Letter No. 1

Original Text: 
James Anderson, Sawney's Letters and Cariboo Rhymes (Toronto: W. S. Johnson, 1895): 3-8. Internet Archive
1Dear Sawney,- I sit doon to write
3In answer to your friendly letter--
5Your letter cam by the Express,
6Eight shillins carriage--naethin' less.
9I'm sure if Tamie Ha'--the buddy
12He'd beat the Express, faith a'thegither--
13To speak o't i' the truest way,
17Jist twa pound sterling, sure as death--
21And should you bide the winter here,
22The shoppy-buddies'll grab your gear,
23And little wark ane finds to do
24A' the lang dreary winter thro'.
27What price--tho' I could tell ye weel,
29Nae, lad, ye ken I never lee,
32Jist twa for a penny--try for fun
33How muckle 'twad be for a ton.
36For at this season o' the year
38To chaw her cud on--sae ye see
39Ye are far better aff than me--
40For while you're sittin' warm at hame,
42The deil a drap o'milk hae I,
43But gobble up my parritch dry.
44Of course, I can get butter here,
45Twal shillin' a pund--it's far oure dear.
46Aye--a'thing sells at a lang price,
47Tea, coffee, sugar, bacon, rice,
48Four shillins a pund, and something mair,
49And e'en the weights are rather bare--
50Sae much for prices.
52And first a word about their names.
53Some folk were sae oppressed wi' wit,
55And tho' they struck the dirt by name,
56They ne'er struck pay dirt in their claim.
57Some ithers made a gae fine joke
58And christen'd their bit ground "Dead Broke,"
59While some, to fix their fate at once,
60Ca'd their location "The Last Chance;"
62There's "Prince o'Wales"--the best o'claims,
63There's "Beauregard" and "Never Sweat,"
64And scores o'ithers I forget--
65The "Richfield" and the "Montreal,"
66They say they struck the pay last fall--
67But will they strike it in the spring,
68Aye, Sawney, that's anither thing;
69But by-an'-bye they'll ken, nae doot,
70If they can pump their water oot.
72And some the bed-rock canna win,
73But ne'er a color can they see,
75And syne they tell to ilka man,
76They struck twa dollars to the pan.
77You'll see't in the Victoria Press
78As twenty dollars--naething less.
79Aye, Sawney, here, a wee bit story,
80Gin aince it travels to Victoria,
81Is magnified a hundred fold.
82The bed-rock here, doon there is gold;
83Some folks would manufacture lees
85Shame on the man who salts a claim,
86A man he is--but just in name--
87NO MANHOOD'S IN HIM, HE'S A CHEAT,
88A SMOOTH, DISSEMBLING HYPOCRITE,
89WHO, IF HE COULD BUT GAIN HIS END,
90WOULD E'EN DECEIVE HIS DEAREST FRIEND.
91There is a set o' men up here,
92Wha never work thro' a' the year,
93A kind o' serpents, crawlin' snakes,
94That fleece the miner o' his stakes;
95They're gamblers--honest men some say,
96Tho its quite fair to cheat in play--
97IF IT'S NO KENT O'--I ne'er met
98An honest man a gambler yet!
99O, were I Judge in Cariboo,
100I'd see the laws were carried thro',
101I'd hae the cairds o' every pack
102Tied up into a gunny sack,
103Wi' a' the gamblers chained thegither.
104And banished frae the creek forever.
105But, Sawney, there's anither clan,
106There's none o' them I'd ca' a man,
107The ca' them "jumpers"--my belief
108Is--"jumper" simply means a thief;
109They jump folks' claims, and jump their lots,
110They jump the very pans and pots;
111But wait a wee--for a' this evil--
112Their friend 'll jump them,
113                                        He's the deevil!
114And sae ye think o' comin' here,
115And leavin' a' your guids and gear,
117Ah! Sawney! if ye wad listen to advice--
118And sae ye will, it ye be wise--
119This country's no for you ava'
120Sae bide at hame, and work awa',
122As ye the tatties frae the mould.
123Gude faith, ye'll maybe houk a twal mo't
125An' then, what comes o' us puir deevils?
126We get as thin and lean as weevils;
127O' wark we canna get a stroke,
128We're what they ca' out here "dead broke,"
130To line our stomach or our coat;
131Sae doon the country we maun gang,
132And this the burden o' our sang
133To ilka ane that comes alang,
134"Freend, be advised, and turn aboot,
135For Cariboo is noo 'play'd out!'"
137I'll finish this some ither night,
140Dear Sawney,--I noo tak the time
141To feenish out my thread o' rhyme,
142But as my bobbin's gettin' bare,
143I'll no can spin ye muckle mair.
145This aye keeps runnin' in my head.
146Eh, weel I mind the awfu' lickin'
148Noo, even whan I think o' that,
152But when ye're mither fand this out,
154An' as she'd skelped us sae cruel,
155She fill'd our stamachs fu' o' gruel.
157An' young' anes may--so let us be
158Two doonright, honest, trustin' men,
159Syne we'll be ready noo or then.
160An' ye hae got anither bairn,
162Aye, aye, for ilka ane that dees--
163There's ane, an' mavbe mair, that sees.
165Is rivet'd wi' Maggie Locke!
166I canna think hoo she could mairy
168Some folks dislike what ithers like,
170Sae Maggie may see this in Jonnie,
171But, certes me, he is no bonnie!
172Ye ken I liked this lass fu' weel
173An' thocht mysel' a happy chiel.
174Ah, I should ne'er had trusted Mag,
175She's like her mither Eve--the hag--
176Wha fell in love, lang time ago,
178Believin' a' his words were true,
181They ate it, but they fand it rotten!
182They lost the guid, an' got the evil,
183A' thro' oor mither's bein' sae ceevil!
184Ye ken that like produces like,
186Sae evil doon frae Aidam ran
187A' thro' the veins o' every man,
188An' woman, too--SAE MAGGIE LOCKE
190There are some women on this creek,
191Sae modest, and sae mild and meek!
193They never swear but when they speak.
194Each ane's a mistress, too, ye'll find,
195To mak guid folks think that she's joined
196In honest wedlock unto one;
197"She's yours or any other man's!"
198But dinna fear, for me at least,
199I'll never mak mysel' a beast!
200But let this drap--"to err is human,"
201An' "Frailty, thy name is woman."
202"Love in itsel' is very guid.
203But 'tis by nae means solid fuid"--
204Whan man and woman's tied thegither,
205They are made one till death does sever;
206So says the pastor--but is't true?
207Has Kate an' you the self same mou?
208Whan ye sit doon to eat betimes,
210It may be sae, but this I ken,
211Gif ye war ane, ye noo are ten;
212There's Jeames, and Sawney, Kate and Meg,
213An' Georgie with the crookit leg,
214There's Wull and Hairry, Shuse and Jock,
215Nae langer than his father's sock--
216An' noo, this other brat ye've got--
218Oure mony bairns--oure mony cares--
220TWA MAY MAK OOT TO LIVE AS ANE
222BUT WHAN THERE'S MAIR YE'LL FIND THIS TRUE,
223THAT ILKA ANE HAS GOT A MOU!
224I'm glad to hear ye hae sic oats,
226That a' gangs right aboot the fairm,
227That Tam's fee'd for anither term;
229That ye could pay the Laird his rent.
230As water's to a thirsty soul,
231Or drinkin' toddy frae a bowl--
234Gie my respecks to ye're guid wife;
236I'll teach her hoo to mak loaf bread,
238An' gie my love to a' ye're bairns,
239To guid John Thampson, o' the Cairns;
241My kind regards be sure to gie.
242An' noo, dear Sawney, naething mair
243I hae to say, yet canna bear
244The thocht o' finishin' my rhyme,
245'Tis like we parted second time;
246But I'll no fret--whate'er it seems--
247Ye ken that I'm ye're true freend
248                                             Jeames.

