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Celebrating Paisley's son Robert Tannahill on World Poetry Day

It’s World Poetry Day, so who better to celebrate but Paisley’s son Robert Tannahill, one of two hundred and ninety weaver poets from the town. Surpassed only by Burns in terms of fame throughout Scotland, Tannahill was born on 3rd June, 1774 at 32 Castle Street, Paisley.

During his lifetime Tannahill penned over a hundred songs and poems. His most famous poems include “Jessie the Flower of Dunblane” and “The Braes of Gleniffer”. The famous "Will You Go Lassie Go" (or "Wild Mountain Thyme") is an elegant variant of Tannahill's "The Braes of Balquhidder”.

Tannahill also started the Paisley Literacy and Convivial Association in 1803 with some friends. He also became first Secretary of the Paisley Burns Club, formed in 1805, which claims to be the oldest formally constituted Burns Club in the world.

Sadly in 1810, following the rejection of an augmented collection of his work by publishers in Greenock and Edinburgh, he fell into a despondency aggravated by fears for his own health, burned all his manuscripts and took his own life.  

Read more on Tannahill’s poetry and songs on the Robert Tannahill Federation’s website.

 

Jessie the flower of Dunblane

The sun has gane down o’er the lofty Ben Lomond, 
And left the red clouds to preside o’er the scene, 
While lanely I stray in the calm simmer gloamin’ 
To muse on sweet Jessie, the flooer o’ Dunblane

How sweet is the brier, wi’ its saft faulding blossom, 
And sweet is the birk, wi’ its mantle o’ green; 
Yet sweeter and fairer, and dear to this bosom, 
Is lovely young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane. 
Is lovely young Jessie, is lovely young Jessie, 
Is lovely young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane

She’s modest as ony, and blythe as she’s bonny 
For guileless simplicity marks her its ain; 
And far be the villain, divested o’ feeling, 
Wha’d blight, in its bloom, the sweet flooer o’ Dunblane

Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy hymn to the evenin’, 
Thou’rt dear to the echoes of Calderwood glen; 
Sae dear to this bosom, sae artless and winning, 
Is charming young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane. 
How lost were my days till I met wi’ my Jessie, 
The sports o’ the city seemed foolish and vain; 
I ne’er saw a nymph I would ca’ my dear lassie, 
Till charm’d wi’ sweet Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane

Though mine were the station o’ loftiest grandeur, 
Amidst its profusion I’d languish in pain; 
And reckon as naething the height o’ its splendour, 
If wanting sweet Jessie, the flooer o’ Dunblane. 
Is lovely young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane. 
Is lovely young Jessie, is lovely young Jessie, 
Is lovely young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane

 

The Braes o' Gleniffer

Keen blaws the win' o'er the braes o' Gleniffer
The auld castle's turrets are covered wi' snaw 
How changed frae the time when I met wi' my lover 
Amang the brume bushes by Stanley green shaw

The wild flowers o' simmer were spread a' sae bonnie
The Mavis sang sweet frae the green birkin tree
But far to the camp they ha'e marched my dear Johnnie
And now it is winter wi' nature and me

Then ilk thing aroun' us was blythsome and cheery
Then ilk thing aroun' us was bonnie and braw
Now naething is heard but the win' whistlin' dreary
And naething is seen by the wide spreadin' snaw

The trees are a' bare, and the birds mute and dowie
They shake the cauld drift frae their wings as they flee
And chirp out their plaints, seeming wae for my Johnnie
'Tis winter wi' them and 'tis winter wi' me

Yon caul sleety could skiffs alang the bleak mountain
And shakes the dark firs on the stey rocky brae
While doun the deep glen bawls the snaw-flooded fountain
That murmur'd sae sweet to my laddie an' me

'Tis no' its loud roar, on the wintry win' swellin'
'Tis no' the caul' blast brings the tear to my e'e
For, oh, gin I saw my bonnie Scots callan
The dark days o' winter war simmer tae me

 

The Poor Bowlman's Remonstrance

Through winter's cold and summer's heat, 
I earn my scanty fare; 
From morn till night, along the street, 
I cry my earthen ware. 
Then, O let pity sway your souls! 
And mock not that decrepitude 
Which draws me from my solitude 
To cry my plates and bowls!

From thoughtless youth I often brook 
The trick and taunt of scorn, 
And though indiff'rence marks my look, 
My heart with grief is torn. 
Then, O let pity sway your souls! 
Nor sneer contempt in passing by; 
Nor mock, derisive, while I cry, 
“Come, buy my plates and bowls.”

The potter moulds the passive clay 
To all the forms you see; 
And that same Pow'r that formèd you 
Hath likewise fashion'd me. 
Then, O let pity sway your souls!— 
Though needy, poor as poor can be, 
I stoop not to your charity, 
But cry my plates and bowls.

 

The Ambitious Mite -  A Fable

'Twas on a bonnie simmer day, 
When a' the insect tribes were gay, 
Some journeying o'er the leaves of roses, 
Some brushing thrang their wings and noses, 
Some wallowing sweet in bramble blossom, 
In Luxury's saft downy bosom; 
While ithers of a lower order 
Were perch'd on plantain leaf's smooth border, 
Wha frae their twa-inch steeps look'd down, 
And view'd the kintra far around.