Land o' the Leal, The
DESCRIPTION: "I am wearing awa', Jean, Like snaw when it's thaw, Jean; I'm wearing awa' tae the land o' the leal...." The (old man) recalls the hard times they have been through, and looks forward to a happier life
AUTHOR: Caroline Oliphaunt, Lady Nairne
EARLIEST DATE: 1910 (Eliot)
KEYWORDS: love separation death
FOUND IN: Britain
REFERENCES (3 citations):
ADDITIONAL: Alfred M. Williams, _Studies in Folk-Song and Popular Poetry_, Houghton Mifflin, 1894, pp. 106-107, "[The Land of the Leal]" (1 text)
Charles W. Eliot, editor, English Poetry Vol II From Collins to Fitzgerald (New York, 1910), #330, p. 560, "The Land o' the Leal" (by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne)
cf. "Be Kin' to Yer Nainsel, John" (parody)
NOTES: One of Lady Nairn's most popular pieces, reprinted in works such as Palgrave's Golden Treasury. Gordeanna McCulloch sings a song, "Be Kind Tae Yer Nainsel," which purports to be from oral tradition and which has many of the same lyrics but a rather different purpose. I do not know whether it inspired Lady Nairn's song, or was inspired by it; the notes on the recording imply the former.
Williams, pp. 105-106, declares "In its original and simplest form, before [Lady Nairn] had interpolated a verse to express some of her theological ideas, it is the perfect interpretation of a sweet, solemn, and simple thought, the tenderest and purest emotion, breathed in an equally simple, but absolutely perfect melody, that is like the flowing of limpid water, crystal clear and unbroken to the end. The heart of the world has responded, and it has a place like none other in the history of song."
Williams has a capsule biography of Lady Nairn on pp. 102-130 of his book, noting that she was born in 1766 to a staunchly Jacobite family; her father had fought in the "Forty-Five" (p. 108). Her parents had to marry in exile (p. 123). Carolina (sometimes Caroline) Oliphant was named after Bonnie Prince Charlie (p. 108). She came to be called "The Flower of Strathearn" (p. 109), although the surviving portraits of her do not strike me as very beautiful.
She apparently preferred anonymity from the very start; her first verses, "The Ploughman," are said to have been presented by her brother at a Harvest Home dinner being by an unknown author (p. 110). Her works were published anonymously in her lifetime (p. 107).
"The Land o' the Leal was written for Mrs. Archibald Campbell Colquhoun, a dear friend of Miss Oliphant, upon the death of an infant daughter, and to one other only was the secret of its authorship ever definitively disclosed" (p. 111).
"Somewhat late in life Carolina Oliphant married her cousin, Major William Nairne, the heir to the forfeited Barony of Nairne, Assistant Inspector-General of Barracks in Scotland, and with him removed to Edinburgh, where she occupied for a time a cottage in Portobello and afterward official quarters in Holyrood place" (pp. 111-112).
Williams considers the freedom and gaity of her life to have faded as she grew older, even though her husband was eventually restored to his barony by George IV. She became a staunch and rigid Calvinist (p. 112); she did not even allow her son to learn to dance (p. 113). - RBW
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