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Poem by Menella Bute Smedley

Old Donald

Up in the Highlands of Scotland
The fairies are very rude;
I do not know if all are so
Some of them may be good.
But I will write you a story
Of the events of a night;
And as you read, you'll own, indeed,
The fairies were not polite.

A very old man was Donald,
His cheeks were shrivell'd and lean;
His teeth were few, and broken, too,
With very big gaps between.
He stoop'd his shoulders in walking,
His head was uncrown'd by hair;
His beard was white, his legs a sight,
For of calves they were quite bare.
He liked both snuff and tobacco,
He wore an old-fashioned coat;
On whisky-punch at dinner or lunch
He certainly seem'd to doat.
For he was an old campaigner;
I've heard the young fellows say,
It was no joke with him to smoke,
To drink, to fight, or to play.

One night at home he was setting
His whisky-punch in a jug
(For punch, they say, tastes best from clay,
As beer from a pewter mug);
He said, I don't know the reason,
But when I'm mixing this stuff,
I never find that, to my mind,
I put in whisky enough!
Perhaps I had better marry!
Since women can make strong tea;
They'd surely brew this creature too,
So as to satisfy me.
But there's the trouble of wooing;
I never can quite make out,
If girls I meet in fair or street,
What I should chatter about.

I think I'll go out this evening,
And to the first girl I see,
I'll simply say in a passing way,
My dear, will you marry me?
I'm a very handsome fellow,
I've plenty of gold and gear;
'Twould be odd indeed if I can't succeed
In bringing a woman here.
And oh, but Donald was cunning!
The sly fox did not forget
The fairest maid in sun or shade
Just then was sure to be met!
For down to the brook fair Peggy
Did every evening go,
Her pitcher to fill at the sparkling rill,
As cunning Donald did know.

But the fairies heard him prating,
And laugh'd in their fairy sleeves;
His foolish talk they meant to balk,
For folly a fairy grieves.
Fair Peggy sits in her cottage,
Her pretty hands glance and gleam,
For she must sew another row
Before she runs to the stream.
Most haste is worst speed, fair Peggy,
And why do you work so quick?
A needle so fine can glance and shine,
But oh, it can also prick!
And when a determined fairy
Takes up his post at its head,
And pushes it into your tender skin,
Why, then, some blood will be shed.

Fair Peggy holds out her finger,
And pain makes her knit her brow;
Her grandmother cried with an air of pride,
How clumsy the girls are now!
When I was young, hoity-toity!
When pretty and young was I,
I was sonsy and sweet, and nimble and neat
Here Peggy began to cry!
Her grandmother seized the pitcher,
And grumbled on with her scold,
Sure nobody cares how he worries and wears
The bones that are very old!

And I must run to the river,
Because you have prick'd your thumb.
Let people take care, and preachers beware,
Or the world to an end will come!
So off the old woman hobbled
(A very old woman she; )
She had a beard, and her eyes were blear'd,
And so she could hardly see.
Her nose was like a potato,
Her voice was crack'd and shrill,
Her head was bare for want of hair,
And she liked to have her will!
And lo! she was met by Donald,
Who raised his hat from his brow,

And look'd so sly, and wink'd his eye,
And made a capital bow;
And cried, with a manly flourish,
My match you won't often see,
Or come or go? or yes or no?
My dear, will you marry me?
Now, Donald had lost his glasses;
And was it that, do you think?
Or was it the spell by the fairy well?
Or was it the power of drink?
He thought it was lovely Peggy
Was standing there by the stream;
That maiden bright, who, many a night,
Had mix'd his punch in his dream!
The grandmother dropp'd a curtsey
As well as her stiff knees could;

She thought to herself, he has plenty of pelf,
And rule him I surely could.
With wink to his wink replying,
With look that was slyer still,
She answer'd his word as pert as a bird,
Indeed, my dear, and I will!
Together they sought a blacksmith,
In Scotland it's known to all,
That man and wife are join'd for life
By almost nothing at all!
It's rather a shaky business,
And some it might not content;
But trouble's a bore, and perhaps to take more
Brings its own punishment.

