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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Number 184: Robert Burns "Charlie, He's My Darling"

Charlie, He's My Darling

'Twas on a Monday morning,
Right early in the year,
That Charlie came to our town,
The young Chevalier.

An' Charlie, he's my darling,
My darling, my darling,
Charlie, he's my darling,
The young Chevalier.

As he was walking up the street,
The city for to view,
O there he spied a bonnie lass
The window looking through,

Sae light's he jumped up the stair,
And tirl'd at the pin;
And wha sae ready as hersel'
To let the laddie in.

He set his Jenny on his knee,
All in his Highland dress;
For brawly weel he ken'd the way
To please a bonie lass.

It's up yon heathery mountain,
An' down yon scroggie glen,
We daur na gang a milking,
For Charlie and his men,

An' Charlie, he's my darling,
My darling, my darling,
Charlie, he's my darling,
The young Chevalier.

-- Robert Burn

Hap Notes: We'll set some vocabulary first before we talk of the history of this poem/song. Let's head right to the fourth stanza: He lightly jumped up the stairs and rang the doorbell (tirld at the pin) and who's so ready as she is (wha sai ready as hersel') . Then, He very well knew the way (brawly weel he kenned the way). The scroggie glen is scrub land, and we daur not gang a milking means "we dare not go a milking." If that last phrase reminds you of "The Fairies" by William Allingham ("Up the airy mountain/Down the rushy glen,/We daren't go a-hunting, For fear of little men...") Burns' poem was written in 1794, Allingham was born in 1824.

This poem/song is about Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Maria Stuart). It's a long involved tale of the Jacobite (named for the Latin word for James) uprising and starts out back with the Plantagenets and the Lancasters (red rose) and the Yorks (white rose) and the Wars of the Roses. We won't go back that far because the names of the British succession and heirs of who was supposed to be king and who actually was, hurts my old head. You'll often see in the pictures of Charlie, the white rose, a signifier of the Yorks.

Suffice it to say Bonnie Prince Charlie (the great-great-grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots and the grandson of James II) arranged an uprising to get the throne back (from the Hanovers, I think) to secure it for his dad, and eventually himself. He had the help of France (Louis XV was his 2nd cousin) but as he and his troops were battling it out, France (who was supposedly sending help) backed out for a number of reasons and Bonnie Prince Charlie hid in the highlands and was eventually smuggled out of the country. He wasn't born in Scotland, since his family was in exile, and he didn't die there either. He was hidden in the highlands for months with a 50,000 pound reward on his head and nary a Scot ratted him out.

The Stuarts were Catholics (Mary changed the spelling from Stewart to the French, Stuart) and they had many supporters in Scotland and throughout Ireland and Great Britain. Prince Charlie hardly had the troops or arms or money to take over but he made a valiant stab at it and was greatly admired in Scotland for it. In fact, it's said there are more songs about Bonnie Prince Charlie than any other monarch (or "pretender" to the throne) and as you can see from the masthead pics, he was sort of a dish.

In Burns' poem we see that Bonnie Prince Charlie had a way with women and that even his soldiers weren't to be trusted with the milkmaids. They had cool uniforms and that always helps.

After the last Jacobite rebellion, Charlie tried to reassemble it once more but it never took place. Instead, he took to drink and women on the continent and ended sadly. In the poem, however, he is hale, hearty and fightin'.

Burns' poem/song spawned two other versions, and in fact, Burn's may have been a compilation of local songs about the prince. The other ones are:

James Hogg (1821) Noted for the line "Our King shall have his own again" a line which inspired another poem about the prince.

T was on a Monday morning,
Right early in the year,
That Charlie came to our town,
The young Chevalier.

As Charlie he came up the gate,
His face shone like the day;
I grat to see the lad come back
That had been lang away.

Then ilka bonny lassie sang,
As to the door she ran,
"Our King shall hae his ain again",
An' Charlie is the man:

Out ow'r yon moory mountain,
An' down the craggy glen,
Of naething else our lasses sing,
But Charlie an' his men.

Our Highland hearts are true an' leal,
An' glow without a stain;
Our Highland swords are metal keen,
An' Charlie he 's our ain.

and Lady Nairne ( 1821) You will note her troops are married men concerned with national pride and not the girls, so much.

'T was on a Monday mornin

Right early in the year

When Charlie came to our town

The Young Chevalier.

As he cam' marchin' up the street

The pipes played loud and clear

And a' the folk cam' rinnin' out

To meet the Chevalier.

Wi' highland bonnets on their heads

And claymores bright and clear

They cam' to fight for Scotland's right

And for the Chevalier.

They've left their bonnie highland hills

Their wives and bairnies dear

To draw the sword for Scotland's lord

The young Chevalier.

Oh, there were mony beating hearts

And mony a hope and fear

And mony were the pray'rs put up

For the young Chevalier.

Now if you think all this Rabbie (as he's often called) Burns talk is ancient history, look at this charming Scottish school's winners for the Burns Day competition that took place this year.
He's still first in the hearts of many a Scot to this day.
The video is utterly charming:

And of course, the song itself, which has loads of entries on YouTube:

Honestly the reason I chose this poem is because the song started going through my head, unbidden, a few days ago. I just followed my odd stuffed-full-of-verses head, like I often do here.
(Ye also mae have notic'd I ha' a more tha' a wee soft spot for Rabbie Burns.)

Interestingly enough, divers have lately found proof that France may have tried to send help but got scuttled. They may have tried to use a British ship they bought to fool the Brits and it didn't quite work out.

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