Auld Man's Mare's Deid
The auld man's mare is deed,
The puir man's mare is fleed,
Shu deed for want o' naething.
Shu nedder deed for mell, or maute,
Nor yet shu deed for kail or saut,
But shu deed for want o' breathin'.
Saxby Shetland Trad. Lore (1932), 63; used as a lullaby.
This may be a traditional variant of a song reputedly
composed by Patrick (Patie) Birnie (fl. 1700), a well-known
rhymer and musician of his day. [Ramsay's "Elegie on Patie
Birnie" (1721) mentions this song.] He was a Fifer, and
"practised the art of a violer at the burgh of Kinghorn"
(Chambers). [Texts in (e.g.) Whitelaw BSS (1875), 128 (2
versions), Ford VSB II.143 (collated), and with music in
Greig Scots Minstrelsie, III.259.] It begins
The auld man's mear's dead;
The puir body's mear's dead;
The auld man's mear's dead,
A mile aboon Dundee.
The sarcastic catch-phrase "He died for want o' breath" is
often given as a reply to the question "How did he die?"
(first heard c. 1940, Fife).