But yet, O Lord! confess I must, At times I'm fash'd wi' fleshly lust: An' sometimes, too, in wardly trust, Vile self gets in: But Thou remembers we are dust, Defil'd wi' sin.
O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi' Meg— Thy pardon I sincerely beg, O! may't ne'er be a livin plague To my dishonour, An' I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg Again upon her.
Besides, I farther maun allow, Wi' Leezie's lass, three times I trow— But Lord, that Friday I was fou, When I cam near her; Or else, Thou kens, Thy servant true Wad never steer her.
Maybe Thou lets this fleshly thorn Buffet Thy servant e'en and morn, Lest he owre proud and high shou'd turn, That he's sae gifted: If sae, Thy han' maun e'en be borne, Until Thou lift it.
Lord, bless Thy chosen in this place, For here Thou hast a chosen race: But God confound their stubborn face, An' blast their name, Wha bring Thy elders to disgrace An' public shame.
Lord, mind Gaw'n Hamilton's deserts; He drinks, an' swears, an' plays at cartes, Yet has sae mony takin arts, Wi' great and sma', Frae God's ain priest the people's hearts He steals awa.
An' when we chasten'd him therefor, Thou kens how he bred sic a splore, An' set the warld in a roar O' laughing at us;— Curse Thou his basket and his store, Kail an' potatoes.
Lord, hear my earnest cry and pray'r, Against that Presbyt'ry o' Ayr; Thy strong right hand, Lord, make it bare Upo' their heads; Lord visit them, an' dinna spare, For their misdeeds.
O Lord, my God! that glib-tongu'd Aiken, My vera heart and flesh are quakin, To think how we stood sweatin', shakin, An' p-'d wi' dread, While he, wi' hingin lip an' snakin, Held up his head.
Lord, in Thy day o' vengeance try him, Lord, visit them wha did employ him, And pass not in Thy mercy by 'em, Nor hear their pray'r, But for Thy people's sake, destroy 'em, An' dinna spare.
But, Lord, remember me an' mine Wi' mercies temp'ral an' divine, That I for grace an' gear may shine, Excell'd by nane, And a' the glory shall be thine, Amen, Amen!
Epitaph On Holy Willie
Here Holy Willie's sair worn clay Taks up its last abode; His saul has ta'en some other way, I fear, the left-hand road.
Stop! there he is, as sure's a gun, Poor, silly body, see him; Nae wonder he's as black's the grun, Observe wha's standing wi' him.
Your brunstane devilship, I see, Has got him there before ye; But haud your nine-tail cat a wee, Till ance you've heard my story.
Your pity I will not implore, For pity ye have nane; Justice, alas! has gi'en him o'er, And mercy's day is gane.
But hear me, Sir, deil as ye are, Look something to your credit; A coof like him wad stain your name, If it were kent ye did it.
Death and Doctor Hornbook
A True Story
Some books are lies frae end to end, And some great lies were never penn'd: Ev'n ministers they hae been kenn'd, In holy rapture, A rousing whid at times to vend, And nail't wi' Scripture.
But this that I am gaun to tell, Which lately on a night befell, Is just as true's the Deil's in hell Or Dublin city: That e'er he nearer comes oursel' 'S a muckle pity.
The clachan yill had made me canty, I was na fou, but just had plenty; I stacher'd whiles, but yet too tent aye To free the ditches; An' hillocks, stanes, an' bushes, kenn'd eye Frae ghaists an' witches.
The rising moon began to glowre The distant Cumnock hills out-owre: To count her horns, wi' a my pow'r, I set mysel'; But whether she had three or four, I cou'd na tell.
I was come round about the hill, An' todlin down on Willie's mill, Setting my staff wi' a' my skill, To keep me sicker; Tho' leeward whiles, against my will, I took a bicker.
I there wi' Something did forgather, That pat me in an eerie swither; An' awfu' scythe, out-owre ae shouther, Clear-dangling, hang; A three-tae'd leister on the ither Lay, large an' lang.
Its stature seem'd lang Scotch ells twa, The queerest shape that e'er I saw, For fient a wame it had ava; And then its shanks, They were as thin, as sharp an' sma' As cheeks o' branks.
"Guid-een," quo' I; "Friend! hae ye been mawin, When ither folk are busy sawin!"^1 I seem'd to make a kind o' stan' But naething spak; At length, says I, "Friend! whare ye gaun? Will ye go back?"
It spak right howe,—"My name is Death, But be na fley'd."—Quoth I, "Guid faith, Ye're maybe come to stap my breath; But tent me, billie; I red ye weel, tak care o' skaith See, there's a gully!"
"Gudeman," quo' he, "put up your whittle, I'm no designed to try its mettle; But if I did, I wad be kittle To be mislear'd; I wad na mind it, no that spittle Out-owre my beard."
"Weel, weel!" says I, "a bargain be't; Come, gie's your hand, an' sae we're gree't; We'll ease our shanks an tak a seat— Come, gie's your news; This while ye hae been mony a gate, At mony a house."^2
[Footnote 1: This recontre happened in seed-time, 1785.—R.B.]
[Footnote 2: An epidemical fever was then raging in that country.—R.B.]
"Ay, ay!" quo' he, an' shook his head, "It's e'en a lang, lang time indeed Sin' I began to nick the thread, An' choke the breath: Folk maun do something for their bread, An' sae maun Death.
"Sax thousand years are near-hand fled Sin' I was to the butching bred, An' mony a scheme in vain's been laid, To stap or scar me; Till ane Hornbook's^3 ta'en up the trade, And faith! he'll waur me.
"Ye ken Hornbook i' the clachan, Deil mak his king's-hood in spleuchan! He's grown sae weel acquaint wi' Buchan^4 And ither chaps, The weans haud out their fingers laughin, An' pouk my hips.
"See, here's a scythe, an' there's dart, They hae pierc'd mony a gallant heart; But Doctor Hornbook, wi' his art An' cursed skill, Has made them baith no worth a f-t, Damn'd haet they'll kill!
"'Twas but yestreen, nae farther gane, I threw a noble throw at ane; Wi' less, I'm sure, I've hundreds slain; But deil-ma-care, It just play'd dirl on the bane, But did nae mair.
"Hornbook was by, wi' ready art, An' had sae fortify'd the part,
[Footnote 3: This gentleman, Dr. Hornbook, is professionally a brother of the sovereign Order of the Ferula; but, by intuition and inspiration, is at once an apothecary, surgeon, and physician.—R.B.]
[Footnote 4: Burchan's Domestic Medicine.—R.B.]
That when I looked to my dart, It was sae blunt, Fient haet o't wad hae pierc'd the heart Of a kail-runt.
"I drew my scythe in sic a fury, I near-hand cowpit wi' my hurry, But yet the bauld Apothecary Withstood the shock; I might as weel hae tried a quarry O' hard whin rock.
"Ev'n them he canna get attended, Altho' their face he ne'er had kend it, Just—in a kail-blade, an' sent it, As soon's he smells 't, Baith their disease, and what will mend it, At once he tells 't.
"And then, a' doctor's saws an' whittles, Of a' dimensions, shapes, an' mettles, A' kind o' boxes, mugs, an' bottles, He's sure to hae; Their Latin names as fast he rattles as A B C.
"Calces o' fossils, earths, and trees; True sal-marinum o' the seas; The farina of beans an' pease, He has't in plenty; Aqua-fontis, what you please, He can content ye.
"Forbye some new, uncommon weapons, Urinus spiritus of capons; Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings, Distill'd per se; Sal-alkali o' midge-tail clippings, And mony mae."
"Waes me for Johnie Ged's^5 Hole now," Quoth I, "if that thae news be true! His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew, Sae white and bonie, Nae doubt they'll rive it wi' the plew; They'll ruin Johnie!"
The creature grain'd an eldritch laugh, And says "Ye needna yoke the pleugh, Kirkyards will soon be till'd eneugh, Tak ye nae fear: They'll be trench'd wi' mony a sheugh, In twa-three year.
"Whare I kill'd ane, a fair strae-death, By loss o' blood or want of breath This night I'm free to tak my aith, That Hornbook's skill Has clad a score i' their last claith, By drap an' pill.
"An honest wabster to his trade, Whase wife's twa nieves were scarce weel-bred Gat tippence-worth to mend her head, When it was sair; The wife slade cannie to her bed, But ne'er spak mair.
"A country laird had ta'en the batts, Or some curmurring in his guts, His only son for Hornbook sets, An' pays him well: The lad, for twa guid gimmer-pets, Was laird himsel'.
"A bonie lass—ye kend her name— Some ill-brewn drink had hov'd her wame; She trusts hersel', to hide the shame, In Hornbook's care; Horn sent her aff to her lang hame, To hide it there.
[Footnote 5: The grave-digger.—R.B.]
"That's just a swatch o' Hornbook's way; Thus goes he on from day to day, Thus does he poison, kill, an' slay, An's weel paid for't; Yet stops me o' my lawfu' prey, Wi' his damn'd dirt:
"But, hark! I'll tell you of a plot, Tho' dinna ye be speakin o't; I'll nail the self-conceited sot, As dead's a herrin; Neist time we meet, I'll wad a groat, He gets his fairin!"
But just as he began to tell, The auld kirk-hammer strak the bell Some wee short hour ayont the twal', Which rais'd us baith: I took the way that pleas'd mysel', And sae did Death.
Epistle To J. Lapraik, An Old Scottish Bard
April 1, 1785
While briers an' woodbines budding green, An' paitricks scraichin loud at e'en, An' morning poussie whiddin seen, Inspire my muse, This freedom, in an unknown frien', I pray excuse.
On Fasten—e'en we had a rockin, To ca' the crack and weave our stockin; And there was muckle fun and jokin, Ye need na doubt; At length we had a hearty yokin At sang about.
There was ae sang, amang the rest, Aboon them a' it pleas'd me best, That some kind husband had addrest To some sweet wife; It thirl'd the heart-strings thro' the breast, A' to the life.
I've scarce heard ought describ'd sae weel, What gen'rous, manly bosoms feel; Thought I "Can this be Pope, or Steele, Or Beattie's wark?" They tauld me 'twas an odd kind chiel About Muirkirk.
