Songs of Angus and More Songs of Angus

Violet Jacob
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Title: Songs of Angus and More Songs of Angus
Author: Violet Jacob
Release Date: March 6, 2006 [EBook #17933]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII
Produced by Andrew Sly
[Transcriber's Note: Two small volumes of Violet Jacob's poetry have
been combined together to produce this text.]
Author of "Flemington"
John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.
(First published in 1915)

I have to thank the Editors of the Cornhill Magazine,
Country Life_,
and _The Outlook, respectively, for their
permission to reprint in this
Collection such of the following poems as they have published.
V. J.
There are few poets to-day who write in the Scots vernacular, and the
modesty of the supply is perhaps determined by the slenderness of the
demand, for pure Scots is a tongue which in the changes of the age is
not widely understood, even in Scotland. The various accents remain,
but the old words tend to be forgotten, and we may be in sight of the
time when that noble speech shall be degraded to a northern dialect of
English. The love of all vanishing things burns most strongly in those
to whom they are a memory rather than a presence, and it is not
unnatural that the best Scots poetry of our day should have been written
by exiles. Stevenson, wearying for his "hills of home," found a
romance in the wet Edinburgh streets, which might have passed
unnoticed had he been condemned to live in the grim reality. And we
have Mr. Charles Murray, who in the South African veld writes Scots,
not as an exercise, but as a living speech, and recaptures old moods and
scenes with a freshness which is hardly possible for those who with
their own eyes have watched the fading of the outlines. It is the rarest
thing, this use of Scots as a living tongue, and perhaps only the exile
can achieve it, for the Scot at home is apt to write it with an antiquarian
zest, as one polishes Latin hexameters, or with the exaggerations which
are permissible in what does not touch life too nearly. But the exile
uses the Doric because it is the means by which he can best express his
importunate longing.
Mrs. Jacob has this rare distinction. She writes Scots because what she
has to say could not be written otherwise and retain its peculiar quality.
It is good Scots, quite free from misspelt English or that perverted
slang which too often nowadays is vulgarising the old tongue. But

above all it is a living speech, with the accent of the natural voice, and
not a skilful mosaic of robust words, which, as in sundry poems of
Stevenson, for all the wit and skill remains a mosaic. The dialect is
Angus, with unfamiliar notes to my Border ear, and in every song there
is the sound of the east wind and the rain. Its chief note is longing, like
all the poetry of exiles, a chastened melancholy which finds comfort in
the memory of old unhappy things as well as of the beatitudes of youth.
The metres are cunningly chosen, and are most artful when they are
simplest; and in every case they provide the exact musical counterpart
to the thought. Mrs. Jacob has an austere conscience. She eschews
facile rhymes and worn epithets, and escapes the easy cadences of
hymnology which are apt to be a snare to the writer of folk-songs. She
has many moods, from the stalwart humour of "The Beadle o'
Drumlee," and "Jeemsie Miller," to the haunting lilt of "The
Gean-Trees," and the pathos of "Craigo Woods" and "The Lang Road."
But in them all are the same clarity and sincerity of vision and clean
beauty of phrase.
Some of us who love the old speech have in our heads or in our
note-books an anthology of modern Scots verse. It is a small collection
if we would keep it select. Beginning with Principal Shairp's "Bush
aboon Traquair," it would include the wonderful Nithsdale ballad of
"Kirkbride," a few pieces from Underwoods, Mr. Hamish Hendry's
"Beadle," one or two of Hugh Haliburton's Ochil poems, Mr. Charles
Murray's "Whistle" and his versions of Horace, and a few fragments
from the "poet's corners" of country newspapers. To my own edition of
this anthology I
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