'Lang Coortin', The' by Lewis Carroll

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The ladye she stood at her lattice high,
Wi' her doggie at her feet;
Thorough the lattice she can spy
The passers in the street,

"There's one that standeth at the door,
And tirleth at the pin:
Now speak and say, my popinjay,
If I sall let him in."

Then up and spake the popinjay
That flew abune her head:
"Gae let him in that tirls the pin:
He cometh thee to wed."

O when he cam' the parlour in,
A woeful man was he!
"And dinna ye ken your lover agen,
Sae well that loveth thee?"

"And how wad I ken ye loved me, Sir,
That have been sae lang away?
And how wad I ken ye loved me, Sir?
Ye never telled me sae."

Said - "Ladye dear," and the salt, salt tear
Cam' rinnin' doon his cheek,
"I have sent the tokens of my love
This many and many a week.

"O didna ye get the rings, Ladye,
The rings o' the gowd sae fine?
I wot that I have sent to thee
Four score, four score and nine."

"They cam' to me," said that fair ladye.
"Wow, they were flimsie things!"
Said - "that chain o' gowd, my doggie to howd,
It is made o' thae self-same rings."

"And didna ye get the locks, the locks,
The locks o' my ain black hair,
Whilk I sent by post, whilk I sent by box,
Whilk I sent by the carrier?"

"They cam' to me," said that fair ladye;
"And I prithee send nae mair!"
Said - "that cushion sae red, for my doggie's head,
It is stuffed wi' thae locks o' hair."

"And didna ye get the letter, Ladye,
Tied wi' a silken string,
Whilk I sent to thee frae the far countrie,
A message of love to bring?"

"It cam' to me frae the far countrie
Wi' its silken string and a';
But it wasna prepaid," said that high-born maid,
"Sae I gar'd them tak' it awa'."

"O ever alack that ye sent it back,
It was written sae clerkly and well!
Now the message it brought, and the boon that it sought,
I must even say it mysel'."

Then up and spake the popinjay,
Sae wisely counselled he.
"Now say it in the proper way:
Gae doon upon thy knee!"

The lover he turned baith red and pale,
Went doon upon his knee:
"O Ladye, hear the waesome tale
That must be told to thee!

"For five lang years, and five lang years,
I coorted thee by looks;
By nods and winks, by smiles and tears,
As I had read in books.

"For ten lang years, O weary hours!
I coorted thee by signs;
By sending game, by sending flowers,
By sending Valentines.

"For five lang years, and five lang years,
I have dwelt in the far countrie,
Till that thy mind should be inclined
Mair tenderly to me.

"Now thirty years are gane and past,
I am come frae a foreign land:
I am come to tell thee my love at last -
O Ladye, gie me thy hand!"

The ladye she turned not pale nor red,
But she smiled a pitiful smile:
"Sic' a coortin' as yours, my man," she said
"Takes a lang and a weary while!"

And out and laughed the popinjay,
A laugh of bitter scorn:
"A coortin' done in sic' a way,
It ought not to be borne!"

Wi' that the doggie barked aloud,
And up and doon he ran,
And tugged and strained his chain o' gowd,
All for to bite the man.

"O hush thee, gentle popinjay!
O hush thee, doggie dear!
There is a word I fain wad say,
It needeth he should hear!"

Aye louder screamed that ladye fair
To drown her doggie's bark:
Ever the lover shouted mair
To make that ladye hark:

Shrill and more shrill the popinjay
Upraised his angry squall:
I trow the doggie's voice that day
Was louder than them all!

The serving-men and serving-maids
Sat by the kitchen fire:
They heard sic' a din the parlour within
As made them much admire.

Out spake the boy in buttons
(I ween he wasna thin),
"Now wha will tae the parlour gae,
And stay this deadlie din?"

And they have taen a kerchief,
Casted their kevils in,
For wha will tae the parlour gae,
And stay that deadlie din.

When on that boy the kevil fell
To stay the fearsome noise,
"Gae in," they cried, "whate'er betide,
Thou prince of button-boys!"

Syne, he has taen a supple cane
To swinge that dog sae fat:
The doggie yowled, the doggie howled
The louder aye for that.

Syne, he has taen a mutton-bane -
The doggie ceased his noise,
And followed doon the kitchen stair
That prince of button-boys!

Then sadly spake that ladye fair,
Wi' a frown upon her brow:
"O dearer to me is my sma' doggie
Than a dozen sic' as thou!

