The poem references Meg Merrilees, a wild-looking, strident Gypsy woman, one of the principal characters in Guy Mannering (or The Astrologer), a novel by Sir Walter Scott, published anonymously in 1815 immediately after completing his last long narrative poem The Lord Of The Isles.
Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants pods o'Broom,
Her wine was dew o' the wild white rose,
Her book a churchyard tomb.
Her brothers were the craggy hills,
Her Sisters larchen trees -
Alone with her great family
She liv'd as she did please.
No Breakfast had she many a morn,
No dinner many a noon;
And 'stead of supper she would stare
Full hard against the Moon.
But every Morn, of wood bine fresh
She made her garlanding;
And every night the dark glen Yew
She wove and she would sing.
And with her fingers old and brown
She plaited Mats o' Rushes,
And gave them to the Cottagers
She met among the Bushes.
Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen
And tall as Amazon:
An old red blanket cloak she wore
A chip hat had she on -
God rest her aged bones somewhere
She died full long agone!