Legends and Memories of Scotland

Legends and Memories of Scotland - Cora Kennedy Aitken Cora Kennedy Aitken appears to be a reasonably skilled minor poet, but I have been unable to discover anything about her, and this appears to be the only volume she published. The preface is dated from Inverness, but says "This little book was written during a few weeks' residence in Scotland", which seems to imply that she did not ordinarily reside there. However, there is one further autobiographical hint in one of the narrative poems, which tells of a female child bayoneted in the bloody aftermath of Culloden who, we are told in a note, was "the great-grandmother of the writer". (The child survived, obviously).

I did not care so much for the poems written in Scots dialect as the ones in standard English, but in neither was the use of language so egregiously bad as to be distracting from the tales, which tended to be single incidents only. After the first few narratives, I began to get a little worried that every single poem would be about the fall from grace of some religious person or other through love or lust for a woman, but the subject matter did eventually vary a bit! There was a nice tribute to Sir Walter Scott (though he isn't actually named) in the description of Dryburgh Abbey. A lot of the dialect poems are cast in ballad metre, and the author has a nice ear for the rhythm and simplicity of that. I did like the dry baldness with which the story of the thistle was told (it became the national emblem of Scotland after a Norse invader stepped on it during a stealth attack); Aitken chooses her Norse invader (King Erlen) and has her soldier not merely step on a thistle but fall down a bank into a whole patch of them!

The book is illustrated with four photographs (3 castles, and Culloden battlefield), which must make it a fairly early example of that feature, though not by any means the earliest. The photos are faded but still viewable.