The Book of Scottish Song/Maggie Lauder

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Maggie Lauder.

["This old song," says Burns, "so pregnant with Scottish naivete and energy, is much relished by all ranks, notwithstanding its broad wit and palpable allusions. Its language is a precious model of imitation: sly, sprightly, and forcibly expressive. Maggie's tongue wags out the nick-names of Rob the piper, with all the careless lightsomeness of unrestrained gaiety."—The author of "Maggie Lauder" is generally said to be Francis Semple, Esq. of Beltrees in Renfrewshire, who lived about the middle of the seventeenth century, and who is also the reputed author of the songs entitled "The Blythsome Bridal" and "She rose and let me in," (see pages 99 and 244.) Semple was the descendant of a poetical family. A progenitor of his—Robert, Lord Semple, was a voluminous versifier in the previous century, and published a number of works between the years 1565 and 1573. The cousin-german of this writer, Sir James Semple of Beltrees, was author of "The Packman's Pater-noster;" his successor, Robert Semple, was author of the celebrated "Epitaph on Habbie Simpson," and father of Francis Semple, the subject of the present notice. Besides the songs ascribed to him, Francis Semple was author of "The Banishment of Poverty," and some epitaphs in Pennycooke's collection of Poetical Pieces. Mr. Motherwell, we know, at one time contemplated collecting and publishing the works of the Semples of Beltrees; but whether he had proceeded any way in the undertaking before his lamented death we cannot say. Doubts as to Semple being the author of "Maggie Lauder" have been thrown out, on two grounds: first, that the scene of the song belongs to Fifeshire, and secondly, that the song, if so old as Semple's day, would have appeared in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, which it does not. To these objections it may be answered, that, although the heroine, Maggie Lauder, professedly belongs to Anster in Fife, the scene of the song is not laid there; for the third line says, "A piper met her gaun to Fife." The allusion also to "Habbie Simpson" in the last stanza, "Sin' we lost Habbie Simpson," may be considered favourable to Semple's claim, for Habbie was a noted piper in Kilbarchan, a village in Renfrewshire, contiguous to the estate of Beltrees. A statue of Habbie is still to be seen in a niche of the village steeple of the place. As to the song not appearing in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, that might arise from accident or oversight: the tune of "Maggie Lauder" can at least be traced as far back as the beginning of the last century, and Gay introduces it in his musical opera of Achilles, printed in 1733. With all this, we candidly confess, that, judging from internal evidence, we would be inclined to pronounce "Maggie Lauder" to be a production subsequent, and not anterior, to the days of Ramsay.]

Wha wadna be in love
Wi' bonnie Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her gaun to Fife,
And speir'd what was't they ca'd her;—
Eight scornfully she answer'd him,
Begone you hallanshaker!
Jog on your gate, you bladderskate,
My name is Maggie Lauder.

Maggie, quo' he, and by my bags,
I'm fidgin' fain to see thee;
Sit down by nie, my bonnie bird,
In troth I winna steer thee:
For I'm a piper to my trade,
My name is Rob the Ranter;
The lasses loup as they were daft,
When I blaw up my chanter.

Piper, quo' Meg, ha'e ye your bags?
Or is your drone in order?
If ye be Eob, I've heard of you,
Live you upo' the border?
The lasses a', baith far and near.
Have heard o' Rob the Ranter:
I'll shake my foot wi' right gude will,
Gif you'll blaw up your chanter.

Then to his bags he flew wi' speed,
About the drone he twisted;
Meg up and wallop'd o'er the green,
For brawly could she frisk it.
Weel done! quo he— play up! quo she;
Weel bobb'd! quo' Rob the Ranter;
'Tis worth my while to play indeed,
When I ha'e sic a dancer.

Weel ha'e you play'd your part, quo' Meg,
Your cheeks are like the crimson;
There's nane in Scotland plays sae weel,
Since we lost Habbie Simpson.
I've lived in Fife, baith maid and wife,
These ten years and a quarter;
Gin' ye should come to Anster fair,
Speir ye for Maggie Lauder.