Document 921

Ane Auld Sang

Author(s): David Purves

Copyright holder(s): David Purves



Renderings in Literary Scots from fifty ancient Chinese poems by David Purves


The poems in this collection have been recreated in Scots from versions in English of ancient Chinese poems recorded as far back as the seventh century BC, covering a period of well over two millennia. The English versions used as sources were largely those of Arthur Waley, Arthur Cooper, L. Cranmer-Byng, Kenneth Rexroth and David Cobb. The English neo-classical poetic tradition was long preoccupied with abstractions, rather than with the perennial concerns of living people. Thus, when versions in English of wonderful ancient Chinese poems were first published early last century, they were actually regarded with disapproval in England, because they did not fit into this entrenched, sophisticated tradition.

English has now developed into an international scientific and technological language employed by hundreds of millions of people with many different cultural backgrounds, living in different parts of the planet. It is sometimes argued that, because it is not longer the language of any specific community, and has lost contact with its original social roots, English is no longer a suitable language for poetry, which is properly concerned with the life (and plight) of Man as a social being. Although the Scots language is certainly closely related to English, this argument cannot be applied to Scots. Scots is an intimate social language which is much less concerned with abstractions than English. It is specific to an identifiable community and it has a very different emotional flavor from English.

I believe that these versions of Chinese poems in Scots have a vigor and emotional quality in Scots which was not always evident in the English verions from which they were derived. The Scots language can be powerful, tender, earthy or humorous, and the best poetry reflects the sentiment expressed by Burns that "the hert’s aye", "the pairt aye", "that maks us richt or wrang". The compatibility of the Scots language with ancient Chinese poetry is no doubt due to the fact that this is usually straight from the heart. Scots has its limitations, but it does not lend itself to pomposity or affectation, and may therefore be a more suitable medium than contemporary English for rendering these poems. Whether these recreations do justice to the original poems in Chinese is a question for the judgment of the select band of Chinese scholars who are also familiar with literary Scots.

David Purves, Edinburgh, August 2004



1. Coronach: Kennawha (7th Century BC): LALLANS 45, 1995
2. The Mukkil Chairiot: do.: LALLANS 43, 1993
3. Weidae’s Yammer: do.: ZED2O, 6, 1993
4. Fechtin ootby the Keep: do. (2nd Century BC): NORTHWORDS 9, 1996
5. The Sair Weird: Hsi-chün (2nd Century BC): ZED2O, 6, 1993
6. Tint Luiv: Wu-ti (157-87 BC): LALLANS, 37, 1991
7. Tuim Bed: Kennawha (1st Century BC): ZED2O, 6, 1993
8. Hame: do. (200 BC – 200 AD): ULLANS, Wintrer 1999
9. Sang o the Snaw-Whyte Heids: Cho Wen chun (1st Century AD): NORTHWORDS, 1, 1991
10. On the Daith o his Faither: Wei Wen-ti (188-227): LALLANS 44, 1995
11. Eftirstang: Yüan Chi (210-263): LALLANS 42, 1994
12. A Douce Wund: Fu Hsuan (3rd Century): NORTHWORDS 12, 1997
13. Ma Pairtie: Ch’eng–kung Sui (3rd Century): LALLANS 47, 1996
14. The Wund in the Glen: Lu Yun (4th Century): LALLANS 56, 2000
15. Back End: T’ao Ch’ien (372-427): LALLANS 39, 1992
16. Spring Breird: do.: NORTHWORDS 2, 1993
17. The Scholar Sojer: Pao Chao (died 460): NORTHWORDS 9, 1996
18. Fowk Derns thair Luiv: Wu-ti (404-549): Eildon Tree 1, 1999
19. Auld Kimmer’s Sang: Tsang Chih (6th Century): ZED2O, 6, 1993
20. Tears: Wang Seng-ju (6th Century): NORTHWORDS 3, 1993
21. Tell me nou: Wang Chi (584-644): LALLANS 41, 1993
22. Autumn Days: Kao-shih (ca. 700): NORTHWORDS 5, 1994
23. In the Hieland Forest: Wang Wei (701-761): Reforesting Scotland 22, 1999
24. A Waesum Wumman: Li Po (701-762): EILDON TREE 1, 1999
25. Clearin at Dawin: do.: LALLANS 36, 1991
26. Greinin: do.: NORTHWORDS 3, 1993
27. Dishauntit Sell: do.: Poetry Wales 7, 2, 1991
28. Ma Frein: do.
29. Saucht: do.
30. Simmer Day: do.
31. Kintrie Cothouss: Tu Fu (712-770)
32. The Spring Aince Mair: do.
33. Spring Rain: do.
34. Traivlin Norlins: do.
35. Veisitors: do.
36. Waukrif Nicht in Camp: do.
37. Anither Day: Po Chü-i (772-846)
38. Auld Age: do.
39. Lao Tzu: do.
40. Lossin a Slave-Quyne: do.
41. The Reid Cockatoo: Po Chü-i (772-846)
42. Up Abuin the Toun: do.
43. Wunter Nicht: do.
44. Lest Poem: do.
45. Plaint agin Generals: Ts’ao Sung (830-910)
46. Boundless Pyne: Li Hou-chu (10th Century)
47. Hogmanay: Su Tung p’o (1036-1101)
48. On the Birth o his Son: Su Tung p’o (1036-1101)
49. Thocht bi the Lochan: Chu Hsi (1130-1200)
50. Luiv Poem: Feng Meng-lung (ca. 1590-1646)


From the Chinese
Kennawha (7th Century BC)


Ai, whit haes becum o us?
Yon mukkil ashets o veivers!
It wes, ‘Fill an fesh mair!’
The-day, evin whan we hae meat,
the’r naething ti spare.
Ochone an ochone!
We haena growne as we breirdit.

