Friday, February 29, 2008


Since winter is so oppressive today my mind has gone skipping off to green meadows and I thought perhaps a lady poet from Scotland should be quoted here on the blog:


TUNE--"The banks of the Devon."

In summer when flowers in beauty do flourish,
Bespangles the meadows and every lea,
How pleasant's the gay groves, when nature doth nourish,
The green spreading fragrance of every tree.
The hawthorn in blossom, with sweet odour blowing,
The breezes are scented that come from the grove,
Alone on the bank by the clear streams that's blowing,
The small birds sing sweetly the notes of true love.
The Shepherds are feeding their flocks on the mountains,
All nature in beauty, their passion doth move,
For pleasure retires, by the clear crystal fountains,
Along with the small birds, their song is of love.
The dew in the evening doth gild the flowers springing,
Among the fair blossom the breezes do blow;
The twilight repairing, the small birds are singing,
By beautiful rivers that gently do flow.


For nearly fifty years, she was known as the "wandering minstrel of the borders." In the earliest part of the 19th century, Susannah Hawkins (1787-1868) traveled house to house selling booklets of her poetry and searched the borders for natives of Dumfries, Scotland.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Burning Beech!

It's down to 7F now and feeling pretty nippy here tonight. Thank goodness there is no wind. The wood stove is keeping the house a very comfortable 65-68F. We have some local beech for firewood this year. It's been very good. We have had zero problems with creosote build up in the chimney flue. I have never had a wood pile made up of only one kind of tree before this year. It's interesting because you come to know the qualities of a species inside and out this way. This comes from a wood lot on the Stedman-Sherman Rd. The sheep seem to be taking this late season cold snap in stride. We had a little new snow last night but not allot. The longer the ewes hold off before lambing the better. I have to check in the night and be very careful when its cold or I could loose a lamb.

The Lee Rigg by Robert Fergusson

Will ye gang o'er the lee-rigg,
My ain kind deary O!
And cuddle there sae kindly
Wi' me, my kind deary O?

At thornie-dike and birken-tree,
We'll daff, and ne'er be weary O,
They'll scug ill een frae you and me,
Mine ain kind deary O.

Nae herds wi' kent or colly there,
Shall ever come to fear ye O;
But lav'rocks, whistling in the air,
Shall woo, like me, their deary O!

While others herd their lambs and ewes,
And toil for warld's gear, my jo,
Upon the lee my pleasure grows,
Wi' you, my kind dearie O!

Robert Fergusson (1750-1774)

Glossary of Scots words that may be unfamiliar:

A grassy ridge
(Probably) a thorn-fenced dike along the stream below the ridge
Make merry.
scug ill een
"Screen unfriendly eyes".
kent, colly
Two breeds of sheep dog.
Wealth, goods.

Cold February Night

It's only 8F here right now.  The sheep are in the fold and not wanting to do much more than munch hay.  This cold is a nightmare when you are lambing.  Thank goodness none of my ewes have bags yet but I expect I will have to keep a close eye on them for a couple days as the weatherman says we should expect an Alberta Clipper in here on Thursday with more snow and bitter cold.  I hate all the ice chipping and fuss with water buckets when its this cold.  If the ewes don't drink right away the water quickly turns to a block of ice in the bucket.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From my snow clogged Hame, The Daft-days

The Daft-days

Now mirk December's dowie face
Glours our the rigs wi' sour grimace,
While, thro' his minimum of space,
The bleer-ey'd sun
Wi' blinkin light and stealing pace,
His race doth run.

From naked groves nae birdie sings,
To shepherd's pipe nae hillock rings,
The breeze nae od'rous flavour brings
From Borean cave,
And dwyning nature droops her wings,
Wi' visage grave.

Mankind but scanty pleasure glean
Frae snawy hill or barren plain,
Whan Winter, 'midst his nipping train,
Wi' frozen spear,
Sends drift owr a' his bleak domain,
And guides the weir.

Auld Reikie! thou'rt the canty hole,
A bield for mony caldrife soul,
Wha snugly at thine ingle loll,
Baith warm and couth;
While round they gar the bicker roll
To weet their mouth.

When merry Yule-day comes, I trow
You'll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma' are our cares, our stamacks fou
O' gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view,
Sin Fairn-year.

Ye browster wives, now busk ye bra,
And fling your sorrows far awa';
Then come and gie's the tither blaw
Of reaming ale,
Mair precious than the well of Spa,
Our hearts to heal.

Then, tho' at odds wi' a' the warl',
Amang oursells we'll never quarrel;
Tho' Discord gie a canker'd snarl
To spoil our glee,
As lang's there's pith into the barrel
We'll drink and 'gree.

Fiddlers, your pins in temper fix,
And roset weel your fiddle-sticks,
But banish vile Italian tricks
From out your quorum,
Nor fortes wi' pianos mix,
Gie's Tulloch Gorum.

For nought can cheer the heart sae weil
As can a canty Highland reel,
It even vivifies the heel
To skip and dance:
Lifeless is he what canna feel
Its influence.

Let mirth abound, let social cheer
Invest the dawning of the year;
Let blithesome innocence appear
To crown our joy,
Nor envy wi' sarcastic sneer
Our bliss destroy.

And thou, great god of Aqua Vitæ!
Wha sways the empire of this city,
When fou we're sometimes capernoity,
Be thou prepar'd
To hedge us frae that black banditti,
The City-Guard.


