Alexander Anderson Poems >>
The Fiddler O' Boglebriggs

A fiddler sits, wha has never been seen,
 On the ledgin' o' Boglebriggs;
An' aye when the clock strikes the midnicht hoor
 He plays strathspeys an' jigs.


He plays strathspeys, an' reels, an' jigs,
 Like ane at a country fair;
But never a lad or a lass daur gang
 To dance to the music there.


The fowk wha live at the hoose doon bye,
 Where the lang road tak's a turn,
Can hear, when they wauken up at nicht,
 The sough o' the Bogle Burn.


But alang wi' its sough comes an eerie soun'
 They dinna like to hear—
The scrape o' the fiddle, that comes by fits,
 Frae the brig sae auld an' drear.


Then the hoolits that bide in the Brocklan' wud
 Flaff roun' wi' an' eerie cry;
While the water kelpies in ilka pool
 Coor doon till it gangs by.


But still on the ledgin' o' Boglebriggs
 That fiddler sits an' plays;
An' never gangs ow'r till the licht begins
 To shine on the Scroglan' Braes.


But listen awee to Eppy Graham,
 Wha bides at the heid o' the glen,
An' she'll tell ye the story aboot that brig
 That has frichten'd weans an' men.


"Lang syne, when a lassie aboot sixteen,
 (I'm ninety this very nicht),
I ran to weddin's, an' kirns, an' balls—
 For my heart was unco licht.


An' aften, an' aften hae I gaen doon
 A country dance wi' glee,
For a stout, stout fiddler led us oot—
 Lang shankit Gibby Fea.


He fiddled at rockins and kintra kirns,
 Where we a' made meikle din;
An' aye at the ball on a Hogmanay,
 When we danced the New Year in.


An' at ane o' the balls my dress was white,
 While the lang, lang ribbons were reid,
And I had a rose that was white as snaw,
 Noddin' bonnie 'bune my heid.


I bore the brag o' that ball, an' John
 Was unco prood aboot me;
But he's deid these thirty weary years,
 An' noo I scarce can see.


I scarce can gang to the ooter door,
 Yet it seems but a short, short day
Since I gaed to that ball by the side o' John,
 Wha is deid lang syne an' away.


But my time will come, for the hoose is dune,
 An' never ane after me
Will bide in this eerie, eerie place,
 That maun see auld Eppie dee.


But my story is slippin' away frae me,
 At thae daft, daft tricks o' mine,
Yet auld, dune bodies aye wan'er an' dream,
 When they think o' auld lang syne.


Weel, Gibby, ye ken, was unco glib,
 For the luve o' the siller hung
On his lang, narrow face and twinklin' e'e,
 An' on his leein' tongue.


Nae gude ever cam' frae his thin white lips,
 But aye when a pair were cried,
He mummel'd an' lauch'd, though he sat in the kirk,
 An' hotch'd frae side to side.


He lived in a hoose by the Boglebriggs—
 The hoose is nae langer there,
For it tum'led doon on a Sabbath nicht,
 An' was biggit up nae mair.


His wife had a greed that was waur than his—
 She harl'd a' things in,
As if she wad live for hunners o' years,
 An' the warl' never gang dune.


Sae they baith did their best for the sake o' the gear,
 Workin' on baith nicht an' day,
Till the neebors aboot said what gear they had
 Wasna got in an honest way.


But Gibby was foremost at kirns an' balls,
 Wi' his twinklin', parrot e'e;
An' Grizzy his wife gather'd into the hoose,
 For unco greedy was she.


O weel I min' what they baith were like,
 Though I canna bring to min'
What I did yestreen; for unco fresh
 Are the things o' auld langsyne.


I min' the auld black hoose that sat
 No a yaird frae the public road;
I min' when the wa's swey'd an' tum'led in,
 Wi' the roof o' heather an' sod.


An' I min' this story I'm gaun to tell—
 It gaed through the kintra side,
An' was tauld by the herds as they sat on the hills,
 An' was sent baith far an' wide:


Ae Saturday nicht, a wee ere twal',
 As Grizzy an' Gibby sat,
A' at ance cam' a queer, queer knock to the door,
 That wauken'd up the cat.


Her back gaed up, an' her tail grew big,
 While her een turn'd roun' an' reid;
"What can ail her the nicht?" ask'd Gibby, an' shook,
 Wi' meikle doot, his heid.


Then they heard the door play clank to the wa',
 An' a fit comin' stampin' ben;
Then they saw a stranger come bauldly in,
 But whase face they didna ken.


The cat, wi' ae loup, took up to the laft,
 An' frae there, where she could see
She sat, but aye on that stranger man
 She keepit a reid, reid e'e.


Auld Gibby an' Grizzy glower'd fu' lang
 At the man on their ain hearthstane;
Then Gibby said, "Od, but ye enter in
 As if this hoose were your ain."


"I hae come to ask ae favour," he said,
 "An' sma' will that favour be—
Will ye tak' yer fiddle an' come to the brig,
 An' play ae reel to me?"


