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Songs of Angus and More Songs of Angus   By: (1863-1946)

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[Transcriber's Note: Two small volumes of Violet Jacob's poetry have been combined together to produce this text.]




Author of "Flemington"

London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1919

(First published in 1915)


I have to thank the Editors of the Cornhill Magazine , Country Life , and The Outlook , respectively, for their permission to reprint in this Collection such of the following poems as they have published.

V. J.


There are few poets to day who write in the Scots vernacular, and the modesty of the supply is perhaps determined by the slenderness of the demand, for pure Scots is a tongue which in the changes of the age is not widely understood, even in Scotland. The various accents remain, but the old words tend to be forgotten, and we may be in sight of the time when that noble speech shall be degraded to a northern dialect of English. The love of all vanishing things burns most strongly in those to whom they are a memory rather than a presence, and it is not unnatural that the best Scots poetry of our day should have been written by exiles. Stevenson, wearying for his "hills of home," found a romance in the wet Edinburgh streets, which might have passed unnoticed had he been condemned to live in the grim reality. And we have Mr. Charles Murray, who in the South African veld writes Scots, not as an exercise, but as a living speech, and recaptures old moods and scenes with a freshness which is hardly possible for those who with their own eyes have watched the fading of the outlines. It is the rarest thing, this use of Scots as a living tongue, and perhaps only the exile can achieve it, for the Scot at home is apt to write it with an antiquarian zest, as one polishes Latin hexameters, or with the exaggerations which are permissible in what does not touch life too nearly. But the exile uses the Doric because it is the means by which he can best express his importunate longing.

Mrs. Jacob has this rare distinction. She writes Scots because what she has to say could not be written otherwise and retain its peculiar quality. It is good Scots, quite free from misspelt English or that perverted slang which too often nowadays is vulgarising the old tongue. But above all it is a living speech, with the accent of the natural voice, and not a skilful mosaic of robust words, which, as in sundry poems of Stevenson, for all the wit and skill remains a mosaic. The dialect is Angus, with unfamiliar notes to my Border ear, and in every song there is the sound of the east wind and the rain. Its chief note is longing, like all the poetry of exiles, a chastened melancholy which finds comfort in the memory of old unhappy things as well as of the beatitudes of youth. The metres are cunningly chosen, and are most artful when they are simplest; and in every case they provide the exact musical counterpart to the thought. Mrs. Jacob has an austere conscience. She eschews facile rhymes and worn epithets, and escapes the easy cadences of hymnology which are apt to be a snare to the writer of folk songs. She has many moods, from the stalwart humour of "The Beadle o' Drumlee," and "Jeemsie Miller," to the haunting lilt of "The Gean Trees," and the pathos of "Craigo Woods" and "The Lang Road." But in them all are the same clarity and sincerity of vision and clean beauty of phrase.

Some of us who love the old speech have in our heads or in our note books an anthology of modern Scots verse. It is a small collection if we would keep it select. Beginning with Principal Shairp's "Bush aboon Traquair," it would include the wonderful Nithsdale ballad of "Kirkbride," a few pieces from Underwoods , Mr. Hamish Hendry's "Beadle," one or two of Hugh Haliburton's Ochil poems, Mr. Charles Murray's "Whistle" and his versions of Horace, and a few fragments from the "poet's corners" of country newspapers. To my own edition of this anthology I would add unhesitatingly Mrs... Continue reading book >>

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