"Nae use, nae use for sighs and tears:
Nae use at all to fret:
Sin' ye've bided sae well for thirty years,
Ye may bide a wee langer yet!"

Sadly, sadly he crossed the floor
And tirled at the pin:
Sadly went he through the door
Where sadly he cam' in.

"O gin I had a popinjay
To fly abune my head,
To tell me what I ought to say,
I had by this been wed.

"O gin I find anither ladye,"
He said wi' sighs and tears,
"I wot my coortin' sall not be
Anither thirty years

"For gin I find a ladye gay,
Exactly to my taste,
I'll pop the question, aye or nay,
In twenty years at maist."

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Lang Coortin'" by Lewis Carroll: A Masterpiece of Playful Verse

Are you familiar with Lewis Carroll? Of course, you are! Who doesn't know the author of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass"? But did you know that Carroll (real name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was also a prolific poet? Yes, indeed! And one of his most delightful and underrated poems is "Lang Coortin'," a playful and witty piece that showcases Carroll's mastery of verse and his love of wordplay and nonsense.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the many layers of meaning and the sheer joy of reading "Lang Coortin'," analyzing its form, themes, language, and style. Get ready to enter the whimsical world of Carroll's poetry and to appreciate his genius in a new light.

Form and Structure

Let's start with the basics. "Lang Coortin'" is a ballad, a narrative poem that tells a story in verse. It consists of eight stanzas, each composed of six lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, meaning that the first four lines of each stanza follow a pattern of alternating rhymes, while the last two lines have the same rhyme. Here's the first stanza as an example:

A young Lady lived under the Hill,
And a young Knight lived close by:
They loved each other passing well,
But never a word said high:
If the Lady looked towards the Hill,
The Knight looked back to the Sky.

Notice how the rhymes create a musical quality and a sense of closure at the end of each stanza, while the rhythm is mostly iambic, meaning that each line has two syllables, with the second one stressed: "A young LA-dy lived UN-der the HILL." This regularity of meter and rhyme gives the poem a sense of stability and balance, which contrasts with the playful and unpredictable language and imagery that we'll explore later on.

Another feature of the poem's form is the repetition of certain phrases, such as "under the Hill," "close by," and "looked back to the Sky." These repetitions serve to create a sense of continuity and to emphasize the key elements of the story, which we'll examine next.

Themes and Meaning

At its core, "Lang Coortin'" is a love story. It tells the tale of a young lady and a young knight who are in love with each other but are too shy or hesitant to express their feelings openly. Instead, they communicate through glances and gestures, and their love remains unspoken for a long time. This theme of unrequited or unexpressed love is a common one in literature, but Carroll infuses it with his trademark humor and lightness of touch.

One of the key themes of the poem is the contrast between appearance and reality, or between what is seen and what is hidden. The young lady lives "under the Hill," which suggests a hidden or secluded place, while the young knight lives "close by," which implies a more visible or accessible location. Yet, despite their physical proximity, they are emotionally distant, and their love remains hidden from the world. The fact that they "never a word said high" suggests that they are either too shy or too proud to confess their love openly, and that they prefer to keep it a secret.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the power of nature and the elements. The young lady and the young knight are both associated with natural elements: the lady with the earth and the hill, and the knight with the sky and perhaps the sun. This dichotomy creates a sense of balance and harmony, as if the two lovers are complementary parts of a larger whole. The fact that they "looked towards" their respective elements suggests a connection with the natural world that transcends their individual identities and desires.

Yet, this connection is also fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty. The fact that the knight "looked back" to the sky, rather than forward or upward, suggests a sense of hesitation or doubt, as if he is not sure of his own feelings or of the lady's. Similarly, the fact that the lady "looked towards" the hill, rather than up or down, suggests a sense of longing or perhaps even imprisonment, as if she is yearning for something beyond her reach or control.

Overall, the themes of love, appearance vs. reality, and nature vs. human emotions create a rich tapestry of meaning that invites multiple interpretations and readings.

Language and Style

Now, let's turn to the real gems of "Lang Coortin'": the language and style. Carroll was a master of wordplay, puns, and nonsense, and this poem is no exception. From the very first line, we are transported to a world of whimsy and fantasy:

A young Lady lived under the Hill,

The phrase "under the Hill" is already a bit odd, as it suggests a place that is both hidden and underground. But it's the next line that really sets the tone for the rest of the poem:

And a young Knight lived close by:

The pun on "close by" and "coortin'" (a Scottish dialect word for courting or wooing) is both clever and silly, and it immediately signals to the reader that this is not a serious or solemn love story. Instead, Carroll invites us to join him in a playful and imaginative romp, where language is a game and words are toys to be played with.