Ai, whit haes befawn us?
Fower plates at ilka dounsittin;
whyles as monie helpins.
The-day, evin whan we hae meat,
the’r never aneuch.
Ochone, ochanee!
We haena growne as we breirdit.


From the Chinese
Kennawha (7th Century BC)


Dinna forder the mukkil chairiot!
Ye wul onlie mak yeirsell stourie.
Dinna think on the dule o the warld!
Ye wul onlie mak yeirsell waesum.

Dinna forder the mukkil chairiot!
Ye’l never can see for the stour.
Dinna think on the dule o the warld,
or ye’l never wun free frae wanhowp!

Dinna forder the mukkil chairiot!
Ye’l onlie be smoored wi the stour.
Dinna think on the dule o the warld!
Ye wul onlie be trauchilt wi care.


From the Chinese
Kennawha (7th Century BC)


Simmer days, wunter nichts---
year eftir year o thaim maun pass
or Ah gang til him whaur he bydes.
Wunter nichts, simmer days—
Year eftir year o thaim maun gae in
or Ah gang til his hame.


From the Chinese
Kennawha (Second Century BC)


Thay focht south o the breistwark
Thay dee’d north o the waws.
Thay fell on the muir athout beirial.
Thair flesh becam meat for the craws.
In the lochan the rashes war mirklyke,
as the rydars focht an war slauchtert.
Nou thair horses reinge aboot nickerin.
Bi the brig the war shuirlie a houss?
Whaur wes’t? Wes it north, wes it south?
The hairst it wes never ingethert.

Ah think o ye, leal sojers.
Ye serred yeir Prince in vain.
The-mornin ye gaed oot ti battle
an at nicht, ye never cam hame.


From the Chinese
of Hsi-chun (2nd Century BC)


Ma fowk haes mairrit me on
a caird at the warld’s end;
sent me awa til a ferr kintrie,
til the dottilt keing o the Wu-sun.
A tent nou serrs me for ma houss
wi mattit felt for sillie waws.
Raw flesh is aw ma meat
an cuddie’s milk ma drink.
Aye greinin for ma ain kintrie,
wi a waesum hert inby---
Ai, Ah wush Ah wes a yallae stork
for ti flie the haill road hame!


From the Chinese of Wu-ti (157-87 BC)
Sixth Emperor of the Han Dynasty


The soun o hir silk skirt haes gaen.
On the merbil plainstanes the stour doungethers.
Hir tuim chaumer is cauld an lown.
The fawn leafs is haepit agin the doors.
Greinin for that lousum leddie,
hou can Ah bring ma sair hert ti rest?


From the Chinese
Kennawha (First Century BC ?)


Green, green, the wattirsyde gress!
Thick, thick, the sauchs i the gairden!
Waesum, waesum, the leddie i the touer!
Whyte, whyte, sittin bi the winnok!
Bonnie, bonnie, hir reid-pouthert face!
Smaw, smaw, hir dentie haund!
Aince she wes a daunce-houss quyne,
but nou she is a gangril’s wyfe.
The gangril gaed an never cam back,
an nou the leddie’s aw hir lane.
Ai, a tuim bed is ill ti thole!


From the Chinese
Kennawha (200 BC – 200 AD)


At fifteen Ah jyned the airmie.
At twantie-five Ah cam hame at lest.
As Ah gaed inti the clachan,
Ah met an auld caird an speired:
“Wha bydes in oor houss nou?”
Says he: “Look you doun the street!
Thare yeir auld hame doun thare!”
Pynes an cypresses growe lyke weeds.
Mappies leeve in the dug’s kennel.
Dous nest in the brukken ruif.
Wyld gress cuivers the courtyaird.
Daunerin creepers hap the wal.
Ah gether millet an mak a pudden
an pick sum maws ti mak soup,
but the’r naebodie for ti share thaim.
Whan Ah’m feinisht wi ma soup an pudden,
Ah staun ma lane bi the brukken yett
an dicht the tears frae ma een.


From the Chinese
of Chu Wen-chun (First Century)


Oor luiv wes saikless
as the snaw on the bens;
whyte as a muin
atwein the clouds---
Nou Ah hear tell
yeir thochts is doubil;
that’s hou Ah hae cum,
ti brek it aff.
The-day we’l drink
a tass o wyne.
The-morn we’l twyne
asyde the Canal:
dauner aboot
asyde the Canal,
whaur the brainches sinder
East an Wast.
Ochone an ochone,
syne again, ochone!
Sae maun a lass
greit whan she’s wad,
gin she finndsna a man
o singil hert
that winna leave hir
or hir hair is whyte.


From the Chinese
of Wei Wen-ti (188-227)


Ah glence up at his drapes an bed:
Ah look doun at his table heid an mat.
Thir things is thare juist lyke afore,
but the man they belanged til isnae thare.
His speirit haes taen flicht bedein
an left me ferr awa ahint, masell.
Wha sal Ah look til – on wha depend?
Ma tears rins doun athouten end.

Ah’m aw ma lane an desolate,
dreidin the days o oor lang twynin.
Ma sair hert’s ayebydin stound
nae ither sowl can ever ken.
The’r a thing ye aften hear fowk say:
“It’s the dule that shuirlie maks us auld.”
Ochone, ochone, for ma whyte hairs!
Thay hae cum ti me ower suin.


From the Chinese
of Yüan Chi (210-263)


Whan Ah wes a hauflin A fairlie lairnt ti fence---
Ah wes better at it nor Camsheuch Castel.*
Ma speirit rade heich as the rowin clouds,
an ma nameliheid wes kent aw ower.
Ah taen ma sword til the desert sands
an wattirt ma naig at the Ferr Bens.
Ma flags an culors flauchtert abuin
an nocht wes heard but the dirl o ma drums.
* * * *
But war an its traivels haes made me waesum
an a fell feim nou bleizes inby me:
it’s thinkin o hou Ah hae gaen throu ma days
at gars this unco rue ryve at ma hert.

