On 20 August 1872, poet William Miller died. Known as “the laureate of the nursery”, Miller wrote mainly children’s verse. He is best remembered for the classic, Wee Willie Winkie.
Miller never managed to make a career solely as a poet and worked as a cabinet-maker and wood turner for most of his life, dying penniless in Glasgow’s East End. However, his memory lingered and public subscription paid for a monument to him in Glasgow’s Necropolis.
Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toun,
Up stairs and doon stairs in his nicht-goun,
Tirlin’ at the window, cryin’ at the lock,
‘Are the weans in their bed, for it’s noo ten o'clock?’
'Hey, Willie Winkie, are ye comin’ ben? The cat’s singin’ grey thrums to the sleepin’ hen, The dog’s spelder’d on the floor, and disna gi'e a cheep, But here’s a waukrife laddie that winna fa’ asleep!’
Onything but sleep, you rogue! glow'ring like the mune, Rattlin’ in an airn jug wi’ an airn spune, Rumblin’, tumblin’ round about, crawin’ like a cock, Skirlin’ like a kenna-what, wauk'nin’ sleepin’ fock.
'Hey, Willie Winkie - the wean’s in a creel! Wambling aff a bodie’s knee like a verra eel, Ruggin’ at the cat’s lug, and ravelin’ a’ her thrums Hey, Willie Winkie - see, there he comes!’
Wearit is the mither that has a stoorie wean, A wee stumple stoussie, that canna rin his lane, That has a battle aye wi’ sleep before he’ll close an ee But a kiss frae aff his rosy lips gies strength anew to me.
Meaning of unusual words: Tirlin’=rapping ben=through thrums=purring spelderd=spread out waukrife laddie=insomniac boy glow'ring=shining mune=moon airn=iron Skirlin’=shrieking with excitement kenna-what=something or other creel=deep basket Wambling=wriggling Ruggin’=tugging lug=ear ravelin’=confusing thrums=purring stoorie=dusty stumple stoussie=short, sturdy child
Willful. She knew of Faerie but expected a straight answer. Airn’s grin widened. “Apologies, m’lady, for the misunderstanding.”
Even though he apologized his grin and obvious amusement at the whole thing made her think the exact opposite of him. She doubted that he was sorry at all. Amanda brought in a deep breath of air before she looked away from him for the first time since they started talking. She took in her immediate surroundings, anyone else there, and looked for anything that looked familiar.
A moment more and then she looked back at Airn. She hugged the cloth that had been wrapped around her shoulders tight, brushing wet hair out her face. “Am I guessing right that your belief in thinking you can take what ever you want, is going to completely ignore my desire to go home?”
It was a lazy day in the Great Hall. The sort of day that
made most of the Lords and Ladies yearn for open sea. Despite being Fomoire, though,
they knew their duty. And sometimes that duty was listening to droning and hoping
for a brawl to break out.
Lord Captain Airn Rhymer sat with his hat cocked low over
his eyes, his feet propped on the table in front of him. He really should’ve
brought Genevieve today. At least then he’d have a distraction from whatever
was being said.
When the doors slammed open, every head perked up, ready for
some excitement. The messenger who sprinted in was buzzing, far too excited to
observe courtly procedure like knocking.
Or like making sure he got his message to the spymistress instead of blurting
it in childlike joy.
“Balor’s eye! They’ve found Balor’s eye!”
Not a breath. Not a single breath. As if they’d all suddenly
been plunged beneath the waves. Personally, Airn felt a chill of cold, then
hot, his vision spinning along with his mind. Balor’s eye. Their legacy. Practically the soul of their people. Found?
Lord Alasai grabbed the vibrating runner by the scruff of
his neck, yanking him close. “Where?”
Now the spy began to consider, his thoughts catching up to
him. He’d just yelled that he knew the location of the greatest treasure known
to Fomoire to a pack of wolves desperate for a hunt. Still no one breathed,
though most had leaned forward, picked up hats, subtle little movements of
“I…I shouldn’t…” the boy tried lamely.
Alasai drew a hooked blade and the spy squeezed his eyes
shut, apparently deciding he’d rather dodge punishment later than face pain
“In the mortal realm! A girl! A girl has it! A place called Chicago!”
Alasai tossed the runner to the floor, sprinting for the door
with the entire Fomorian Court on his heels.
Smuggling was possibly his least favorite activity. Second only to slave transport. At least smuggling didn’t involve things that could bite and scream and cry and generally disturb his day. Usually. But it was just so dull. Still, these things had to be done, so here they were, knee deep in briny, carting crates out of the cache and into the longboat. It was hard work and so the captain was in amongst the crew, stripped of jacket and boots, tossing chests of dragon bone and griffon feather and other paraphernalia from poached beasts. Along with a cask or two of stolen dwarven ale that the northern tribeland lords craved enough to pay a king’s ransom for.
The sea cave stash had to be emptied before the tide came in, but none of the crew batted an eye or showed an inch of panic that the tunnel could suddenly rush with water. They were all strong swimmers and remembered the way out. It was mostly quiet, until one of the crew would begin to hum a shanty and the rest took it up with low vibrating harmonies usually reserved for ancient choirs. Occasionally a joke would be muttered and laughter would burst, but for the most part they were professionals and they all wanted to be done quick and back to their day.
With the last of the bounty tripping along down the line of pirates, Airn emerged back into sunlight and stretched once, feeling tense muscle ease in the fresh balmy air. His flagship floated in the visible distance, dominating the skyline, anchored and waiting. Some of the longboats had begun their trek back to her, the rest lingering near the beach as they were loaded. A nearby sailor handed him a flask and Airn eased his gaze to the side enough to spot a change in scenery from when they’d arrived at the cove.
A figure, willow-curved and tall–and not so far away that he’d need a spyglass to tell she was as lovely as she was misplaced. There was a fishing village in the bay not half a league behind him, but only the quickest nixies dared play on this particular stretch of shore. Too many tales. Whispered rumors. Too much blood in the sand. The traveler’s skin was even paler than the white beach beneath her, odd in a place where the sun shone hot and most spent every minute of every day under the beating rays.
What a treasure.
“Cap’n, we’re set.”
Airn didn’t turn to acknowledge the information, still leaning on his elbow against the mouth of the cave, flask held loose and dark eyes intent. Eventually, the sailor who’d spoken stepped up beside him to see what the captain saw.
“Want I should get some of the lads to grab her?”
Airn took a breath, as if considering, then sighed it out in refusal. “I’ll go alone. No one sunbathes on this beach. She’s either ignorant, or too powerful to care. I’m going to see which it is.”
He started off without any further fanfare, dressed only in a loose shirt and tighter breeches. Simpler than most Pirate Lords would be upon approaching outsiders. But his hat and jacket and weapon belts were away back on the Tempest and he liked the feel of warm sand on bare feet.
“Without your sword, Cap'n?”
Airn paused in his stride and turned, very slowly, to level a warning glare. It was an idiotic question, akin to grabbing a king by the arm, and the sailor shrank visibly and gave a quick nod, eyes averted to the ground.
“Aye, Cap'n. Of course. We’ll have everything squared in the hold by the time you get back.”
Unworried about that truth, Airn was busy rethinking his strategy a bit. He peeled the iron chain from around his neck and the ring from his finger, tossing both back toward the sailor, who looked up just in time to catch them nimbly. The boy’s jaw tightened in pain as he gripped the items, but he made not a sound when he frowned in confusion at his leader.
The captain grinned. “Wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression, would we?”
And then he strolled on, breathing even deeper without his weights.