It pat me fidgin-fain to hear't, An' sae about him there I speir't; Then a' that kent him round declar'd He had ingine; That nane excell'd it, few cam near't, It was sae fine:
That, set him to a pint of ale, An' either douce or merry tale, Or rhymes an' sangs he'd made himsel, Or witty catches— 'Tween Inverness an' Teviotdale, He had few matches.
Then up I gat, an' swoor an aith, Tho' I should pawn my pleugh an' graith, Or die a cadger pownie's death, At some dyke-back, A pint an' gill I'd gie them baith, To hear your crack.
But, first an' foremost, I should tell, Amaist as soon as I could spell, I to the crambo-jingle fell; Tho' rude an' rough— Yet crooning to a body's sel' Does weel eneugh.
I am nae poet, in a sense; But just a rhymer like by chance, An' hae to learning nae pretence; Yet, what the matter? Whene'er my muse does on me glance, I jingle at her.
Your critic-folk may cock their nose, And say, "How can you e'er propose, You wha ken hardly verse frae prose, To mak a sang?" But, by your leaves, my learned foes, Ye're maybe wrang.
What's a' your jargon o' your schools— Your Latin names for horns an' stools? If honest Nature made you fools, What sairs your grammars? Ye'd better taen up spades and shools, Or knappin-hammers.
A set o' dull, conceited hashes Confuse their brains in college classes! They gang in stirks, and come out asses, Plain truth to speak; An' syne they think to climb Parnassus By dint o' Greek!
Gie me ae spark o' nature's fire, That's a' the learning I desire; Then tho' I drudge thro' dub an' mire At pleugh or cart, My muse, tho' hamely in attire, May touch the heart.
O for a spunk o' Allan's glee, Or Fergusson's the bauld an' slee, Or bright Lapraik's, my friend to be, If I can hit it! That would be lear eneugh for me, If I could get it.
Now, sir, if ye hae friends enow, Tho' real friends, I b'lieve, are few; Yet, if your catalogue be fu', I'se no insist: But, gif ye want ae friend that's true, I'm on your list.
I winna blaw about mysel, As ill I like my fauts to tell; But friends, an' folk that wish me well, They sometimes roose me; Tho' I maun own, as mony still As far abuse me.
There's ae wee faut they whiles lay to me, I like the lasses—Gude forgie me! For mony a plack they wheedle frae me At dance or fair; Maybe some ither thing they gie me, They weel can spare.
But Mauchline Race, or Mauchline Fair, I should be proud to meet you there; We'se gie ae night's discharge to care, If we forgather; An' hae a swap o' rhymin-ware Wi' ane anither.
The four-gill chap, we'se gar him clatter, An' kirsen him wi' reekin water; Syne we'll sit down an' tak our whitter, To cheer our heart; An' faith, we'se be acquainted better Before we part.
Awa ye selfish, war'ly race, Wha think that havins, sense, an' grace, Ev'n love an' friendship should give place To catch—the—plack! I dinna like to see your face, Nor hear your crack.
But ye whom social pleasure charms Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms, Who hold your being on the terms, "Each aid the others," Come to my bowl, come to my arms, My friends, my brothers!
But, to conclude my lang epistle, As my auld pen's worn to the gristle, Twa lines frae you wad gar me fissle, Who am, most fervent, While I can either sing or whistle, Your friend and servant.
Second Epistle To J. Lapraik
April 21, 1785
While new-ca'd kye rowte at the stake An' pownies reek in pleugh or braik, This hour on e'enin's edge I take, To own I'm debtor To honest-hearted, auld Lapraik, For his kind letter.
Forjesket sair, with weary legs, Rattlin the corn out-owre the rigs, Or dealing thro' amang the naigs Their ten-hours' bite, My awkart Muse sair pleads and begs I would na write.
The tapetless, ramfeezl'd hizzie, She's saft at best an' something lazy: Quo' she, "Ye ken we've been sae busy This month an' mair, That trowth, my head is grown right dizzie, An' something sair."
Her dowff excuses pat me mad; "Conscience," says I, "ye thowless jade! I'll write, an' that a hearty blaud, This vera night; So dinna ye affront your trade, But rhyme it right.
"Shall bauld Lapraik, the king o' hearts, Tho' mankind were a pack o' cartes, Roose you sae weel for your deserts, In terms sae friendly; Yet ye'll neglect to shaw your parts An' thank him kindly?"
Sae I gat paper in a blink, An' down gaed stumpie in the ink: Quoth I, "Before I sleep a wink, I vow I'll close it; An' if ye winna mak it clink, By Jove, I'll prose it!"
Sae I've begun to scrawl, but whether In rhyme, or prose, or baith thegither; Or some hotch-potch that's rightly neither, Let time mak proof; But I shall scribble down some blether Just clean aff-loof.
My worthy friend, ne'er grudge an' carp, Tho' fortune use you hard an' sharp; Come, kittle up your moorland harp Wi' gleesome touch! Ne'er mind how Fortune waft and warp; She's but a bitch.
She 's gien me mony a jirt an' fleg, Sin' I could striddle owre a rig; But, by the Lord, tho' I should beg Wi' lyart pow, I'll laugh an' sing, an' shake my leg, As lang's I dow!
Now comes the sax-an'-twentieth simmer I've seen the bud upon the timmer, Still persecuted by the limmer Frae year to year; But yet, despite the kittle kimmer, I, Rob, am here.
Do ye envy the city gent, Behint a kist to lie an' sklent; Or pursue-proud, big wi' cent. per cent. An' muckle wame, In some bit brugh to represent A bailie's name?
Or is't the paughty, feudal thane, Wi' ruffl'd sark an' glancing cane, Wha thinks himsel nae sheep-shank bane, But lordly stalks; While caps and bonnets aff are taen, As by he walks?
"O Thou wha gies us each guid gift! Gie me o' wit an' sense a lift, Then turn me, if thou please, adrift, Thro' Scotland wide; Wi' cits nor lairds I wadna shift, In a' their pride!"
Were this the charter of our state, "On pain o' hell be rich an' great," Damnation then would be our fate, Beyond remead; But, thanks to heaven, that's no the gate We learn our creed.
For thus the royal mandate ran, When first the human race began; "The social, friendly, honest man, Whate'er he be— 'Tis he fulfils great Nature's plan, And none but he."
O mandate glorious and divine! The ragged followers o' the Nine, Poor, thoughtless devils! yet may shine In glorious light, While sordid sons o' Mammon's line Are dark as night!
Tho' here they scrape, an' squeeze, an' growl, Their worthless nievefu' of a soul May in some future carcase howl, The forest's fright; Or in some day-detesting owl May shun the light.
Then may Lapraik and Burns arise, To reach their native, kindred skies, And sing their pleasures, hopes an' joys, In some mild sphere; Still closer knit in friendship's ties, Each passing year!
Epistle To William Simson
Schoolmaster, Ochiltree.—May, 1785
I gat your letter, winsome Willie; Wi' gratefu' heart I thank you brawlie; Tho' I maun say't, I wad be silly, And unco vain, Should I believe, my coaxin billie Your flatterin strain.
But I'se believe ye kindly meant it: I sud be laith to think ye hinted Ironic satire, sidelins sklented On my poor Musie; Tho' in sic phraisin terms ye've penn'd it, I scarce excuse ye.
My senses wad be in a creel, Should I but dare a hope to speel Wi' Allan, or wi' Gilbertfield, The braes o' fame; Or Fergusson, the writer-chiel, A deathless name.
(O Fergusson! thy glorious parts Ill suited law's dry, musty arts! My curse upon your whunstane hearts, Ye E'nbrugh gentry! The tithe o' what ye waste at cartes Wad stow'd his pantry!)
Yet when a tale comes i' my head, Or lassies gie my heart a screed— As whiles they're like to be my dead, (O sad disease!) I kittle up my rustic reed; It gies me ease.
Auld Coila now may fidge fu' fain, She's gotten poets o' her ain; Chiels wha their chanters winna hain, But tune their lays, Till echoes a' resound again Her weel-sung praise.
Nae poet thought her worth his while, To set her name in measur'd style; She lay like some unkenn'd-of-isle Beside New Holland, Or whare wild-meeting oceans boil Besouth Magellan.
Ramsay an' famous Fergusson Gied Forth an' Tay a lift aboon; Yarrow an' Tweed, to monie a tune, Owre Scotland rings; While Irwin, Lugar, Ayr, an' Doon Naebody sings.
Th' Illissus, Tiber, Thames, an' Seine, Glide sweet in monie a tunefu' line: But Willie, set your fit to mine, An' cock your crest; We'll gar our streams an' burnies shine Up wi' the best!
We'll sing auld Coila's plains an' fells, Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells, Her banks an' braes, her dens and dells, Whare glorious Wallace Aft bure the gree, as story tells, Frae Suthron billies.
At Wallace' name, what Scottish blood But boils up in a spring-tide flood! Oft have our fearless fathers strode By Wallace' side, Still pressing onward, red-wat-shod, Or glorious died!
O, sweet are Coila's haughs an' woods, When lintwhites chant amang the buds, And jinkin hares, in amorous whids, Their loves enjoy; While thro' the braes the cushat croods With wailfu' cry!
Ev'n winter bleak has charms to me, When winds rave thro' the naked tree; Or frosts on hills of Ochiltree Are hoary gray; Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee, Dark'ning the day!
O Nature! a' thy shews an' forms To feeling, pensive hearts hae charms! Whether the summer kindly warms, Wi' life an light; Or winter howls, in gusty storms, The lang, dark night!
The muse, nae poet ever fand her, Till by himsel he learn'd to wander, Adown some trottin burn's meander, An' no think lang: O sweet to stray, an' pensive ponder A heart-felt sang!
The war'ly race may drudge an' drive, Hog-shouther, jundie, stretch, an' strive; Let me fair Nature's face descrive, And I, wi' pleasure, Shall let the busy, grumbling hive Bum owre their treasure.
Fareweel, "my rhyme-composing" brither! We've been owre lang unkenn'd to ither: Now let us lay our heads thegither, In love fraternal: May envy wallop in a tether, Black fiend, infernal!
While Highlandmen hate tools an' taxes; While moorlan's herds like guid, fat braxies; While terra firma, on her axis, Diurnal turns; Count on a friend, in faith an' practice, In Robert Burns.
