As Mailie, an’ her lambs thegither,
Was ae day nibbling on the tether,
Upon her cloot she coost a hitch,
An’ owre she warsl’d in the ditch:
There, groaning, dying, she did lie,
When Hughoc he cam doytin by.
Wi’ glowrin een, and lifted han’s
Poor Hughoc like a statue stan’s;
He saw her days were near-hand ended,
But, wae’s my heart! he could na mend it!
He gaped wide, but naething spak,
At langth poor Mailie silence brak.
“O thou, whase lamentable face
Appears to mourn my woefu’ case!
My dying words attentive hear,
An’ bear them to my Master dear.
“Tell him, if e’er again he keep
As muckle gear as buy a sheep-
O, bid him never tie them mair,
Wi’ wicked strings o’ hemp or hair!
But ca’ them out to park or hill,
An’ let them wander at their will:
So may his flock increase, an’ grow
To scores o’ lambs, an’ packs o’ woo’!
“Tell him, he was a Master kin’,
An’ aye was guid to me an’ mine;
An’ now my dying charge I gie him,
My helpless lambs, I trust them wi’ him.
“O, bid him save their harmless lives,
Frae dogs, an’ tods, an’ butcher’s knives!
But gie them guid cow-milk their fill,
Till they be fit to fend themsel’;
An’ tent them duly, e’en an’ morn,
Wi’ taets o’ hay an’ ripps o’ corn.
“An’ may they never learn the gaets,
Of ither vile, wanrestfu’ pets-
To slink thro’ slaps, an’ reave an’ steal
At stacks o’ pease, or stocks o’ kail!
So may they, like their great forbears,
For mony a year come thro the shears:
So wives will gie them bits o’ bread,
An’ bairns greet for them when they’re dead.
“My poor toop-lamb, my son an’ heir,
O, bid him breed him up wi’ care!
An’ if he live to be a beast,
To pit some havins in his breast!
“An’ warn him-what I winna name-
To stay content wi’ yowes at hame;
An’ no to rin an’ wear his cloots,
Like ither menseless, graceless brutes.
“An’ neist, my yowie, silly thing,
Gude keep thee frae a tether string!
O, may thou ne’er forgather up,
Wi’ ony blastit, moorland toop;
But aye keep mind to moop an’ mell,
Wi’ sheep o’ credit like thysel’!
“And now, my bairns, wi’ my last breath,
I lea’e my blessin wi’ you baith:
An’ when you think upo’ your mither,
Mind to be kind to ane anither.
“Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail,
To tell my master a’ my tale;
An’ bid him burn this cursed tether,
An’ for thy pains thou’se get my blather.”
This said, poor Mailie turn’d her head,
And clos’d her een amang the dead!
Fair chance that they are actually herring – the Pacific Herring. To the East they are found as far south as Baja California and certainly reach Japan in the West. Apparently pickled herring is a traditional delicacy in Hokkaido.
I bet that old lady was leaving out a bit in her cooking advice for the greens. Might be worth experimenting with stir frying them with a bit of garlic and ginger and a splash of soy sauce. Or even better some fish sauce, nam pla, if there’s a shop around that sells Thai/Vietnamese stuff. Mind you – fish sauce is my answer to most culinary problems.