Werena my Heart Licht (old song)
Margaret Oliphant, with her own great gift for irony, identified strongly with the ironic chorus from an old Scottish song by Grizel [Hume] Baillie: "Werena my heart['s] licht I wad dee". (Were not my heart so light I would die.) Mrs Oliphant described this phrase as "most sad of all the utterances of endurance" (Adam Graeme, 1852).
Read here: Werena My Heart's Licht - with Glossary from the Oxford Book of English Verse by Arthur Quiller-Couch.
Two old song books have preserved the melody:
Orpheus Caledonius (1733, volume 1, pages 88-90)
Scotish Songs [sic] (1869, volume 1, pages 212-214) - based on Ritson's Scotish Songs (1794)
Mrs Oliphant's life was in many ways a sad one, dealing with the loss of three infants and her mother while still in her 20s; the loss of her husband when she was 31; four years later the loss of her beloved 10-year-old daughter Maggie. As well as other losses over the years, there were many difficulties and disappointments associated with her brothers and with her two surviving sons. She worked hard all her life to support a large extended family. In an 1885 passage in her Autobiography and Letters (1899, page 2) she wrote:
Sometimes I am miserable —always there is in me the sense that I may have active cause to be so at any moment — always the gnawing pangs of anxiety, and deep, deep dissatisfaction beyond words, and the sense of helplessness, which of itself is despair. And yet there are times when my heart jumps up in the old unreasonable way, and I am, yes, happy — though the word seems so inappropriate — without any cause for it, with so many causes the other way. I wonder whether this is want of feeling, or mere temperament and elasticity, or if it is a special compensation, — "Werena my heart licht I wad dee" — Grizel Hume must have had the same.
The Covenanter's Daughter below tells the true story of Grizel Hume's brave deeds in childhood.
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