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The Continuing Tale of Tam O’Shanter


Weel! Tam did make it at the last,

He and Meg the stream had passed.

But Tam, ah Tam, thou shouldna look,

Back at the fiends beyond the brook.

Ye beat them a’ fair and square,

So dinae earn their evil stare.

Get on with Meg tae thine hame,

Your Kate is waitin’ doon the lane,

And ‘though she belt ye wi’ a leather,

Wi’ her ye are a’ the better.


But Tam he still was unco fou,

He didnae think the problem through.

Back he cast his e’en and smilt,

There gathered a’ the undeed a while.

Amangst them there he spotted Nick,

In his haund, his fiddle an’ stick.


But the Diel he looked and smiled a smile,

As Tam dismounted by a style.

Meg was fussed aboot her loss,

Her tail pulled oot, when stream she crossed.

The flowing water was their defence,

Against the ghouls and their strength.


Tam, he shook his heed and said,

“Auld Nick and a’ thee here undead,

‘Tis a rare an’ wondrous sight I’ve seen,

Wi’ these ma’ ain twa wee e’en,

I wouldna’ thought it in this nicht,

Tae see the Kirk lit up sae bricht.

An’ och but the dancing was rare!

Bewitched I was at the wa’ o’er there.

I saw thee a’, ‘tho bereft o’ souls,

Ye’er coffin’s opened in their holes,

Some lank and reek wi’ withered haunds,

Dancing o’er the Kirk’s green land.

Others wi’ throats cut open wide,

And some that had no lang died.


And och, it did greet me sair!

Tae see them bairns, baith buried there.

And then there’s her that caught ma’ e’e,

Young Cutty Sark, I maun thank thee.

To see thee dance it was ma pleasure,

I would wi’ thee yet dance a measure.

But I maun away this night,

And rid mysel’ o’ this ghastly sight.

My poor wee Meg has lost her tail –

In truth it’s her and Kate I’ve failed.


Ah Kate! Ah Kate! My bonnie wee wife,

Wha’ sits at hame wi’ sullen strife.

‘Cos her advice I didnae mind,

It’s Hell’s own treasure I did find.


So fare thee weel, Auld Nick yersel’,

I’ll think o’ thee when I hear Kirk bells.

And a’ thy cronnies by thy side,

Beside ye a’ I maun no abide.

I see thee yet wi’ a fiddle an’ bow,

I heard the pipes screech and blow.

I heard a music near Divine,

An’ och! It seemed to me sae fine;

The jigs an’ reels, the sets and twirls,

An’ Cutty Sark, such a bonny wee girl.

I ne’er before did see the like,

‘Though fur ilka folks it would sair fright.

An’ had I but fair kept me still,

Lord knows I might yet know yer will.

But I ken enough to leave ye here,

The stream does stop ye commin’ near.

I yet might have lost ma soul,

More dear to me than a’ yer gold.

I wouldnae stop here any mair,

For fear I earn yer evil stare.”


And wi’ that he turned and would depart,

When Auld Nick shouted wi’ a start,

“But Tam, Tam, I havn’ae seen,

The like o’ thee with my ain twa e’en.

Ye seem to be sae well tae dae.

Come sit by me, I beg ye stay.

Listen yet if ye have a mind,

I think in me ye will yet find,

A drouthy cronnie, like nae ither.

Why ye and me are jist like brithers!

So will ye no stay wi’ me a while,

And sit right here tight by this style?

And let us think nae mair o’ flight,

‘Tis but early the night.”


But Tam was wary o’ Auld Nick,

And kept by him a sturdy stick.

Like a flashin’ sword he would it wield,

And maun use his wit like a mighty shield.

The ghouls and ghosts and a’ the like,

The Cutty Sarks and hideous tykes,

Might try to win his life and soul,

But Tam was wi’ this thought consoled.

He had beat them a’ that dark, dark night,

And escaped intact, fae their evil flight.


But Tam had sensed the Diel would wish,

The chance to win a bigger dish,

A dish of Tam and Meg’s ain souls,

More precious than sil’er or gold.

And so Tam dallied there some more,

Tae see what Nick yet had in store.

And right enuch, Auld Nick did speak,

And offered Tam opportunity unique.


“Wheel Tam, I see ye look on this,”

Auld Nick squeaked, grinned and hissed.

“This is the fiddle I played sae bold,

An instrument made o’ finest gold.

“Tis a wonderous thing to behold,

‘Twas never bought, and cannae be sold.”