The Sharp Grey Sheep (A Gaelic Tale)

From John Dewar, labourer, Glendaruail, Cowal.

THERE was a king and a queen, and they had a daughter, and the queen found death, and the king married another. And the last queen was bad to the daughter of the first queen, and she used to beat her and put her out of the door. She sent her to herd the sheep, and was not giving her what should suffice her. And there was a sharp (horned) grey sheep in the flock that was coming with meat to her.

The queen was taking wonder that she was keeping alive and that she was not getting meat enough from herself, and she told it to the henwife. The henwife thought that she would send her own daughter to watch how she was getting meat, and Ni Mhaol Charach, the henwife's daughter, went to herd the sheep with the queen's daughter. The sheep would not come to her so long as Ni Mhaol Charach was there, and Ni Mhaol Charach was staying all the day with her. The queen's daughter was longing for her meat, and she said-"Set thy head on my knee and I will dress thy hair." And Ni Mhaol Charach set her head on the knee of the queen's daughter, and she slept.

The sheep came with meat to the queen's daughter, but the eye that was in the back of the head of the bald black-skinned girl, the henwife's daughter, was open, and she saw all that went on, and when she awoke she went home and told it to her mother, and the henwife told it to the queen, and when the queen understood how the girl was getting meat, nothing at all would serve her but that the sheep should be killed.

The sheep came to the queen's daughter and said to her-

"They are going to kill me, but steal thou my skin and gather my bones and roll them in my skin, and I will come alive again, and I will come to thee again."

The sheep was killed, and the queen's daughter stole her skin, and she gathered her bones and her hoofs and she rolled them in the skin; but she forgot the little hoofs. The sheep came alive again, but she was lame. She came to the king's daughter with a halting step, and she said, "Thou didst as I desired thee, but thou hast forgotten the little hoofs."

And she was keeping her in meat after that.

There was a young prince who was hunting and coming often past her, and he saw how pretty she was, and he asked, "Who's she?" And they told him, and he took love for her, and he was often coming the way; but the bald black-skinned girl, the henwife's daughter, took notice of him, and she told it to her mother, and the henwife told it to the queen.

The queen was wishful to get knowledge what man it was, and the henwife sought till she found out who he (was), and she told the queen. When the queen heard who it was she was wishful to send her own daughter in his way, and she brought in the first queen's daughter, and she sent her own daughter to herd in her place, and she was making the daughter of the first queen do the cooking and every service about the house.
The first queen's daughter was out a turn, and the prince met her, and he gave her a pair of golden shoes. And he was wishful to see her at the sermon, but her muime would not let her go there.

But when the rest would go she would make ready, and she would go after them, and she would sit where he might see her, but she would rise and go before the people would scatter, and she would be at the house and everything in order before her muime would come. But the third time she was there the prince was wishful to go with her, and he sat near to the door, and when she went he was keeping an eye on her, and he rose and went after her. She was running home, and she lost one of her shoes in the mud; and he got the shoe, and because he could not see her he said that the one who had the foot that would fit the shoe was the wife that would be his.

The queen was wishful that the shoe would fit her own daughter, and she put the daughter of the first queen in hiding, so that she should not be seen till she should try if the shoe should fit her own daughter.

When the prince came to try the shoe on her, her foot was too big, but she was very anxious that the shoe should fit her, and she spoke to the henwife about it. The henwife cut the points of her toes off that the shoe might fit her, and the shoe went on her when the points of the toes were cut.

When the wedding-day came the daughter of the first queen was set in hiding in a nook that was behind the fire.

When the people were all gathered together, a bird came to the window, and he cried-

"The blood's in the shoe, and the pretty foot's in the nook at the back of the fire."

One of them said, "What is that creature saying?" And the queen said-"It's no matter what that creature is saying; it is but a nasty, beaky, lying creature." The bird came again to the window; and the third time he came, the prince said-"We will go and see what he is saying."

And he rose and he went out, and the bird cried-

"The blood's in the shoe, and the pretty foot's in the nook that is at the back of the fire."

He returned in, and he ordered the nook at the back of the fire to be searched. And they searched it, and they found the first queen's daughter there, and the golden shoe on the one foot. They cleaned the blood out of the other shoe, and they tried it on her, and the shoe fitted her, and its like was on the other foot. The prince left the daughter of the last queen, and he married the daughter of the first queen, and he took her from them with him, and she was rich and lucky after that.

Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. London: Alexander Gardner, 1890-1893.

Another Tale from The Crimson Fairy Book

To Your Good Health!

Long, long ago there lived a king who was such a mighty monarch that whenever he sneezed every one in the whole country had to say ‘To your good health!’ Every one said it except the shepherd with the staring eyes, and he would not say it.

The king heard of this and was very angry, and sent for the shepherd to appear before him.

The shepherd came and stood before the throne, where the king sat looking very grand and powerful. But however grand or powerful he might be the shepherd did not feel a bit afraid of him.

‘Say at once, “To my good health!”’ cried the king.

‘To my good health!’ replied the shepherd.

‘To mine—to mine, you rascal, you vagabond!’ stormed the king.

‘To mine, to mine, your Majesty,’ was the answer.

‘But to mine—to my own,’ roared the king, and beat on his breast in a rage.