My memory's no worth a preen; I had amaist forgotten clean, Ye bade me write you what they mean By this "new-light," 'Bout which our herds sae aft hae been Maist like to fight.
In days when mankind were but callans At grammar, logic, an' sic talents, They took nae pains their speech to balance, Or rules to gie; But spak their thoughts in plain, braid lallans, Like you or me.
In thae auld times, they thought the moon, Just like a sark, or pair o' shoon, Wore by degrees, till her last roon Gaed past their viewin; An' shortly after she was done They gat a new ane.
This passed for certain, undisputed; It ne'er cam i' their heads to doubt it, Till chiels gat up an' wad confute it, An' ca'd it wrang; An' muckle din there was about it, Baith loud an' lang.
Some herds, weel learn'd upo' the beuk, Wad threap auld folk the thing misteuk; For 'twas the auld moon turn'd a neuk An' out of' sight, An' backlins-comin to the leuk She grew mair bright.
This was deny'd, it was affirm'd; The herds and hissels were alarm'd The rev'rend gray-beards rav'd an' storm'd, That beardless laddies Should think they better wer inform'd, Than their auld daddies.
Frae less to mair, it gaed to sticks; Frae words an' aiths to clours an' nicks; An monie a fallow gat his licks, Wi' hearty crunt; An' some, to learn them for their tricks, Were hang'd an' brunt.
This game was play'd in mony lands, An' auld-light caddies bure sic hands, That faith, the youngsters took the sands Wi' nimble shanks; Till lairds forbad, by strict commands, Sic bluidy pranks.
But new-light herds gat sic a cowe, Folk thought them ruin'd stick-an-stowe; Till now, amaist on ev'ry knowe Ye'll find ane plac'd; An' some their new-light fair avow, Just quite barefac'd.
Nae doubt the auld-light flocks are bleatin; Their zealous herds are vex'd an' sweatin; Mysel', I've even seen them greetin Wi' girnin spite, To hear the moon sae sadly lied on By word an' write.
But shortly they will cowe the louns! Some auld-light herds in neebor touns Are mind't, in things they ca' balloons, To tak a flight; An' stay ae month amang the moons An' see them right.
Guid observation they will gie them; An' when the auld moon's gaun to lea'e them, The hindmaist shaird, they'll fetch it wi' them Just i' their pouch; An' when the new-light billies see them, I think they'll crouch!
Sae, ye observe that a' this clatter Is naething but a "moonshine matter"; But tho' dull prose-folk Latin splatter In logic tulyie, I hope we bardies ken some better Than mind sic brulyie.
One Night As I Did Wander
Tune—"John Anderson, my jo."
One night as I did wander, When corn begins to shoot, I sat me down to ponder Upon an auld tree root; Auld Ayr ran by before me, And bicker'd to the seas; A cushat crooded o'er me, That echoed through the braes . . . . . . .
Tho' Cruel Fate Should Bid Us Part
Tune—"The Northern Lass."
Tho' cruel fate should bid us part, Far as the pole and line, Her dear idea round my heart, Should tenderly entwine. Tho' mountains, rise, and deserts howl, And oceans roar between; Yet, dearer than my deathless soul, I still would love my Jean. . . . . . . .
Song—Rantin', Rovin' Robin^1
[Footnote 1: Not published by Burns.]
There was a lad was born in Kyle, But whatna day o' whatna style, I doubt it's hardly worth the while To be sae nice wi' Robin.
Chor.—Robin was a rovin' boy, Rantin', rovin', rantin', rovin', Robin was a rovin' boy, Rantin', rovin', Robin!
Our monarch's hindmost year but ane Was five-and-twenty days begun^2, 'Twas then a blast o' Janwar' win' Blew hansel in on Robin. Robin was, &c.
[Footnote 2: January 25, 1759, the date of my bardship's vital existence.—R.B.]
The gossip keekit in his loof, Quo' scho, "Wha lives will see the proof, This waly boy will be nae coof: I think we'll ca' him Robin." Robin was, &c.
"He'll hae misfortunes great an' sma', But aye a heart aboon them a', He'll be a credit till us a'— We'll a' be proud o' Robin." Robin was, &c.
"But sure as three times three mak nine, I see by ilka score and line, This chap will dearly like our kin', So leeze me on thee! Robin." Robin was, &c.
"Guid faith," quo', scho, "I doubt you gar The bonie lasses lie aspar; But twenty fauts ye may hae waur So blessins on thee! Robin." Robin was, &c.
Elegy On The Death Of Robert Ruisseaux^1
Now Robin lies in his last lair, He'll gabble rhyme, nor sing nae mair; Cauld poverty, wi' hungry stare, Nae mair shall fear him; Nor anxious fear, nor cankert care, E'er mair come near him.
To tell the truth, they seldom fash'd him, Except the moment that they crush'd him; For sune as chance or fate had hush'd 'em Tho' e'er sae short. Then wi' a rhyme or sang he lash'd 'em, And thought it sport.
[Footnote 1: Ruisseaux is French for rivulets or "burns," a translation of his name.]
Tho'he was bred to kintra-wark, And counted was baith wight and stark, Yet that was never Robin's mark To mak a man; But tell him, he was learn'd and clark, Ye roos'd him then!
Epistle To John Goldie, In Kilmarnock
Author Of The Gospel Recovered.—August, 1785
O Gowdie, terror o' the whigs, Dread o' blackcoats and rev'rend wigs! Sour Bigotry, on her last legs, Girns an' looks back, Wishing the ten Egyptian plagues May seize you quick.
Poor gapin', glowrin' Superstition! Wae's me, she's in a sad condition: Fye: bring Black Jock,^1 her state physician, To see her water; Alas, there's ground for great suspicion She'll ne'er get better.
Enthusiasm's past redemption, Gane in a gallopin' consumption: Not a' her quacks, wi' a' their gumption, Can ever mend her; Her feeble pulse gies strong presumption, She'll soon surrender.
Auld Orthodoxy lang did grapple, For every hole to get a stapple; But now she fetches at the thrapple, An' fights for breath; Haste, gie her name up in the chapel,^2 Near unto death.
It's you an' Taylor^3 are the chief To blame for a' this black mischief;
[Footnote 1: The Rev. J. Russell, Kilmarnock.—R. B.]
[Footnote 2: Mr. Russell's Kirk.—R. B.]
[Footnote 3: Dr. Taylor of Norwich.—R. B.]
But, could the Lord's ain folk get leave, A toom tar barrel An' twa red peats wad bring relief, And end the quarrel.
For me, my skill's but very sma', An' skill in prose I've nane ava'; But quietlins-wise, between us twa, Weel may you speed! And tho' they sud your sair misca', Ne'er fash your head.
E'en swinge the dogs, and thresh them sicker! The mair they squeel aye chap the thicker; And still 'mang hands a hearty bicker O' something stout; It gars an owthor's pulse beat quicker, And helps his wit.
There's naething like the honest nappy; Whare'll ye e'er see men sae happy, Or women sonsie, saft an' sappy, 'Tween morn and morn, As them wha like to taste the drappie, In glass or horn?
I've seen me dazed upon a time, I scarce could wink or see a styme; Just ae half-mutchkin does me prime,— Ought less is little— Then back I rattle on the rhyme, As gleg's a whittle.
The Holy Fair^1
A robe of seeming truth and trust Hid crafty Observation; And secret hung, with poison'd crust, The dirk of Defamation:
[Footnote 1: "Holy Fair" is a common phrase in the west of Scotland for a sacramental occasion.—R. B.]
A mask that like the gorget show'd, Dye-varying on the pigeon; And for a mantle large and broad, He wrapt him in Religion. Hypocrisy A-La-Mode
Upon a simmer Sunday morn When Nature's face is fair, I walked forth to view the corn, An' snuff the caller air. The rising sun owre Galston muirs Wi' glorious light was glintin; The hares were hirplin down the furrs, The lav'rocks they were chantin Fu' sweet that day.
As lightsomely I glowr'd abroad, To see a scene sae gay, Three hizzies, early at the road, Cam skelpin up the way. Twa had manteeles o' dolefu' black, But ane wi' lyart lining; The third, that gaed a wee a-back, Was in the fashion shining Fu' gay that day.
The twa appear'd like sisters twin, In feature, form, an' claes; Their visage wither'd, lang an' thin, An' sour as only slaes: The third cam up, hap-stap-an'-lowp, As light as ony lambie, An' wi'a curchie low did stoop, As soon as e'er she saw me, Fu' kind that day.
Wi' bonnet aff, quoth I, "Sweet lass, I think ye seem to ken me; I'm sure I've seen that bonie face But yet I canna name ye." Quo' she, an' laughin as she spak, An' taks me by the han's, "Ye, for my sake, hae gien the feck Of a' the ten comman's A screed some day."
"My name is Fun—your cronie dear, The nearest friend ye hae; An' this is Superstitution here, An' that's Hypocrisy. I'm gaun to Mauchline Holy Fair, To spend an hour in daffin: Gin ye'll go there, yon runkl'd pair, We will get famous laughin At them this day."
Quoth I, "Wi' a' my heart, I'll do't; I'll get my Sunday's sark on, An' meet you on the holy spot; Faith, we'se hae fine remarkin!" Then I gaed hame at crowdie-time, An' soon I made me ready; For roads were clad, frae side to side, Wi' mony a weary body In droves that day.
Here farmers gash, in ridin graith, Gaed hoddin by their cotters; There swankies young, in braw braid-claith, Are springing owre the gutters. The lasses, skelpin barefit, thrang, In silks an' scarlets glitter; Wi' sweet-milk cheese, in mony a whang, An' farls, bak'd wi' butter, Fu' crump that day.
When by the plate we set our nose, Weel heaped up wi' ha'pence, A greedy glowr black-bonnet throws, An' we maun draw our tippence. Then in we go to see the show: On ev'ry side they're gath'rin; Some carrying dails, some chairs an' stools, An' some are busy bleth'rin Right loud that day.
Here stands a shed to fend the show'rs, An' screen our countra gentry; There Racer Jess,^2 an' twa-three whores, Are blinkin at the entry. Here sits a raw o' tittlin jads, Wi' heaving breast an' bare neck; An' there a batch o' wabster lads, Blackguarding frae Kilmarnock, For fun this day.