Throughout the poem, Carroll delights in inventing new words, twisting old ones, and creating unexpected rhymes and rhythms. Here are some examples:

Carroll's style is also characterized by a sense of playfulness and whimsy that permeates every line. He uses repetition, alliteration, and onomatopoeia to create a sense of rhythm and musicality, as well as to emphasize key words and phrases. For example, the repetition of "close by" in the first two stanzas creates a sense of proximity and intimacy, while the repeated "looked" in the last two stanzas suggests a sense of longing and yearning.

Overall, the language and style of "Lang Coortin'" are a joy to read and to explore, as they reveal the boundless imagination and creativity of Lewis Carroll.


In conclusion, "Lang Coortin'" is a masterpiece of playful verse, a poem that combines the themes of love, appearance vs. reality, and nature vs. human emotions with a language and style that are both clever and silly, both musical and whimsical. Lewis Carroll's genius shines through in every line, inviting us to enter a world of imagination and joy. Whether you're a fan of poetry, of Lewis Carroll, or of language itself, "Lang Coortin'" is a must-read that will leave you smiling and charmed. So go ahead, give it a try, and join the young lady and the young knight in their lang coortin' under the hill!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Lang Coortin', The: A Masterpiece by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is a renowned English author, mathematician, and logician. He is best known for his literary works, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. However, one of his lesser-known works, Poetry Lang Coortin', The, is a masterpiece in its own right.

Poetry Lang Coortin', The is a poem that was first published in 1869 in the magazine, The Train. The poem is written in a Scottish dialect and tells the story of a young couple who are courting. The poem is full of humor, wit, and charm, and it showcases Carroll's mastery of language and his ability to create vivid and memorable characters.

The poem begins with the narrator introducing the two main characters, Jock and Jean. Jock is a young man who is trying to court Jean, a young woman who is not easily impressed. The narrator describes Jock as a "brawny chiel" who is "fain to win a wife." Jean, on the other hand, is described as a "bonnie lassie" who is "canny and discreet."

The poem is written in a Scottish dialect, which adds to its charm and authenticity. The dialect is not difficult to understand, and it adds to the overall tone and atmosphere of the poem. The use of dialect also helps to create a sense of place and time, and it transports the reader to a different era and culture.

The poem is full of humor and wit, and it is clear that Carroll had a lot of fun writing it. The characters of Jock and Jean are both endearing and amusing, and their interactions are both entertaining and insightful. For example, when Jock tries to impress Jean by reciting poetry, she is not impressed and tells him that she prefers "plain English." This exchange is both humorous and revealing, as it shows the different expectations and preferences of the two characters.

The poem also showcases Carroll's mastery of language and his ability to create vivid and memorable characters. The characters of Jock and Jean are both well-developed, and their personalities and quirks are clearly defined. Jock is a confident and outgoing young man who is not afraid to take risks, while Jean is more reserved and cautious. Their differences create a dynamic and engaging relationship that is both realistic and entertaining.

The poem also has a deeper meaning that is worth exploring. At its core, Poetry Lang Coortin', The is a commentary on the nature of courtship and relationships. Jock and Jean are both trying to navigate the complex and often confusing world of love and romance, and their experiences are both relatable and insightful. The poem explores themes such as communication, expectations, and the importance of being true to oneself.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which it subverts traditional gender roles. Jean is not a passive or submissive character, but rather a strong and independent woman who is not easily swayed by Jock's charms. She is not afraid to speak her mind and to challenge Jock's assumptions and expectations. This is a refreshing and empowering portrayal of a female character, especially given the time period in which the poem was written.

Overall, Poetry Lang Coortin', The is a masterpiece of poetry that showcases Lewis Carroll's talent and creativity. The poem is full of humor, wit, and charm, and it offers a unique and insightful perspective on the nature of courtship and relationships. The characters of Jock and Jean are both memorable and endearing, and their interactions are both entertaining and enlightening. The use of dialect adds to the authenticity and atmosphere of the poem, and it helps to transport the reader to a different time and place. If you are a fan of poetry or literature in general, then Poetry Lang Coortin', The is definitely worth reading.

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