Notes

2] screed: long letter. Back to Line
4] ane: one. Back to Line
7] nae doot: no doubt. Back to Line
8] dram: small drink. Back to Line
10] cuddy: donkey. Back to Line
11] ahent: behind. Back to Line
14] Barnard's Cariboo Express, founded in 1861, carried mail by horse between Yale, British Columbia, and Barkerville. Back to Line
15] ken: know. Back to Line
16] ilka: each. Back to Line
18] baith: both. Back to Line
19] gin: if. Back to Line
20] gang and come: go and come back. Back to Line
25] tatties: potatoes. Back to Line
26] neeps: turnips. speer: ask. Back to Line
28] leein': lying. chiel: young fellow. Back to Line
30] fa's: enemy's. Back to Line
31] pun': pound. Back to Line
34] Aitmeal: oatmeal. skillins: shillings. Back to Line
35] ava: at all. Back to Line
37] coo: cow. Back to Line
41] parritch: porridge. crame: cream. Back to Line
51] Noo: now. Back to Line
54] cad': called. Back to Line
61] losh: Lord. Back to Line
71] pitchin' in: driving a shaft down. Back to Line
74] aut: salt, surreptitiously mix some gold in ore that originally had none. Back to Line
84] bawbee: Scottish coin of small value. Back to Line
116] bairns: children. Back to Line
121] mauna: might. houk: dog out. Back to Line
124] glisk: glimpse. Back to Line
129] hinna: have not. Back to Line
136] blaw: blow. Back to Line
138] brreks: breeches. Back to Line
139] daw: dawn. Back to Line
144] mither: mother. Back to Line
147] pusie: pussy, cat. stickin': knifing. Back to Line
149] gar'd her flyte sae 'boot: made her quarrel so about. Back to Line
150] oor she rabbit: our she-rabbit. Back to Line
151] feckly: almost. Back to Line
153] ca'l: called. clarty: filthy. Back to Line
156] maun: must. Back to Line
161] stane: stone. haip: heap. cairn: pile of stones. Back to Line
164] dander-headed: dunder-headed, stupid. Back to Line
167] blethrin' harum-scairy: blithering reckless fool. Back to Line
169] tyke: mongrel. Back to Line
177] auld blacksmith: the devil. Back to Line
179] mou': mouth. Back to Line
180] Aidam: Adam. Back to Line
185] byke: hive. Back to Line
189] SPLICED WI': married. Back to Line
192] pents: paints. Back to Line
209] waimes: bellies. Back to Line
217] faigs: fegs (light swear-word), "gee-whiz." Back to Line
219] saut: salt. Back to Line
221] GAE: very. Back to Line
225] sax fat stots: six fat horses. Back to Line
228] ploughing's not late. Back to Line
232] freens: friends. Back to Line
233] loes: loves. Back to Line
235] Fife: former county in southeastern Scotland. Back to Line
237] sour dough: fermented dough for bread. Back to Line
240] speers: asks. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2011
Form: