Dag-a-Man Leanty’s Dumpe1

(hav’ na byn compos’d by Byffe, Bairn an’ Nagel, nae dead a’ sea)2

Aie, nae, dance th’ auld dag-a-man leanty3
Er mae yer goggles a-cyrl,
An’ slag-a-mum4 dyne
On th’ bulgewark o’ thyne,
Wharfor’ th’ yoong Meagre5 wude whyrl.

Aie, splay an’ cavort
On th’ length o’ th’ boort
An swagger dyne fishnet ’n’ fjord,
Fur th’ dag-a-man leanty’s a rumpin’-gude spynne
An’ a manatee’s sher to jymp inn!

[Unintelligible]

Aie, nae, dance th’ auld dag-a-man leanty,
Er mae yer spinet unwynde,
An’ all tha’s lyft bee
O’ th’ leanty is thee
An a whaler’s fyn whump on th’ hynde!

– Byffe, Bairn an’ Nagel, 1872

1. A dumpe was a sixteenth-century instrumental piece for lute or virginal, typically consisting of variations over thought-crushing alternations of tonic and dominant chords. These chords were then overemphasized by a ground bass so that even feeble-minded villagers conceived during famines could follow the score. However, once the tonic was subjugated to the will of the dominant in 1842, the unground bass became more popular with naturalists, and Scottish sailors revived the form. This Scottish variant, the haggis dumpe, proved the formal opposite of its predecessor: a nineteenth-century song for hoarse voice and kelp, typically involving a repeating melody over kaleidoscopic “kelp-chords,” which were hinted at by auditory cloud formations hovering far above the singer’s tessitura. The form attained popularity in a period that lasted between twelve and twenty-six minutes, during which the above example was hastily written.

2. The three composers and librettists of the only surviving haggis dumpe were said to have died in a leanty wreck immediately after composing this piece. It is not clear how the piece survived, though a letter from Cairn MacKlaaaugh mentions the use of extensive “sea funn’ls.” [Dormant Grub, A Concise History of Maritime Doggerel, n.51.]

3. The dag-a-man was a dance that involved moving the right hand back and forth rapidly while gagging. This was said to imitate the gutting of a halibut by a queasy whaler with his special knife, or gh’wobe. The leanty appears to have been either a small fishing boat or an inefficient hat. Both were inclined to sag during periods of heavy rain.

4. To slag-a-mum was a form of linguistic self-protection that involved Scottish sailors slandering their own parents before others could, thus saving their family names from the verbal mishandling of strangers.

5. Young Meagre was an ill-fed ghost featured in seventeenth century folk tales. He is said to have been the spirit of an out-of-work kelper who died while waiting in a ration line.

–Robert C. Hardin


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One thought on “Dag-a-Man Leanty’s Dumpe1

  1. It must be footnoted that the comments on my video’s intro were uttered by none other than Carl Watson. Yes, Watson’s the strapping young cosmetician who responded thus to the idea of writing eighteenth century Scottish sea ditties for fun: “Everybody did that! *I* went through that phase!”

    Further kneenoting must be made of Colin Raff, the sea-dittying crony I mentioned above, who is now marooned in Berlin (or seemed ‘rooned when last I leered).

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