‘Well, yes; to mine, of course, to my own,’ cried the shepherd, and gently tapped his breast.

The king was beside himself with fury and did not know what to do, when the Lord Chamberlain interfered:

‘Say at once—say this very moment: “To your health, your Majesty”; for if you don’t say it you’ll lose your life, whispered he.

‘No, I won’t say it till I get the princess for my wife,’ was the shepherd’s answer. Now the princess was sitting on a little throne beside the king, her father, and she looked as sweet and lovely as a little golden dove. When she heard what the shepherd said she could not help laughing, for there is no denying the fact that this young shepherd with the staring eyes pleased her very much; indeed he pleased her better than any king’s son she had yet seen.

But the king was not as pleasant as his daughter, and he gave orders to throw the shepherd into the white bear’s pit.

The guards led him away and thrust him into the pit with the white bear, who had had nothing to eat for two days and was very hungry. The door of the pit was hardly closed when the bear rushed at the shepherd; but when it saw his eyes it was so frightened that it was ready to eat itself. It shrank away into a corner and gazed at him from there, and, in spite of being so famished, did not dare to touch him, but sucked its own paws from sheer hunger. The shepherd felt that if he once removed his eyes off the beast he was a dead man, and in order to keep himself awake he made songs and sang them, and so the night went by.

Next morning the Lord Chamberlain came to see the shepherd’s bones, and was amazed to find him alive and well. He led him to the king, who fell into a furious passion, and said: ‘Well, you have learned what it is to be very near death, and now will you say “To my good health”?’

But the shepherd answered: ‘I am not afraid of ten deaths! I will only say it if I may have the princess for my wife.’

‘Then go to your death,’ cried the king; and ordered him to be thrown into the den with the wild boars. The wild boars had not been fed for a week, and when the shepherd was thrust into their don they rushed at him to tear him to pieces. But the shepherd took a little flute out of the sleeve of his jacket and began to play a merry tune, on which the wild boars first of all shrank shyly away, and then got up on their hind legs and danced gaily. The shepherd would have given anything to be able to laugh, they looked so funny; but he dared not stop playing, for he knew well enough that the moment he stopped they would fall upon him and tear him to pieces. His eyes were of no use to him here, for he could not have stared ten wild boars in the face at once; so he kept on playing, and the wild boars danced very slowly, as if in a minuet, then by degrees he played faster and faster till they could hardly twist and turn quickly enough, and ended by all falling over each other in a heap, quite exhausted and out of breath.

Then the shepherd ventured to laugh at last; and he laughed so long and so loud that when the Lord Chamberlain came early in the morning, expecting to find only his bones, the tears were still running down his cheeks from laughter.

As soon as the king was dressed the shepherd was again brought before him; but he was more angry than ever to think the wild boars had not torn the man to bits, and he said: ‘Well, you have learned what it feels to be near ten deaths, now say “To my good health!”’

But the shepherd broke in with, ‘I do not fear a hundred deaths, and I will only say it if I may have the princess for my wife.’

‘Then go to a hundred deaths!’ roared the king, and ordered the shepherd to be thrown down the deep vault of scythes.

The guards dragged him away to a dark dungeon, in the middle of which was a deep well with sharp scythes all round it. At the bottom of the well was a little light by which one could see if anyone was thrown in whether he had fallen to the bottom.

When the shepherd was dragged to the dungeons he begged the guards to leave him alone a little while that he might look down into the pit of scythes; perhaps he might after all make up his mind to say ‘To your good health’ to the king. So the guards left him alone and he stuck up his long stick near the well, hung his cloak round the stick and put his hat on the top. He also hung his knapsack up inside the cloak so that it might seem to have some body within it. When this was done he called out to the guards and said that he had considered the matter but after all he could not make up his mind to say what the king wished. The guards came in, threw the hat and cloak, knapsack and stick all down the well together, watched to see how they put out the light at the bottom and came away, thinking that now there really was an end of the shepherd. But he had hidden in a dark corner and was laughing to himself all the time.

Quite early next morning came the Lord Chamberlain, carrying a lamp and he nearly fell backwards with surprise when he saw the shepherd alive and well. He brought him to the king, whose fury was greater than ever, but who cried:

‘Well, now you have been near a hundred deaths; will you say: “To your good health”?’

But the shepherd only gave the same answer:

‘I won’t say it till the princess is my wife.’

‘Perhaps after all you may do it for less,’ said the king, who saw that there was no chance of making away with the shepherd; and he ordered the state coach to be got ready, then he made the shepherd get in with him and sit beside him, and ordered the coachman to drive to the silver wood. When they reached it he said: ‘Do you see this silver wood? Well, if you will say, “To your good health,” I will give it to you.’

The shepherd turned hot and cold by turns, but he still persisted:

‘I will not say it till the princess is my wife.’

The king was much vexed; he drove further on till they came to a splendid castle, all of gold, and then he said:

‘Do you see this golden castle? Well, I will give you that too, the silver wood and the golden castle, if only you will say that one thing to me: “To your good health.”’

The shepherd gaped and wondered and was quite dazzled, but he still said:

‘No; I will not say it till I have the princess for my wife.’

This time the king was overwhelmed with grief, and gave orders to drive on to the diamond pond, and there he tried once more.

‘Do you see this diamond pond? I will give you that too, the silver wood and the golden castle and the diamond pond. You shall have them all—all—if you will but say: “To your good health!”’

