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NOTES TO THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
THIS is the best known of Burns's longer poems. As we have already learned from our study of the poet, his father's cottage supplied the principal features. But the poem has a far wider significance. It is a description of the ideal peasant life of Scotland. In its substantial elements, an exemplification might have been found in a thousand homes. Said an old Scotch serving. woman, to whom a copy of "The Cotter's Saturday Night" had been given for perusal, "Gentlemen and ladies may think muckle o' this; but for me it's naething but what I saw i' my faither's house every day, and I dinna see how he could hae tell't it ony ither way."
It would lead us too far to inquire particularly into the causes that have produced this beautiful peasant life. No doubt the basis of it is to be found in the native sturdiness of the Scotch character. But the immediate cause must be sought in religion. The truths and duties of Christianity occupied a large place in the daily thought and life. The sentiment of reverence, which seems to be sadly lacking at the present time, was carefully cultivated. Fam ily worship was general; the Sabbath was strictly observed; the Bible was revered and studied to an unusual degree. "The Cotter's Saturday Night" shows us how a humble, laboring life may be glorified by a simple, earnest, reverent piety.
1. R. Aikin, to whom the poem is inscribed, was an attorney of Ayr, and a man of worth.
2. Mercenary bard. The poem was inspired, not by the hope of pe cuniary reward, but simply by the promptings of friendly affection. 5. Lays songs, lyric poems. A favorite word with poets in the last century.
Another favorite word, much used by
6. Train: class, company. Goldsmith in the "Deserted Village."
think, imagine. From A. S. wenan, to imagine.
10. Sugh = a sighing sound as of wind in the trees. The local fea
tures of the poem are in the Ayrshire dialect, the poet's vernacular.
covered with mire or wet soil. - Pleugh plough.
cottager; a small farmer.
17. Morn =morrow.
19. Cot cottage.
21. Wee-things little things, children. Stacher =
22. Flichter in'
23. Ingle fire, fireplace. — Blinkin' bonnily blazing cheerfully. 26. Carking distressing, oppressive.
27. Toil. This word seems to have been pronounced tile.
28. Belyve 30. Ca' the pleugh drive the plough. Literally, call. heedfully run. Tentie is a corruption of attentive. 31. Cannie Neebor trustworthy, careful. 34. Braw brave, in the sense of fine, handsome. 35. Deposit has the accent on the first syllable. Sair-won - Penny fee wages paid in money. Penny is used vaguely for money.
inquires. 40. Uncos =news.
44. Gars auld claes, etc. = makes old clothes look almost as well as the
72. Lave rest.
88. Ruth pity, tenderness.
94. 'Yont beyond.
92. Halesome parritch wholesome porridge, oatmeal pudding.
Hawkie = milk.
= a cow; properly one with a white
Hallan = screen or low partition between the Chows her cood chews her cud. well kept. Kebbuck cheese.
- how it was a twelvemonth old since
99. How 'twas a towmond, etc.
flax was in the bloom; that is, the cheese was a year old last flax-blossoming.
103. Ha'-Bible : or chief room.
104. Bonnet = a cap or covering for the head, in common use before the introduction of hats, and still used by the Scotch. 105. Lyart gray, mixed gray. heads.
temples; literally, half
107. Wales = chooses. Cf. Ger. wählen, to choose.
III. Dundee, Martyrs, Elgin names of Scottish psalm-tunes.
121. Amalek's ungracious progeny the Amalekites, a fierce and warlike Canaanitish nation. They were uncompromising in their hostility to the Israelites. See Deut. xxv. 17-19.
122. Royal bard David. See 2 Sam. xii. 16.
133. He the Apostle John. Patmos an island in the Ægean Sea, to which John was banished in the year 94, and where he wrote Revelation. 135. Babylon the figurative Babylon spoken of in Rev. xviii. 2-24. Usually interpreted among Protestants as referring to papal Rome. 138. From Pope's "Windsor Forest." 143. Society social enjoyment. 150. Sacerdotal stole
priestly vestments or robes. 156. Secret homage = private devotions.
166. From Pope's "Essay on Man."
182. Wallace = the national hero of Scotland. He lived in the thirteenth century.
hall Bible; that is, the family Bible kept in the hall
TO A MOUSE.
1. Sleekit sly. — Cow'rin' cowering, crouching through fear. 4. Bickering brattle = a short race. 5. Wad be, etc. = would be loathe to run. 6. Pattle = a paddle for cleaning the soil from the plough. 13. Whyles = sometimes. 14. Maun = must. 15. Daimen and then. Thrave able quantity.
20. Silly frail, weak.
22. Foggage = coarse grass.
rare, now and then; daimen-icker = an ear of corn now two shocks or twenty-four sheaves of corn; a consider
NOTES TO A MOUSE AND TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY. 453
A. S. butan, without.
endure. - Dribble = drizzling.
37. No thy lane
40. Gang aft a-gley go often wrong.
TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY.
9. Weet wet, rain.
15. Glinted = peeped.
21. Bield shelter, protection.
23. Histie dry, barren.