Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween by Robert Burns

Crossposted from Tropes and Idiotropes:


Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the Cove,to stray an' rove,
Amang the rocks and streams
To sport that night;

Amang the bonie winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear;
Where Bruce ance rul'd the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear;
Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.

The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they're fine;
Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs
Weel-knotted on their garten;
Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs
Gar lasses' hearts gang startin
Whiles fast at night.

Then, first an' foremost, thro' the kail,
Their stocks maun a' be sought ance;
They steek their een, and grape an' wale
For muckle anes, an' straught anes.
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
An' wandered thro' the bow-kail,
An' pou't for want o' better shift
A runt was like a sow-tail
Sae bow't that night.

Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar an' cry a' throu'ther;
The vera wee-things, toddlin, rin,
Wi' stocks out owre their shouther:
An' gif the custock's sweet or sour,
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Syne coziely, aboon the door,
Wi' cannie care, they've plac'd them
To lie that night.

The lassies staw frae 'mang them a',
To pou their stalks o' corn;
But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippit Nelly hard and fast:
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
Whan kiutlin in the fause-house
Wi' him that night.

The auld guid-wife's weel-hoordit nits
Are round an' round dividend,
An' mony lads an' lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle couthie side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa wi' saucy pride,
An' jump out owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.

Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;
Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, an' this is me,
She says in to hersel':
He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him,
As they wad never mair part:
Till fuff! he started up the lum,
An' Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.

Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
An' Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compar'd to Willie:
Mall's nit lap out, wi' pridefu' fling,
An' her ain fit, it brunt it;
While Willie lap, and swore by jing,
'Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel an' Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
Till white in ase they're sobbin:
Nell's heart was dancin at the view;
She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonie mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell:
She lea'es them gashin at their cracks,
An' slips out-by hersel';
She thro' the yard the nearest taks,
An' for the kiln she goes then,
An' darklins grapit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue throws then,
Right fear't that night.

An' ay she win't, an' ay she swat
I wat she made nae jaukin;
Till something held within the pat,
Good Lord! but she was quaukin!
But whether 'twas the deil himsel,
Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She did na wait on talkin
To spier that night.

Wee Jenny to her graunie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, graunie?
I'll eat the apple at the glass,
I gat frae uncle Johnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin,
She notic't na an aizle brunt
Her braw, new, worset apron
Out thro' that night.

"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
I daur you try sic sportin,
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune:
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
An' liv'd an' died deleerit,
On sic a night.

"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,
I mind't as weel's yestreen
I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
I was na past fyfteen:
The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
An' stuff was unco green;
An' eye a rantin kirn we gat,
An' just on Halloween
It fell that night.

"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever, sturdy fallow;
His sin gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,
An'he made unco light o't;
But mony a day was by himsel',
He was sae sairly frighted
That vera night."

Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
An' he swoor by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense:
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
An' out a handfu' gied him;
Syne bad him slip frae' mang the folk,
Sometime when nae ane see'd him,
An' try't that night.

He marches thro' amang the stacks,
Tho' he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks,
An' haurls at his curpin:
And ev'ry now an' then, he says,
"Hemp-seed I saw thee,
An' her that is to be my lass
Come after me, an' draw thee
As fast this night."

He wistl'd up Lord Lennox' March
To keep his courage cherry;
Altho' his hair began to arch,
He was sae fley'd an' eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
An' then a grane an' gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
An' tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.

He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
An' young an' auld come rinnin out,
An' hear the sad narration:
He swoor 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie
Till stop! she trotted thro' them a';
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!

Meg fain wad to the barn gaen,
To winn three wechts o' naething;
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
An' twa red cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That vera night.

She turns the key wi' cannie thraw,
An'owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca',
Syne baudly in she enters:
A ratton rattl'd up the wa',
An' she cry'd Lord preserve her!
An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a',
An' pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night.

They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin:
He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak
For some black, grousome carlin;
An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin
Aff's nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As cantie as a kittlen;
But och! that night, amang the shaws,
She gat a fearfu' settlin!
She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn,
An' owre the hill gaed scrievin;
Whare three lairds' lan's met at a burn,
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.

Whiles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As thro' the glen it wimpl't;
Whiles round a rocky scar it strays,
Whiles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whiles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickerin', dancin' dazzle;
Whiles cookit undeneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel
Unseen that night.

Amang the brachens, on the brae,
Between her an' the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up an' ga'e a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool;
Near lav'rock-height she jumpit,
But mist a fit, an' in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three are ranged;
An' ev'ry time great care is ta'en
To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
Sin' Mar's-year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heav'd them on the fire
In wrath that night.

Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
I wat they did na weary;
And unco tales, an' funnie jokes
Their sports were cheap an' cheery:
Till butter'd sowens, wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin;
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin
Fu' blythe that night.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Museum visits

Last week, I spent some time visiting two of Edinburgh's museums. My first visit was to the Scottish National Gallery where I saw the exhibit, Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910. This collection of symbolist paintings concentrated on landscapes of both the rural and the urban sort, as well as poetic and dreamscapes. Not only did it feature well known painters like Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Gauguin, Munch, and even Whistler, but it also displayed work by a number of Scandinavian artists I was unfamiliar with.

Symbolist artists rejected the prevailing style of Naturalism, which sought to replicate the material world from a rationalist point of view. In contrast, the Symbolists expressed a world beyond superficial appearances and used subjects and motifs to create underlying meanings.
The landscape also aided artists to articulate nationalist concerns. By carefully selecting scenes that had special national significance, artists were able to promote their homeland or suggest the notion of a waning culture. The Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, for example, drew on the mythology and imagery of his native country to assert Finnish independence from Russia†

As psychology emerged as a science during the late nineteenth century, Symbolist painters began to use these concepts to look within rather than strictly without.

Landscape provided a number of possibilities for the suggestion of mental states. Gauguin, Munch and Van Gogh using vivid colour to express their very personal visions: the religious fervour of a simple Breton community in a vermilion field; the inner turmoil of a couple walking along a deserted beach; or the symbolic figure of the Sower set against a vivid green sky.
Other artists created metamorphic dream worlds: a protective mother transformed into a dust storm rushing through a cornfield, symbolising the much-beleaguered Polish nation; or crashing waves which metamorphose into galloping white stallions.†

During this time, cities became sprawling, dirty, crowded, industrialized and mechanized urban centres, to which the Symbolists responded in a number of ways. Symbolist painters created visions of  misty, fogbound cities or empty streets and deserted buildings- muted, bleak reflections of the despair and isolation envisioned by the artists.

I am glad I was able to visit before the exhibit closed. It helps me to see my own work in a different light. You can see some of the highlights here.

The other museum I visited was the National Museum of Scotland. The NMS is more of a history museum than an art museum, although it holds it's fair share of artworks. I spent some time in the Natural World gallery, photographing the African elephants they have (taxidermic, of course). It turns out the Edinburgh Zoo has no elephants (which is fine, I don't believe every zoo should have every animal in existence, especially if they cannot keep them in a social and environmental habitat that is healthy for them, but I digress), so in order to get my own references I sought a stuffed one. Although the NMS is small compared to someplace like the British Museum, it does have a number of stunning exhibits. My favorite was the Midsummer Chronophage. This amazing piece is a huge timepiece topped with a bronze grasshopper-creature. It is a purely mechanical clock, although it appears to have digital aspects. The blue lights that appears to race around the dials are constant, but are obscured until a disk with a slit rotates and lets the light through. The clock itself pauses occasionally and even runs backwards briefly, symbolizing the subjective view we all have of time, while the chronopage, the creature at the top, slowly but surely devours time, reminding us of death's inevitability. In fact, there is a small coffin hidden in the depths of the clock. It is this that is used to strike the hours.

Corpus Christi Chronophage from National Museums Scotland on Vimeo.

At some point, I'd like to go back to the NMS and just browse through all the galleries, rather than be there on a mission. They have a lot of great exhibits- check out their website for a sample.

Quotations from the Scottish National Gallery website.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Salisbury Crags

Yesterday afternoon was so sunny and beautiful that I decided to get out and do a little hill-walking. I took the bus towards the City Centre and got off on Princes Street, the closest I could come to Holyrood Park without waiting an hour for another bus or losing myself in a flurry of bus transfers. From there I walked westward to Regents Street past Regent Gardens and the observatory and monuments up there. I briefly detoured through Calton Cemetery, hoping to find a shortcut through to Calton Road, but the lower gate was locked.

Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags as seen from Calton Cemetery.
To the right you can see the Parliament Building and to the left, in the distance,  Holyrood Palace.
So I climbed back up to Regents Road and walked down to Abbymount through a path in Regents Gardens. From there it was a short walk to Holyrood Park where Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat are located.

Queen Mary's Bath House. Apparently this was once part of the garden wall and enjoyed as a
wee rest spot by the Royal Tudors. It not known if it ever contained a bath.

I circumnavigated Holyrood Palace, the Queen's residence when she is visiting the area, and once on the other side I began my climb. The nearest path was the Radical Road which starts with a stone stairway and continues as a very steep path. Although steep, it was wide and gave way to great views. In a relatively short time the path eased into a gentle incline, which gradually led to the top area of the crags. I stopped several times to take in the views and catch a breather.

The view of Edinburgh Castle and the City Centre from Salisbury Crags.
One of the denizens of the Crags. A young hawk of some sort or other.

Arthurs Seat, looking through the Crags.

By the time I reached the far side of the Crags, I had realized that I brought no water with me and that this was a poor decision on my part. The day was clear, sunny and dry and I was beginning to feel a bit thirsty. I'd been up walking for almost an hour and figured it was time to head back; I would walk Arthur's Seat another day.

Whiney Hill and part of Arthur's Seat as seen from the interior of  Salisbury Crags, looking across Hunter's Bog.

Between Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat is a low-lying area known as Hunter's Bog. There are paths around and through here and I chose the one which follows the inside of the Crags,  rather than going down the center of the bog to St. Margaret's Well. From that point I was back on paved and manicured walkways and roads.

I walked back around the Palace to the beginning of the Royal Mile and a little ways up that to find a pub. On the way, I got some water to re-hydrate.

After a pint of Caledonian Autumn Red and some bread and butter, I was refreshed and headed home. All in all a good day out.