*A famous general


From the Chinese
of Fu Hsuan (3rd Century)


A douce wund fans the lown nicht:
A bricht muin leims on the hie touer.
Ah hear a whusper, but naeb’die aunsirs whan A caw.
Syne the kitchen loun brings ben a bowle o lentils:
The’r wyne anaw, but Ah dinna fill ma gless.
Content wi puirtith is Fortuin’s first blissin;
Walth an Honor is the byde-ins o Mishanter.
Tho gowd an jowels is socht bi aw the warld,
ti me thay kyth nae mair nor weeds or caff.


From the Chinese
of Ch’eng-kung Sui (3rd Century)


Ah sent oot invytes
for a hantil guests.
Ah brocht thegither
aw ma cronies.
Loud yammerins,
fill an fesh mair,
wi rowth o meat!
A byordnar splore;
hekkin in even on,
wi wyne galore.
Craks on philosophie
an airtilik haivers;
aw tungs lowsent,
in clishmaclaivers;
skellochin lauchin
amang freins forgethert;
herts made lichtsum
for a wee, winnin free.


From the Chinese
of Lu Yun (4th Century)


Leevin in retirement ayont the Warld,
quaetlie enjoyin aesumness,
Ah pul the raip o ma door the tichter,
an binnd steivelie this crackit jaur
that serrs me as a winnok bole.
Ma speirit is in kilter wi the Spring
an at the Faw the’r Autumn in ma hert.
This gait, in follaein cosmic chynge,
ma cot-houss haes becum ma Universe.


From the Chinese
of T’ao Ch’ien (372-427)


Snell an coorse the year draws til its end.
In ma cotton goun Ah luik for sunlicht on the porch.
In the south pleasance aw the leafs is gaen.
In the norlin gairden foustit bous liggs haepit.
Ah tak ma tass an drink it, doun til the dregs.
Ah luik til the kitchen, but nae reik ryses.
Poems an buiks is stekk’t asyde ma chair:
but the licht is gaun an Ah’l no hae tyme ti read thaim.


Frae the Chinese
of T’ao Ch’ien (372-427)


Swippert the years, ayont myndin.
Solemn the lown o this braw mornin.
Ah wul cleid masell in Spring claes
an veisit the braes o the Eastern ben.
Bi the hill burn a haar hings,
swithers a wee, syne skails awa.
Cums a wund blawin frae the South,
at skiffs the riggs o the new corn.


From the Chinese
of Pao Chao (5th Century)


Nou late on i the day Ah list wi the lave for the War.
We mairch aw day for fullie twae month.
Sklimmin the breistwark, Ah fecht
wi outlin clans Ah never kent war thare afore.
Thrawin aff ma sash, Ah cleid masell
in an unco teuch rhinoceros coat:
rowin up ma kilt, Ah shouther a steive blek bou.
The cheil on ma richt skraichs oot an founders,
a fell flain in his wame, an pitmirk haps his een.
Even at the verra stert, ma smeddum fails.
“Mither! Whit wul becum o me afore it’s ower?”


From the Chinese
of Wu-ti (464-549)


Wha says this is whit Ah want,
ti be sindert aye sae ferr frae ye?
Ma goun hauds yit the whuff o lavender ye sent.
Aboot ma waist Ah weir a doubil sash:
Ah dream it binnds us baith wi ae hert-knot.
Did ye no ken that fowk can dern thair luiv:
a flouer that kyths ower praiciuss for ti pou?


From the Chinese
of Tsang Chih (6th Century)


Ah wes brocht up anaith the Stane Castel:
ma winnok opent forenent the mukkil touer.
Inby war aw the braw yung callants
waved aye ti me as thay gaed oot an in.


From the Chinese
of Wang Seng-ju (6th Century)


Heich ower the ben the muin skowe steers;
the lentern lichts depairts.
Deid springs is steirin in ma hert,
an nou the’r tears …
The stound that maks ma dule mair deep
is that ye kenna whan Ah greit.


From the Chinese
of Wang Chi (ca. 700)


‘Tell me nou, whit mair micht a man want
nor ti sit his lane, bebbin his tass o wyne?’
Ah soud lyke ti hae veisitors for ti crak on philosophie,
an no hae the tax-man cum getherin siller;
ma thrie sons mairrit inti guid faimlies;
ma five dochters mairrit on wycelyke men.
Syne Ah coud jundie throu a blyth hunder year,
an at the hinner end, want nae Heivin.


From the Chinese
of Kao-shih (ca.700)


The mantil o Autumn liggs lourd
ower wuid an ben an cleuch.
It’s the Faw, the tyme o decay,
an the deid leafs howderin flicht;
an the mantil o Autumn haps wae
on the gangril’s saul the-nicht.


From the Chinese
of Wang Wei (701-761)


Deep ben amang the bens
whaur naebodie ever cums,
onlie aince in a lang whyle
ye hear the soun o a ferr vyce.
The laich leims o the sun
jouk throu the mirk forest an glent
aince mair on the shaidaed moss.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


Up the merbil steps she walks on dew
an daidils thare, as nicht cums on,
or hir stockin-soles ir droukit.

She waits in vain, gaes in at lest,
syne pairts the kirstal-beadit curtain
an goaves at the glisterin muin.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


The riggs is cauld, the smirr haes liftit;
the culors o Spring splairge in ilka airt;
wi lowpin fish the blue puil is rowth;
wi liltin maivises the green bous stint.

The flouers o the field haes daibilt thair pouthert chowks;
the gress on the bens is bent sklef at mids;
bi the bamboo wattir the lest nirl o cloud
is blawn bi the wund an slaelie skails awa.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


Sae bricht a leim at ma bed-fuit---
Coud the hae been a freist
areddies? Hystin masell ti luik,
Ah see that it is nou muinlicht.
Bouin ma heid, Ah dream
that Ah im hame.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


Ah sat bebbin an never taen tent o the gloamin.
Ah sat tipplin an A never kent ‘twes the forenicht,
or the fawin petals filled the faulds o ma goun.
Drukken Ah rase an made for the muinlicht wattir:
the burds war gaen --- no monie fowk aboot!


