Arrears blogging: October 31 -- Footnotes

What to say about a Robert Burns poem that the Robert Burns website says "becomes tedious in spite of the lively movement and the skilfully manipulated verse"? But don't take my word for it, take these incomprehensible words:

They hoy’t out Will, wi’ sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanc’d the stack he faddom’t thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin:
As they say in Scotland, Oy.

You could read the footnotes, of course, featuring Burns's descriptions of charming Scottish Halloween customs. There, travelling back in time (using your imagination!), you truly experience how boring the world was before mass entertainment:
They go to the barnyard, and pull each, at three different times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the “top-pickle,” that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid.

Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.

Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp-seed, harrowing it with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then: “Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee.”
Wow! Making your own fun sounds lame!

The other question I have is this: how many people of marriageable age could there have been in an 18th-century Scottish village, that you need all these primitive-eHarmony tricks with the mirrors and the hemp-seed? It's not like your average lassie back then had a studio apartment on Essex Street, yet felt lonely in the midst of millions. There's just Rob and Andrew and Willie and, confusingly, Rab.

Also of note in Burns's poem: no Nixon masks. It doesn't seem like Halloween without them.

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