With very complicated origins and various sets of verses, in many forms, Woo'd And Married And A' first appeared in print in Herd's collection in of 1776, (but had probably been in existence for a considerable time before this), and later in many publications around the 18th century.
Alexander Ross was born to a farming family at Torphins in Aberdeenshire. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen and worked as private tutor for the children of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar. In 1732 he became a headmaster in Lochlee, Angus, where he would live until his death in 1784. He had been in the habit of writing verse for his own amusement when, in 1768, at the suggestion of James Beattie, he published Helenore, or the Fortunate Shepherdess.
A most noteworthy adaptation of the Scottish poem was written by Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), published in The Book of Scottish Song (1843), edited by Alexander Whitelaw.
Joanna Baillie was a Scottish poet and dramatist, known for works including Plays on the Passions (three volumes, 1798-1812) and Fugitive Verses (1840). Her writing exhibits an interest in moral philosophy and the Gothic. She was critically acclaimed during her lifetime, and she associated with important literary contemporaries, including Anna Barbauld, Lucy Aikin, and Walter Scott, while living in Hampstead.
The admirable version of "Woo'd an' married an' a'" by Joanna Baillie (shown here, below the earlier version by Alexander Ross) was first published in Mr. George Thomson's collection of National Melodies.
Woo'd and married, and a',
Married, and woo'd, and a'!
And was she nae very weel off,
That was woo'd, and married and a'?
Out spake the bride's father,
As he cam' in frae the pleugh,
O, haud your tongue, my dochter,
And ye'se get gear eneugh;
The stirk stands i' th' tether,
And our bra' bawsint yade,
Will carry ye hame your corn-
What wad ye be at, ye jade?
Out spake the bride's mither,
What deil needs a' this pride?
I had nae a plack in my pouch
That night I was a bride;
My gown was linsy-woolsy,
And ne'er a sark ava;
And ye ha'e ribbons and buskins,
Mae than ane or twa.
What's the matter, quo' Willie;
Though we be scant o' claes,
We'll creep the closer thegither,
And we'll smoor a' the fleas:
Simmer is coming on,
And we'll get taits o' woo;
And we'll get a lass o' our ain,
And she'll spin claiths anew.
Out spake the bride's brither,
As he came in wi' the kye;
Poor Willie wad ne'er ha'e ta'en ye,
Had he kent ye as weel as I;
For ye're baith proud and saucy,
And no for a poor man's wife;
Gin I canna get a better,
I'se ne'er tak' ane i' my life.
Out spake the bride's sister,
As she came in frae the byre;
O gin I were but married,
It's a' that I desire:
But we poor folk maun live single,
And do the best that we can;
I dinna care what I shou'd want
If I cou'd get but a man.
Her mother then hastily spak':
"The lassie is glaiket wi' pride;
In my poaches I hadna a plack
The day that I was a bride.
E'en tak' to your wheel and be clever,
And draw out your thread in the sun,
The gear that is gifted, it never
Will last like the gear that is won.
Woo'd an' married an' a',
Tocher and havings sae sma'
I think ye are very weel aff,
To be woo'd and married an' a',"
"Toot, toot!" quo' the grey-headed father,
"She's less of a bride than a bairn,
She's ta'en like a cowt frae the heather,
Wi' sense and discretion to learn.
Half husband, I trow, and half daddy,
As humour inconstantly leans;
A chiel may be constant and steady
That yokes wi' a mate in her teens.
'Kerchief to cover so neat,
Locks the winds used to blaw,
I'm baith like to laugh and to creet,
When I think o' her married at a'."
Then out spak' the wily bridegroom,
Weel waled were his wordies I ween;
"I'm rich, though my coffer be toom,
Wi' the blinks o' your bonnie blue een;
I'm prouder o' thee by my side,
Though thy ruffles or ribbons be few,
Than if Kate o' the craft were my bride,
Wi' purples and pearlings enew.
Dear and dearest of ony,
Ye're woo'd and bookit and a',
And do ye think scorn o' your Johnnie,
And grieve to be married at a'."
She turn'd, and she blush'd, and she smil'd,
And she lookit sae bashfully down;
The pride o' her heart was beguil'd,
And she play'd wi' the sleeve o' her gown;
She twirl'd the tag o' her lace,
And she nippet her boddice sae blue,
Syne blinket sae sweet in his face,
And aff like a mawkin she flew.
Woo'd and married and a',
Married and carried awa';
She thinks hersel' very weel aff,
To be woo'd and married and a'.