Week 109: The Tryst, by William Soutar

I was glad to be reminded of this beautiful lyric by hearing it on a poetry program on Radio 4 last Monday, ‘The Still Life Poet’, in which Liz Lochhead discussed the life and work of the Scots poet William Soutar (1898-1943). Though given particular poignancy by Soutar’s situation – he was for years bedridden with a painful spinal condition – the poem also stands in an ancient Celtic tradition: an early Irish saga, Aislinge Óengus (The Dream of Óengus), tells the story of how Aengus Og, the Irish god of love, was visited in dream by ‘the most beautiful woman in Eriu’ and fell sick with the ‘sercc ecmaise’, the ‘love of absence’.

I don’t think the Scots words should give much trouble. ‘Caller’ means fresh, ‘smool’d’ means slipped away, ‘waukrife’ means wakeful.

The Tryst

Sae luely luely cam she in,
And luely she lay doun;
I kent her by her caller lips
And her breists sae sma’ and roun’.

A’ thru the nicht we spak nae word
Nor sinder’d bane frae bane.
A’ thru the nicht I heard her hert
Gang soundin wi’ my ain.

It was aboot the waukrife hour
Whan cocks begin tae craw
That she smool’d saftly thru the mirk
Afore the day wud daw

Sae luely luely cam she in
Sae luely was she gaen
And wi’ her a’ my simmer days
Like they had never been.

William Soutar

Week 61: The Thocht, by William Soutar

I think the meaning of the Scots words in this poem should be fairly obvious, but just in case: thocht = thought, jizzen-bed = childbed, deed = died, aye = always, owrecome = refrain, gin = if, hinny = honey, ghaist = ghost and I take ‘or’ in the second line of the third stanza to mean ‘before’.

The Thocht

Young Janie was a strappan lass
Wha deed in jizzen-bed;
And monie a thocht her lover thocht
Lang eftir she was dead:

But aye, wi a’ he brocht to mind
O’ misery and wrang,
There was a gledness gether’d in
Like the owrecome o’ a sang:

And, gin the deid are naethingness
Or they be minded on,
As hinny to a hungry ghaist
Maun be a thocht like yon.

William Soutar