Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Poetic Interlude

Ayrshire and Dumfrieshire is Robert Burns territory (Yes, that's ungrammatical - I suppose it should be are Robert Burn's territory).

There is a Robert Burns trail which tourists can follow (and which we didn't). New Cumnock is not enterprising enough to be on it, however the village is located "at the confluence of the Nith and the Afton" - the Afton being the river about which Burns wrote "Flow gently, Sweet Afton".

It is (or was) as I said, a coal mining village, until the mines shut down in the late 1900s. My greatgrandmother married a coal miner, but they came to New Zealand to get away from that, and he worked as a carter, until in the late 1800s, in a depression, he took a job in an underground gold mine and blew himself up. But that's another story. Many of my greatgrandmother's relatives (she came from a large family) continued working as coal miners for several generations.

In 1950 there was a disaster at the Knockshinnoch colliery in New Cumnock. The mine shafts lay close to the surface, under a peaty bog. The ceiling collapsed and a large volume of water rushed into the pits, killing a number of miners and trapping many underground for several days until they could be rescued. I am told that the men sang to pass the time, and the villagers on top could hear the strains of "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Flow Gently Sweet Afton" coming up from underground. And though, after the disaster, some brought their sons up from the pit and swore they would never work as miners again, they still have those songs sung at their funerals.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not their dreams.

Afton Water

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise
My Mary's asleep by the murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
Thous stock-dove whose echo resounds through the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear:
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear-winding rills,
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft as mild ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes;
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream.
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

1 comment:

gautami tripathy said...

Thanks for sharing this. This does have smooth flow. I can hear it being sung!

Good to see you posting daily for nablopomo. I am trying. I am into nano too.

GOD help me!

Michele sent me here...