Then Gibby, shakin' his heid, said, "Na,
 I canna dae that this nicht,
For it wants na much o' the Sabbath morn,
 And ye ken it wadna be richt."


The stranger's lips had a queer, queer smile,
 As he turn'd an' said, "Weel, weel,
A gowden guinea is his this nicht
 Wha plays me a single reel."


Auld Grizzy cockit her lugs at this,
 An' she said, "Gudeman, gudeman,
Can ye no play ae reel to the stranger man,
 An' the fiddle close at your han'?"


Then he thocht awee on the lang, lang nichts
 He had fiddled for half that sum,
Sae he rax'd doon the fiddle that hung on the wa',
 An' he said to the stranger, "Come."


"But first," said the stranger, an' here he laid
 In Gibby's loof a bricht
Roun' guinea, that seem'd as if fresh frae the mint,
 For it gleam'd in the cannle licht.


Sae Gibby sat doon upon Boglebriggs,
 An' put his fiddle in tune,
While the stranger stood stampin' an' shakin' his feet,
 As if wearyin' to begin.


Then the fiddler ask'd, as he lifted the bow,
 "Are ye gaun to dance yoursel'?"
The stranger said something atween his teeth
 That Gibby couldna tell.


But juist as he laid the bow on the strings,
 The brig was shinin' wi' licht,
An' ithers forbye him wha wantit the reel
 Cam' a' at ance into sicht.


An' they danced aboot him an' lap like mad,
 Wi' mony a jump an' squeal,
Cryin', "Speed to the elbow o' him whase greed
 Mak's him fiddle to the deil."


Then Gibby saw horns on the stranger's heid,
 An', lookin' doon to his feet,
He saw he divided the hoof like a stot,
 An' he shook wi' terror to see't.


But aye he fiddled an' couldna stop,
 An' aye they changed the reel,
Cryin', "Speed to the elbow o' him whase greed
 Mak's him fiddle to the deil."


Then they took him doon frae the tap o' the brig—
 His fingers aye keepit the string—
An' they claspit their han's, an' roun' they gaed,
 Like weans at a jingo-ring.


Roun', roun, they gaed wi' an eldritch yell,
 An' still they increased their speed,
Till at last they sank down in a flaff o' lowe,
 Leavin' Gibby lyin' as deid.


Auld Grizzy cam' oot when she heard that yell;
 But what was her fricht to see
Her man streekit oot as they streek the deid,
 An' a dull, dead look in his e'e!


Yet she lifted him up, though she had nae help,
 But, afore she could get him in,
Her breath cam' thick, an' her knees bent doon,
 An' the swat brak' through her skin.


She put him into the bed, an' he lay
 Like ane that had lost his breath—
Never liftin' up han', or openin' e'e,
 Till within an hour o' his death.


An' aye he keepit his richt neive shut,
 As if haudin' some siller there;
But, gude keep us a'! instead o' the gowd,
 That clinks an' looks sae fair,


A black, black spot where the guinea had lain
 Was there, an' a frichtfu' heid,
That the deil had set as a mark on his coin,
 An' a curse on the fiddler's greed.


But aye he lay streekit, nor lifted an e'e,
 While Grizzy sat by the bed,
Watchin' a' her lane through the weary nicht,
 Hearin' things that maunna be said.


For the fiddle that hung in a pouk on the wa'
 Began to birl an' play,
An' rin ow'r the tune that was play'd on the brig
 As the fiddler wore away.


What a sicht had Grizzy to see as she look'd,
 Wi' a fear that death aye brings,
To the fiddle hung up that was playin' on,
 Though nae bow was across the strings.


Then a' at ance the strings play'd crack,
 An' she never heard it mair,
For, turnin' roun', she saw Gibby was deid,
 An' she fell frae aff the chair.


The fowk gaun' by on the Sabbath day
 To the kirk got an awfu' fricht;
For Gibby and Grizzy baith lay deid—
 A weird an' fearfu' sicht!


But nae fiddle was hingin' up on the wa',
 An' fowk like mysel' still say
That it aye plays at nicht on Boglebriggs
 Till the sun hits the Scroglan' Brae.


An' whaever gangs by at the stroke o' twal',
 Whatever his yerran' may be,
He canna but stop when he hears the soun',
 An' dance as if mad wi' glee.


Sae nae lad or lass, or grown-up man,
 Though ye offer them a' ye hae,
Will gang by the brig at the midnicht hoor,
 When that fiddle begins to play;


For they aye hae min' o' the fiddler's death,
 An' his loof wi' its spot sae black,
An' they winna gang near to Boglebriggs,
 But turn in terror back."


Oh! listen, listen! to Eppy Graham,
 Wha bides at the heid o' the glen:
There is truth in this auld, auld story o' hers,
 For the gude an' the guidin' o' men.


An' the truth is this, that wherever ye gang,
 Let them hide it never sae weel,
A black spot lies on their loof whase greed
 Mak's them fiddle to the deil.