Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cuddle Doon

"The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' muckle fash an' din,
"Oh, try and sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin'in."

My mother, Nova Hicks Bussey, had a great talent for reciting poetry from memory. She was expressive in the classical sense and made each poem come alive. After each recitation, she held us, me for sure, spellbound with stories of how the poem applied to life. We learned of the grief suffered by The Village Blacksmith--a very strong, feeling man. And, the aging man recalling the regret of the little girl who surpassed him in a spelling bee--Mother found many good lessons in School Days--after all, how often is it that someone unselfishly wants you to succeed, even at their own loss?

Little Nell taught us that mothers love all their children the same, whether they are lazy, industrious, helpful,or sullen. At the end of this poem, Mother would ask,

"Now, which child did the mother love best?"
We'd shout, "Little Nell!"
"No" mother would reassure us, "She loved them all the same".

What a relief to me, an obstinate child who yearned to be loved the same as the others.

Back to Cuddle Doon. How did Mother learn to recite it in the proper dialect? Over my life, I've often bragged how Mother could recite Cuddle Doon in the Gaelic or Scottish. I've asked many people if they know this poem. No one I talked to ever had.

They never heed a word I speak.
I try to gie a froon.
But aye I hap them up, an' cry,
"Oh, bairnies cuddle doon!"

The mother has her hands full with Jamie, Rab, and Tam as, at the end of a long day, she coaxes them to go to sleep before their father comes in from work. Mother wanted us to understand how it was with herself and her 6 children. I never asked Mother how she learned this poem. Most of her selections were from her youth when memorizing poems was a standard educational tool.

We studied poetry and memorized too, but none of my teachers ever mentioned Cuddle Doon. Teachers had their own biases of course. For example, a high school English teacher--in the 50s of course--wouldn't let me recite Anabelle Lee because Poe was an alcoholic.

I have wondered if the verses were handed down from her ancestors who came into Virginia from Ireland, Scotland, and England in the late 1700s. They traveled into the isolated, beautiful hills of Appalachian East Kentucky where they chose to settle, drawn to the lush, green mountains that reminded them of home and to the seclusion of the hollows and creeks that promised they could remain independent in their new homeland.

Just a reflection: In Thomas Hardy novels, characters often use words and phrases that I find familiar and similar to those found in Appalachian East Kentucky. I have determined that "hain't" and "ain't", drilled out of us as children,mean two different things and make logical sense when used in Hardy's native contexts. Of course, we, in order to be perceived as literate, learned modern day English.

Why did I not ever ask Mother where she learned Cuddle Doon?

Recently I landed quite a treasure trove of books from brother Rod and his wife, Helen. I was overjoyed! At home, I gathered all the books around me and began browsing--so many treasures. There was one of my favorite books,The Haj, (in hardback!), which I'll reread it soon to help me further understand the Middle East. There were 3 hardback dictionaries which I have already begun to peruse. And, One Hundred and One Famous Poems, published in 1958! I was excited to find many favorites like Renascence, by Edna St. Vincent Millay; Grass by Carl Sandburg; Paul Revere's Ride and Hiawatha's Childhood by Longfellow--

...and, suddenly, there it was, on page 90--Cuddle Doon by Alexander Anderson (1845-1909. With further research I found that Cuddle Doon was a familiar poem to the children of Scotland in the generations preceding me--my mother's generation. Enough said! I'd love to hear from anyone who may have had this poem recited to them.

Cuddle Doon

by Alexander Anderson

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
"Oh try an' sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin' in."
They niver heed a word I speak,
I try tae gie a froon,
But aye I hap' them up an' cry
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

Wee Jamie wi' the curly heid,
He aye sleeps next the wa'
Bangs up and cries, "I want a piece!"
The rascal starts them a'.
I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop a wee the soun',
Then draw the blankets up an' cry,
"Noo, weanies, cuddle doon."

But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot frae neath the claes,
"Mither, mak' Tam gie ower at aince,
He's kittlin' wi' his taes."
The mischief in that Tam for tricks,
He'd bother half the toon,
But aye I hap them up an' cry,
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

At length they hear their faither's fit
An' as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces tae the wa'
An Tam pretends tae snore.
"Hae a' the weans been gude?" he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
"The bairnies, John, are in their beds
An' lang since cuddled doon!"

An' just afore we bed oorsel's
We look at oor wee lambs,
Tam has his airm roun' wee Rab's neck
An Rab his airm roun' Tam's.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed
An' as I straik each croon,
I whisper till my heart fills up:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' mirth that's dear tae me.
But soon the big warl's cark an' care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet come what will to ilka ane,
May He who rules aboon,
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

If you're still reading this post and know some of the Scottish or Gaelic dialect, maybe you can shed light o the quote below which was written into the memoirs of my grandfather, whose grandmother was from Ireland. (since she was Sally McKinney, I tend to think there's also Scottish heritage there)

Our wheat was ground into flour at home by the hand-mill or by horse power, then baked in “pones.” They called it biscuit bread. I remember Mother would say to us children, “Watch children, there might be a beard in that bread; there is a hole in the sarch". Does anyone know what this means? It's either an old dialect or a typo!

Love and Peace to all who read this!
Judy Bussey, July 17, 2016

1 comment:

  1. Judy,
    I haven’t heard Cuddle Down but my Mother use to recite Little Nell to me when I didn’t want to help her.
    Also my grandfather use to recite this poem to me and I still remember it! I have recited it to all my children and grandchildren. Here it is.
    There was a little old woman as I’ve heard tell. She went to market her eggs for to sell. She went to market all on a summer day and fell asleep on the King’s Highway. There came an old peddler whose name was Stout. He cut her petticoat all round about. He cut her petticoat up to her knees which made the little old woman shiver and freeze. When the little old woman first did wake, she began to shiver and she began to shake. She began to wonder and she began to cry “ Laws a mercy on my soul this is none of I”. If this be I as I hope it be, I’ve a little dog at home and he’ll know me. If this be I he’ll wag his little tail. If this be not I he’ll loudly bark and wail. Off went the little old woman home in the dark. Up got the little dog and he began to bark. He began to bark and she began to cry “Laws a mercy on my soul this is none of I”!
    There was also a poem he recited to me when I didn’t want to get up in the morning but I can’t remember it!