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Tam O'Lancre


From: Alan MacRae

Tam O'Lancre

It was a dark, stormy night....

When the Night Watch come out on the streets,
And gullible clients, Dibbler meets,
As market-days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit boozin' in the Drum,
Getting pi^H^Hdrunk and not so glum,
We think na on the lang Disc miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath tae keep it warm.

And so sits our man, Tam O'Lancre,
As he frae Ankh ae night did canter,
Auld Ankh, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonnie lasses.

O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise,
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken bellum;

That frae November til October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That every eve, with Foul Ole Ron,
Thou had a drinking mood upon;
Tam Lo'ed him like a vera brither--
They had been fou for weeks thegither!
She prophecied that one night, dank,
Thou would be found drowned in the Ankh;
Or catched wi' wizards in the mirk
By Blind Io's auld haunted kirk.

Ah gentle dames! It makes me greet,
Tae think how many counsels sweet,
How many lengthened, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale:-- Ae market night,
Tam had got planted unco right;
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats that drank divinely.
The night drove on wi' sangs and clatter
An aye the ale was growing better.
Foul Ole Ron told spooky stories,
While Henry's coff was ready chorus:
The storm without might roar and rustle,
Tam didnae mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad tae see a man sae happy,
E'en drowned himsel' amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious.
O'er the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, it's bloom is sged;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white- then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm.--
Nae man can tether time nor tide;
The hour approaches Tam must ride;
Thast hour, o' night's black arch the key stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And such a night he taks the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed
Loud, deep and lang, the thunder bellowed:
That night a child might understand,
Death had business on his hand.

Weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg--
A better never lifted leg,
Excepting Binky, horse of Death,
Wi' fiery hoofprints, and frost-white breath--
Meg leapt the roadside hedge and wall,
As Tam sang, "..never been buggered at all"
He glowered round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogeymen catch him unawares:
The Shades of Ankh were drawing nigh,
Where Werewolves and banshees nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the Ankh,
Wishing a wee bit less he'd drank;
He spied an alley and stopped to pee,
A fearful sight he then did see.
A terrible place, wi draw and moat,
And out in front our old friend Throat,
Saying to Mistress Magrat Garlick
"Nice hot sossiges -- onna stick"
Glimmering through the groanin' trees,
The Patricians Palace seemed ableeze;
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring old John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou can make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny we fear nae evil;
Wi' scumble we will face the devil!--
The swats sae reamed in Tammie's head,
He sidled closer, no feeling dread,
There Magrat stood, right sair astonished,
Til by the heel and hand admonished,
She ventured forward on the light;
And Wow! Tam saw an unco sight.

Wizards and witches in a dance;
Nae minuet brand new frae France,
But Morris Dance, like Jean and Roger,
Also Mrs. Widgery's Lodger;
And Hornpipes, Jigs, Strathspeys and reels
Put life and mettle in their heels.
And in the east, upon a bole,
Like stone sat Chrysoprase the Troll.
A towzie tyke, black grim and large
to gie them music was his charge.
Reeling around the Bursar and Dean,
Was Nanny Ogg and Ramtop Jean,
Ridcully danced wi' Windle Poons,
Granny accompanied on the spoons.
Imp upon guitar did wail,
Made stand the hair on Greebo's tail.
Amang them a', their kith and kin,
Was a size 5 face in size 13 skin.
Playing a B S Johnson organ,
Was a grizzled monk^H^H^H^HOrang-utan

Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shawed the dead in their last dresses;
And by some develish cantraip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light
By which heroic Tam was able
To not upon the holy table,
A murderers banes in gibbet airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;
Five Tomahawks wi blude red-rusted;
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled;
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o'life bereft,
The grey hairs yet stuck to the heft;
Wi' mair, o horrible and awfu'
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
On the horn Glod louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reeled, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ev'ry carlin swat and reekit,
And cast her duddies to the wark,
Leaving her in just her sark!

Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens,
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw white seventeen hunder linnen!
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That once were plush, o' gude blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonnie burdies!

But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Ramtop hags astride a Troll!
Lowping and flinging on a hummock,
I wonder didna turn thy stomach.

But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie,
There was ane winsome wench and waulie,
That night enlisted in the corps
(lang after kend on Circle shore;
For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonnie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
and kept the countryside in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie....
Ah! Little kend thy reverend Granny,
That sark, a gift from her friend Nanny,
The precious sark, of a' her riches,
It graced her in that dance o' witches!

But here my Muse, her wing maun cour;
Such flights are far beyond her pow'r;
To sing how Nanny lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd;
Imp Y Cellyn strummed fu' fain,
And Glod did blow wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a' thegither,
And roars oot "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he turn'd aboot,
When banshee wailed, and owl did hoot,
Afore our Tam, his horse had rallied,
Forth the hellish legion sallied.

Tam, a great white horse espied,
Upon its back intent to ride.
Binky rode, behind came Meg,
His goal the far side of the brig.
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare nae cross.
But ere the key-stane they could make,
They find a tail they had to shake!
For Granny, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Binky prest,
She flew at them wi' furious ettle,
But little wist she Binky's mettle -
A leap aloft and Tam turned round,
Two fiery hoofprints on the ground,
Behind them now and yards below,
The Brass Bridge had an octarine glow.
That spring brought off his master hale,
But left behind his ain fine tail;
Granny caught him by the rump,
And left poor Binky scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son tak heed;
Whene'er to drink you are inclined,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Scumble you can drink, o' course,
But mind ye Tam O'Lancre's horse.

Alan MacRae 1997
with apologies to Robert Burns and Terry Pratchett


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