Cuddle Doon

Alexander Anderson

‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson is a poem about a mother trying to persuade her children to go to sleep. It uses Scots dialect to convey the culture of the speaker and her family.


Alexander Anderson

Nationality: Scottish

Alexander Anderson was a Scottish poet who celebrated nature and the working class through heartfelt verses.

Alexander Anderson wove the essence of Scottish life into his poems.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Children should be allowed to act like children

Speaker: A mother of three children

Emotions Evoked: Frustration, Kindness, Sadness

Poetic Form: Octave

Time Period: 19th Century

'Cuddle Doon' is a poem about a mother's love for her children. It exemplifies Scottish culture and linguistic history through the use of Scots dialect.

Get More from Every Poem

Your one-stop shop for discovering, learning, and enjoying poetry to the max.

‘Cuddle Doon’ is a nineteenth-century poem by Scottish poet Alexander Anderson. Written in the Scots dialect of English, the poem describes the struggles of getting children to settle down and go to sleep at night. Anderson uses vocabulary, syntax, and spelling that reflects Scottish heritage and linguistic history. The poem emphasizes parents’ love for their children as well as the challenges of parenthood.

In ‘Cuddle Doon’, Anderson captures the voice of an exasperated but loving parent. Although the poem describes an ordinary event, the mother’s love for her children and the humor of the poem both make ‘Cuddle Doon’ more memorable and evocative. By writing in Scots dialect, Anderson conjures a clear cultural image that sticks in readers’ minds.

Cuddle Doon
Alexander Anderson

The bairnies cuddle doon at nichtWi muckle faught and din.“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,Your faither’s comin’ in.”They niver heed a word I speak,I try tae gie a froon,But aye I hap’ them up an’ cry“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

Wee Jamie wi’ the curly heid,He aye sleeps next the wa’Bangs up and cries, “I want a piece!”The rascal starts them a’.I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,They stop a wee the soun’,Then draw the blankets up an’ cry,“Noo, weanies, cuddle doon.”

But ere five minutes gang, wee RabCries oot frae neath the claes,“Mither, mak’ Tam gie ower at aince,He’s kittlin’ wi’ his taes.”The mischief in that Tam for tricks,He’d bother half the toon,But aye I hap them up an’ cry,“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

At length they hear their faither’s fitAn’ as he steeks the door,They turn their faces tae the wa’An Tam pretends tae snore.“Hae a’ the weans been gude?” he asks,As he pits aff his shoon.“The bairnies, John, are in their bedsAn’ lang since cuddled doon!”

An’ just afore we bed oorsel’sWe look at oor wee lambs,Tam has his airm roun’ wee Rab’s neckAn Rab his airm roun’ Tam’s.I lift wee Jamie up the bedAn’ as I straik each croon,I whisper till my heart fills up:“Oh, bairnies, cuddled doon!”

The bairnies cuddle doon at nichtWi’ mirth that’s dear tae me.But soon the big warl’s cark an’ careWill quaten doon their glee.Yet come what will to ilka ane,May He who rules aboon,Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”


‘Cuddle Doon’ is a humorous but heartfelt poem that describes a mother’s difficulties in getting her children to sleep at night.

‘Cuddle Doon’ is written from the point of view of a mother trying to persuade her children to go to sleep. Their father will be home soon, so it is late evening. There are several children, all of them young. They refuse to go to sleep, asking for food and drink and complaining about each other to their mother. When their father finally gets home, the children pretend to be asleep. The woman tells her husband that the children have been good, though she is lying.

The parents take a moment to watch their sleeping children before going to bed themselves. The mother recognizes that her children can be difficult when they misbehave, but she also loves them very much. She is aware that in a few years, when they are adults, they will have to contend with more of life’s challenges. They might not always be so carefree, though she hopes they will still be happy. By the end of the poem, the children have finally fallen asleep.

Structure and Form

‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson consists of six stanzas. Each stanza has eight lines. Stanzas follow a consistent rhyme scheme: the second and fourth lines rhyme, as do the sixth and eighth. Another way to write that rhyme scheme is ABCBDEFE, with new rhymes in each stanza.

The rhythm of the poem is iambic. That means that each line consists of iambs: sets of two syllables where the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed. The first, third, fifth, and seventh lines of each stanza have four iambs. The other lines have three iambs each. This means that ‘Cuddle Doon’ is written in iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.

