Lassie Think Lang

Poem: Think Lang by Marion Angus (1866-1946)
Tune: James Scott Skinner’s Cradle Song

Lassie, think lang, think lang,
Ere his step comes ower the hill.
Luve gies wi a lauch an a sang
An’ whiles for nocht bit ill.
Thir’s weary time tae rue
In the lea-lang nicht yer lane
The ghaist o a kiss on yer mou
An’ sough o win in the rain

Lassie, think lang, think lang,
The trees is clappin’ their han’s
The burnie clatterin’ wi sang
Rins ower the blossomy lan’s
Love gies wi a lauch an’ a sang,
His fit fa’s licht on the dew.
Oh, lass, are you thinkin’ lang,
Starry een an’ honey mou?

Burnie: wee stream
Een: eyes
Gies: gives
Ill: harm
Lauch: laugh
Mou: mouth
Nocht bit: nothing but
Sough: sigh
Thir’s: there is
Whiles: sometimes
Yer lane: by yourself

This song was brought to Sangschule by Scott and Anne Murray of Sangsters. They found it on a CD of Jean Redpath with Alistair Hardie and Abby Newton, called The Scottish Fiddle, The Music and the Songs. (LCOM 7009). Sangsters include it on their own CD Sharp and Sweet.

Jean Redpath put together Scott Skinner’s tune and Marion Angus’s words.
Jean Redpath’s notes say that in order to sing some of Scott Skinner’s melodies she had to use “considerable poetic licence” in her choice of texts. She had particular difficulty with the existing words for the “Cradle Song”, saying their “special brand of 19th century sentimentality sent me looking elsewhere” – to Marion Angus’s poem.

Marion Angus’s poetry shows the influence of Scottish ballads where ordinary life and the supernatural often meet according to Ten Northeast Poets edited by Leslie W Wheeler. “Think Lang” seems to be about the dangers of young love, but could there be something uncanny about the lover whose foot “falls licht on the dew?” This poem, “ “Think Lang” comes from her 1924 book The Tinker’s Road and Other Verses.

Born in England, Marion Angus was brought up in Scotland and is often described as an Angus poet. Dee-side had claims on her too, and although she spoke and also wrote in English, she was at home with the Scottish language and said she “would rather have a humble place among the poets of the North-East than a seat with the mighty.”

She was the eldest daughter of her minister father. He died when she was 16 and instead of going on to higher education with her friends, she became her mother’s companion, and the carer for her beloved sister who had bouts of mental illness. Although she read widely, travelled and wrote regular columns for the local Arbroath paper in early life, she was in her fifties before she had free time and energy to concentrate on her poetry.

She was far from the clichéd image of the spinster daughter of the church. A local minister described her as quite unconventional, the first lady to smoke and the first lady to ride a bicycle in Arbroath. Friends talk of her keen sense of humour and ability at times to say “devastating things” while also being known for her “capacious and most generous heart” according to The Singin Lass edited by Aimee Chalmers.