I Caa it Macaroni

Yankee Doodle went to town a-riding on a pony,
He stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle keep it up, Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step and with the girls be handy!

American bairns as aften as no wull sing ither kin o pastas in place o macaroni in Yankee Doodle: rigatoni, canelloni, et ceterae. The thinkin ahint this is that if Yankee Doodle can caa his powny a donnert name like macaroni, syne hou no ony donnert name, as lang's it rhymes?

But it's no the powny he's caain macaroni, it's the feather! Macaroni uised ti be in general uise ti mean Italian. The idea is that he juist haes ti pit a feather in his bunnet an he thinks he's aa buskit the best Italian style.

Macaroni wis uized like this an aa ti describe poems written pairtly in the Laitin (a Italian langage efter aa, if ye tak the ettle here), an pairtly in some ither langage. Fowk that wis educate  made sic poetry gey naitral in the days whan the Laitin wis ti the fore in a body's education. Ane o the forritmaist examples is William Dunbar's Lament for the Makars, whaur the last line o every verse is in the Laitin:

He takis knichtis in the field,
Enarmit under helm and scheild;
Victor he is at all mellie:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
The babe full of benignitie:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me

or the mair extensive Laitin in the poem Sleepy Body bi kenna wha:

Somnolente, quoeso, repente
Vigila, vivat, me tange.
Somnolente, quoeso, repente
Vigila, vive, me tange.
Cum me ambiebas,
Videri solebas
Amoris negotiis aptus;
At factus moritus,
In lecto sopitus
Somno es, haud amore, tu captus.
O sleepy body,
An drowsy body,
O wiltuna waken and turn thee?
To drivel an draunt,
While I sich an gaunt,
Gies me guid reason to scorn thee.
When thou should be kind,
Thou turns sleepy and blind,
An snoters an snores far frae me,
Wae licht on thy face,
Thy dowfy embrace
Is eneuch to gar me betray thee.

Syne an on, the term macaronic verse wis taen ti mean ony kin o verse that wis written in a mixtur o langages. Here Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch stappin a bittie English (wi transmugrifee'd spellin) inalang wi his Scots ti mak a ugsome pun in the New Ballad o Sir Patrick Spens:

Syne gurly grew the waves o Forth,
An gurlier bi the by,
"Oh, never wis there sic a storm,
"Yet it isna sic as I!"

Burns is aiblins the maist famous for stappin English inalang wi his Scots ti guid effect, like in the Tam O'Shanter whaur he uizes English ti merk a lull in the storm o ragin Scots:

The soutar tauld his queerest stories,
The landlord's lauch wis ready chorus,
The storm athoot micht rair an rustle:
Tam didna mind the storm a whistle.
< div class="i1">But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever;
Or like the Borealis' race
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amidst the storm.
Nae man can tether time nor tide,
The oor approaches Tam maun ride,
That oor, o nicht's black airch the keystane...

But the ar a faur mair doutsome uise o macaroni amangst Scots poets, an that's the stappin in o a English word insteid o a Scots ane juist for ti git a rhyme. Fergusson did it (Leith Races):

That sic braw buskit lauchin lass
Thir bonny blinks should gie,
And lowp like Hebe ower the grass,
As wanton and as free<
Frae dule this day.

Burns did it (Tam O'Shanter):

Getherin her brous like getherin storm,
Nursin her wrath tae keep it warm

An Stevenson did it (A Mile an a Bittock):

Nou, Davie wis first tae git sleep in his head,
"The best o freins maun twine," he said;
"I'm weariet, an here A'm awa tae ma bed."
An the mune wis shinin clearly!

Ay, maist Scots poets aa doun throu the centuries seems ti a duin it. Whanever they saw a English word that wad sort oot their rhymes for them they couldna haud theirsels back. The'r juist ae byordnar case A can think on, an that's William McGonagall, tragedian an unconscious humorist. Tho McGonagall wrate vernear aathing in English (the ar twathree poems o his in Scots, the likes o The Bonnie Lass o Dundee an Little Jamie), he teuk the no-sae-strecht (but gey nairae) path o faain throu inti Scots whanever he wis wantin a rhyme for his English verse (fae The Bonnie Lass of Ruily):

The speaker wore a bright red coat and a small cap,
And she thought to herself he is a handsome chap;
The speaker said, "'Tis a fine day," and began to flatter,
Until at last he asked Belle for a drink of watter


© Sandy Fleemin 2003