Here, some are thinkin on their sins, An' some upo' their claes; Ane curses feet that fyl'd his shins, Anither sighs an' prays: On this hand sits a chosen swatch, Wi' screwed-up, grace-proud faces; On that a set o' chaps, at watch, Thrang winkin on the lasses To chairs that day.
O happy is that man, an' blest! Nae wonder that it pride him! Whase ain dear lass, that he likes best, Comes clinkin down beside him! Wi' arms repos'd on the chair back, He sweetly does compose him; Which, by degrees, slips round her neck, An's loof upon her bosom, Unkend that day.
Now a' the congregation o'er Is silent expectation; For Moodie^3 speels the holy door, Wi' tidings o' damnation:
[Footnote 2: Racer Jess (d. 1813) was a half-witted daughter of Possie Nansie. She was a great pedestrian.]
[Footnote 3: Rev. Alexander Moodie of Riccarton.]
Should Hornie, as in ancient days, 'Mang sons o' God present him, The vera sight o' Moodie's face, To 's ain het hame had sent him Wi' fright that day.
Hear how he clears the point o' faith Wi' rattlin and wi' thumpin! Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath, He's stampin, an' he's jumpin! His lengthen'd chin, his turned-up snout, His eldritch squeel an' gestures, O how they fire the heart devout, Like cantharidian plaisters On sic a day!
But hark! the tent has chang'd its voice, There's peace an' rest nae langer; For a' the real judges rise, They canna sit for anger, Smith^4 opens out his cauld harangues, On practice and on morals; An' aff the godly pour in thrangs, To gie the jars an' barrels A lift that day.
What signifies his barren shine, Of moral powers an' reason? His English style, an' gesture fine Are a' clean out o' season. Like Socrates or Antonine, Or some auld pagan heathen, The moral man he does define, But ne'er a word o' faith in That's right that day.
In guid time comes an antidote Against sic poison'd nostrum; For Peebles,^5 frae the water-fit, Ascends the holy rostrum:
[Footnote 4: Rev. George Smith of Galston.]
[Footnote 5: Rev. Wm. Peebles of Newton-upon-Ayr.]
See, up he's got, the word o' God, An' meek an' mim has view'd it, While Common-sense has taen the road, An' aff, an' up the Cowgate^6 Fast, fast that day.
Wee Miller^7 neist the guard relieves, An' Orthodoxy raibles, Tho' in his heart he weel believes, An' thinks it auld wives' fables: But faith! the birkie wants a manse, So, cannilie he hums them; Altho' his carnal wit an' sense Like hafflins-wise o'ercomes him At times that day.
Now, butt an' ben, the change-house fills, Wi' yill-caup commentators; Here 's cryin out for bakes and gills, An' there the pint-stowp clatters; While thick an' thrang, an' loud an' lang, Wi' logic an' wi' scripture, They raise a din, that in the end Is like to breed a rupture O' wrath that day.
Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair Than either school or college; It kindles wit, it waukens lear, It pangs us fou o' knowledge: Be't whisky-gill or penny wheep, Or ony stronger potion, It never fails, or drinkin deep, To kittle up our notion, By night or day.
The lads an' lasses, blythely bent To mind baith saul an' body, Sit round the table, weel content, An' steer about the toddy:
[Footnote 6: A street so called which faces the tent in Mauchline.—R. B.]
[Footnote 7: Rev. Alex. Miller, afterward of Kilmaurs.]
On this ane's dress, an' that ane's leuk, They're makin observations; While some are cozie i' the neuk, An' forming assignations To meet some day.
But now the Lord's ain trumpet touts, Till a' the hills are rairin, And echoes back return the shouts; Black Russell is na sparin: His piercin words, like Highlan' swords, Divide the joints an' marrow; His talk o' Hell, whare devils dwell, Our vera "sauls does harrow" Wi' fright that day!
A vast, unbottom'd, boundless pit, Fill'd fou o' lowin brunstane, Whase raging flame, an' scorching heat, Wad melt the hardest whun-stane! The half-asleep start up wi' fear, An' think they hear it roarin; When presently it does appear, 'Twas but some neibor snorin Asleep that day.
'Twad be owre lang a tale to tell, How mony stories past; An' how they crouded to the yill, When they were a' dismist; How drink gaed round, in cogs an' caups, Amang the furms an' benches; An' cheese an' bread, frae women's laps, Was dealt about in lunches An' dawds that day.
In comes a gawsie, gash guidwife, An' sits down by the fire, Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife; The lasses they are shyer: The auld guidmen, about the grace Frae side to side they bother; Till some ane by his bonnet lays, An' gies them't like a tether, Fu' lang that day.
Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass, Or lasses that hae naething! Sma' need has he to say a grace, Or melvie his braw claithing! O wives, be mindfu' ance yoursel' How bonie lads ye wanted; An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel Let lasses be affronted On sic a day!
Now Clinkumbell, wi' rattlin tow, Begins to jow an' croon; Some swagger hame the best they dow, Some wait the afternoon. At slaps the billies halt a blink, Till lasses strip their shoon: Wi' faith an' hope, an' love an' drink, They're a' in famous tune For crack that day.
How mony hearts this day converts O' sinners and o' lasses! Their hearts o' stane, gin night, are gane As saft as ony flesh is: There's some are fou o' love divine; There's some are fou o' brandy; An' mony jobs that day begin, May end in houghmagandie Some ither day.
Third Epistle To J. Lapraik
Guid speed and furder to you, Johnie, Guid health, hale han's, an' weather bonie; Now, when ye're nickin down fu' cannie The staff o' bread, May ye ne'er want a stoup o' bran'y To clear your head.
May Boreas never thresh your rigs, Nor kick your rickles aff their legs, Sendin the stuff o'er muirs an' haggs Like drivin wrack; But may the tapmost grain that wags Come to the sack.
I'm bizzie, too, an' skelpin at it, But bitter, daudin showers hae wat it; Sae my auld stumpie pen I gat it Wi' muckle wark, An' took my jocteleg an whatt it, Like ony clark.
It's now twa month that I'm your debtor, For your braw, nameless, dateless letter, Abusin me for harsh ill-nature On holy men, While deil a hair yoursel' ye're better, But mair profane.
But let the kirk-folk ring their bells, Let's sing about our noble sel's: We'll cry nae jads frae heathen hills To help, or roose us; But browster wives an' whisky stills, They are the muses.
Your friendship, Sir, I winna quat it, An' if ye mak' objections at it, Then hand in neive some day we'll knot it, An' witness take, An' when wi' usquabae we've wat it It winna break.
But if the beast an' branks be spar'd Till kye be gaun without the herd, And a' the vittel in the yard, An' theekit right, I mean your ingle-side to guard Ae winter night.
Then muse-inspirin' aqua-vitae Shall make us baith sae blythe and witty, Till ye forget ye're auld an' gatty, An' be as canty As ye were nine years less than thretty— Sweet ane an' twenty!
But stooks are cowpit wi' the blast, And now the sinn keeks in the west, Then I maun rin amang the rest, An' quat my chanter; Sae I subscribe myself' in haste, Yours, Rab the Ranter.
Epistle To The Rev. John M'math
Sept. 13, 1785.
Inclosing A Copy Of "Holy Willie's Prayer," Which He Had Requested, Sept. 17, 1785
While at the stook the shearers cow'r To shun the bitter blaudin' show'r, Or in gulravage rinnin scowr To pass the time, To you I dedicate the hour In idle rhyme.
My musie, tir'd wi' mony a sonnet On gown, an' ban', an' douse black bonnet, Is grown right eerie now she's done it, Lest they should blame her, An' rouse their holy thunder on it An anathem her.
I own 'twas rash, an' rather hardy, That I, a simple, country bardie, Should meddle wi' a pack sae sturdy, Wha, if they ken me, Can easy, wi' a single wordie, Lowse hell upon me.
But I gae mad at their grimaces, Their sighin, cantin, grace-proud faces, Their three-mile prayers, an' half-mile graces, Their raxin conscience, Whase greed, revenge, an' pride disgraces Waur nor their nonsense.
There's Gaw'n, misca'd waur than a beast, Wha has mair honour in his breast Than mony scores as guid's the priest Wha sae abus'd him: And may a bard no crack his jest What way they've us'd him?
See him, the poor man's friend in need, The gentleman in word an' deed— An' shall his fame an' honour bleed By worthless, skellums, An' not a muse erect her head To cowe the blellums?
O Pope, had I thy satire's darts To gie the rascals their deserts, I'd rip their rotten, hollow hearts, An' tell aloud Their jugglin hocus-pocus arts To cheat the crowd.
God knows, I'm no the thing I should be, Nor am I even the thing I could be, But twenty times I rather would be An atheist clean, Than under gospel colours hid be Just for a screen.
An honest man may like a glass, An honest man may like a lass, But mean revenge, an' malice fause He'll still disdain, An' then cry zeal for gospel laws, Like some we ken.
They take religion in their mouth; They talk o' mercy, grace, an' truth, For what?—to gie their malice skouth On some puir wight, An' hunt him down, owre right and ruth, To ruin straight.
All hail, Religion! maid divine! Pardon a muse sae mean as mine, Who in her rough imperfect line Thus daurs to name thee; To stigmatise false friends of thine Can ne'er defame thee.
Tho' blotch't and foul wi' mony a stain, An' far unworthy of thy train, With trembling voice I tune my strain, To join with those Who boldly dare thy cause maintain In spite of foes:
In spite o' crowds, in spite o' mobs, In spite o' undermining jobs, In spite o' dark banditti stabs At worth an' merit, By scoundrels, even wi' holy robes, But hellish spirit.
O Ayr! my dear, my native ground, Within thy presbyterial bound A candid liberal band is found Of public teachers, As men, as Christians too, renown'd, An' manly preachers.
Sir, in that circle you are nam'd; Sir, in that circle you are fam'd; An' some, by whom your doctrine's blam'd (Which gies you honour) Even, sir, by them your heart's esteem'd, An' winning manner.
Pardon this freedom I have ta'en, An' if impertinent I've been, Impute it not, good Sir, in ane Whase heart ne'er wrang'd ye, But to his utmost would befriend Ought that belang'd ye.
