National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day! I’d like to celebrate this event by showcasing how a poem can act as a link between nations, in this case between Scotland and Germany.

In 1802, Walter Scott published his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (Bk.5/1.3-4), a collection of “historical and romantic ballads, collected in the southern counties of Scotland”, as the subtitle said. One of these poems, ‘O gin my love were yon red rose’, was translated by Wilhelm Grimm, one half of the brothers of fairy tale fame, into German. He published this poem both in the Scots original and on the facing page in German translation along with two other Scottish ballads in a small booklet entitled Drei altschottische Lieder (5.637(13)),  i.e. Three Old Scots songsA copy of this small book is on show in the Grimms Treasure display.

Here is a transcript of the poem ‘O gin my love were yon red rose’, which, according to the Lay of the last minstrel, comes from Mr Herd’s manuscript:

O gin my love were yon red rose,           �
That grows upon the castle wa’,       �
And I mysell a drap of dew,                                       �
Down on that red rose I would fa’.        �
O my love’s bonny, bonny, bonny;                         �
My love’s bonny and fair to see:
Whene’er I look on her weel far’d face,      �
She looks and smiles again to me.

O gin my love were a pickle of wheat,
And growing upon yon lily lee,
And I mysell a bonny wee bird,
Awa wi’ that pickle o’ wheat I wad flee.
O my love’s bonny, &c.

O gin my love were a coffer o’gowd,
And I the keeper o’ the key,
I wad open the kist whene’er I list,
And in that coffer I wad be.
O my love’s bonny, &c.

You can read more about Walter Scott in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessible through NLS Licensed Digital Collections).
Have a look at Edinburgh University’s Walter Scott Digital Archive for more information on the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.