(Walter Scott, The Talisman) I send you herewith a Gothic gnome … he came out of a deep mine, where he guards the fountain of tears. R.L. STEVENSON, 1886 1 When we emerged frae oor cave o forgettin, My leddy and I, frae the clammy fankle o shafts and dubs, We thocht: are we rescued? They gien us fancy duds, Fair skailin wi silks, and fedders o pown, And we thocht: are we free? Here am I, Nectabanus, and my leddy Guenevra, Fit ti dae yer biddin, oh heid yins! – Fit fir naethin else. Sall we shak wir wee bells at yez? Divert yez wi somersauts? Sall we cral athort yer flair, the bandy-leggit pair o us, Wi puddock lowps ti gar yez gaff – oh, cruikit limbs o pain – Yez mak o us a bairnspiel when nane o yez are bairns, Ye’d find a whigmaleerie in the verra daunce o daith. 2 Oh lustrous Queen, the Saxon Majestie, Wha weirs the mask o sovereign courtesie, And winks at vowed chivalric chastity – Oh lustrous Queen! Fir we were royal lang afore your reign, Compoundit o a rouchness and a grace; The knarly aiks i the glen were oor domain; The scaur, the craig, oor castellatit space. Fou seeven-year wis perpetuitie, Passed in a blenk: oors wis an eldritch airt O necromantic tales and sangs: but we Grew stale o oor ain Gods, and gan depairt Fir ither launds and faiths. Aince we had delled The riches o oor yird, dounby oor pit: New pits became new dungeons. We were sellt As baests, enslaved ti gowd; oor wages, grit. Sae turns ti exile this oor lang stravaig, Faur frae oor glen, nae mair oor scaur, oor craig. 3 Kobolds, goblins; - bogles; Whitever yez want ti cry uz: see, we hae bonny gee-gaws fir yez! Can siclike hairy haurdened paws fashion sic filigree? Can siclike bowlie-backit craiturs pynt yez ti perfection? Na, na, juist fecht amang yersels. Trust uz, there comes the season Ti guide yez, undeservin, through the labyrinth o treason.
About this poem
Variations chiefly on Scott’s The Talisman, and forby his Demonology and Witchcraft; Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; his essay on the fiction of E.T.A. Hoffmann; Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Hop-Frog’; Prof. Caroline McCracken-Flesher’s insichts