The shepherd had to shut his staring eyes tight not to be dazzled with the brilliant pond, but still he said:

‘No, no; I will not say it till I have the princess for my wife.’

Then the king saw that all his efforts were useless, and that he might as well give in, so he said:

‘Well, well, it’s all the same to me—I will give you my daughter to wife; but, then, you really and truly must say to me: “To your good health.”’

‘Of course I’ll say it; why should I not say it? It stands to reason that I shall say it then.’

At this the king was more delighted than anyone could have believed. He made it known all through the country that there were to be great rejoicings, as the princess was going to be married. And everyone rejoiced to think that the princess, who had refused so many royal suitors, should have ended by falling in love with the staring-eyed shepherd.

There was such a wedding as had never been seen. Everyone ate and drank and danced. Even the sick were feasted, and quite tiny new-born children had presents given them.

But the greatest merry-making was in the king’s palace; there the best bands played and the best food was cooked; a crowd of people sat down to table, and all was fun and merry-making.

And when the groomsman, according to custom, brought in the great boar’s head on a big dish and placed it before the king so that he might carve it and give everyone a share, the savoury smell was so strong that the king began to sneeze with all his might.

‘To your very good health,’ cried the shepherd before anyone else, and the king was so delighted that he did not regret having given him his daughter.

In time, when the old king died, the shepherd succeeded him. He made a very good king and never expected his people to wish him well against their wills; but, all the same, everyone did wish him well, for they all loved him.

Andrew Lang
The Crimson Fairy Book

The Shepherd's tale or Language of Beasts

The Language of Beasts

Once upon a time a man had a shepherd who served him many years faithfully and honestly. One day, whilst herding his flock, this shepherd heard a hissing sound, coming out of the forest near by, which he could not account for. So he went into the wood in the direction of the noise to try to discover the cause. When he approached the place he found that the dry grass and leaves were on fire, and on a tree, surrounded by flames, a snake was coiled, hissing with terror.

The shepherd stood wondering how the poor snake could escape, for the wind was blowing the flames that way, and soon that tree would be burning like the rest. Suddenly the snake cried: 'O shepherd! for the love of heaven save me from this fire!'

Then the shepherd stretched his staff out over the flames and the snake wound itself round the staff and up to his hand, and from his hand it crept up his arm, and twined itself about his neck. The shepherd trembled with fright, expecting every instant to be stung to death, and said: 'What an unlucky man I am! Did I rescue you only to be destroyed myself?' But the snake answered: 'Have no fear; only carry me home to my father who is the King of the Snakes.' The shepherd, however, was much too frightened to listen, and said that he could not go away and leave his flock alone; but the snake said: 'You need not be afraid to leave your flock, no evil shall befall them; but make all the haste you can.'

So he set off through the wood carrying the snake, and after a time he came to a great gateway, made entirely of snakes intertwined one with another. The shepherd stood still with surprise, but the snake round his neck whistled, and immediately all the arch unwound itself.

'When we are come to my father's house,' said his own snake to him, 'he will reward you with anything you like to ask--silver, gold, jewels, or whatever on this earth is most precious; but take none of all these things, ask rather to understand the language of beasts. He will refuse it to you a long time, but in the end he will grant it to you.'

Soon after that they arrived at the house of the King of the Snakes, who burst into tears of joy at the sight of his daughter, as he had given her up for dead. 'Where have you been all this time?' he asked, directly he could speak, and she told him that she had been caught in a forest fire, and had been rescued from the flames by the shepherd. The King of the Snakes, then turning to the shepherd, said to him: 'What reward will you choose for saving my child?'

'Make me to know the language of beasts,' answered the shepherd, 'that is all I desire.'

The king replied: 'Such knowledge would be of no benefit to you, for if I granted it to you and you told any one of it, you would immediately die; ask me rather for whatever else you would most like to possess, and it shall be yours.'

But the shepherd answered him: 'Sir, if you wish to reward me for saving your daughter, grant me, I pray you, to know the language of beasts. I desire nothing else'; and he turned as if to depart.

Then the king called him back, saying: 'If nothing else will satisfy you, open your mouth.' The man obeyed, and the king spat into it, and said: 'Now spit into my mouth.' The shepherd did as he was told, then the King of the Snakes spat again into the shepherd's mouth. When they had spat into each other's mouths three times, the king said:

'Now you know the language of beasts, go in peace; but, if you value your life, beware lest you tell any one of it, else you will immediately die.'

So the shepherd set out for home, and on his way through the wood he heard and understood all that was said by the birds, and by every living creature. When he got back to his sheep he found the flock grazing peacefully, and as he was very tired he laid himself down by them to rest a little. Hardly had he done so when two ravens flew down and perched on a tree near by, and began to talk to each other in their own language: 'If that shepherd only knew that there is a vault full of gold and silver beneath where that lamb is lying, what would he not do?' When the shepherd heard these words he went straight to his master and told him, and the master at once took a waggon, and broke open the door of the vault, and they carried off the treasure. But instead of keeping it for himself, the master, who was an honourable man, gave it all up to the shepherd, saying: 'Take it, it is yours. The gods have given it to you.' So the shepherd took the treasure and built himself a house. He married a wife, and they lived in great peace and happiness, and he was acknowledged to be the richest man, not only of his native village, but of all the country-side. He had flocks of sheep, and cattle, and horses without end, as well as beautiful clothes and jewels.