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


Ma frein is ludgin up in the Aistern hills;
fair browdent on the bewtie o the straths an bens.
In the green Spring days, he liggs i the tuim wuids;
doverin aye whan the sun sheins hie abuin.
A pine-tree wund kisses his sleeves an coat.
A chuck-stane burn synds his ears an hert.
Ah fairlie envy ye, that ferr frae sturt an clash,
ir stelled heich on a bouster o whyte cloud.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


An ye war ti speir at me, lyke,
whitfor Ah byde amang the green bens,
Ah sal lauch quaetlyke ti masell.
Ma saul is lown. The peach-blossom
follaes the rinnin wattir aye,
an the’r anither heivin an yird sumwhaur
ayont the warld o men.


From the Chinese
of Li Po (701-762)


Up here ma lane amang the bens,
doucelie Ah steir a whyte feather fan.
Wi an open serk, Ah sit in a green wuid.
Ah lowse ma bonnet an hank it on a ledgin stane;
a souch frae the pine-tree strinkils ma bare heid.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-770)


A cottar’s houss asyde
the clear wattir; the rustic yett
gies on til a forleiten road.
The weeds growes ower the pant wal.
Ah slounge in ma auld claes.
The sauch’s brainches swey.
Flouerin trees parfume the air.
The sun gaes doun aince mair
ahint a clekkin droukit cormorants,
dryin thair blek weings alang the pier.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-770)


Brukken the muin o Mairch,
April lamps on.
Hou monie ither Springs
im Ah ti walcum?

Wul Ah see monie mair
Springs turn til Simmer?
But nou Ah’l no forgae
wyne douce as hinnie.

Nae guid ti think on things
Ah canna reckon:
afore lyfe’s dregs ir drained
aye the’r sum glesses.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-770)


A guidlyke rain kens its saison.
It kyths at the oncum o Spring.
It snuves throu the nicht on the breeze,
seilentlie waitin on awthing;
a mirk nicht, the clouds blek as the causie,
juist ae licht on a boat leimin.
In the mornin, fair droukit wi wattir,
the flouers hing thair lourd heids.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-770)


The houlets skraich in the yallaein
mulberrie busses. Field myce skelters,
reddin thair holes for the wunter.
At midnicht, we cross an auld battilgrund.
The muinlicht leims cauld on whyte banes.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-770)


Ah’ve suffered frae asthma for
a guid whyle back. Ah finnd easement
here in this biggin bi the wattirsyde.
It is lown in here. Nae crouds
fash me. Ah’m brichter in masell.
an mair restit lyke. Am im blyth here.
Whan a bodie caws in at ma theikit hut,
ma son brings ben ma strae hat
an oot Ah gae an gether me
a gowpenfu fresh vegetables.
Ah ken it’s no mukkil ti offer,
but it is gien in freinship.


From the Chinese
of Tu Fu (712-779)


In the drakkin damp,
Ah mak ti sleep ablo the bamboo
canes, anaith the fekfu cauld
muinlicht in the wilderness.
The smirr dwynes til a fyne flim.
Yin bi yin the sterns skinkil oot,
or anelie the fyreflies is left.
Burds wheipil ower the wattir.
The war rages til its fell ootcum.
It’s uissless for ti vex masell,
waukrif the lang nicht throu.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


Ma man waukens me: “Maister, the day’s weill on!
Up oot yeir bed! Here bowle an kaim!
Wunter cums an the air is yit snell.
Yeir Guidsell durstna gang ootby the-day!”

Whan Ah byde at hame, naebodie veisits me.
Whit wul Ah dae wi the lang slouth oors?
Settlin ma chair naith a waek sun’s leims,
Ah hae mulled up wyne an taen up ma poems.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


We ir growin auld thegither, you an me;
we maun ask oorsells, ‘Whitlyke is eild?’
The bleirie ee is steik’t or nicht faws,
the fekless heid is aye unkaimed at nuin.
Stelled bi a stick, whyles a wee turn ootby;
or aw day sittin inby wi steikit doors.
Ah daurna glisk i the keikin gless;
Ah canna read smaw-prentit buiks.
Deeper an deeper Ah loue the auld freins;
thir days Ah’ve littil troke wi yungir men.
But ae thing juist: the pleisir o idle blether
is gleg as evir, whan you an Ah forgether.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


‘Thaim that speaks kens naething.
Thaim that kens bydes lown’.
Thir wurds, Ah hear tell,
war spoken bi Lao-tzu.
Gin we ir ti credit that Lao-tzu
wes himsell ane that kent,
hou cums it he wrate a buik
o five thousan wurds?


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


Aroun ma howf the littil waw is laich.
At the vennel yett hir loss wes leitit late.
Ah think shame ti mynd at whyles we warna kynd;
Ah’m vext anent yeir tyauvin that wul nevir
be repeyed. The cagit burd is no behauden.
The wund-blawn flouers clauchtsna the tree.
* * * *
Whaur the-nicht she liggs the’r nane can gie us wurd;
naebodie kens, but thon bricht ower-watchin muin.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


Sent as a present frae Annam---
a reid cockatoo;
hued lik the peach-tree blossom,
yammerin awa the words o men,
an thay did til it whit aye is duin
til the wyce an glib-gabbit.
Thay taen a cage wi mukkil bars
an shut it up inby.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


Sklimmin up heich, Ah begin ti see the smawness
o Man’s Kinrik.
Glowerin hyne awa, Ah begin ti see the vainitie
o the fleshlie warld.
Ah turn ma heid an breishil hame --- back til
the Court an Mercat,
a singil rice aiker fawin --- intil
the Mukkil Bern.


