View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Sheena Blackhall.


Poems in Scots for Weddings

Choosing a selection of Scots poems suitable for weddings was an interesting project. Trawling through the vast literature threw up some unexpected insights and problems too. In the case of many poets who wrote in Scots and English there was no easy way to extricate the Scots language work, one had to read the English too (eg Stevenson and George MacDonald).Then it seemed some of the bilingual poets kept Scots for humorous or satirical subjects and would instinctively revert to English for anything upbeat or ceremonial.

There was the preponderance of narrative in earlier writing,  Many possible narrative poems about weddings appeared, and had to be selected from so as not to have too many similar pieces. To some extent this was also true of the lyrical love poems  in the Burns tradition. There was an overlap between traditional and owned pieces.

Another factor was the high incidence of religion in Scots love poems, and still more the association of love with loss and death. A prime example of this tradition is William Soutar's O Luely; luely she cam in/ and luely she lay doun. Beautiful though this poem is, it and its ilk are completely unsuitable for weddings. As indeed were the most of the poems by the twentieth century group of women poets whose generally rather dispirited  love poems were almost always associated with loss. On the other hand the important twentieth century male Scots poets were not concerned with sentimental love, but were more inclined to science, politics, social observation and humour as subjects of poetry.
Here are the dozen suggested Scots poems suitable for weddings that I have brought back as trophies from this exploration. I hope they will be of interest to you. First there are a few practical  points I would  like to note:

1) You are not  allowed to have any religious references in poems at a civil wedding ceremony. You may be asked to send in your proposed readings in advance for this reason.
2) Make sure that any reader has a good Scots voice, and can handle the reading.
3) Poems written by people who died after 1943 are copyright, but you do not need any permission to use them for private events such as a wedding.
4) You may adapt the wording of poems at private events to suit your purposes if you so wish.

5) Don't forget you may write your own poem, or ask a friend who can compose Scots to provide one, if you wish.