One day, just before Christmas, he said to his wife: 'Prepare everything for a great feast, to-morrow we will take things with us to the farm that the shepherds there may make merry.' The wife obeyed, and all was prepared as he desired. Next day they both went to the farm, and in the evening the master said to the shepherds: 'Now come, all of you, eat, drink, and make merry. I will watch the flocks myself to-night in your stead.' Then he went out to spend the night with the flocks.

When midnight struck the wolves howled and the dogs barked, and the wolves spoke in their own tongue, saying:

'Shall we come in and work havoc, and you too shall eat flesh?' And the dogs answered in their tongue: 'Come in, and for once we shall have enough to eat.'

Now amongst the dogs there was one so old that he had only two teeth left in his head, and he spoke to the wolves, saying: 'So long as I have my two teeth still in my head, I will let no harm be done to my master.'

All this the master heard and understood, and as soon as morning dawned he ordered all the dogs to be killed excepting the old dog. The farm servants wondered at this order, and exclaimed: 'But surely, sir, that would be a pity?'

The master answered: 'Do as I bid you'; and made ready to return home with his wife, and they mounted their horses, her steed being a mare. As they went on their way, it happened that the husband rode on ahead, while the wife was a little way behind. The husband's horse, seeing this, neighed, and said to the mare: 'Come along, make haste; why are you so slow?' And the mare answered: 'It is very easy for you, you carry only your master, who is a thin man, but I carry my mistress, who is so fat that she weights as much as three.' When the husband heard that he looked back and laughed, which the wife perceiving, she urged on the mare till she caught up with her husband, and asked him why he laughed. 'For nothing at all,' he answered; 'just because it came into my head.' She would not be satisfied with this answer, and urged him more and more to tell her why he had laughed. But he controlled himself and said: 'Let me be, wife; what ails you? I do not know myself why I laughed.' But the more he put her off, the more she tormented him to tell her the cause of his laughter. At length he said to her: 'Know, then, that if I tell it you I shall immediately and surely die.' But even this did not quiet her; she only besought him the more to tell her.

Meanwhile they had reached home, and before getting down from his horse the man called for a coffin to be brought; and when it was there he placed it in front of the house, and said to his wife:

'See, I will lay myself down in this coffin, and will then tell you why I laughed, for as soon as I have told you I shall surely die.' So he lay down in the coffin, and while he took a last look around him, his old dog came out from the farm and sat down by him, and whined. When the master saw this, he called to his wife: 'Bring a piece of bread to give to the dog.' The wife brought some bread and threw it to the dog, but he would not look at it. Then the farm cock came and pecked at the bread; but the dog said to it: 'Wretched glutton, you can eat like that when you see that your master is dying?' The cock answered: 'Let him die, if he is so stupid. I have a hundred wives, which I call together when I find a grain of corn, and as soon as they are there I swallow it myself; should one of them dare to be angry, I would give her a lesson with my beak. He has only one wife, and he cannot keep her in order.'

As soon as the man understood this, he got up out of the coffin, seized a stick, and called his wife into the room, saying: 'Come, and I will tell you what you so much want to know'; and then he began to beat her with the stick, saying with each blow: 'It is that, wife, it is that!' And in this way he taught her never again to ask why he had laughed.

From the Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

From the journal of the sloop Joseph Francis of Boston.

Shepherds have you seen my love
Have you seen my Anna
Pride of every shady grove
Upon the banks of Banna

I for her my home forsook
Near yon mighty mountain
Left my flock my pipe my hook
Greenwood shade and fountain

Never shall I see them more
Until her returning
All the joys of life are o'er
From gladness turned to mourning

Whither is my charmer flown
Shepherds tell who've seen her
Ah woe's me perhaps she's gone
Forever and forever

From Huntington, Songs the Whalemen Sang, pp. 236-237. From the
1795 journal of the sloop Joseph Francis of Boston.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Those sexy shepherds in song, The Long and Wishing Eye

1As Johnny walk-ed out, one midsummer s morn
He soon became quite weary and sat down beneath a thorn
'Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid, as she was passing by
And young Johnny followed after with his long and wishing eye
With his long and wishing eye, brave boys
With his long and wishing eye
And young Johnny followed after
With his long and wishing eye.

2 Good morning, gentle shepherd, have you seen my flock of lambs
Strayed away from their fold, strayed away from their dams
O have you seen the ewe-lamb, as she was passing by
Has she strayed in yonder meadow where the grass grows very high?
Where the grass grows very high, brave boys
Where the grass grows very high
Has she strayed in yonder meadow
Where the grass grows very high

3 O yes, O yes, my pretty fair maid, I saw them passing by
They went down in yonder meadow and that is very high
Then turning round so careless-lie and smiling with a blush
And young Johnny followed after, and hid all in a bush
And hid all in a bush, brave boys (etc.)

4 She searched the meadow over, no lambs could she find
Oft'times did she cross that young man in her mind
Then turning round, she shouted: What's the meaning of your plan?
Not knowing that young Johnny was standing close at hand
Was standing close at hand, brave boys (etc.)

5 The passions of young Johnny's love began to overflow
He took her up all in his arms, his meaning for to show
They sat down in the long grass and there did sport and play
The lambs they were forgotten, they hopped and skipped away
They hopped and skipped away, brave boys (etc.)