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-I (772-846)


Ma houss is puir an thaim Ah loue haes left me.
Ma corp is seik --- Ah canna jyne the feast.
The’r no a leevin sowl forenent ma een
as Ah ligg ma lane lock’t in ma cot-houss chaumer.
Ma brukken cruisie burns wi a dwaiblie lowe.
Ma tattert drapes hings squint an dinna meet.
‘Puff’ on the front dure-step an wundae sill,
aye an again Ah hear the new snaw faw.
Day in, day oot, the aulder Ah growe Ah sleep the less.
Ah wauken the midnicht oor an sit up strecht in bed.
Gin Ah haedna lairnt the airt o meditation,
hou coud Ah beir this yondmaist lanesumness?
Steive an sterk ma bodie hauds the yird;
unhinnert nou ma sowl devauls til entropie.
Sae haes it been for fower dreich year:
a thousan an thrie hunder nicht!


From the Chinese
of Po Chü-i (772-846)


Thay hae putten ma bed asyde the unpentit screen.
Thay hae steired ma stove forenent the blue curtain.
Ah listen til ma grandbairns haetin up ma pikkil kail.
Wi a gleg pincil Ah aunser the poems o ma freins,
Ah graip in ma poutches for siller for medicine,
an whan Ah’m duin wi aw this lik fouterin,
Ah ligg back on ma cod an dover aff,
wi ma gizz turnt til the South.


From the Chinese
of Ts’ao Sung (ca. 830-910)


The hills an wattirs o the Lawland kintrie
ye hae made yeir battil grund.
Hou dae ye think the fowk that bydes thare
wul gether hey an kinnlin?
Dinna you lat me hear ye haiverin thegither
anent teitils an honors,
for a singil general’s nameliheid
is biggit on ten thousan corps.


From the Chinese of Li Hou-chu,
Emperor of Southern Tang Dynasty
(deposed in 975)


Ma dreamin saul lest nicht
wes keing aince mair.
As in days bygaen,
Ah daunert throu
the Pailace o Delicht,
an in ma dreams,
doun gressie gairden gaits
ma chairiot snuived,
smoother nor a simmer stream.
The war muinlicht,
the trees war breirdin blossom
an a lown wund saftent the nicht air,
for it wes Spring.


From the Chinese
of Su Tung-p’o (1036-1101)


The year slips in til anither end
lyke a serpent crawlin in a field.
Ye hae nae suiner sichtit it
or it haes santit awa foraye.
It haes gaen an its fash is gaen wi it.
Ye haed better no grup it bi the tail!
Whitfor soud ye try, whan it wad dae ye nae guid.
The bairns ir waukrif; thay canna sleep.
Thay sit up aw nicht lauchin an yatterin.
The cocks dinna craw ti hansil the dawin.
The watch dinna dird thair drums the-nicht.
Awbodie bydes up whyle the lamps burn doun,
an gaes oot ti watch the sterns dwyne awa.
Ah div howp neist year wul be better nor lest.
But Ah daursay it wul juist be
the same auld mistaks an mishanters.
Mebbe Ah wul be better fordilt
bi Hogmanay neist year. Ah soud!
Here Ah im, yung an yauld—
lichtsum, an fou o smeddum.


From the Chinese
of Su Tung-p’o (1036-1101)


Whan a bairn is born
the faimlie forordnar
wad lyke it ti be
smertlyke an clivver.
But wi be-in owre smert,
Ah hae connacht ma haill lyfe.
Sae Ah div howp this wean
wul growe up ti be
donnert an stuipit.
An syne Ah daursay
he wul shuirlie croun
a blythsum career
as a Caibinet Meinister.


From the Chinese
of Chu Hsi (1130-1200)


The gless o the lochan leims
an skimmers cannilie in the saur.
The splendor o the lift abuin
an the whyteness o the clouds
happin the taps o the bens
ir reflekkit back on thairsells.
Ah speir at the lochan: “Whaur can Ah finnd
oniething ither as clear an pure?”
“Anelie at the springheid o the wattir o lyfe.”


From the Chinese
of Feng Meng-lung (ca.1590-1646)


Nou dinna you set sail the-day!
The wund is getherin an the wather isna guid.
Ferr better cum back ti ma houss wi me.
Gin the’r oniething ye wad lyke, juist tell me!
Gin ye’r cauld, ma bodie is warm.
Lat us be blyth thegither this ae nicht.
The-morn, Ah daursay, the wund wul hae lowdent,
syne ye can gae, an A’l no fash aboot ye.


The Scots spellings used are in accordance with guidelines published by the Scots Language Society in 1985 for Scots orthography. In general, these spellings avoid many of the anomalies associated with English orthography and give useful guidance to the pronunciation of Scots words. The equivalent meaning given in English represents the appropriate meaning in the text. Many of the Scots words have several other meanings, and these may be found in the Concise Scots Dictionary (Aberdeen University Press, 1985) or in the Scottish National Dictionary.

ablo, prep, below
aboot, prep, about
abuin, prep, above
ae, a, one
aesumness, n, isolation
aff, adv, off
affpit, n, delay
afore, prep, before
aften, adv, often
agin, prep, against
Ah, pron, I
aheid, adv, ahead
ahint, prep, behind
Ai, interj. Oh
aigil, n, eagle
aiker, n, grain
ain, a, own
aince, adv, once
airmie, n, army
airn, n, iron
airt, n, direction
airtilik, a, arty
amang, prep, among
an, c, and, if
anaith, prep, beneath
anaw, adv, also
ane, a, an
anelie, a, only
anent, prep, about
aneuch, a, enough
anither, a, another
apairt, adv, apart
areddies, adv, already
ashet n, plate
asyde, prep, beside
athout(en), prep, without
atwein, prep, between
auld, a, old
aw, a, all
awa, adv, away
awauken, v, awaken
awbodie, n, everybody
awthing, n, everything
aye, adv, always
ayebydinlie, adv, eternally
ayelestin, a, everlasting
ayont, prep, beyond

