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Tak' It, Man, Tak' It

[ Roud 5591 ; G/D 3:579 ; Ballad Index FVS015 ; trad.]

Andy M. Stewart sang Tak' It, Man, Tak' It in 1987 on his and Manus Lunny's Green Linnet album Dublin Lady. He noted:

I found this unusual song in Ford's Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland, Volume I, published in 1899. This is what Ford has to say about it:

Few songs have enlivened the ploughmen’s bothies of Scotland more frequently than this happily conceived and richly humorous ditty, which may occasionally be heard emanating from the village inns, the smiddies, or the cottage ingle-nooks in the land. The more popular and effective way of rendering it is for the singer to be seated on a chair or form, and to beat a mill-clapper-like accompaniment with his elbows and fists, or with an empty brose-caup, on a table before him.

In Perthshire, to which county it particularly belongs, it has enjoyed perhaps the greatest popularity. Its author David Webster, born in 1787, was a native of Dunblane. He was a weaver to trade, and died at Paisley in 1837.

The song describes how a miller yields to temptation and helps himself to a little of each of his customers’ grain, exchanging this for liquor. He imagines the mill to be the “bad side” of his personality and hears in its sounds and rhythms the irresistible command “Tak’ it, man, tak’ it” (take it, man, take it).

Lyrics

Andy M. Stewart sings Tak' It, Man, Tak' It

When I was a miller in Fife
I thought that the sound of the happer
Said, “Tak' a wee flow to your wife,
To help to mak' brose to your supper.”
Then my conscience was narrow and pure,
But some way by random it rackit;
For I lifted twa neivefu' or mair,
While the happer said, “Tak’ it, man, tak’ it!”

Chorus (after each verse):
Then hey for the mill and the kiln,
The garland and gear for my cogie,
And hey for the whiskey and yill,
That washes the dust frae my cragie.

Although it’s been lang in repute
For rogues to mak’ rich by deceiving,
Yet I see that it disna weel suit
Honest men to begin with the thieving.
For my heart it gaed dunt upon dunt,
Oh, I thought ilka dunt it would crack it;
Sae I flang frae my neive what was in’t,
Still the happer said, “Tak’ it, man, tak’ it!”

A man that’s been bred to the plough,
Might be deav’d wi’ its clamorous clapper;
Yet there’s few but would suffer the sough,
After kenning what’s said by the happer.
I whiles thought it scoff’d me to scorn,
Saying, “Shame, is your conscience no chackit?”
But when I grew dry for a horn,
It chang’d aye to, “Tak’it man, tak’it.”

The smugglers whiles cam’ wi’ their pocks,
‘Cause they kent that I likit a bicker,
Sae I bartered whiles wi’ the gowks,
Gied them grain for a sowp o’ their liquor.
I had long been accustomed to drink,
And aye when I purposed to quat it,
That thing wi’ its clapperty-clink
Said aye to me, “Tak' it, man, tak’ it.”

But the warst thing I did in my life,
Nae doot but ye’ll thing I was wrong o’t
I tauld a bit bodie in Fife
A’ my tale, and he made a bit sang o’t.
I have aye had a voice a’ my days,
But for singin’ I ne’er gat the knack o’t;
Yet I try whyles, just thinkin’ tae please
The greedy, wi’, “Tak’ it, man, tak’ it.”

Now, miller and a’ as I am,
This far I can see through the matter;
There’s men mair notorious to fame,
Mair greedy than me o’ the muter.
For ‘twad seem that the hale race o’ men,
Or, wi’ safety, the hauf we maun tak’ it,
Ha’e some speaking happer within,
That says to them, “Tak’ it, man, tak’ it.”