by Henry Lee Fisher
Among the bonnio winding banks
Wnere Doon rins wbimplin clear;
Whore Bruce once ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear.
Some merry, friendly, countra folks
Together did convene
To burn their nits an pou' their stocks
An' baud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.
How gay and jolly was the night—
Of many an old-time Halloween ;
A feast for saints, all-holy, all,
Yet very seldom, if at all,
A sober saint was to be seen
At such a feast, for, little meat
There was prepared for saints to eat.
On Halloween in other lands,
From whence our worthy fathers came—
Among Auld Scotia's storied hills,
Along its babbling brooks and rills,
So rich in rare poetic fame,
Witches and wizards, elves and de'ils
Joined in the merry mid-night reels.
But true and honest country-folks—
Folks young and gay and single—
Those true and honest country-folks
Once played their charms and cracked their jokes
Around the cheerful, blazing, ''ingle,''
And pulled and ''shouthered runts o' kail''
And cracked their nuts and drank their ale.
A youthful couple, hand in hand,
And very closely bandaged eyes,
Would, thus, into the garden walk,
And, blindly pull a cabbage-stalk
Whose form and features, shape, and size
'Twas understood, were true to life,
Of future husband or of wife.
So, were the tedious hours beguiled
By many a merry lad and lass :
In kail and flax, in nuts and yarn,
In midnight winnowings in the barn,
Or looking in the magic glass,
The airy being sought and feared,
In some mysterious way appeared.
O, many were the strange mishaps
Of many a rude and luckless wight;
And many were the tricks and charms,
And many were the wild alarms,
On that wild, weird mysterious, night!
And many an ancient legend tells
Of fairy dance and wizard-spells ;
Among the rugged rocks and caves,
Dim lighted by the friendly moon—
Upon the weird winding banks
“Where Bruce ance ruled his martial ranks”—
The storied banks “O, Bonny Doon,”
As every reader knows who turns
The mellow leaves of Robert Burns.
In this unstoried land of ours
Not such was merry Halloween;
No random pulling of the “kail,”
No roasting nuts, no foaming ale,
No dance upon the homestead green;
No sowing of the hemp or flax
Nor pulling straws from oaten stacks.
With far less rev'rence for the saints
Or faith in charms or magic spell—
To superstition less inclined,
In magic arts, all unrefined—
Our old time Halloweens but smelled
Of cabbages, which by the scores
We hurled against the neighbors' doors.
The battering-rams of ancient times,
Or modern arts and arms of war—
The mortars, bombs, and bursting shells,
With union shouts and rebel yells
And angry, belching, cannons' roar,
All were but tame and quiet scenes
Compared with our old Halloweens.
A rustic regiment of boys,
And rustic girls as brave as they,
Well armed with sturdy cabbage-heads
While honest folks, all in their beds
In peaceful dreams and slumbers lay,
In rude, but old-time—honored sport
Assailed the undefended fort.
One such bombardment I recall—
At good old neighbor Johnny Brown's ;
To see what all this was about,
Old Johnny and his dame came out
In their nocturnal, nether gowns,
When lo ! a well-directed runt
Struck Johnny in—well, not in front.
Dumbfounded, he, a moment stood
Beneath the overhanging eaves ,
While '' bursting shells '' their fragments threw,
And all around the pieces flew—
Runts, broken hearts and shatter'd leaves ;
What wonder he should run in fear
From such hell-fire in his rear.
Though many more as stout as he,
Such furious fire might not withstand ;
Yet, fearless, valiant, Mrs. Brown,
More brave than Johnny, stood her ground,
With broomstick in her sturdy hand—
She'd break the first one's head, she said,
Who'd throw another cabbage-head.
And now, old Johnny re-appeared,
A looking quite subdued, though grieved
'Twas Halloween! was our excuse,
Inscribed upon a flag of truce,
And so respected and received
By Johnny, and his valiant dame,
Whose honored guests we now became.
We gathered up the kail debris
That lay about the porch and door ;
We gathered 'round the blazing hearth,
And there we swore, for what 'twas worth,
That we would do so, never more ;
But understood, “no more” to mean,
No more 'till next year's Halloween.
Of this our mental reservation,
Nor John, nor Betsy ever knew,
Their house and hearts were open, wide,
And of their best they did provide
And sent not far—for fiddling Joe;
For, Joe was never far away
When there were tunes or tricks to play.
And in the great old fire-place—
That heaven for darkies here below,
Upon a block he sat him down,
Unenvious of a monarch's crown,
And rosin'd up his ready bow,
While itching toes and buoyant heels
Stood ready for the rustic reels.
And soon the merry dance began
As over the oaken kitchen floor
We danced with all the young Miss. Browns—
Clad in their linsey-woolsey gowns—
Until our very toes were sore ;
While old folks, freed from care and toil
Sat, smoked, and quaffed their cider-oil.
And while the dance was going on,
A panel of the kitchen door
Flew out; and thereupon a runt flew in
And hit old Johnny on the shin !
What wonder that he cursed and swore
By all the saints, “the devil was loose
And riding on a tailor's goose.”
But maugre all, the dance went on—
No hitch nor halting in Scotch reels ,
The more old Johnny cried, "aye! aye!"
The thicker did the cabbage fly—
The faster went the clattering heels;
'Till John and Betsy, both, cried out,
"There's witches, elves, and de'ils about] "
In came another company
Of merry boys and merrier girls,
Alert with playful pranks and freaks—
With sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks,
And O, what waving, flowing curls,
To add new beauty to the scene,
On that good old-time Halloween.
“More water on our mill!” we cried,—
And then, again, the dance went on;
And many a runt was kicked around,
And many a heart was crushed and ground,
And many went where more had gone—
Across the fence to feed the pigs,
Whilst we kept dancing reels and jigs!
Old Betty sezied the poker, then,
And stirred the dull and waning fire ;
Ten thousand sparks arose and flew,
Like meteors, up the chimney-flue—
And swift as meteors they expired ;
So do our merry times and friends—
So we, when death the pageant ends.
At length, the old folks went to bed—
To speak politely, they retired ;
But we danced on till past midnight,
And sang and played till near daylight,
But never, never, were too tired,
Nor ever thought it sin or harm
To put Smith's wagon on his barn.
In fact, this was the final act
In serio-comic Halloween;
Nor was the play esteemed complete
Without this mad, Herculean feat—
And foolish, final midnight scene;
And who, but neighbor Johnny Brown,
Should help Smith get his wagon down ?
Farewell to dear old Halloween—
To merry song and dance and play;
To home and hearth and back-log-fire—
The torch that did our hearts inspire
When life was young and spirits gay;
Farewell to all the hallowed scenes
That blessed and cheered our Halloweens.
But, still, the world is better, now—
O, Progress! O, Reform! Reform!
Instead of throwing cabbage-runts—
Against our neighbors' French plate fronts,
The boys and girls throw grains of com
And I sing in these homespun rhymes
The cultured manners of the times.