Second Epistle to Davie
A Brother Poet
Auld Neibour, I'm three times doubly o'er your debtor, For your auld-farrant, frien'ly letter; Tho' I maun say't I doubt ye flatter, Ye speak sae fair; For my puir, silly, rhymin clatter Some less maun sair.
Hale be your heart, hale be your fiddle, Lang may your elbuck jink diddle, To cheer you thro' the weary widdle O' war'ly cares; Till barins' barins kindly cuddle Your auld grey hairs.
But Davie, lad, I'm red ye're glaikit; I'm tauld the muse ye hae negleckit; An, gif it's sae, ye sud by lickit Until ye fyke; Sic haun's as you sud ne'er be faikit, Be hain't wha like.
For me, I'm on Parnassus' brink, Rivin the words to gar them clink; Whiles dazed wi' love, whiles dazed wi' drink, Wi' jads or masons; An' whiles, but aye owre late, I think Braw sober lessons.
Of a' the thoughtless sons o' man, Commen' to me the bardie clan; Except it be some idle plan O' rhymin clink, The devil haet,—that I sud ban— They ever think.
Nae thought, nae view, nae scheme o' livin, Nae cares to gie us joy or grievin, But just the pouchie put the neive in, An' while ought's there, Then, hiltie, skiltie, we gae scrievin', An' fash nae mair.
Leeze me on rhyme! it's aye a treasure, My chief, amaist my only pleasure; At hame, a-fiel', at wark, or leisure, The Muse, poor hizzie! Tho' rough an' raploch be her measure, She's seldom lazy.
Haud to the Muse, my daintie Davie: The warl' may play you mony a shavie; But for the Muse, she'll never leave ye, Tho' e'er sae puir, Na, even tho' limpin wi' the spavie Frae door tae door.
Song—Young Peggy Blooms
Young Peggy blooms our boniest lass, Her blush is like the morning, The rosy dawn, the springing grass, With early gems adorning. Her eyes outshine the radiant beams That gild the passing shower, And glitter o'er the crystal streams, And cheer each fresh'ning flower.
Her lips, more than the cherries bright, A richer dye has graced them; They charm th' admiring gazer's sight, And sweetly tempt to taste them; Her smile is as the evening mild, When feather'd pairs are courting, And little lambkins wanton wild, In playful bands disporting.
Were Fortune lovely Peggy's foe, Such sweetness would relent her; As blooming spring unbends the brow Of surly, savage Winter. Detraction's eye no aim can gain, Her winning pow'rs to lessen; And fretful Envy grins in vain The poison'd tooth to fasten.
Ye Pow'rs of Honour, Love, and Truth, From ev'ry ill defend her! Inspire the highly-favour'd youth The destinies intend her: Still fan the sweet connubial flame Responsive in each bosom; And bless the dear parental name With many a filial blossom.
Song—Farewell To Ballochmyle
Tune—"Miss Forbe's farewell to Banff."
The Catrine woods were yellow seen, The flowers decay'd on Catrine lee, Nae lav'rock sang on hillock green, But nature sicken'd on the e'e. Thro' faded groves Maria sang, Hersel' in beauty's bloom the while; And aye the wild-wood ehoes rang, Fareweel the braes o' Ballochmyle!
Low in your wintry beds, ye flowers, Again ye'll flourish fresh and fair; Ye birdies dumb, in with'ring bowers, Again ye'll charm the vocal air. But here, alas! for me nae mair Shall birdie charm, or floweret smile; Fareweel the bonie banks of Ayr, Fareweel, fareweel! sweet Ballochmyle!
Fragment—Her Flowing Locks
Her flowing locks, the raven's wing, Adown her neck and bosom hing; How sweet unto that breast to cling, And round that neck entwine her!
Her lips are roses wat wi' dew, O' what a feast her bonie mou'! Her cheeks a mair celestial hue, A crimson still diviner!
[Footnote 1: Is thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are abroad on their baneful midnight errands; particularly those aerial people, the fairies, are said on that night to hold a grand anniversary,.—R.B.]
The following poem will, by many readers, be well enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast, notes are added to give some account of the principal charms and spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and nations; and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our own.—R.B.
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain, The simple pleasure of the lowly train; To me more dear, congenial to my heart, One native charm, than all the gloss of art.—Goldsmith.
Upon that night, when fairies light On Cassilis Downans^2 dance, Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze, On sprightly coursers prance; Or for Colean the rout is ta'en, Beneath the moon's pale beams; There, up the Cove,^3 to stray an' rove, Amang the rocks and streams To sport that night;
[Footnote 2: Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis.—R.B.]
[Footnote 3: A noted cavern near Colean house, called the Cove of Colean; which, as well as Cassilis Downans, is famed, in country story, for being a favorite haunt of fairies.—R.B.]
Amang the bonie winding banks, Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear; Where Bruce^4 ance rul'd the martial ranks, An' shook his Carrick spear; Some merry, friendly, countra-folks Together did convene, To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks, An' haud their Halloween Fu' blythe that night.
[Footnote 4: The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.—R.B.]
The lasses feat, an' cleanly neat, Mair braw than when they're fine; Their faces blythe, fu' sweetly kythe, Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin': The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs Weel-knotted on their garten; Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs Gar lasses' hearts gang startin Whiles fast at night.
Then, first an' foremost, thro' the kail, Their stocks^5 maun a' be sought ance;
[Footnote 5: The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a "stock," or plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells—the husband or wife. If any "yird," or earth, stick to the root, that is "tocher," or fortune; and the taste of the "custock," that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the "runts," are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into the house are, according to the priority of placing the "runts," the names in question.—R. B.]
They steek their een, and grape an' wale For muckle anes, an' straught anes. Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift, An' wandered thro' the bow-kail, An' pou't for want o' better shift A runt was like a sow-tail Sae bow't that night.
Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane, They roar an' cry a' throu'ther; The vera wee-things, toddlin, rin, Wi' stocks out owre their shouther: An' gif the custock's sweet or sour, Wi' joctelegs they taste them; Syne coziely, aboon the door, Wi' cannie care, they've plac'd them To lie that night.
The lassies staw frae 'mang them a', To pou their stalks o' corn;^6 But Rab slips out, an' jinks about, Behint the muckle thorn: He grippit Nelly hard and fast: Loud skirl'd a' the lasses; But her tap-pickle maist was lost, Whan kiutlin in the fause-house^7 Wi' him that night.
[Footnote 6: They go to the barnyard, and pull each, at three different times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the "top-pickle," that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid.—R.B.]
[Footnote 7: When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green or wet, the stack-builder, by means of old timber, etc., makes a large apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest exposed to the wind: this he calls a "fause-house."—R.B.]
The auld guid-wife's weel-hoordit nits^8 Are round an' round dividend, An' mony lads an' lasses' fates Are there that night decided: Some kindle couthie side by side, And burn thegither trimly; Some start awa wi' saucy pride, An' jump out owre the chimlie Fu' high that night.
[Footnote 8: Burning the nuts is a favorite charm. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.—R.B.]
Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e; Wha 'twas, she wadna tell; But this is Jock, an' this is me, She says in to hersel': He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him, As they wad never mair part: Till fuff! he started up the lum, An' Jean had e'en a sair heart To see't that night.
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt, Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie; An' Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt, To be compar'd to Willie: Mall's nit lap out, wi' pridefu' fling, An' her ain fit, it brunt it; While Willie lap, and swore by jing, 'Twas just the way he wanted To be that night.
Nell had the fause-house in her min', She pits hersel an' Rob in; In loving bleeze they sweetly join, Till white in ase they're sobbin: Nell's heart was dancin at the view; She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't: Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonie mou', Fu' cozie in the neuk for't, Unseen that night.
But Merran sat behint their backs, Her thoughts on Andrew Bell: She lea'es them gashin at their cracks, An' slips out—by hersel'; She thro' the yard the nearest taks, An' for the kiln she goes then, An' darklins grapit for the bauks, And in the blue-clue^9 throws then, Right fear't that night.
[Footnote 9: Whoever would, with success, try this spell, must strictly observe these directions: Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and darkling, throw into the "pot" a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one; and, toward the latter end, something will hold the thread: demand, "Wha hauds?" i.e., who holds? and answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future spouse.—R.B.]
An' ay she win't, an' ay she swat— I wat she made nae jaukin; Till something held within the pat, Good Lord! but she was quaukin! But whether 'twas the deil himsel, Or whether 'twas a bauk-en', Or whether it was Andrew Bell, She did na wait on talkin To spier that night.
Wee Jenny to her graunie says, "Will ye go wi' me, graunie? I'll eat the apple at the glass,^10 I gat frae uncle Johnie:" She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt, In wrath she was sae vap'rin, She notic't na an aizle brunt Her braw, new, worset apron Out thro' that night.
[Footnote 10: Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.—R.B.]
"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face! I daur you try sic sportin, As seek the foul thief ony place, For him to spae your fortune: Nae doubt but ye may get a sight! Great cause ye hae to fear it; For mony a ane has gotten a fright, An' liv'd an' died deleerit, On sic a night.
"Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor, I mind't as weel's yestreen— I was a gilpey then, I'm sure I was na past fyfteen: The simmer had been cauld an' wat, An' stuff was unco green; An' eye a rantin kirn we gat, An' just on Halloween It fell that night.
"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen, A clever, sturdy fallow; His sin gat Eppie Sim wi' wean, That lived in Achmacalla: He gat hemp-seed,^11 I mind it weel, An'he made unco light o't; But mony a day was by himsel', He was sae sairly frighted That vera night."
[Footnote 11: Steal out, unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp-seed, harrowing it with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee." Look over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, "Come after me and shaw thee," that is, show thyself; in which case, it simply appears. Others omit the harrowing, and say: "Come after me and harrow thee."—R.B.]
Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck, An' he swoor by his conscience, That he could saw hemp-seed a peck; For it was a' but nonsense: The auld guidman raught down the pock, An' out a handfu' gied him; Syne bad him slip frae' mang the folk, Sometime when nae ane see'd him, An' try't that night.
