Now Westlin Winds

Rabbie Burns.

Where to start with sampling the wonderful music of Robert Burns?  One of his most beautiful songs is "Now Westlin Winds",  written quite early in his career with the first ever draft of it appearing in his notebook in 1783.

Here is Burns as an observer of nature but not in the remote Byron or Wordsworth style but as one who made his living from the land.  This was a man who clearly had soil beneath his fingernails. He takes a swipe at the sporting slaughter of his beloved wildlife as well as giving us a most tender of love songs. 

Burns at this point in his life was besotted with Jean Armour,  but her father who greatly disapproved of Burns forbade the match. So here Burns pens his song to "Peggy".  This was Peggy Thomson who was the most beautiful girl in his school class and distracted Rabbie from his studies!  But be in no doubt that this song was penned for Jean Armour. The first draft of the song in his notebook has the line "An’ the moon shines bright when I rove at night, To muse on *.  That asterisk was his code in his writing for Jeannie Armour.

Of course with Burns there is always the ambiguity in his prose.  Is this Burns as an admirer or a seducer?  You decide.

Here it is sung by the great folk singer,Dick Gaughan who does ample justice to this most poignant of songs.

Now westlin winds and slaughtering guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Among the blooming heather
Now waving grain, wild o'er the plain
Delights the weary farmer
And the moon shines bright as I rove at night
To muse upon my charmer
 
The partridge loves the fruitful fells
The plover loves the mountain
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells
The soaring heron the fountain
Through lofty groves the cushat roves
The path of man to shun it
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush
The spreading thorn the linnet
 
Thus every kind their pleasure find
The savage and the tender
Some social join and leagues combine
Some solitary wander
Avaunt! Away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man's dominion
The sportsman's joy, the murdering cry
The fluttering, gory pinion
 
But Peggy dear the evening's clear
Thick flies the skimming swallow
The sky is blue, the fields in view 
All fading green and yellow
Come let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of nature
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn
And every happy creature
 
We'll gently walk and sweetly talk
Till the silent moon shines clearly
I'll grasp thy waist and, fondly pressed,
Swear how I love thee dearly
Not vernal showers to budding flowers
Not autumn to the farmer
So dear can be as thou to me
My fair, my lovely charmer
 

Waulking Song...

A waulking song

Here is a video of very rare event now. I doubt that there is cloth waulked anywhere now in Scotland outside of folk demonstrations and this video was taken in the early 1980's on South Uist. Tweed as it comes off the loom is coarse and quite open in texture. Traditionally it was soaked in what was prosaically called "household ammonia", actually stale urine and then the cloth was worked on a table or waulked to soften it and swell the fibres and as a mordant to fix the dye. In Wales the urine collected in a bucket was of greater value if the household was Methodist as they were tee-total! Of course this is now all done by machine and not using household ammonia!  This might be your only chance of seeing this process done properly. Enjoy.
 
 

The Nightmail

 
Evocative in every way for those of the earlier generations not just for the footage of steam trains but also John Grierson's wonderful voice. The poem is written by W. H. Auden to a score by composer Benjamin Britten. The locomotive featured in the film is Royal Scot Class No. 6115 Scots Guardsman