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Robert Louis Stevenson

(1850-1894 / Edinburgh / Scotland)

The Bour-Tree Den

CLINKUM-CLANK in the rain they ride,
Down by the braes and the grey sea-side;
Clinkum-clank by stane and cairn,
Weary fa' their horse-shoe-airn!

Loud on the causey, saft on the sand,
Round they rade by the tail of the land;
Round and up by the Bour-Tree Den,
Weary fa' the red-coat men!

Aft hae I gane where they hae rade
And straigled in the gowden brooms -
Aft hae I gane, a saikless maid,
And O! sae bonny as the bour-tree blooms!

Wi' swords and guns they wanton there,
Wi' red, red coats and braw, braw plumes.
But I gaed wi' my gowden hair,
And O! sae bonny as the bour-tree blooms!

I ran, a little hempie lass,
In the sand and the bent grass,
Or took and kilted my small coats
To play in the beached fisher-boats.

I waded deep and I ran fast,
I was as lean as a lugger's mast,
I was as brown as a fisher's creel,
And I liked my life unco weel.

They blew a trumpet at the cross,
Some forty men, both foot and horse.
A'body cam to hear and see,
And wha, among the rest, but me.
My lips were saut wi' the saut air,
My face was brown, my feet were bare
The wind had ravelled my tautit hair,
And I thought shame to be standing there.

Ae man there in the thick of the throng
Sat in his saddle, straight and strong.
I looked at him and he at me,
And he was a master-man to see.
. . . And who is this yin? and who is yon
That has the bonny lendings on?
That sits and looks sae braw and crouse?
. . . Mister Frank o' the Big House!

I gaed my lane beside the sea;
The wind it blew in bush and tree,
The wind blew in bush and bent:
Muckle I saw, and muckle kent!

Between the beach and the sea-hill
I sat my lane and grat my fill -
I was sae clarty and hard and dark,
And like the kye in the cow park!

There fell a battle far in the north;
The evil news gaed back and forth,
And back and forth by brae and bent
Hider and hunter cam and went:
The hunter clattered horse-shoe-airn
By causey-crest and hill-top cairn;
The hider, in by shag and shench,
Crept on his wame and little lench.

The eastland wind blew shrill and snell,
The stars arose, the gloaming fell,
The firelight shone in window and door
When Mr. Frank cam here to shore.
He hirpled up by the links and the lane,
And chappit laigh in the back-door-stane.
My faither gaed, and up wi' his han'!
. . . Is this Mr. Frank, or a beggarman?

I have mistrysted sair, he said,
But let me into fire and bed;
Let me in, for auld lang syne,
And give me a dram of the brandy wine.

They hid him in the Bour-Tree Den,
And I thought it strange to gang my lane;
I thought it strange, I thought it sweet,
To gang there on my naked feet.
In the mirk night, when the boats were at sea,
I passed the burn abune the knee;
In the mirk night, when the folks were asleep,
I had a tryst in the den to keep.

Late and air', when the folks were asleep,
I had a tryst, a tryst to keep,
I had a lad that lippened to me,
And bour-tree blossom is fair to see!

O' the bour-tree leaves I busked his bed,
The mune was siller, the dawn was red:
Was nae man there but him and me -
And bour-tree blossom is fair to see!

Unco weather hae we been through:
The mune glowered, and the wind blew,
And the rain it rained on him and me,
And bour-tree blossom is fair to see!

Dwelling his lane but house or hauld,
Aft he was wet and aft was cauld;
I warmed him wi' my briest and knee -
And bour-tree blossom is fair to see!

There was nae voice of beast ae man,
But the tree soughed and the burn ran,
And we heard the ae voice of the sea:
Bour-tree blossom is fair to see!

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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