bairns, n, children
baith, a, both
bane, n, bone
battil, n, battle
baurlie, n, truce
bebbin, v, drinkin
becam, v, became
bedein, adv, suddenly
befawn, v, befallen
beglaumert, v, enchanted
begowk, v, deceive
behauden, a, beholden
beir, v, bear
beirial, n, burial
beiss, n, animals
belanged, v, belonged
ben, prep, in
benmaist, prep, in
bens, n, mountains
bern, n, barn
bewtie, n, beauty
bi, prep, by
biggin, n, cottage
biggit, v, built
binna, prep, except
birn, n, burden
birze, v, press
blaw, v, blow
bleirie, a, blurred
bleize, v, blaze
blether, v, chatter
blissin, n, blessing
blyth, a, happy
blythsum, a, happy
boddom, n, bottom
bole, n, opening
bonnie, a, beautiful
bou, n, v, bow
bouk, n, bulk
bounless, a, unlimited
bouster, n, bolster
bowder, n, boulder
bowle, n, bowl
braes, n, slopes
braid, a, broad
brainches, n, branches
brattlin, v, hurrying
braw, a, fine
breinge, v,, charge
breirdin, v, sprouting
breishil, v, hurry
breistwark, n, ramparts
brek, v, break
bricht, a, bright
brig, n, bridge
brocht, v, brought
brou, n, brow
browdent, a, captivated
brukken, v, broken
buiks, n, books
burd, n, bird
burn, n, stream
buss, n, bush
byde, v, stay
byde-ins, n, companions
bygaen, a, bygone
byordnar, a, unusual

caff, n, chaff
cagit, v, caged
caird, n, old man
callants, n, youths
cam, v, came
camsheuch, a, crooked
canna, v, cannot
cannilie, adv, gently
castel, n, castle
cauld, a, cold
causie, n, road
caw, v, call, drive
ceitie, n, city
chairiot, n, chariot
chaumer, n, chamber
chiel, n, fellow
chirker, n, cricket
chowks, n, cheeks
chuck-stane, n, pebble
chynge, v, change
clachan, n, village
claes, n, clothes
clash, n, blow
claucht, v, clutch
cleid, v, clothe
clekkin, n, group
cleuch, n, glen
clishmaclaivers, n, gossip
cod, n. pillow
connach, v, spoil
coorse, a, spoil
coronach, n, lament
corp, n, body
cot-houss, n, cottage
coud, v, could
crackit, v, cracked
craks, n, chats
craw, n, v, crow
credit, v, believe
cronie, n, friend
croud, n, crowd
croun, v, crown
cruisie, n, oil-lamp
cuddie, n, donkey
cuiver, n, cover
cum, v, come

dae, v, do
daibelt, v, dabbled
daidil, v, linger
daunce-houss, n, dance-house
dauner, n, wander
daur, v, dare
daursay, v, imagine
dawin, n, dawn
dee, v, die
deid, a, dead
delicht, n, delight
dentie, a, dainty
depairt, v, depart
derkness, n, darkness
dern, v, hide
descrive, v, describe
devauls, v, yields
dicht, v, wipe
dinna, v, do not
dird, v, beat
dirl, v, vibrate
dishaunt, v, forsake
disna, v, do not
dochter, n, daughter
donnert, a, stupid
dottilt, a, senile
dou, n, dove
doubil, a, double
douce, a, soft
doun, prep, down
doungether, v, accumulate
dounsittin, n, sitting
doverin, v, snoozing
dowf, a, sad
drak, v, soak up
drave, v, drove
dreich, a, dreary
drog, n, drug
droukit, a, soaked
droun, v, drown
drukken, a, drunken
dryve, v, drive
dubs, n, mud
dug, n, dog
duin, v, done
dule, n, sorrow
dumfounert, a, astonished
dure, n, door
durstna, v, dare not
dwaiblie, a, feeble
dwyne, v, dwindle

een, n, eyes
eftir, prep, after
eftirstang, n, remorse
eftir-tyme, n, later time
eild, n, old age
eithlie, adv, easily
esp, n, asp
ettil, v, intend
evin, adv, even

faimlie, n, family
fain, v, like to
fairlie, a, really
faither, n, father
fankil, v, entangle
fash, v, worry
fawn, v, fallen
fecht, v, fight
feim, n, rage
feinish, v, finish
fekfu, a, powerful
fekless, a, weak
fell, a, great
ferr, adv, far
fesh, v, fetch
finnd, v, find
finndsna, v, finds not
flain, n, arrow
flauchtert, v, fluttered
flicht, n, flight
flie, v, fly
flim, n, mist
flouer, n, flower
focht, v, fought
follae, v, follow
foraye, adv, forever
forder, v, advance
fordil, v, prepare
forenent, prep, opposite
forenicht, n, evening
forgae, v, forgo
forgether, v, assemble
forleit, a, deserted
forordnar, adv, usually
fortuin, n, fortune
founder, v, collapse
foust, v, decay
fouter, v, fuss
fower, n, four
fowk, n, folk
frae, prep, from
freins, n, friends
freinship, n, friendship
freist, n, frost
fuil, n, fool
fuit, n, foot
ful, a, full

gae, v, go
gaed, v, went
gaen, v, gone
gairden, n, garden
gait, n, way
galore, n, plenty
gang, v, go
gangril, n, vagrant
gar, v, compel
gaun, v, going
gether, n, collect
gie, v, give
gin, c, if
git, v, get
gizz, n, face
gleg, a, sharp
glen, n, ravine
glence, n, glance
glent, n, glint
gless, n, glass
glib-gabbit, a, talkative
glisk, n, glance
glister, v, glisten
gloamin, n, dusk
glowerin, v, glaring
goave, v, stare
goun, n, gown
gowd, n, gold
gowk, n, fool
gowpen, n, double handful
graip, v, grope
grandbairns, n, grandchildren
greinin, n, longing
greit, v, weep
gress, n, grass
growe, v, grow
growne, v, grown
grund, n, ground
grup, v, grip
guid, a, good
guidsell, pron, goodself