Dialect and Language

The Scots dialect is different from most standard English dialects. Some words in ‘Cuddle Doon’ may be unfamiliar to many readers. “Doon,” which appears in the title and throughout the poem, is the Scot’s spelling of “down.” “Bairnies” are children; “rin” is “run;” “gang” means “go” or “gone,” as in “after five minutes are gone.” “Pits aff his shoon” means “takes off his shoes.” Some spelling choices reflect pronunciation conventions in Scottish accents. “Oorsel’s,” for instance, is “ourselves.”

There are relatively few online resources for the Scots dialect, which can make poems like ‘Cuddle Doon’ more challenging. The poem’s language may present some challenges, but it is also an important representation of Scottish culture and heritage.

Literary Devices

Alexander Anderson uses literary devices to enrich ‘Cuddle Doon.’ Some examples include the following:

  • Repetition: the use of a word or phrase multiple times in a poem. The phrase “Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon” appears in almost every stanza. This repetition serves to illustrate the mother’s frustration but also her affection for her children.
  • Hyperbole: poetic exaggeration for effect. Describing one of her children, the speaker says that he is mischievous enough to “bother half the toon” (town). She is exaggerating to express how much mischief her son gets up to.
  • Metaphor: a direct comparison between two unlike things. The parents look at their “wee lambs,” as they call their children. By comparing the children to lambs, the speaker references their vulnerability.
  • Caesura: a pause in the middle of a line. There are several commas and other forms of punctuation that create pauses in the poem’s lines. These pauses provide space for readers to rest or take a breath if reading out loud.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither’s comin’ in.”
They niver heed a word I speak,
I try tae gie a froon,
But aye I hap’ them up an’ cry
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

The speaker of ‘Cuddle Doon’ introduces her situation. She is trying to persuade her children to go to sleep, but they protest. They are noisy and boisterous instead of calm. She warns them that their father will be home soon as a way to persuade them to behave. This threat proves meaningless, as the children do not listen. The speaker tries to frown at her children, but she does not like to scold them. She holds them and asks them to settle down for the night.

The speaker’s personality comes through strongly in this stanza, as does her relationship with her children. The poem starts by setting up a conflict between the mother’s desires and the children’s determination to stay up late. This section of the poem establishes the pattern that will repeat in each stanza. Although the mother is clearly exasperated, she uses loving and affectionate language to try to persuade her children to sleep.

Stanza Two

Wee Jamie wi’ the curly heid,
He aye sleeps next the wa’
Bangs up and cries, “I want a piece!”
The rascal starts them a’.
I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop a wee the soun’,
Then draw the blankets up an’ cry,
“Noo, weanies, cuddle doon.”

Jamie, one of the children, always sleeps closest to the wall. He gets up and asks his mother for some food, likely a sandwich. His brothers wake up when they hear his request. The speaker gets all of her children food and drink. For a short time, they get quiet and seem to be resting. She pulls the blankets over her children, reminding them that now is the time for sleep.

This stanza of ‘Cuddle Doon’ demonstrates that the speaker is willing to go to great lengths to help her children. She does not simply insist that they go to sleep; she gets them food when they ask her. It is possible to infer that the family is reasonably financially stable, as there is enough food to go around. The food does help the children settle down, and the speaker hopes that they will finally sleep.

Stanza Three

But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot frae neath the claes,
“Mither, mak’ Tam gie ower at aince,
He’s kittlin’ wi’ his taes.”
The mischief in that Tam for tricks,
He’d bother half the toon,
But aye I hap them up an’ cry,
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

Just a few minutes after eating their food and settling down again, the children start to cause more trouble. Rab, likely a young boy called Robert, complains about his brother, Tam. Tam is crowding into Rab’s space and kicking, keeping him awake. The speaker suspects that Rab’s complaint is valid. She knows that Tam often causes trouble. Once again, she comforts her children and persuades them to calm down and go to sleep.

The third stanza of ‘Cuddle Doon’ makes it clear that the speaker of the poem has three young sons. Their ages are never specified, but they are clearly all quite young. Just as she did when the children asked for food, the speaker takes Rab’s complaint seriously. She clearly cares that her boys are comfortable. Although she has now tried to get them to sleep several times, she does not get angry or frustrated.

