Looped Fabric · Musical Instruments

The Cardin’ o’t

The following song appears in the The Works of Roberts Burns, by Allan Cunningham, published in 1834, vol. 2, p. 430.

        THE CARDIN’ O’T.
 Tune—“Salt-fish and dumplings.”
                       I
I coft a stane o’ haslock woo’,
   To mak a wat to Johnny o’t;
For Johnny is my only jo,
   I lo'e him best of ony yet.
      The cardin’ o’t, the spinnin’ o’t,
         The warpin’ o’t, the winnin’ o’t;
      When ilka ell cost me a groat,
         The tailor staw the lynin o’t.
                       II
For though his locks be lyart grey,
   And tho’ his brow be beld aboon;
Yet I ha’e seen him on a day,
   The pride of a’ the parishen.
      The cardin’ o’t, the spinnin’ o’t,
         The warpin’ o’t, the winnin’ o’t;
      When ilka ell cost me a groat,
         The tailor staw the lynin’ o’t.

The title expands prosaically to The Carding of it and ‘wat’ appears as ‘coat’ in other sources. The remaining Scots vocabulary is:

coft a stane = bought a stone (14 lbs.)
jo = darling
winnin’ = weaving (winding)
ilka ell = all else
groat = small coin
staw = stole (overcharged)
lyart grey = silvery
beld aboon = bald above


Beyond the significance of this edition to the study of Burns’s poetry, Cunningham follows the song with a commentary that is relevant to the histories of both textiles and music.

The little of this song to which antiquity lays claim is so trifling that the whole may be said to be the work of Burns. The tenderness of Johnnie’s wife can only be fully felt by those who know that hause-lock wool is the softest and the finest of the fleece, and is shorn from the throats of sheep in the summer heat, to give them air, and keep them cool.

Burns was born on 25 January 1759 and died on 21 July 1796. The song initially appeared in a manuscript from the latter year. Cunningham’s commentary proceeds with a description of the provisioning of Highland wool to the Lowlands at that time. If the present text were intended solely for inclusion in the facet of this blog relating to fabric production, I would cite it in full and then delve further into wool processing in Scotland when my perennial favorite, shepherd’s knitting (aka Scottish knitting), was in its heyday. However, one of the thoughts underlying this post is to see if a single essay can prove worthwhile both to readers with an interest in textile history and to those more focused on musical instruments.

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