The fire was kindled and snapping, sending pixie embers into the gentle breeze already combing the barley fields north from the Cowcaddens. This traveling band’s encampment was presently but an acre’s edge from the Monkland. They could hear its waters lulling the daylight as it twisted through the Scottish dusk.
“Only a moment, my lads,” the minstrel teased with a toothy smile and leaned to his satchel, taking the gittern into hand but plinking a string by mistake. “I be not greedy, friends. Lend me only one of your two ears and we shall send the sun into her dullness and torpor, and in the goodbye we will befriend the eve’s denizens.”
He plucked at the strings and found his beginning. The others, even those attending to business, were carried to a place near the flames. And as the songster began his first few lines, the flames seemed to catch his rhythm and give way to his choices and changes.
“Aye, to the miles and lochs tha’ bind them,” he purred, “thar is but near to mine lads a Dundas, and a fine fellow he be…”
The sitting men tapped, and the standing men swayed. The minstrel observed the gazes and chose his lyrics from nothing, but did so quite mindful of the gathered jury.
“Look, the Lawrence is the man we pray will take us,” he trilled, “and is he nearest yon hill and the bond’ry sea…”
He kept the cadence, and more and more the men gave both ears as to one. More and more the embers encircled him, keeping near as to learn mortal lore.
“For there she resides, the lass, and she’s a sof’ened haze of the Norseman’s bees,” he sang with vigor. “Her honey, nay but a perfect bussing tha’ brin’ a good man to ’is knees.”
The men knew the scent he was foretelling – a whisky’s kiss – for no woman all the way through to the Clyde and Forth at the city’s midpoint could awash a man’s mind with such occultist enchantment.
The song carried on, and the camp drew together. Even the overarching trees appeared to clasp one another’s limbs, their lowest forming a gallery and their loftiest a chandelier twirling by the sky’s southern breath – all together shaping the darker havens in nearby Glasgow, stone and thatch firms filled with willing women and fools, ales and whisky – but just the whisky of the minstrel’s hypnotic claim – the Port Dundas 12-year-old.
“And with, why a ginger, will ne’er leave thee weary.” He went to the higher strings, “a’fore one knows her sweet and oaky relish, aye, her ‘nilla and careful creams.”
Some of the men were overcome by the skillful description of a common love. The weaker ones stared while the sturdier, the honest, appeared to gather their wits and their belongings. This was of little bother to the minstrel. He smiled and finished the next lyric.
“O, she leaves, yea, done ‘ere but stays a medium moment even as she serves ‘er fruits,” he teased, “peaches and sweet plums pluck’d from a dist’n jungle’s screams.”
One by one, as if fate had chosen them each by lot for a particular moment, the men forsook the camp that very night and wearied their already belabored horses to finish the journey before the deepest of the night could exhaust and dissuade them further.
All else a haze but the singular crispness of mind to reach the city’s gates, to gaze upon and taste the minstrel’s muse which had been chanted an hour or less before in that same night. But now it was so long ago, and as many miles behind them as when they may have first began. Their hearts were set to another end, and were content as to have acquired the Port Dundas 12-year-old.
Can you tell I kinda liked this stuff?