6 'Twas the following morning this couple met again
They joined their flocks together to wander o'er the plain
And now this couple's married, they're joined in wedlock's bands
And no more they'll go a'roving in searching for young lambs
In searching for young lambs, brave boys (etc.)

From Peter Kennedy, Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, #134,
pp. 310-311. From George Spicer, Copthorne, Sussex, 1956.

The Shepherd , another ribald song that dates to about 1600

A shepherd sat 'neath a tree one day
And as the shadows grew more long
Pull'd out his pipe and began to play
And sweet and merry was his song.

A country damsel from the town
With basket made of woven straw
Came gathering rushes on the down
And boldly smiled when she him saw.

The shepherd's pipe did gaily sound
As tempting on her back she lay
And when his quivering note she found
How sweetly then this lass could play.

She ne'er so much as blush'd at all
So sweetly play'd her shepherd swain
But e'er anon to him she'd call
To play her another double strain.

The shepherd again did tune his pipe
And play'd her a lesson loud and shrill.
The maid his face did often wipe
With many a thank for his good will.

She said, "I ne'er was so pleas'd before
And this is the first time that I knew thee.
Come play me this very tune once more
And never doubt that I'll dance to thee."

The shepherd, he said, "As I am a man,
I have kept playing from sun till moon.
Thou knowst I can do no more than I can,
My pipe is clearly out of tune."

"To ruin a shepherd, I'll not seek,"
She said as she kiss'd him 'neath the tree.
"I'll come again to the down next week
And thou shalt pipe and I'll come to thee."

From Ed McCurdy's Song Book of Wit & Mirth

 Thomas D'Urfey
Wit and Mirth: Or Pills to Purge Melancholy

A Bawdy Song by Choyce Drollery 1656

"The Shepheards Lamentation for His Love,"
by Choyce Drollery

Down lay the Shepheard Swain,
So sober and demure,
Wishing for his wench again,
So bonny and so pure.
With his head on hillock low,
And his arms on kembow;
And all for the losse of her hy nonny nonny no.
His tears fell as thin,
As water from a still,
His haire upon his chin,
Grew like tyme upon a hill.
His cherry cheeks were pale as snow,
Testifying his mickle woe;
And all was for the loss of her hy nonny nonny no.
Sweet she was, as fond of love,
As ever fettered Swain;
Never such a bonny one
Shall I enjoy again.
Sit ten thousand on a row,
Ile forbod that any show
Ever the like of her hy nonny nonny no.
Fac'd she was of Filbard hew, [See John Anderson,
And bosom'd like a Swanne: [My Jo.
Basck'd she was of bended yew
And wasted by a span. [waisted]
Haire she had as black as Crowe,
From the head unto the toe,
Down, down, all over, hy nonny, nonny no.
With her Mantle tuck't up high,
She foddered her Flocke,
So bucksome and alluringly,
Her knee upheld her smock;
So nimbly did she use to goe,
So smooth she danc'd on tip-toe,
That all men were fond of her, hy nonny nonny no.
She simpred like a Holy-day,
And smiled like the Spring,
She pratled like a popinjay,
And like a swallow sing.
She tript it like a barren doe,
And strutted like a Gar-crow:
Which made me so fone of her, hy nonny nonny no.
To trip it on the merry Down,
To dance the lively Hay,
To wrestle for a green Gown
In heat of all the day,
Never would she say me no.
Yet me thought she had though
Never enough of her, hy nonny nonny no.
But gone she is, the blithest Lasse
That ever trod on plain
What ever hath betided her,
Blame not the Shepheard Swain.
For why, she was her own foe,
And gave her selfe the overthrowe,
By being too free of her hy nonny nonny no

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I turned 50 today.  Time for some cake....

The Shepherdess by Alice Meynell

SHE walks-the lady of my delight-
A shepherdess of sheep.
Her flocks are thoughts. She keeps them white;
She keeps them from the steep;
She feeds them on the fragrant height,
And folds them in for sleep.

She roams maternal hills and bright,
Dark valleys safe and deep.
Into that tender breast at night
The chastest stars may peep.
She walks-the lady of my delight-
A shepherdess of sheep.

She holds her little thoughts in sight,
Though gay they run and leap.
She is so circumspect and right;
She has her soul to keep.
She walks-the lady of my delight-
A shepherdess of sheep.

Alice Meynell 1847-1922

The Shepherd's Wife's Song

AH, what is love? It is a pretty thing,
As sweet unto a shepherd as a king--
And sweeter too,
For kings have cares that wait upon a crown,
And cares can make the sweetest love to frown,
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

His flocks once folded, he comes home at night
As merry as a king in his delight--
And merrier too,
For kings bethink them what the state require,
Where shepherds careless carol by the fire,
Ah, then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

He kisseth first, then sits as blithe to eat
His cream and curds as doth the king his meat--
And blither too,
For kings have often fears when they do sup,
Where shepherds dread no poison in their cup,
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

To bed he goes, as wanton then, I ween,
As is a king in dalliance with a queen--
More wanton too,
For kings have many griefs, affects to move,
Where shepherds have no greater grief than love,
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

Upon his couch of straw he sleeps as sound
As doth the king upon his beds of down--
More sounder too,
For cares cause kings full oft their sleep to spill,
Where weary shepherds lie and snort their fill.
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

Thus with his wife he spends the year, as blithe
As doth the king, at every tide or sithe--
And blither too,
For kings have wars and broils to take in hand,
Where shepherds laugh and love upon the land.
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?