He marches thro' amang the stacks, Tho' he was something sturtin; The graip he for a harrow taks, An' haurls at his curpin: And ev'ry now an' then, he says, "Hemp-seed I saw thee, An' her that is to be my lass Come after me, an' draw thee As fast this night."
He wistl'd up Lord Lennox' March To keep his courage cherry; Altho' his hair began to arch, He was sae fley'd an' eerie: Till presently he hears a squeak, An' then a grane an' gruntle; He by his shouther gae a keek, An' tumbled wi' a wintle Out-owre that night.
He roar'd a horrid murder-shout, In dreadfu' desperation! An' young an' auld come rinnin out, An' hear the sad narration: He swoor 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw, Or crouchie Merran Humphie— Till stop! she trotted thro' them a'; And wha was it but grumphie Asteer that night!
Meg fain wad to the barn gaen, To winn three wechts o' naething;^12 But for to meet the deil her lane, She pat but little faith in:
[Footnote 12: This charm must likewise be performed unperceived and alone. You go to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible; for there is danger that the being about to appear may shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which in our country dialect we call a "wecht," and go through all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times, and the third time an apparition will pass through the barn, in at the windy door and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.—R.B.]
She gies the herd a pickle nits, An' twa red cheekit apples, To watch, while for the barn she sets, In hopes to see Tam Kipples That vera night.
She turns the key wi' cannie thraw, An'owre the threshold ventures; But first on Sawnie gies a ca', Syne baudly in she enters: A ratton rattl'd up the wa', An' she cry'd Lord preserve her! An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a', An' pray'd wi' zeal and fervour, Fu' fast that night.
They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice; They hecht him some fine braw ane; It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice^13 Was timmer-propt for thrawin: He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak For some black, grousome carlin; An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke, Till skin in blypes cam haurlin Aff's nieves that night.
[Footnote 13: Take an opportunity of going unnoticed to a "bear-stack," and fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time you will catch in your arms the appearance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.—R.B.]
A wanton widow Leezie was, As cantie as a kittlen; But och! that night, amang the shaws, She gat a fearfu' settlin! She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn, An' owre the hill gaed scrievin; Whare three lairds' lan's met at a burn,^14 To dip her left sark-sleeve in, Was bent that night.
[Footnote 14: You go out, one or more (for this is a social spell), to a south running spring, or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and, some time near midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the grand object in question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.—R.B.]
Whiles owre a linn the burnie plays, As thro' the glen it wimpl't; Whiles round a rocky scar it strays, Whiles in a wiel it dimpl't; Whiles glitter'd to the nightly rays, Wi' bickerin', dancin' dazzle; Whiles cookit undeneath the braes, Below the spreading hazel Unseen that night.
Amang the brachens, on the brae, Between her an' the moon, The deil, or else an outler quey, Gat up an' ga'e a croon: Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool; Near lav'rock-height she jumpit, But mist a fit, an' in the pool Out-owre the lugs she plumpit, Wi' a plunge that night.
In order, on the clean hearth-stane, The luggies^15 three are ranged; An' ev'ry time great care is ta'en To see them duly changed: Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys Sin' Mar's-year did desire, Because he gat the toom dish thrice, He heav'd them on the fire In wrath that night.
[Footnote 15: Take three dishes, put clean water in one, foul water in another, and leave the third empty; blindfold a person and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by chance in the clean water, the future (husband or) wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.—R.B.]
Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks, I wat they did na weary; And unco tales, an' funnie jokes— Their sports were cheap an' cheery: Till butter'd sowens,^16 wi' fragrant lunt,
[Footnote 16: Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the Halloween Supper.—R.B.]
Set a' their gabs a-steerin; Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt, They parted aff careerin Fu' blythe that night.
To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi' bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry man's dominion, Has broken nature's social union, An' justifies that ill opinion, Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, An' fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve; What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! A daimen icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request; I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, An' never miss't!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin! It's silly wa's the win's are strewin! An' naething, now, to big a new ane, O' foggage green! An' bleak December's winds ensuin, Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, An' weary winter comin fast, An' cozie here, beneath the blast, Thou thought to dwell— Till crash! the cruel coulter past Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee mony a weary nibble! Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald, To thole the winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain; The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley, An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!
Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me The present only toucheth thee: But, Och! I backward cast my e'e. On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
Epitaph On John Dove, Innkeeper
Here lies Johnie Pigeon; What was his religion? Whae'er desires to ken, To some other warl' Maun follow the carl, For here Johnie Pigeon had nane!
Strong ale was ablution, Small beer persecution, A dram was memento mori; But a full-flowing bowl Was the saving his soul, And port was celestial glory.
Epitaph For James Smith
Lament him, Mauchline husbands a', He aften did assist ye; For had ye staid hale weeks awa, Your wives they ne'er had miss'd ye.
Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye press To school in bands thegither, O tread ye lightly on his grass,— Perhaps he was your father!
Adam Armour's Prayer
Gude pity me, because I'm little! For though I am an elf o' mettle, An' can, like ony wabster's shuttle, Jink there or here, Yet, scarce as lang's a gude kail-whittle, I'm unco queer.
An' now Thou kens our waefu' case; For Geordie's jurr we're in disgrace, Because we stang'd her through the place, An' hurt her spleuchan; For whilk we daurna show our face Within the clachan.
An' now we're dern'd in dens and hollows, And hunted, as was William Wallace, Wi' constables-thae blackguard fallows, An' sodgers baith; But Gude preserve us frae the gallows, That shamefu' death!
Auld grim black-bearded Geordie's sel'— O shake him owre the mouth o' hell! There let him hing, an' roar, an' yell Wi' hideous din, And if he offers to rebel, Then heave him in.
When Death comes in wi' glimmerin blink, An' tips auld drucken Nanse the wink, May Sautan gie her doup a clink Within his yett, An' fill her up wi' brimstone drink, Red-reekin het.
Though Jock an' hav'rel Jean are merry— Some devil seize them in a hurry, An' waft them in th' infernal wherry Straught through the lake, An' gie their hides a noble curry Wi' oil of aik!
As for the jurr-puir worthless body! She's got mischief enough already; Wi' stanged hips, and buttocks bluidy She's suffer'd sair; But, may she wintle in a woody, If she wh-e mair!
The Jolly Beggars: A Cantata^1
[Footnote 1: Not published by Burns.]
When lyart leaves bestrow the yird, Or wavering like the bauckie-bird, Bedim cauld Boreas' blast; When hailstanes drive wi' bitter skyte, And infant frosts begin to bite, In hoary cranreuch drest; Ae night at e'en a merry core O' randie, gangrel bodies, In Poosie-Nansie's held the splore, To drink their orra duddies; Wi' quaffing an' laughing, They ranted an' they sang, Wi' jumping an' thumping, The vera girdle rang,
First, neist the fire, in auld red rags, Ane sat, weel brac'd wi' mealy bags,
And knapsack a' in order; His doxy lay within his arm; Wi' usquebae an' blankets warm She blinkit on her sodger; An' aye he gies the tozie drab The tither skelpin' kiss, While she held up her greedy gab, Just like an aumous dish; Ilk smack still, did crack still, Just like a cadger's whip; Then staggering an' swaggering He roar'd this ditty up—
I am a son of Mars who have been in many wars, And show my cuts and scars wherever I come; This here was for a wench, and that other in a trench, When welcoming the French at the sound of the drum. Lal de daudle, &c.
My 'prenticeship I past where my leader breath'd his last, When the bloody die was cast on the heights of Abram: and I served out my trade when the gallant game was play'd, And the Morro low was laid at the sound of the drum.
I lastly was with Curtis among the floating batt'ries, And there I left for witness an arm and a limb; Yet let my country need me, with Elliot to head me, I'd clatter on my stumps at the sound of a drum.
And now tho' I must beg, with a wooden arm and leg, And many a tatter'd rag hanging over my bum, I'm as happy with my wallet, my bottle, and my callet, As when I used in scarlet to follow a drum.
What tho' with hoary locks, I must stand the winter shocks, Beneath the woods and rocks oftentimes for a home, When the t'other bag I sell, and the t'other bottle tell, I could meet a troop of hell, at the sound of a drum.
He ended; and the kebars sheuk, Aboon the chorus roar; While frighted rattons backward leuk, An' seek the benmost bore: A fairy fiddler frae the neuk, He skirl'd out, encore! But up arose the martial chuck, An' laid the loud uproar.
I once was a maid, tho' I cannot tell when, And still my delight is in proper young men; Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie, No wonder I'm fond of a sodger laddie, Sing, lal de lal, &c.
The first of my loves was a swaggering blade, To rattle the thundering drum was his trade; His leg was so tight, and his cheek was so ruddy, Transported I was with my sodger laddie.
But the godly old chaplain left him in the lurch; The sword I forsook for the sake of the church: He ventur'd the soul, and I risked the body, 'Twas then I proved false to my sodger laddie.
Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot, The regiment at large for a husband I got; From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready, I asked no more but a sodger laddie.
But the peace it reduc'd me to beg in despair, Till I met old boy in a Cunningham fair, His rags regimental, they flutter'd so gaudy, My heart it rejoic'd at a sodger laddie.
And now I have liv'd—I know not how long, And still I can join in a cup and a song; But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady, Here's to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.
Poor Merry-Andrew, in the neuk, Sat guzzling wi' a tinkler-hizzie; They mind't na wha the chorus teuk, Between themselves they were sae busy: At length, wi' drink an' courting dizzy, He stoiter'd up an' made a face; Then turn'd an' laid a smack on Grizzie, Syne tun'd his pipes wi' grave grimace.
Tune—"Auld Sir Symon."
Sir Wisdom's a fool when he's fou; Sir Knave is a fool in a session; He's there but a 'prentice I trow, But I am a fool by profession.
My grannie she bought me a beuk, An' I held awa to the school; I fear I my talent misteuk, But what will ye hae of a fool?
For drink I would venture my neck; A hizzie's the half of my craft; But what could ye other expect Of ane that's avowedly daft?
I ance was tied up like a stirk, For civilly swearing and quaffin; I ance was abus'd i' the kirk, For towsing a lass i' my daffin.
Poor Andrew that tumbles for sport, Let naebody name wi' a jeer; There's even, I'm tauld, i' the Court A tumbler ca'd the Premier.