Tam was taken by its sheen,

The licht o’ it caught his e’en.


“So, let me ask o’ ye my cronnie,

Have ye e’er seen the like sae bonnie?”

Auld Nick smiled tae see Tam look,

And so up his bow the Deil then took.

He played a jig sae hearty tae hear,

It filled Tam’s heart wi’ richt gid cheer,

And then a reel sae fast and true,

The spirits danced fast and flew.


At last Nick laid the bow aside,

It seemed the magic a’ but died.

Wi’ a twinkle in both his e’en,

Nick looked at Tam; a thought racine,

Turned in his mind, he fain would ask,

If Tam were up tae tak a task,

And tae mak the task a bit worth-while,

Auld Nick asked wi’ a wicked smile,

“Can ye dae aucht tae match such skill?

Tell me the noo, if ye will.”


Tam too smiled to hear such boast,

Sittin’ there amongst the ghosts.

He scratched his heed, he thought and thought,

And in those thoughts he quite was lost.

But starting back to the matter in hand,

He praised Auld Nick as the best in the land,

That e’er he’d heard on land or sea,

The very best he did decree.

The Diel’s instrument, the gold violin,

Was hearty played by that demon o’ sin.


“So then, what can ye dae tae match this skill?”

Nick asked again as he played a trill.

But Tam was flummoxed, he couldnae think,

For on his mind was the thought o’ drink,

The thirst he had was near tae killin’,

And still Auld Nick, he went on trillin’.


“Will ye make a wager, Tam wi’ me?”

He asked his drouthy, drouthy cronnie.

If ye can beat me in such play,

This gold fiddle’s yours, aye I’ll pay.

But if ye cannae play sae weel,

A jig, a strathspey or a reel,

Ye’ll gae yer soul tae me this night,

An’ think nae mair tae tak flight.

So what say ye Tam, will ye tak the bet?

Ye need nae mair, frown and fret.

If ye win, ye’ll have this fiddle o’ gold,

And ye can keep yer eternal soul.


So Tam took up the fiddle an’ bow,

And tuned the strings, richt slow.

Then he played a tune sae merry and bright,

It took the ghouls a’ by fright.

They huddled in the tress and stared,

The tune Tam played, had hurt them sair.


Auld Nick was angered that he was beat,

He glowered at Tam’s mighty feat.

Then up he took the fiddle again,

And played once mair a devilish strain.

The ghouls and ghosts a’ screeched and danced,

The Devil had them in a trance,

But Tam stood and listened there,

He didnae worry, he hadnae a care.


When Nick was done, he looked again,

At poor, auld Tam, that drunken man.

He offered Tam the violin,

So sure he was that he would win.

But Tam stretched oot and took the bow,

On the horse-hair he did gently blow.

Then up he played a tune sae sad,

It drove the demons, ravin’ mad.

The trees and stains, they a’ did greet,

And fell to crying at Tam’s feet.

Auld Nick and his host, they screamed to behold,

Such a wonderous sound from that fiddle o’ gold.


When Tam was done, he smiled at Nick,

But the Diel looked awa’, he sair was licked.

He wouldnae tak the fiddle back,

He threw Tam a look, glowerin’ black.


But Tam was ever gentle and gracious,

‘Though victory could have made him audacious.

Nick ne’ertheless asked a question,

And tae Tam he made confession.

That ‘though Tam was a better fiddler,

He would that Tam this consider.

The fiddle Tam would return,

If they both could this discern.

If Nick could better Tam that night,

At onythin’ o’ skill or might,

The fiddle would his again.

So Tam accepted like a Gentleman.


Tam thought the matter for a while,

Standin’ near that hard, road style.

The fiddle he sair would keep,

Tae sing him gently at night tae sleep.

And so Tam did to Nick propose,

‘Though a’ his plan he wouldnae disclose.

But rather he told his wicked cronnie,

That he could have the fiddle sae bonnie,

If he would be the last tae stand,

After drinking the best in a’ the land.

The drink o’ choice was whisky o’ course.

That, all agreed, e’en Meg, Tam’s horse.


So Nick agreed as well he would,

Not knowing what else he could.

And so Auld Nick he did begin,

To think what else he could win.

To think what else Tam might say,

‘Ere they saw the break o’ day.

But in his eagerness to acquire,

That devilish, instrument, Auld Nick the liar,

He sair forgot, what he’d forfeit,

If he’d kent it then, he sair would greet.