Robert Greene

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Sheep , a poem by Ellis Parker Butler

The Sheep adorns the landscape rural
And is both singular and plural—
It gives grammarians the creeps
To hear one say, “A flock of sheeps.”

The Sheep is gentle, meek and mild,
And led in herds by man or child—
Being less savage than the rabbit,
Sheep are gregarious by habit.

The Sheep grows wool and thus promotes
The making of vests, pants and coats—
Vests, pants and coats and woolen cloths
Provide good food for hungry moths.

With vegetables added to
The Sheep, we get our mutton stew—
Experiments long since revealed
The Sheep should first be killed and peeled.

Thus, with our debt to them so deep,
All men should cry “Praise be for Sheep!”—
And, if we happen to be shepherds,
“Praise be they’re not as fierce as leopards!”

Nantucket Shearing Day Poem from 1833

Now this is Shearing day Alack
And we are round Cape-Horn
And we shall surely miss of this
As sure as we are born

Now half the town and all Bull lanes
Drive up their Sheep together
And in the Sheep-fold shorn are they
Each Ram & Ewe & Wether

And some with lads about the town
On foot to town must tag on
And John-like away they drive
With Girls to Siasconsett

While others to the Shear-pen go
And round the tents do caper
And dance & cut all kinds of Quams
Before a Cat-gut scraper

The tents all filled with Cakes & Wine
And Liquors in galore
Of Beef & Port & Pigs & Fowls
They have abundant store

All nicely cook’d and all serv’d up
As rich as Milk & Honey
Where you can sit & eat your fill
As long as you have Money

But as the Sun keeps going down
The Steam begins to rise
And ’tis quite common there to see
Red Noses and bunged eyes

Now Sable night her curtain spreads
And rather cool the weather
And Beaus & Girls begin to think
Of Jogging home together

And he whose purse is fairly out
On foot to town must tag on
But he can ride who’s flush with cash
In Coach or Cart or Wagon

Now all the Siasconsett folks
Drive into town like thunder
And rattling o’re the pavements they
Make Gawky’s stare in wonder

Some with broken Chaise tied up
Some’s kill’d their horse a racing
But all such things on Shearing day
Sure there is no disgrace in

Now sing long celebrate the day
We’ll ride and dance and spose it
And next when the day comes round
May I be there to see it

Charles Murphey’s poem dated June 25 (1833)
Originally published in the Historic Nantucket, Vol 56, No. 1 (Winter 2007) p. 17-18

Friday, February 22, 2008

Baroque sheep dance.

I went out to check the sheep late last night after hearing the neighbors dogs barking and they were just having a great time bouncing around in the snow.  They had already been fed but seeing me were begging for more so I threw in a couple more pats of hay.  I have a spot light that hangs off the sheepshed.  It lights their little holding paddock. I can see them very well with the added lighting.  I keep that light on to keep coyotes away and so I can spot check for lambs with ease.  The ewes were in a gleeful mood and were banging heads and jumping in the air all the while snow swirled around them and glittered on their backs and faces.  It was like a Baroque sheep dance.  Seldom do they stay inside their little fold at the end of the shed. They enjoy the cold crisp weather. I think the neighbors dogs were probably barking at the yellow cat that just showed up here last month and hangs around the barn. This is the kind of winter weather I like best.  Snow but not too much and lovely crisp nights.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Her Reply, to The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

IF all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy Love.
But Time drives flocks from field to fold; 5
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields: 10
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither­soon forgotten, 15
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy-buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,­
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy Love. 20
But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

Thanks Shari in California for this. This is a new one for me and I am delighted you sent it today.

A Poem by an American Poet Robert Francis (1901 - 1987 / USA)

I should here post an American poem about sheep since I am an American.  This one is written by Robert Francis but ironically  it actually makes me think of my trip to the highlands of Scotland with my dear friend Hoff last August.


From where I stand the sheep stand still
As stones against the stony hill.

The stones are gray
And so are they.

And both are weatherworn and round,
Leading the eye back to the ground.

Two mingled flocks -
The sheep, the rocks.

And still no sheep stirs from its place
Or lifts its Babylonian face.

Robert Francis

A Poem by an American Poet Robert Francis (1901 - 1987 / USA)

I thought this afternoon I should post a piece by an American Poet.  This one is by Robert Francis.  I like it very much.  Ironically it reminds me of my trip to the Island of Harris, Scotland last summer with my dear friend, Hoff. I would like to dedicate this one to him.


From where I stand the sheep stand still
As stones against the stony hill.

The stones are gray
And so are they.

And both are weatherworn and round,
Leading the eye back to the ground.

Two mingled flocks -
The sheep, the rocks.

And still no sheep stirs from its place
Or lifts its Babylonian face.

Robert Francis

Pastoral Poetry

Pastoral poetry has a long history and goes back to the time of the Greeks but there was a huge revival of the concept in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  I hope you enjoy some of these poems I am posting.  You could even say that some of the Psalms in the Old Testament are Pastoral Poems. It's funny how sheep draw poetry out of people.  Here is a slightly too sweet one by Christopher Marlowe but it is rather cheery and upbeat:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of th purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love,

Christopher Marlowe

THE LAST OF THE FLOCK by William Wordsworth 1798


In distant countries have I been,
And yet I have not often seen
A healthy man, a man full grown,
Weep in the public roads, alone.
But such a one, on English ground,
And in the broad highway, I met;
Along the broad highway he came,
His cheeks with tears were wet:
Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
And in his arms a Lamb he had.