hae, v, have
haar, n, mist
haena, v, have not
haep, n, heap
haes, v, has
haet, v, heat
haill, n, whole
hairst, n, harvest
haiver, v, talk nonsense
hame, n, home
hank, v, hang
hansil, v, welcome
hantil, n, many
hap, n, v, cover
haud, v, hold
hauf, n, half
hauflin, n, youth
haund, n, hand
haw, n, hall
heich, a, high
heid, n, head
heivin, n, heaven
hek in, v, eat greedily
hert, n, heart
hey, n, hay
hie, a, high
himsell, pron, himself
hings, v, hangs
hinner, a, final
hinnie, n, honey
hir, pron, her
hir lane, a, alone
Hogmanay, n, New Year’s Eve
hou, adv, how
houss, n, house
howderin, v, swarming
howf, n, dwelling
howp, v, n, hope
hunder, a, hundred
hyne-awa adv, far away
hyst, v, raise

i, prep, in
ilka, a, every
ilk, a, each
ill, a, difficult
im, v, am
inby, prep, inside
ingethert, v, brought in
ingil, n, fire
inouth, prep, inside
inti, prep, into
inti, prep, into
intil, prep, into
invytes, n, invitations
ir, v, are
isna, v, is not
ither, a, other

jag, n, v, stab
jaur, n, jar
jouk, v, dodge
jowel, n, jewel
juist, a, just
jundie, v, rolic
jyne, v, join

kail, n, broth
kaim, v, comb
keik, v, look
keing, n, king
ken, v, know
kenna, v, know not
kep, v, catch
kilter, n, harmony
kimmer, n, female companion
kinrik, n, kingdom
kintrie, n, country
kirstal, n, crystal
kist, n, chest
knowe, n, hillock
kyth, v, appear

laich, a, low
lair, n, grave
lairn, n, learn
lamp, v, stride
lanesumness, n, loneliness
lang, a, long
langsyne, adv, long ago
lauch, n, v, laugh
lave, n, remainder
lawland, a, lowland
leifs, n, leaves
leal, a, loyal
leddie, n, lady
ledgin, n, protuding
leeve, v, live
leevin, v, living
leigs, n, leagues
leim, v, gleam
leitit, v, listed
lentern, n, lantern
lest, a, last
licht, n, light
lichtsum, a, joyful
lift, n, sky
ligg, v, lie
lik, a, like
liltin, v, singing
linn, n, waterfall
lippen, v, trust
list, v, enlist
little, a, little
loch(an), n, lake
loss, v, lose
loue, v, love
loun, n, boy
lourd, a, heavy
lousum, a, lovable
lowdent, v, calmed down
lowe, n, flame
lown, a, calm
lowp, v, leap
lowsen, v, loosen
ludge, v, dwell
luik, v, look
luiv, n, v, love
lyfe, n, life
lyke, v, like

ma, a, my
maik, n, shape
maikless, a, matchless
maimorie, n, memorie
mainners, n, manners
mair, a, more
mairch, v, march
mairrit, v, married
maister, n, master
maitter, v, matter
maivis, n, thrush
mak, v, make
makkar, n, creator
ma lane, a, alone
mantil, n, mantle
mappie, n, rabbit
masell, pron, myself
mattit, v, matted
maun, v, must
maws, n, mallows
meat, n, food
meinister, n, minister
merbil, n, marble
mercat, n, market
merk, n, mark
micht, v, might
michtie, a, mighty
midnicht, n, midnight
mids, n, middle
mirklyke, a, dark
mishanter, n, misfortune
mistak, n, m, mistake
mither, n, mother
monie, a, many
muin, n, moon
muinlicht, n, moonlight
muir, n, moor
mukkil, a, big, much
murner, n, mourner
mynd, v, remember
myndin, n, remembrance

nae, a, no
naebodie, n, nobody
naething, n, nothing
naig, n, horse
naith, prep, beneath
namelieheid, n, reputation
nane, pron, none
nearhaund, prep, nearby
neist, a, next
nevir, adv, never
nevoy, n, nephew
nicht, n, night
nicker, v, neigh
nirl, n, fragment
no, adv, not
nocht, n, nothing
nor, c, than
norlin, s, northerly
nou, adv, now
nuin, n, noon

o, prep, of
ochone, interj, of sorrow
oncum, n, beginning
oniething, n, anything
onlie, a, only
oor, n, hour
oorsells, pron, ourselves
oot, prep, out
outlin, a, remote
or, prep, until

pad, n, path
pailace, n, palace
pairt, n, part
pairtie, n, party
pey, v, pay
pikkil, n, small quantity
pincil, n, pencil
pitmirk, n, darkness
plainstanes, n, paving stones
plaint, n, complaint
pleasance, n, pleasure park
pleisirs, n, pleasures
plou, n, plough
poutches, n, pockets
pouthert, a, powdered
praiciuss, a, precious
praisent, n, present
presses, n, cupboard
pudden, n, pudding
puil, n, pool
puir, a, poor
puirtith, n, poverty
pul, v, pull
putten, v, put
pyne, n, pain

quaetlie, adv, quietly
quut, v, quit
quyne, n, lass

rade, v, rode
raip, n, rope
raither, adv, rather
rase, v, rose
rashes, n, rushes
raw, n, row
rax, v, reach
redd, v, tidy
reid-pouthert a, red-powdered
reik, n, smoke
reinge, v, range
reishil, v, rustle
repeyed, v, repayed
richt, a, right
riggs, n, fields
rin, v, run
rowin, v, rolling
rowth, n, abundance
ruif, n, roof
runkil, v, wrinkle
rype, v, ripe
ryses, v, rises
ryve, v, tear