To think Tam was sic a fool,

That ‘though in Hell he did rule,

That Tam could be sae easily taken,

Auld Nick was sair, sair mistaken.


“I hear in Hell there’s a Devilish brew,”

Tam enquired, “Is that true?

In the stills o’ Hell, I’ve heard it said,

That it’s the drink o’ choice for all the dead.”

Auld Nick agreed, “‘Twas verily true,

There’s none better than my ain brew.

There’s money a nicht, we sing and dance,

An’ drinkin’ and drinkin’ ‘till in drunken trance,

The dead fall an’ maun sleep it aff,

Tae see them drunk, it make’s me laugh.

They cannae hold that Hellish draft!”

And so Auld Nick fell aboot tae laugh.


“Ah, weel,” said Tam, “I’m glad tae hear it,

I’m no a man who would be fear it.

Is there ony chance ye have some wi’ ye?

For if it is, and we agree,

Then for the fiddle we can wager,

‘Ere partin’ company, nae mair strangers.”


Auld Nick he stopped his laughin’ then,

Tam was different fae other men.

But what man could Nick’s whisky consume,

And no end up in his ain tomb?

And so Nick stood and gave his hand,

His wicked word, bound in a’ the land,

That if he could drink mair than Tam,

The fiddle would be his, ‘though he be damned.


From oot the air, Nick then produced,

Twa drams o’ Hell’s, barley juice.

Doon they swallowed, as the demons cried,

Mair whisky tae them was soon supplied,

They drank and drank, tae the demons’ songs,

Through a’ the nicht, they drank along.

Nick was smilin’ as he drank,

Doon the drink in his stomach sank.

As it flowed the whisky grew stronger,

Oot stretched the nicht, long and longer.

But Tam matched Nick a’ the while,

At last Nick sat doon by the style.

But still Nick drank that Hellish brew,

For if Tam won, he bid ‘adieu’,

Tae his dear wee fiddle that he adored,

Tae lose it now he couldnae afford.


But then Tam’s head went spinnin’ round,

He dropped his cup, empty to ground.

Auld Nick he shouted, “The fiddle’s mine!

Tae Hell again ye’ll be confined!”

But as he said it, Tam sat up,

And offered up his empty cup.


“Anither landlord if ye please,”

He chirped merrily, as his reprise.

So Nick he dropped the fiddle again,

And set once mair his cup tae drain.

Then one more, and then anither,

The twa drank on like drouthy brithers.

Songs were sung, and filled the night,

Till soon Tam saw the breaking, light,

O’ the dawn, o’er the trees,

Bringin’ wi’ it, the mornin’ breeze.


But that horde o’ demons gathered there,

Were lost in song, they a’ did stare.

They watched the whisky fair disappear,

Wi’ each cup downed they gave a cheer,

The sound ‘o which rent air apart,

Instillin’ fear in Meg’s poor heart.

But gallant Tam, he drank on,

And still would dae, ‘till the rising sun.


But the Diel at last he couldnae drink,

Awa’ he went, his heart did sink.

He took on Tam, in a drinkin’ match,

And now Tam, Auld Nick could dispatch.

Defeated again, by that scallywag,

Watched by Meg, Tam’s trusty nag.

E’en Meg laughed, the Diel tae see,

An’ glaid her maister was still free.


But Tam wasnae finshed yet wi’ Nick,

And threw at him his sturdy stick.

“I think ye’ll agree,” said Tam right up,

“Ye’ll no begrudge me this last cup.

Your whisky sure is mighty fine,

Much better than the juice o’ vine.

But still I’ll grant ye this, ma brither,

Aye, ye can drink like nae ither.

For that I salute ye’er gallant attempt,

‘Though I have earned unjust contempt.

I’ve been drinkin’ a’ ma days,

So much time, I’ve thrown away.

But I’ll no touch anither drop,

If visitin’ me ye will stop.

Will ye shake this hand o’ mine,

Or gae tae me some ither sign?

That we’ll no meet again ever,

And I’ll no drink whisky, no never?


Auld Nick looked up and nodded his heed,

The deal was done, they both agreed.


So Nick and his horde went back tae Hell,

Where else they went, I darnae tell.

But Tam went hame to Kate his wife,

And kept his promise, for a’ his life.


And when Kate was wont at Tam tae shout,

He just took his fiddle out,

And played a tune and soon Kate stopped,

A better mood she did adopt.

And so they lived happy ever efter;

Kate and Meg, and Meg’s guid maister.



Hamish McGee
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