On December 7th 1784 Allan Cunningham, the Poet was born.
Cunningham’s father was a neighbour of Robert Burns and as a boy Cunningham attended his funeral, he was born and raised in Dumfiesshire. At a young age Cunningham was apprenticed to a stonemason but spent his free time reading, and writing imitations of old Scottish ballads. In 1807 he contributed to Roche’s Literary Recreations a periodical Monthly responsible for publishing Lord Byrons works.
In 1809 or therabouts he sent some Scottish Ballads he claimed to have collected to be used in Cromek’s “Remains of Nithdale and Galloway Song. Actually they were his own creations.” He came to know the author James Hogg and through him met Sir Walter Scott who suspected that the ballads in Cromek’s were in fact his own. Scott and Hogg would have been the leading authorities on folklore and ballads of Scotland at that time.
In 1813 he published, “Songs, Chiefly in the rural dialect of Scotland.” Thereafter, Cunningham, was persuaded by Cromek to move to London where be became a parliamentary reporter for "The London Magazine” and met the sculptor Sir Francis Chantry, later becoming his assistant and secretary. A position he held from 1814 until Chantry’s death in 1841. During this time, Cunningham continued to pursue literary interests when time permitted, writing three novels, a series of stories (which he contributed to Blackwood’s Magazine,) biographies, as well as many songs.
He married a servant of the house in which he was lodging and had six children, several of whom also became writers. Cunningham wrote many stories and poetic dramas but apart from hi Complete works of Burns it for hie poems and ballads he s best known and remembered.
The Waes o’ Scotland
When I left thee, bonnie Scotland,
Thou wert fair to see,
Fresh as a bonnie bride i’ the morn
When she maun wedded be!
When I came back to thee, Scotland,
Upon a May-morn fair,
A bonnie lass sat at our town-en’,
Kaming her yellow hair.
“O hey! O hey!” sung the bonnie lass,
“O hey! an’ wae ’s me!
There ’s joy to the Whigs, an’ land to the Whigs,
An’ nought but wae to me!
"O hey! O hey!” sung the bonnie lass,
“O hey! an’ wae ’s me!
There ’s siccan sorrow in Scotland,
As een did never see.
"O hey! O hey for my father auld!
O hey! for my mither dear!
An’ my heart will burst for the bonnie lad
Wha left me lanesome here!”
I had na gane in my ain Scotland
Mae miles than twa or three,
When I saw the head o’ my ain father
Coming up the gate to me.
“A traitor’s head!” and “a traitor’s head!”
Loud bawled a bluidy loon;
But I drew frae the sheath my glaive o’ weir,
An’ strak the reaver down.
I hied me hame to my father’s ha’;
Alas and alack anee!
My dear mither lay ‘mang the ashes gray,
And the death-tear in her ee.
“O wha has wrought this bluidy wark?
Had I the reaver here,
I ’d wash his sark in his ain heart’s blude,
And gie ’t to his love to wear!”
I wander a’ night 'mang the lands I own’d,
When a’ folk are asleep,
And lie owre my father and mither’s grave,
An hour or twa to weep!
O fatherless and motherless,
Without a ha’ or hame,
I maun wander through my ain Scotland,
And bide a traitor’s blame.
Allan Cunningham . 1784-1842
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