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Friday, October 20, 2006

Warning! This is Lousy

In my current work-in-progress my hero and heroine are heading for Scotland. I've done quite a bit of research on England during the Regency, but Scotland? I usually leave Scotland to our wonderful Sandy Blair (whose Thief in a Kilt will be released on November 1, coincidentally the same release date as my novella, "A Twelfth Night Tale" in the Regency Christmas Anthology Mistletoe Kisses).

But England would not do, so they must head to Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland that I've ever been, except for Gretna Green, but that was too touristy to work for my story.

In my research wanderings around Scotland, I happened upon the poems of Robert Burns, poems I've read before, but not in a long time. I came across this one that I did not remember: To a Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet In Church

This seemed too synergistic. We had just been trading head lice stories on our Wet Noodle Posse loops and I had just battled another parasite - fleas. Not that the poem is about the head lice, that all too common blight. What mother has not had a head lice infestation in one of her schoolchildren or had a close call?

Burn's poem is about those bigger lice. I saw one once, crawling out of the hair of a man sitting in the seat in front of me on the bus--unforgetable sight. I still get the shivers thinking about it. In Burn's day (1786) lice were a lot more common. Even though I have not entirely recovered from the trauma of seeing a louse, I found this poem charming and I was surprised at the very often quoted lines at the end of it.

Here for your reading enjoyment is To A Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet In Church. (I know the Scots is a bit hard to read. Don't think about it much and you'll get the gist of the poem)

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss' bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss' fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin:
Thae winks an' finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Don't you love the lines, "O Jeany, dinna toss your head, An' set your beauties a' abread! Ye little ken what cursed speed The blastie's makin..." I do.

I haven't a clue what to ask for comment. Your favorite lice stories? How about your favorite lines from Burns?

He was quite a ladies man. He sired something like 15 children, some of whom were by his wife. And, tragically, he died at age 37.



At 1:15 PM, Blogger bridget said...

Diane, hilarious poem! Did you get the sense he was being cruel, putting her name in it specifically? I bet it was a gal who spurned him. I'm even wondering if there ever *was* a louse on the lady's bonnet.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

What an evil thought! Wouldn't that be the best revenge, for the whole country and generations to follow to think that poor Jeany had lice in her hair?

At 1:02 PM, Blogger bridget said...

Wow, I guess that *is* an evil thought (grins). I think I'm going to go sharpen my pen and write a poem or two right now.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

Go for it Bridget! Write a poem about a louse.


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