This week’s poem from Antonia Fraser’s anthology of Scottish love poetry is by a poet I’ve never heard of. Born in 1735, Robert Graham of Gartmore (picture from here) was a politician, a landowner & a poet & this is his best-known poem. It’s been set to music twice, by the poet’s great-great-grandson the Rev Malise Graham & also by Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan fame.
O Tell Me How To Woo Thee is a lovely poem, full of joyful determination on the part of the wooer. He doesn’t sound too desperately unhappy so I think he’s had enough encouragement from his beloved to hope that his love will be returned. She just wants to make him wait a little longer, & prove just how much he loves her, that’s all.
If doughty deeds my ladye please,
Right soon I’ll mount my steed;
And strong his arm, and fast his seat,
That bears frae me the meed.
I’ll wear thy colours in my cap,
Thy picture in my heart;
And he that bends not to thine eye,
Shall rue it to his smart.
Then tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I’ll take,
Tho’ ne’er another trow me.
If gay attire delight thine eye,
I’ll dight me in array;
I’ll tend thy chamber door all night,
And squire thee all the day.
If sweetest sounds can win thy ear,
These sounds I’ll strive to catch;
Thy voice I’ll steal to woo thysel’,
That voice that nane can match.
But if fond love thy heart can gain,
I never broke a vow;
Nae maiden lays her skaith to me,
I never loved but you.
For you alone I ride the ring,
For you I wear the blue;
For you alone I strive to sing,
O tell me how to woo!