Friday, May 2, 2014

Honest Alan: A Tribute

A note: Of late I have been posting on the sublime, the good, the true, the beautiful. This post is on the merely fun. Please forgive my outburst of Scottish geekiness!

Another note: My apologies, I got the date mixed up! June 2, not May 2, was my Scottish epiphany. Well, here is Alan anyway, a month early.
Looking at the date today, I realized it was rather significant--for me at least. Two years ago today began my obsession with all things Scottish. The blame lies with a writer named Robert Louis Stevenson, who brought to life one of my favorite fictional characters on the face of the earth. Introducing Alan Breck Stewart: clansman of Appin, Jacobite rebel, swordsman, piper, Gaelic poet, with an elephant-sized ego and a heart of gold. You'll be seeing several versions of him in this post, but the one I always carry in my mind is Stevenson's first description of him in Kidnapped:

He was smallish in stature, but well set and as nimble as a goat; his face was of a good open expression, but sunburnt very dark, and heavily freckled and pitted with the small-pox; his eyes were unusually light and had a kind of dancing madness in them, that was both engaging and alarming...

Please enjoy my own tribute in verse to my favorite swashbuckling Highland rebel. And then go read Kidnapped.
The Ballad of Alan Breck
O, have ye heard o' Alan Breck?
O, cam ye by nae word?
He's a dancin' madness in his e'e*,
An' a hand on the hilt o' his sword!
Young Alan trod the hills and crags,
His foot kenned* every stone,
For Appin and the Breadalbane
Were his heart-land an' his home.
Down by lang Loch Leven's shores
With the wind in the birches cryin',
He'd whistle mony a merry tune,
As would leave the birds all sighin'.
Now Alan was a swordsman's son,
He learned the fencer's trade,
An' often joy and pride he took
In the singin' o' the blade.
 But then man Alan's father died,
An' left him gey* an' poor,
So Alan went for sodger's* pay,
In the army o' King George.
*very   *soldier's
Ay, Alan once a red coat wore,
Because he had nae money,
But now he's changed it for a blue,
An' one that's much mair bonny!
He cannae stay in Scotland now,
For the savin' o' his neck,
For there's a hundred gleamin' pounds
On the head of Alan Breck.
Go on, ye redcoats, search the hills,
An' guard the Glencoe heights,
But all ye'll catch is a fleetin' glisk*
O' the canny Jacobite.
An' 'ware, ye seamen, when the fogs
Come swirlin' round the deck;
A mettled voice, a flashin' e'e--
It may be Alan Breck.
He's a Hielandman forever,
An' a Stewart tae the end;
Tho' a feisty, fechtin'* warrior,
He's a true an' doughty friend!
O, have ye heard o' Alan Breck?
O, cam ye by nae word?
Ye'll ken him by his dancin' e'e,
An' the hand on the hilt o' his sword!
~Poem Ó
Mary Jessica Woods, 2013