Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Come Dearie Near Me

I’m going to tell you a secret. I love Scotland. Recently one of my children was teasing me about this. “Remember all the Scottish Christmases we had growing up? Why was that?”

Questions have to be answered, so I began to think. I wandered around my house and saw lots of books that refer to Scotland.  Books and me go together.  You may not know this, but I learned to cook by reading novels first, cookbooks next.  (I'll explain later.)  I've read books about Scotland to try to figure out why they wear kilts and I can't resist a book set in Scotland.  Imagine my delight when I was told my first year at AACS, that "Macbeth" was part of the American Literature/11th Grade year.  Doesn't fit, you're thinking. So what? As my department chair said, "Into every year, a little Shakespeare must fall." Actually, Macbeth was as restorative as a week at the beach after reading The Scarlet Letter, Ethan Frome and other such optimistic American works.  So... did my obsession with Scotland begin with books?  No, not exactly.

I taught "The Scottish Play" for years and LOVED it. More on this later also...

Before I answer the question, I should note that I’m not the only person who refers to Scottish things at Christmas. Notice that come Christmas time and there’s plaid everywhere! It’s true I created a little Scottish Santa wearing a kilt and made tiny pipers to march on the mantle. But I think it began in high school when my sister Stefanie introduced me to Lerner and Loewe’s musical Brigadoon. I fell in love it all—the kilts, the lilting poetry of the brogue, the plaid, the hills, the lochs, the heather, the shortbread cookies. 

Here's a picture of me during high school with the Scottish map because I found this old picture stuck in this book. 
I can guess what my dear reader may be thinking -- Lerner and Loewe are not Scots, probably not even of Scottish descent, and probably the Scottish don’t like the play at all, and those who are Scots and those who live or have lived in Scotland might decry the play as less than authentic.  I don’t care! I found it compelling.

Here’s what happens: two “weary hunters have lost their way” in the hills of Scotland. Hungry, unsuccessful and cold, they stumble on a village just awakening one misty morning. They are swept into the humanity of the town which is full of the desire for life. This is dramatized in a few ways… one early scene shows the villagers at the market eagerly gathering their provisions. Turns out there is to be a wedding that night, and the bridegroom’s passion and joy are palpable. However, the bride has broken another man’s heart and his bitterness is compounded by the town’s odd situation – Brigadoon “comes to life” just one day in each century and those who live there must all stay or the town will forever disappear.

The desperation to live fully and with real intention and feeling is created by the situation, setting and subplots, but this genuine desire for life that defines the village of Brigadoon awakens one of the hunters to the same thirst for real life. He must choose if he will stay in Brigadoon where reality is more than his ambition for fame and possessions or return to modern New York and the busy, hectic life he’s lost in there.

But there’s one song, Come To Me, from the play that sealed my love for Scotland. I know it was written a long time ago and the style is not current, but its poetry captured my heart and imagination.

To set up the scene, Charlie is to marry Jean that evening. Desperate to see his bride, he comes to her home and begs for a kiss. Read it and feel the magic.

Because they told me I can't behold ye till weddin' music starts playin';
To ease my longin' there's nothin' wrong in my standin' out here ans sayin':
Come to me, bend to me, kiss me good day!
Darlin', my darlin', 'tis all I can say,
Jus' come to me, bend to me, kiss me good day!
Gie me your lips an' don't take them away.

Come, dearie, near me so ye can hear me, I've got to whisper this softly.
For though I'm burnin' to shout my yearnin', the words come tiptoein' off me.
Oh, come to me, bend to me, kiss me good day!
Darlin' my darlin', 'tis all I can say.
Jus' come to me, bend to me, kiss me good day!
.Give me your lips an' don't take them away.

  I like the strong, irresistible sense of Charlie’s desire, as clean and hot as fire, shown in his words. He’s trying to steal a forbidden kiss, “Come dearie near me, so ye can hear me, I’ve got to whisper this softly.” She leans in a bit, but convention stays her. Remember, his desire: “For though I’m burnin’ to shout my yearnin; the words come tiptoein off me.” I mean, come on, the paradox, the struggle! That is poetry!

I was recently reminded of this wonderful song becauseValerie has been singing it as she works around her house. To hear it sung as by a great tenor voice is bliss, to hear Valerie sing it is very heaven.

Here’s to Scotland and all things Scottish! This year, I think I’ll somehow devise a Scottish Thanksgiving. I wonder where I can get some yummy haggis to stuff into my turkey?


  1. haggis is a lamb-scraps & oatmeal meatloaf boiled in a fresh lamb-stomach.

    I love Brigadoon, and was singing much of it and other scottish tunes when my family visited the Highlands a few years back. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  2. if you stuff haggis in the turkey I'm going to bring burgers...that's right burgers to Thanksgiving.

  3. I Love Brigadoon, I love kilts and plaid and rolling green, hills and heather. I even like bag pipes. I confess that there is a small part of me that fell in love with my husband the moment I learned that his name was McGough and his great grand mother was a McDaniel.

  4. Though listening too Come to me, bend to me again it sounds a lot like "music of the Night" from Phantom, Not the same but similar, I never notice when it was in the context of the film.

  5. Do you love Scotland more than France? Just wondering

  6. Scotland is indeed a lovely country- this I can attest to firsthand. "Haggis" however, is truly exactly as the first commentator stated- and there is nothing lovely therein. Animals do not deserve such- neither here, nor in Scotland, nor anywhere. There are lovely, yet cruelty free, alternatives worth researching, and still worthy of the historical perspective.

  7. Now, now, Anonymous#2, ewes not infrequently reject a twin lamb, and rather than let it cruelly starve in the Highlands, Scots (being Scots) will not let it suffer, or suffer it to go to waste. And the mineral-rich lamb and oats grown in smoked peat-fertilized soil prevented many a tooth decay and other ailments in our hearty Scotch ancestors. - Lisa Meyer (with a grandmother of the Forbes Clan)

  8. The blog above itself is lovely as is the country of Scotland- I do love Cambeltown. However without condescension nor deference....with a love for Scotland as well as much of Scottish culture....yet with a quite clear conscience of principle, I stand by my above comment as well as beside and for those creatures with no voice. Back to the precious things about Scotland instead.....