Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Scotstober: Days 17, 18, 19 and 20

Over halfway done with my #Scotstober Challenge and I'm loving exploring words, poems and poets I've never encountered. 

Day 17: 'gype' - meaning a fool or to act like one. A new word to me and a new poet. I haven't read many Scottish war poets, so enjoyed finding one that wrote in Scots. Charles Murray was in the Boer war as well as WWI. Here's an extract from 'Fae France'. You can read all of his poem here.

The rippit spread, the rockets raise; 'twas time for hiz to skice,
An' tho' we joukit as we ran, an' flappit eence or twice,
Ower aft oor pig gaed to the wall, for noo we strack the day  —
Oor brow Lieutenant onywye — fan a' in lames it lay;
A bullet bored him throu' the hochs, it took him like a stane,
An' heelster-gowdie doon he cam' an' brak his shackle-bane:
To hyste him up an' on my back nott a' my pith an' skeel,
For aye he bad' me lat him lie, an' cursed me for a feel.
'Ging on an' leave me here, ye gype, an' mak' yer feet yer freen.'
'Na, na,' says I; 'ye brocht me here, I'm nae gyaun hame my leen.'


Day 18: Word of the Day 18: 'stour'. Stour has many meanings, but I've always heard it connected with dust and dirt. I was excited to learn that my mother-in-law called her vacuum a 'stour sooker' which was similar to the Norwegian I learned 'støvsuger'. I think my MIL would have done well in Norway, with her Scots vocabulary, there's so many words in common.

A short poem by William Soutar, who was best known for his bairn-rhymes. He was part of the Scottish Renaissance with Hugh MacDiarmid and had a short tragic life. His poems capture the fleeting beauty of life that passed his sick-bed's window.


Nae Day Sae Dark

Nae day sae dark; nae wüd sae bare;
Nae grund sae stour wi’ stane;
But licht comes through; a sang is there;
A glint o’ grass is green.

Wha hasna thol’d his thorter’d hours
And kent, whan they were by,
The tenderness o’ life that fleurs
Rock-fast in misery?


Word of the Day 19: 'baukie/bawkie'. It is another name for bat, sometimes seen as bawkie-bird. It can also mean a ghost or bogle.  Edwin Morgan, Scotland's first Makar, uses it in this fun poem.

James VI to His Treasurer

Oh for Christ’s sake gie the signor his siller.
Alchemist my erse, but he’s hermless, is he no?
He’ll never blaw us up in oor beds, I tak it.
If makkin wings is his new-fanglt ploy
It’ll no cost the earth – a wheen o skins,
Or silk if he can get it, wid for the struts,
Fedders, is he intae fedders?, gum, oh aye,
Ane prentice or twa, keep their mooths shut,
It micht be kinrik secret stuff, ye ken,
Fleg the enemy, sky black wi baukie-birds,
My Gode, whit could ye no drap on thaim –
This signor, whit’s he cried, Damiano,
Tell him he’ll get his purse, but tell him:
Nae mair elixirs, quintessences, faux gowd!

Ye say he wants tae loup frae the castle-waws
At Stirling. Weel weel, that’s a dandy step,
And lat the warld tak tent o sic a ferlie.
But jist suppose there’s a doonbeat scenario
For Signor Damiario: ane wing snapt aff,
He faws, he breks a leg, it’s a richt scunner.
Signor, help is at haun! Ane speedy litter
Wheechs him tae Edinburgh, whaur the new College
O Surgeons welcomes him with aipen erms.
I’ll be there, signor, a king can set a leg.
I need mair practice, but I can dae it, oh yes.
And noo for the warst-case scenario:
The bird-man whuds doon splat, doon tae his daith.
Oh what a bonus: we’ll hae ane public dissection.
My Charter will hae wings, it’ll tak aff,
Whit can we no dae gif we set oor minds tae it?
Tell Signor Damiano, be he limpin or be he a corp,
The College o Surgeons stauns honed and skeely and eident.


Day 20: the Word of the Day is 'birl'. One of my favourite Scots words meaning, among other things, to spin around, to whirl. I've chosen a poem by James Robertson who has been influential in the Scots movement through his imprint Kettillonia which was just getting started when I was still at Chapman Publishing and Itchy Coo with Matthew Fitt

His poem 'Dr Wha' brings us into more contemporary writing and thinking, something I love to see in Scots writing. 


Dr Wha

Wha’s Doctor Wha? Wha better kens nor he
that jouks the yetts and rides the birlin wheels
o time and space, shape-shiftin as he reels
through endless versions o reality?
Bit dis he ken himsel? Weel, mibbe sae,
yet wha’s tae ken gin aw that’s kent by Wha
maks mair or less or better sense ava
nor whit we ithers ken, or think we dae?
The universe is fou o parallels:
wha’s like us? Hunners? Thoosans? We oorsels
micht be mere glisks o life-forms yet tae be.
Whit’s real? Whaur’s here? When’s noo? Wha’s quick or deid?
Wha’s jist a thoctie in anither’s heid?
Wha’s Doctor Wha? Wha better kens nor s^he?


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