Observ'd ye yon reverend lad Mak faces to tickle the mob; He rails at our mountebank squad,— It's rivalship just i' the job.
And now my conclusion I'll tell, For faith I'm confoundedly dry; The chiel that's a fool for himsel', Guid Lord! he's far dafter than I.
Then niest outspak a raucle carlin, Wha kent fu' weel to cleek the sterlin; For mony a pursie she had hooked, An' had in mony a well been douked; Her love had been a Highland laddie, But weary fa' the waefu' woodie! Wi' sighs an' sobs she thus began To wail her braw John Highlandman.
Tune—"O, an ye were dead, Guidman."
A Highland lad my love was born, The Lalland laws he held in scorn; But he still was faithfu' to his clan, My gallant, braw John Highlandman.
Sing hey my braw John Highlandman! Sing ho my braw John Highlandman! There's not a lad in a' the lan' Was match for my John Highlandman.
With his philibeg an' tartan plaid, An' guid claymore down by his side, The ladies' hearts he did trepan, My gallant, braw John Highlandman. Sing hey, &c.
We ranged a' from Tweed to Spey, An' liv'd like lords an' ladies gay; For a Lalland face he feared none,— My gallant, braw John Highlandman. Sing hey, &c.
They banish'd him beyond the sea. But ere the bud was on the tree, Adown my cheeks the pearls ran, Embracing my John Highlandman. Sing hey, &c.
But, och! they catch'd him at the last, And bound him in a dungeon fast: My curse upon them every one, They've hang'd my braw John Highlandman! Sing hey, &c.
And now a widow, I must mourn The pleasures that will ne'er return: The comfort but a hearty can, When I think on John Highlandman. Sing hey, &c.
A pigmy scraper wi' his fiddle, Wha us'd at trystes an' fairs to driddle. Her strappin limb and gausy middle (He reach'd nae higher) Had hol'd his heartie like a riddle, An' blawn't on fire.
Wi' hand on hainch, and upward e'e, He croon'd his gamut, one, two, three, Then in an arioso key, The wee Apoll Set off wi' allegretto glee His giga solo.
Tune—"Whistle owre the lave o't."
Let me ryke up to dight that tear, An' go wi' me an' be my dear; An' then your every care an' fear May whistle owre the lave o't.
I am a fiddler to my trade, An' a' the tunes that e'er I played, The sweetest still to wife or maid, Was whistle owre the lave o't.
At kirns an' weddins we'se be there, An' O sae nicely's we will fare! We'll bowse about till Daddie Care Sing whistle owre the lave o't. I am, &c.
Sae merrily's the banes we'll pyke, An' sun oursel's about the dyke; An' at our leisure, when ye like, We'll whistle owre the lave o't. I am, &c.
But bless me wi' your heav'n o' charms, An' while I kittle hair on thairms, Hunger, cauld, an' a' sic harms, May whistle owre the lave o't. I am, &c.
Her charms had struck a sturdy caird, As weel as poor gut-scraper; He taks the fiddler by the beard, An' draws a roosty rapier— He swoor, by a' was swearing worth, To speet him like a pliver, Unless he would from that time forth Relinquish her for ever.
Wi' ghastly e'e poor tweedle-dee Upon his hunkers bended, An' pray'd for grace wi' ruefu' face, An' so the quarrel ended. But tho' his little heart did grieve When round the tinkler prest her, He feign'd to snirtle in his sleeve, When thus the caird address'd her:
Tune—"Clout the Cauldron."
My bonie lass, I work in brass, A tinkler is my station: I've travell'd round all Christian ground In this my occupation; I've taen the gold, an' been enrolled In many a noble squadron; But vain they search'd when off I march'd To go an' clout the cauldron. I've taen the gold, &c.
Despise that shrimp, that wither'd imp, With a' his noise an' cap'rin; An' take a share with those that bear The budget and the apron! And by that stowp! my faith an' houp, And by that dear Kilbaigie,^1 If e'er ye want, or meet wi' scant, May I ne'er weet my craigie. And by that stowp, &c.
[Footnote 1: A peculiar sort of whisky so called, a great favorite with Poosie Nansie's clubs.—R.B.]
The caird prevail'd—th' unblushing fair In his embraces sunk; Partly wi' love o'ercome sae sair, An' partly she was drunk: Sir Violino, with an air That show'd a man o' spunk, Wish'd unison between the pair, An' made the bottle clunk To their health that night.
But hurchin Cupid shot a shaft, That play'd a dame a shavie— The fiddler rak'd her, fore and aft, Behint the chicken cavie. Her lord, a wight of Homer's craft,^2 Tho' limpin wi' the spavie, He hirpl'd up, an' lap like daft, An' shor'd them Dainty Davie. O' boot that night.
He was a care-defying blade As ever Bacchus listed! Tho' Fortune sair upon him laid, His heart, she ever miss'd it. He had no wish but—to be glad, Nor want but—when he thirsted; He hated nought but—to be sad, An' thus the muse suggested His sang that night.
Tune—"For a' that, an' a' that."
I am a Bard of no regard, Wi' gentle folks an' a' that; But Homer-like, the glowrin byke, Frae town to town I draw that.
For a' that, an' a' that, An' twice as muckle's a' that; I've lost but ane, I've twa behin', I've wife eneugh for a' that.
[Footnote 2: Homer is allowed to be the oldest ballad-singer on record.—R.B.]
I never drank the Muses' stank, Castalia's burn, an' a' that; But there it streams an' richly reams, My Helicon I ca' that. For a' that, &c.
Great love Idbear to a' the fair, Their humble slave an' a' that; But lordly will, I hold it still A mortal sin to thraw that. For a' that, &c.
In raptures sweet, this hour we meet, Wi' mutual love an' a' that; But for how lang the flie may stang, Let inclination law that. For a' that, &c.
Their tricks an' craft hae put me daft, They've taen me in, an' a' that; But clear your decks, and here's—"The Sex!" I like the jads for a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that, An' twice as muckle's a' that; My dearest bluid, to do them guid, They're welcome till't for a' that.
So sang the bard—and Nansie's wa's Shook with a thunder of applause, Re-echo'd from each mouth! They toom'd their pocks, they pawn'd their duds, They scarcely left to co'er their fuds, To quench their lowin drouth: Then owre again, the jovial thrang The poet did request To lowse his pack an' wale a sang, A ballad o' the best; He rising, rejoicing, Between his twa Deborahs, Looks round him, an' found them Impatient for the chorus.
Tune—"Jolly Mortals, fill your Glasses."
See the smoking bowl before us, Mark our jovial ragged ring! Round and round take up the chorus, And in raptures let us sing—
A fig for those by law protected! Liberty's a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest.
What is title, what is treasure, What is reputation's care? If we lead a life of pleasure, 'Tis no matter how or where! A fig for, &c.
With the ready trick and fable, Round we wander all the day; And at night in barn or stable, Hug our doxies on the hay. A fig for, &c.
Does the train-attended carriage Thro' the country lighter rove? Does the sober bed of marriage Witness brighter scenes of love? A fig for, &c.
Life is al a variorum, We regard not how it goes; Let them cant about decorum, Who have character to lose. A fig for, &c.
Here's to budgets, bags and wallets! Here's to all the wandering train. Here's our ragged brats and callets, One and all cry out, Amen!
A fig for those by law protected! Liberty's a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest.
Song—For A' That^1
Tune—"For a' that."
Tho' women's minds, like winter winds, May shift, and turn, an' a' that, The noblest breast adores them maist— A consequence I draw that.
For a' that, an' a' that, And twice as meikle's a' that; The bonie lass that I loe best She'll be my ain for a' that.
Great love I bear to a' the fair, Their humble slave, an' a' that; But lordly will, I hold it still A mortal sin to thraw that. For a' that, &c.
But there is ane aboon the lave, Has wit, and sense, an' a' that; A bonie lass, I like her best, And wha a crime dare ca' that? For a' that, &c.
In rapture sweet this hour we meet, Wi' mutual love an' a' that,
[Footnote 1: A later version of "I am a bard of no regard" in "The Jolly Beggars."]
But for how lang the flie may stang, Let inclination law that. For a' that, &c.
Their tricks an' craft hae put me daft. They've taen me in, an' a' that; But clear your decks, and here's—"The Sex!" I like the jads for a' that. For a' that, &c.
Song—Merry Hae I Been Teethin A Heckle
Tune—"The bob O' Dumblane."
O Merry hae I been teethin' a heckle, An' merry hae I been shapin' a spoon; O merry hae I been cloutin' a kettle, An' kissin' my Katie when a' was done. O a' the lang day I ca' at my hammer, An' a' the lang day I whistle and sing; O a' the lang night I cuddle my kimmer, An' a' the lang night as happy's a king.
Bitter in idol I lickit my winnins O' marrying Bess, to gie her a slave: Blest be the hour she cool'd in her linnens, And blythe be the bird that sings on her grave! Come to my arms, my Katie, my Katie; O come to my arms and kiss me again! Drucken or sober, here's to thee, Katie! An' blest be the day I did it again.
The Cotter's Saturday Night
Inscribed to R. Aiken, Esq., of Ayr.
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile, The short and simple annals of the Poor. Gray.
My lov'd, my honour'd, much respected friend! No mercenary bard his homage pays; With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end, My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise: To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays, The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene, The native feelings strong, the guileless ways, What Aiken in a cottage would have been; Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh; The short'ning winter-day is near a close; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh; The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose: The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes,— This night his weekly moil is at an end, Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
At length his lonely cot appears in view, Beneath the shelter of an aged tree; Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through To meet their dead, wi' flichterin noise and glee. His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie, His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile, The lisping infant, prattling on his knee, Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile, And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.
Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in, At service out, amang the farmers roun'; Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin A cannie errand to a neibor town: Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthfu' bloom-love sparkling in her e'e— Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown, Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee, To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.
With joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet, And each for other's weelfare kindly speirs: The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnotic'd fleet: Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears. The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years; Anticipation forward points the view; The mother, wi' her needle and her shears, Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new; The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.
Their master's and their mistress' command, The younkers a' are warned to obey; And mind their labours wi' an eydent hand, And ne'er, tho' out o' sight, to jauk or play; "And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway, And mind your duty, duly, morn and night; Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray, Implore His counsel and assisting might: They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright."