The blacksmith snigger'd a little,
But he wouldn't make a row,
So married them both by word and by oath
Before you could say bow-wow.
Says he, If driving a tandem,
A better match who could pick?
Sure, man alive! it's I shall drive,
The woman replied quite quick.
Now, was it the sudden feeling
Of being a married man?
(If you're not a block, it's an awful shock;
Bear it as well as you can!)
Or had the fumes of the whisky
Floated away from his brain?

Or fairies, for fun, their spell undone,
And given him eyes again?
He saw it was Peggy's grandame,
And not the sweet Peg herself,
Who, honest and fair, had married him there,
And must brew the punch in his delf!
And if you believe you've married
A beautiful village belle,
And find that instead you've her grandmother wed,
It re-al-ly is a sell!
The old woman smiled and simper'd,
And feebly her head did wag,
Says she, My love, we'd better move.
Says he, Avaunt, you hag!

Says she I'm a married woman
Your own respectable wife!
Says he, If so, for weal and woe,
I'll plague you out of your life!
Says she, You are old and crabbed,
But two can play at that game;
If you are cross, 'twill be your loss;
I'm sure I can be the same!
Says he, all flush'd with his passion,
I shall not mind you a bit!
Says she, I hearbe calm, my dear,
Or, may be you'll have a fit!
The fairies are laughing round them,
They laugh till they cannot stand,
And then advance in a mocking dance
Oh, mischievous fairy band!

Oh, band of mischievous fairies
That flicker and float about;
You've had your play,do fly away,
You'll do no good, I doubt!
But up in the Scottish Highlands
The fairies are very rude;
They've too much cheek, and love to speak,
And don't care how they intrude.
So they encourage the quarrel,
Just for the sake of the game;
But to provoke, although in joke,
I always think is a shame.
They all of them flock round Donald,
To egg him on to the fight;

The grandmother knew (and isn't it true?)
That women are always right!
So she needed no incentive;
But Donald's not brisk at all:
They breathe in his ears their comical fears,
That shortly he'll sing rather small!
You to be found chicken-hearted,
After the whisky you've drunk!
You on the sly to eat humble pie!
You to be put in a funk!
You to be done by a woman!
You to be quizz'd by the men!
You to be beat! you to retreat!
You to be peck'd by a hen!
This is the song they are singing,
(Fairies are certainly shrewd);

Thus they give tongueisn't it wrong
And most uncommonly rude?
Up in the Highlands of Scotland
Manners are not what they were;
He that's ill-fed groweth ill-bred,
So are the fairies up there!
Into the midst she comes tripping,
Scatters her sunshine about,
Laughs like the skies, sings with her eye,
Leads her old grandmother out.
Up in the Highlands of Scotland
Maidens are bonnie and bright,
They can endure well to be poor;
Courteous are hearts that are light.
Donald is sipping his whisky!
Is it the very same tap?

What shall he do? can it be true?
Has he waked up from a nap?
Still floats the song of the fairies
As the good toddy he stirr'd.
Does it not change? that would be strange;
Is this the song he first heard?
Old men should mate with old women,
Girls are no helpmeets for them;
Donald has got certainly what
He in the hag did condemn!
His are the crutches and wrinkles,
His just as surely as hers;
Peggy would quiz wooing of his,
She a young lover prefers.
Up in the Highlands of Scotland,
Pride goes in front of a fall,

Womankind rules, mankind are fools,
Girls are the nicest of all!
Mists hang their wreaths on the mountains;
Heaths on the moorlands are fair.
Up in the Highlands of Scotland
Life is the same as elsewhere!

Menella Bute Smedley

Menella Bute Smedley's other poems:
  1. Love in Sorrow
  2. The King's Beard
  3. The Wounded Daisy
  4. The Captivity of Coeur de Lion
  5. Lilies

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