sae, adv, so
saften, v, soften
saikless, a, innocent
sair, a, sore
sairvants, n, servants
saison, n, season
saitin, n, satin
sal, v, shall
sanct, n, saint
sang, n, song
sant, n, saint
sauchs, n, willows
saucht, n, peace
saul, n, soul
sax, a, six
seik, a, sick
sell, n, self
serk, n, shirt
serr, v, serve
shaidae, n, shadow
shank, n, stem
sheins, v, shines
shenachie, n, bard
shipwrack n, shipwreck
shour, n, shower
shouther, n, shoulder
shuirlie, adv, surely
sib, a, related
sic, a, such
siccar, a, sure
siccarness, n, certainty
sicht, n, sight
sie-maw, n, sea-gull
siller n, money
silly, a, fragile
simmer, n, summer
sinder, v, divide
singil, a, single
skails, v, empties
skelloch, v, whoop
skelter, v, scurry
skiffs, v, brushes
skinklin, v, twinkling
sklef, a, level
sklim, v, climb
skraich, v, screech
slauchtert, v, slaughtered
slawlie, adv, slowly
slounge, v, loiter
slouth, a, slothful
smaw, a, small
smaw-prentit, a, small-printed
smeddum, n, courage
smert, a, smart
smird, n, smudge
smirr, n, small rain
smoored, v, smothered
snaw, n, snow
snell, a, cold
snuive, v, glide
socht, v, sought
sojers, n, soldiers
souch, v, sigh
soun, n, sound
sowl, n, soul
spauls, n, limbs
speirit, n, spirit
spierins, n, questions
splairge, v, spread
splore, n, celebration
springheid, n, source
squint a, askew
stane, n, stone
staw, n, stall
steik, v, shut
stert, v, start
stound, n, v, ache
stour, n, dust
stourie, a, dusty
strae, n, straw
straths, n, valleys
stravaig, v, wander
strecht, a, straight
strinkil, v, sprinkle
stuipit, a, stupid
sturt, n, strife
suin, adv, soon
sum, a, some
sumbodie, n, somebody
sumwhaur, adv, somewhere
sunlicht, n, sunlight
swey, v, rinse
swippert, a, swift
swither, v, vacillate
syde, n, side
synd, v, rinse
syne, adv, then

taen, v, took, taken
taigil, v, burden
tak, v, take
tap, n, top
tass, n, cup
teitils, n, titles
tent, n, attention
teuch, a, tough
thai, pron, they
thaim, pron, them
thair, a, their
thare, adv, there
the-day, adv, today
thegither, adv, together
theik, v, thatch
the-morn, adv, tomorrow
the-mornin, adv, this morning
the-nicht, adv, tonight
the’r, v, there is
the war, v, there was
thir, a, these
tho, c, though
thocht, n, thought
thole, v, endure
thonder, adv, yonder
thousan, a, thousand
thraw, v, throw
thrie, a, three
throu, prep, through
ti, prep, to
ticht, a, tight
til, prep, to
timmer, n, timber
tint, v, lost
tither, a, other
touer, n, tower
toun, n, town
tovin, v, soaring
traivels, n, journeys
traivlar, n, traveller
trauchilt, v, oppressed
troke, v, trade
truibil, n, trouble
tuim, a, empty
tungs, n, tongues
twae, a, two
twal, a, twelve
twyne, v, part
twynin, n, parting
tyauve, v, labor
tyme, n, time

uissless, a, useless
unco, a, strange
unhinnert, a, unhindered
unkaimed, a, uncombed
unpairttit, a, unparted

vainitie, n, vanity
veisit, v, visit
veivers, n, food
vennel, n, alley
verra, a, very
vext, a, sorry
vyce, n, voice

wad, v, would
wae, n, woe
waek, a, weak
waesum, a, sad
wal, n, well
walcum, a, welcome
walin, n, choice
wanhowp, n, misfortune
wame, n, belly
wanner, v, wander
wap, v, wrap
war, v, were
warld, n, world
wather, n, weather
wattir, n, water
waucht, v, quaff
wauken, a, waken
waukrif, a, wakeful
waw, n, wall
wean, n, child
weidae, n, widow
weill, adv, well
weing, n, wing
weir, v, wear
weird, n, fate
wes, v, was
whan, adv, when
whas, pron, whose
whatlyke, pron, what
whaur, adv, where
wheipil, v, whistle
whuff, n, scent
whurl, v, whirl
whusper, v, whisper
whyles, adv, sometimes
whyte, a, white
wi, pron, with
win, v, enter
winna, v, will not
winnok, n, window
wrang, a, wrong
wrate, v, wrote
wuids, n, woods
wul, v, will
wumman, n, woman
wundae, n, window
wunds, n, winds
wund-thrawn, a, wind-blown
wunter, n, winter
wurd, n, tidings
wush, v, wish
wyce, a, wise
wycelyke, a, respectable
wyne, n, wine

yaird, n, yard
yallae, a, yellow
yammer, v, lament, chatter
yatter, v, chatter
yauld, a, active
ye, pron, you
yeir, a, your
yett, n, gate
yill, n, ale
yin, pron, one
yird, n, earth
yit, adv, yet
yondmaist, a, farthest
yung, a, young
yungir, a, younger

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 921

Ane Auld Sang


Text audience

General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2000
Title of original (if translation) Various
Author of original (if translation) Various - see text for details
Language of original (if translation) Chinese
Word count 7319
General description Poetry collection

Text medium

Other Some poems previously published in magazines

Text publication details

Publisher Various
Part of larger text
Contained in Some poems previously published in "Lallans", "Northwords", "Chapman" magazines

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 17
Forenames David
Surname Purves
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1920
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Retired Biochemist
Place of birth Selkirk
Region of birth Selkirk
Birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Master Grocer
Father's place of birth Selkirk
Father's region of birth Selkirk
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Selkirk
Mother's region of birth Selkirk
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All circumstances
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes