THE BROWNIE OF BLEDNOCH
There cam a strange wight to our town-en', And the fient a body bid him ken; He tirled na land, but he glided ben Wi' a dreary, dreary hum.
His face did glare like the glow o' the west When the drumlie clud has it half o'ercast; Or the struggling moon when she's sair distrest- O sirs! 'twas Aiken-drum.
I trow the bauldest stood aback, Wi' a gape and a glower till their lugs did crack, As the shapeless phantom mum'ling spak', "Ha'e ye wark for Aiken-drum?"
O had ye seen the bairns' fright As they stared at this wild and unyirthly wight As he stauket in 'tween the dark and the light And graned out, "Aiken-drum!"
"Sauf us!" quoth Jock, "d'ye see sic een;" Cries Kate, "there's a hole where a nose should h'ae been, And the mouth's like a gash which a horn had ri'en; Wow! keep's frae Aiken-drum!"
The black dog growling cowered his tail, The lassie swarfed, loot fa' the pail; Rob's lingle brak as he men't the flail At the sight o' Aiken-drum.
His matted head on his breast did rest, A lang blue beard wan'ered down like a vest; But the glare o' his e'e nae bard hath exprest, Nor the skimes o' Aiken-drum
Roun' his hairy form there was naething seen But a philabeg o' rashes green, And his knotted knees played aye knoit between; What a sight was Aiken-drum!
On his wauchie arms three claws did meet As they trailed on the grun' by his taeless feet; E'en the auld gudeman himsel' did sweat To look at Aiken-drum.
But he drew a score, himsel did sain; The auld wife tried, but her tongue was gane; While the younger ane closer clasped her wean And turned frae Aiken-drum.
But the canny auld wife cam' till her breath, And she deemed the Bible might ward aff scaith, Be it benshee, bogle, ghaist or wraith- But it fear't na Aiken-drum.
"His presence protect us!" quoth the auld gudeman'; "What wad ye, where won ye-by see or by lan'? I conjure ye-speak-by the Beuk in my han'!" What a grane ga'e Aiken-drum!
"I lived in a lan' where we saw nae sky, I dwalt in a spot where a burn rins na by; But I'se dwall now wi' you if ye like to try- Ha'e ye wark for Aiken-drum?
"I'll shiel a' your sheep i' the morning sune, I'll bury your crap by the light o' the moon, And baa the bairns wi' an unken'd tune If ye'll keep puir Aiken-drum.
"I'll loup the linn when ye canna wade, I'll kirn the kirn, and I'll turn the bread, And the wildest fillie that ever ran rede I'se tame't," quoth Aiken-drum
"To wear the tod frae the flock on the fell- To gather the dew frae the heather bell- And to look at my face in your clear crystal well Might gi'e pleasure to Aiken-drum."
"I'se seek nae guids, gear, bond nor mark; I use nae beddin', shoon nor sark; But a cogfu' o' brose 'tween the light and dark Is the wage o' Aiken-drum."
Quoth the wylie auld wife, "The thing speaks weel; Our workers are scant-we ha'e routh o' meal; Gif he'll do as he says-be he man, be he de'il, Wow! we'll try this Aiken-drum."
But the wenches skirled, "He's no be here! His eldritch look gars us swarf wi' fear, And the fient a ane will the house come near If they think but o' Aiken-drum."
"For a foul and a stalwart ghaist is he, Despair sits brooding aboon his e'e bree, And unchancie to light o' a maiden's e'e Is the grim glower o' Aiken-drum."
"Puir slipmalabors! ye ha'e little wit; Is't na hallowmas now, and the crap out yet?" Sae she silenced them a wi' a stamp o' her fit; "Sit yer wa's down, Aiken-drum."
Roun' a' that side what wark was dune By the streamer's gleam or the glance o' the moon; A word or a wish-and the brownie cam' sune, Sae helpfu' was Aiken-drum.
But he slade aye awa' ere the sun was up; He ne'er could look straught on Macmillan's cup;(1) They watched-but nane saw him his brose ever sup Nor a spune sought Aiken-drum
On Blednoch banks and on crystal Cree For mony a day a toiled wight was he; While the bairns played harmless roun' his knee, Sae social was Aiken-drum.
But a new-made wife, fu' o' rippish freaks, Fond o' a' things feat for the first five weeks Laid a mouldy pair o' her ain man's breeks By the brose o' Aiken-drum.
Let the learned decide when they convene What spell was him and the breeks between; For frae that day forth he was nae mair seen, And sair missed was Aiken-drum.
He was heard by a herd gaun by the Thrieve,(2) Crying, "Lang, lang now may I greet and grieve; For alas! I ha'e gotten baith fee and leave, O luckless Aiken-drum!"
Awa'! ye wrangling sceptic tribe! Wi' your pros and your cons wad ye decide 'Gainst the 'sponsible voice o' a hale country-side On the facts 'bout Aiken-drum?
Though the "Brownie o' Blednoch" lang be gane, The mark o' his feet's left mony a stane; And mony a wife and mony a wean Tell the feats o' Aiken-drum.
E'en now light loons that jibe and sneer At spiritual guests and a' sic gear At the Glasnoch mill ha'e swat wi' fear And looked roun' for Aiken-drum.
And guidly folks ha'e gotten a fright When the moon was set and the stars gi'ed nae light At the roaring linn in the howe o' the night Wi' sughs like Aiken-drum.
(1) A communion cup belonging to John MacMillan, minister of Balmaghie and first minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. " This cup was treasured by a zealous disciple in the parish of Kirkcowan and long used as a test by which to ascertain the orthodoxy of suspected persons. If, on taking the precious relic into his hand, the person trembled or gave other symptoms of agitation, he was denounced".
(2) A farm in the parish of Penninghame.
There is a story that the Rev. George Murray, minister of Girthon and later of Balmaclellan, met the poet near the manse gate and offered to give him some money if he would recite The Brownie of Blednoch. Nicholson did this with much gesticulation and fervour. Mr. Murray, handing him a coin, said, "Now, William, I wish to know your own opinion of this wonderful poem." "It has ae fault," said the author, "an' that an ill ane: it has nae moral."