ha' sae big and braw,
Yon diamond-crusted dirk is his;
The roofless hame, a burning shame,
The factor's dirty wark is his;
The poor folk vexed, the lawyer's text,
Yon smirking legal shark is his;
Frae Kenmore tae Ben More
The warld is a' the Marquis's.

But near, mair near, God's voice we hear -
The dawn as weel's the dark is His;
The poet's dream, the patriot's theme,
The fire that lights the mirk is His.
They clearly show God's mills are slow
But sure the handiwork is His;
And in His grace our hope we place;
Fair Freedom's sheltering ark is His.
The men that toil should own the soil -
A note as clear's the lark is this -
Breadalbane's land - the fair, the grand -
Will no' be aye the Marquis's.

Meaning of unusual words:
howes=valley, glen
knowes=knoll, hillock
towsie stots=shaggy young bull
braxie=diseased mutton
birk=birch tree

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