He saw me, and he turned aside,
As if he wished himself to hide:
And with his coat did then essay
To wipe those briny tears away.
I followed him, and said, "My friend,
What ails you? wherefore weep you so?"
--"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty Lamb,
He makes my tears to flow.
To-day I fetched him from the rock;
He is the last of all my flock,


"When I was young, a single man,
And after youthful follies ran,
Though little given to care and thought,
Yet, so it was, an ewe I bought;
And other sheep from her I raised,
As healthy sheep as you might see;
And then I married, and was rich
As I could wish to be;
Of sheep I numbered a full score,
And every year increased my store.


"Year after year my stock it grew;
And from this one, this single ewe,
Full fifty comely sheep I raised,
As fine a flock as ever grazed!
Upon the Quantock hills they fed;
They throve, and we at home did thrive:
--This lusty Lamb of all my store
Is all that is alive;
And now I care not if we die,
And perish all of poverty.


"Six Children, Sir! had I to feed;
Hard labour in a time of need!
My pride was tamed, and in our grief
I of the Parish asked relief.
They said, I was a wealthy man;
My sheep upon the uplands fed,
And it was fit that thence I took
Whereof to buy us bread.
'Do this: how can we give to you,'
They cried, 'what to the poor is due?'


"I sold a sheep, as they had said,
And bought my little children bread,
And they were healthy with their food
For me--it never did me good.
A woeful time it was for me,
To see the end of all my gains,
The pretty flock which I had reared
With all my care and pains,
To see it melt like snow away--
For me it was a woeful day.


"Another still! and still another!
A little lamb, and then its mother!
It was a vein that never stopped--
Like blood-drops from my heart they dropped.
'Till thirty were not left alive
They dwindled, dwindled, one by one
And I may say, that many a time
I wished they all were gone--
Reckless of what might come at last
Were but the bitter struggle past.


"To wicked deeds I was inclined,
And wicked fancies crossed my mind;
And every man I chanced to see,
I thought he knew some ill of me:
No peace, no comfort could I find,
No ease, within doors or without;
And, crazily and wearily
I went my work about;
And oft was moved to flee from home,
And hide my head where wild beasts roam.


"Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me,
As dear as my own children be;
For daily with my growing store
I loved my children more and more.
Alas! it was an evil time;
God cursed me in my sore distress;
I prayed, yet every day I thought
I loved my children less;
And every week, and every day,
My flock it seemed to melt away.


"They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see!
From ten to five, from five to three,
A lamb, a wether, and a ewe;--
And then at last from three to two;
And, of my fifty, yesterday
I had but only one:
And here it lies upon my arm,
Alas! and I have none;--
To-day I fetched it from the rock;
It is the last of all my flock."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A poem by Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890 / England)

Black Sheep

FROM their folded mates they wander far,
Their ways seem harsh and wild:
They follow the beck of a baleful star,
Their paths are dream-beguiled.

Yet haply they sought but a wider range,
Some loftier mountain slope,
And little recked of the country strange
Beyond the gates of hope.

And haply a bell with a luring call
Summoned their feet to tread
Midst the cruel rocks, where the deep pitfall
And the lurking snare are spread.

Maybe, in spite of their tameless days
Of outcast liberty,
They ’re sick at heart for the homely ways
Where their gathered brothers be.

And oft at night, when the plains fall dark
And the hills loom large and dim,
For the shepherd’s voice they mutely hark,
And their souls go out to him.

Meanwhile, “Black sheep! black sheep!” we cry,
Safe in the inner fold;
And maybe they hear, and wonder why,
And marvel, out in the cold.

Richard Francis Burton

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My thoughts as lambing draws near.

When I bought my first little crossbred ewe 25 years ago I did not know how much sheep would mean in my life. I have experienced lambing every spring but one since then and it seems as much a part of the year as Christmas or Easter to me. Another lambing season is about to begin here at Thistledown Croft. As always I look forward to the new lambs and the time when I spend allot of time in the sheep shed. We raise Scottish Blackface sheep and do not try to time our lambs for the Easter market. We try to avoid the very worst, winter weather by waiting until March and April. Western New York has a harsh climate and it can be very hard on the ewes when it's bitter cold so we avoid the worst storms and deep cold spells by waiting a couple months latter than commercial producers. Often we put our ram in with the ewes around election day in early November. Our flock is a homestead flock. We breed to produce breeding stock and to provide meat for our own table. In the USA Scottish Blackface Sheep are a minor breed where as in the United Kingdom they are the most plentiful breed. We really enjoy this smaller hardy breed that is so very resilient and tough. It suits our climate and we also find them very aesthetically pleasing. There is no breed that produces finer tasting lamb and mutton than the Scottish Blackface.
Hello , this is a test post.  I just opened this blog for shepherds and people who care about sheep.

A Poem By Blake


How sweet is the shepherd's sweet lot!
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lambs' innocent call,
And he hears the ewes' tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their shepherd is nigh.

-William Blake

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This is a test.  This is a new blog for shepherds and people who care about sheep.

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