Stanza Four

At length they hear their faither’s fit
An’ as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces tae the wa’
An Tam pretends tae snore.
“Hae a’ the weans been gude?” he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
“The bairnies, John, are in their beds
An’ lang since cuddled doon!”

Halfway through ‘Cuddle Doon,’ the boys’ father returns home. They hear him walking up the path to the house and immediately pretend to be asleep. One of them pretends to snore. The man takes off his shoes and asks his wife if the children have behaved themselves. She tells him that they are all in bed and long since asleep, which is a lie.

The children are not willing to obey their mother, but they are quick to fall into line when their father returns. Perhaps he is more strict or more likely to punish them than their mother is. The speaker assures her husband that all of the children went to sleep without any issues. It is possible that her husband is aware of the falsehood, or perhaps he does not know about the nightly struggle to get the children to sleep.

Stanza Five

An’ just afore we bed oorsel’s
We look at oor wee lambs,
Tam has his airm roun’ wee Rab’s neck
An Rab his airm roun’ Tam’s.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed
An’ as I straik each croon,
I whisper till my heart fills up:
“Oh, bairnies, cuddled doon!”

Before the parents retire to bed, they check on their sons. By now, the boys really have fallen asleep; they are no longer pretending. Rab and Tam have their arms around each other, their earlier conflict forgotten. The mother lifts Jamie up and puts him in a better position in the bed, suggesting that he was asleep in an uncomfortable-looking position. She strokes her children’s hair and whispers to them, feeling emotional.

Despite the evening’s challenges, both parents check on their children before bed, clearly showing their love and care. The children are finally quiet and get along, which they never did while awake. The mother takes the opportunity to tuck them all in properly. She does not feel angry or frustrated, instead thinking about how innocent the children look now that they are asleep.

Stanza Six

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi’ mirth that’s dear tae me.
But soon the big warl’s cark an’ care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet come what will to ilka ane,
May He who rules aboon,
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

The speaker of ‘Cuddle Doon’ suddenly thinks about the future. She does not resent her children’s silliness, saying that their laughter and mischief are things she cherishes. One day soon, the world will make it more difficult for children to retain that carefree happiness. Despite her worries, she knows that this future is inevitable. She hopes that God will take care of them. Even when they are old and bald, they will still be her children, and she will still want to care for them.

The poem’s ending is bittersweet. The children do not yet have to think about the difficulties of the future. By humoring her children and not getting angry, the speaker ensures that they will have a safe, happy childhood. There will be time later for unhappiness and uncertainty. Perhaps this is why she does not tell her husband about the children’s mischief; she wants to prevent consequences from hurting them for as long as she can.


What language is ‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson written in?

‘Cuddle Doon’ is written in a dialect of English. It is called the Scots dialect, and it developed in Scotland. Scots English is still spoken today, though it is less widespread than it once was.

What is the main theme of ‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson?

The main theme of ‘Cuddle Doon’ is a parent’s love for their children. The speaker loves her children even when they misbehave. She knows they will not always be as carefree as they are now.

What is ‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson about?

‘Cuddle Doon’ is about a mother trying to get her children to go to sleep. They refuse, making many excuses. Although she is exasperated, the mother still feels love for her children.

What is the tone of ‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson?

‘Cuddle Doon’ has a humorous tone. At the poem’s end, the tone becomes more sincere and heartfelt as the mother reflects on her children’s futures.

Similar Poetry

Get More with Poetry+

Upgrade to Poetry+ and get unlimited access to exclusive content.

Printable Poem Guides

Covering every poem on Poem Analysis (all 4,172 and counting).

Printable PDF Resources

Covering Poets, Rhyme Schemes, Movements, Meter, and more.

Ad-Free Experience

Enjoy poetry without adverts.

Talk with Poetry Experts

Comment about any poem and have experts answer.

Tooltip Definitions

Get tooltip definitions throughout Poem Analysis on 880 terms.

Premium Newsletter

Stay up to date with all things poetry.

Sasha Blakeley Poetry Expert
Sasha Blakeley is an experienced poetry expert with a BA in English Literature from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. With a focus on Romanticism, Sasha has extensive knowledge and a passion for English Literature and Poetry. She is a published poet and has written hundreds of high-quality analyses of poems and other literary works.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question about the poem? Ask an expert.x

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Share to...