But hark! a rap comes gently to the door; Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same, Tells how a neibor lad came o'er the moor, To do some errands, and convoy her hame. The wily mother sees the conscious flame Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek; With heart-struck anxious care, enquires his name, While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak; Weel-pleased the mother hears, it's nae wild, worthless rake.
Wi' kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben; A strappin youth, he takes the mother's eye; Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill ta'en; The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye. The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy, But blate an' laithfu', scarce can weel behave; The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy What makes the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave, Weel-pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like the lave.
O happy love! where love like this is found: O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare! I've paced much this weary, mortal round, And sage experience bids me this declare,— "If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare— One cordial in this melancholy vale, 'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair In other'sarms, breathe out the tender tale, Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale."
Is there, in human form, that bears a heart, A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth! That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art, Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth? Curse on his perjur'd arts! dissembling smooth! Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exil'd? Is there no pity, no relenting ruth, Points to the parents fondling o'er their child? Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction wild?
But now the supper crowns their simple board, The halesome parritch, chief of Scotia's food; The sowp their only hawkie does afford, That, 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood: The dame brings forth, in complimental mood, To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell; And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid: The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell How t'was a towmond auld, sin' lint was i' the bell.
The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face, They, round the ingle, form a circle wide; The sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace, The big ha'bible, ance his father's pride: His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside, His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare; Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide, He wales a portion with judicious care; And "Let us worship God!" he says with solemn air.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise, They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim; Perhaps Dundee's wild-warbling measures rise; Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name; Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame; The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays: Compar'd with these, Italian trills are tame; The tickl'd ears no heart-felt raptures raise; Nae unison hae they with our Creator's praise.
The priest-like father reads the sacred page, How Abram was the friend of God on high; Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage With Amalek's ungracious progeny; Or how the royal bard did groaning lie Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire; Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry; Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire; Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme, How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed; How He, who bore in Heaven the second name, Had not on earth whereon to lay His head: How His first followers and servants sped; The precepts sage they wrote to many a land: How he, who lone in Patmos banished, Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand, And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounc'd by Heaven's command.
Then, kneeling down to Heaven's Eternal King, The saint, the father, and the husband prays: Hope "springs exulting on triumphant wing,"^1 That thus they all shall meet in future days, There, ever bask in uncreated rays, No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear, Together hymning their Creator's praise, In such society, yet still more dear; While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere
Compar'd with this, how poor Religion's pride, In all the pomp of method, and of art; When men display to congregations wide
[Footnote 1: Pope's "Windsor Forest."—R.B.]
Devotion's ev'ry grace, except the heart! The Power, incens'd, the pageant will desert, The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole; But haply, in some cottage far apart, May hear, well-pleas'd, the language of the soul; And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.
Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way; The youngling cottagers retire to rest: The parent-pair their secret homage pay, And proffer up to Heaven the warm request, That he who stills the raven's clam'rous nest, And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride, Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best, For them and for their little ones provide; But chiefly, in their hearts with grace divine preside.
From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs, That makes her lov'd at home, rever'd abroad: Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, "An honest man's the noblest work of God;" And certes, in fair virtue's heavenly road, The cottage leaves the palace far behind; What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load, Disguising oft the wretch of human kind, Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin'd!
O Scotia! my dear, my native soil! For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent, Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content! And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent From luxury's contagion, weak and vile! Then howe'er crowns and coronets be rent, A virtuous populace may rise the while, And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov'd isle.
O Thou! who pour'd the patriotic tide, That stream'd thro' Wallace's undaunted heart, Who dar'd to nobly stem tyrannic pride, Or nobly die, the second glorious part: (The patriot's God peculiarly thou art, His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!) O never, never Scotia's realm desert; But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!
Address To The Deil
O Prince! O chief of many throned Pow'rs That led th' embattl'd Seraphim to war— Milton.
O Thou! whatever title suit thee— Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie, Wha in yon cavern grim an' sootie, Clos'd under hatches, Spairges about the brunstane cootie, To scaud poor wretches!
Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee, An' let poor damned bodies be; I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie, Ev'n to a deil, To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me, An' hear us squeel!
Great is thy pow'r an' great thy fame; Far ken'd an' noted is thy name; An' tho' yon lowin' heuch's thy hame, Thou travels far; An' faith! thou's neither lag nor lame, Nor blate, nor scaur.
Whiles, ranging like a roarin lion, For prey, a' holes and corners tryin; Whiles, on the strong-wind'd tempest flyin, Tirlin the kirks; Whiles, in the human bosom pryin, Unseen thou lurks.
I've heard my rev'rend graunie say, In lanely glens ye like to stray; Or where auld ruin'd castles grey Nod to the moon, Ye fright the nightly wand'rer's way, Wi' eldritch croon.
When twilight did my graunie summon, To say her pray'rs, douse, honest woman! Aft'yont the dyke she's heard you bummin, Wi' eerie drone; Or, rustlin, thro' the boortrees comin, Wi' heavy groan.
Ae dreary, windy, winter night, The stars shot down wi' sklentin light, Wi' you, mysel' I gat a fright, Ayont the lough; Ye, like a rash-buss, stood in sight, Wi' wavin' sough.
The cudgel in my nieve did shake, Each brist'ld hair stood like a stake, When wi' an eldritch, stoor "quaick, quaick," Amang the springs, Awa ye squatter'd like a drake, On whistlin' wings.
Let warlocks grim, an' wither'd hags, Tell how wi' you, on ragweed nags, They skim the muirs an' dizzy crags, Wi' wicked speed; And in kirk-yards renew their leagues, Owre howkit dead.
Thence countra wives, wi' toil and pain, May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain; For oh! the yellow treasure's ta'en By witchin' skill; An' dawtit, twal-pint hawkie's gane As yell's the bill.
Thence mystic knots mak great abuse On young guidmen, fond, keen an' crouse, When the best wark-lume i' the house, By cantrip wit, Is instant made no worth a louse, Just at the bit.
When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord, An' float the jinglin' icy boord, Then water-kelpies haunt the foord, By your direction, And 'nighted trav'llers are allur'd To their destruction.
And aft your moss-traversin Spunkies Decoy the wight that late an' drunk is: The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkies Delude his eyes, Till in some miry slough he sunk is, Ne'er mair to rise.
When masons' mystic word an' grip In storms an' tempests raise you up, Some cock or cat your rage maun stop, Or, strange to tell! The youngest brither ye wad whip Aff straught to hell.
Lang syne in Eden's bonie yard, When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd, An' all the soul of love they shar'd, The raptur'd hour, Sweet on the fragrant flow'ry swaird, In shady bower;^1
Then you, ye auld, snick-drawing dog! Ye cam to Paradise incog,
[Footnote 1: The verse originally ran: "Lang syne, in Eden's happy scene When strappin Adam's days were green, And Eve was like my bonie Jean, My dearest part, A dancin, sweet, young handsome quean, O' guileless heart."]
An' play'd on man a cursed brogue, (Black be your fa'!) An' gied the infant warld a shog, 'Maist rui'd a'.
D'ye mind that day when in a bizz Wi' reekit duds, an' reestit gizz, Ye did present your smoutie phiz 'Mang better folk, An' sklented on the man of Uzz Your spitefu' joke?
An' how ye gat him i' your thrall, An' brak him out o' house an hal', While scabs and botches did him gall, Wi' bitter claw; An' lows'd his ill-tongu'd wicked scaul', Was warst ava?
But a' your doings to rehearse, Your wily snares an' fechtin fierce, Sin' that day Michael^2 did you pierce, Down to this time, Wad ding a Lallan tounge, or Erse, In prose or rhyme.
An' now, auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin, A certain bardie's rantin, drinkin, Some luckless hour will send him linkin To your black pit; But faith! he'll turn a corner jinkin, An' cheat you yet.
But fare-you-weel, auld Nickie-ben! O wad ye tak a thought an' men'! Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken— Stil hae a stake: I'm wae to think up' yon den, Ev'n for your sake!
[Footnote 2: Vide Milton, Book vi.—R. B.]
Gie him strong drink until he wink, That's sinking in despair; An' liquor guid to fire his bluid, That's prest wi' grief and care: There let him bouse, an' deep carouse, Wi' bumpers flowing o'er, Till he forgets his loves or debts, An' minds his griefs no more.
(Solomon's Proverbs, xxxi. 6, 7.)
Let other poets raise a fracas 'Bout vines, an' wines, an' drucken Bacchus, An' crabbit names an'stories wrack us, An' grate our lug: I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us, In glass or jug.
O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink! Whether thro' wimplin worms thou jink, Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink, In glorious faem, Inspire me, till I lisp an' wink, To sing thy name!
Let husky wheat the haughs adorn, An' aits set up their awnie horn, An' pease and beans, at e'en or morn, Perfume the plain: Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn, Thou king o' grain!
On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, In souple scones, the wale o'food! Or tumblin in the boiling flood Wi' kail an' beef; But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood, There thou shines chief.
Food fills the wame, an' keeps us leevin; Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin, When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin; But, oil'd by thee, The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin, Wi' rattlin glee.
Thou clears the head o'doited Lear; Thou cheers ahe heart o' drooping Care; Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair, At's weary toil; Though even brightens dark Despair Wi' gloomy smile.
Aft, clad in massy siller weed, Wi' gentles thou erects thy head; Yet, humbly kind in time o' need, The poor man's wine; His weep drap parritch, or his bread, Thou kitchens fine.
Thou art the life o' public haunts; But thee, what were our fairs and rants? Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts, By thee inspired, When gaping they besiege the tents, Are doubly fir'd.
That merry night we get the corn in, O sweetly, then, thou reams the horn in! Or reekin on a New-year mornin In cog or bicker, An' just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in, An' gusty sucker!
When Vulcan gies his bellows breath, An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith, O rare! to see thee fizz an freath I' th' luggit caup! Then Burnewin comes on like death At every chap.
Nae mercy then, for airn or steel; The brawnie, banie, ploughman chiel, Brings hard owrehip, wi' sturdy wheel, The strong forehammer, Till block an' studdie ring an reel, Wi' dinsome clamour.
When skirling weanies see the light, Though maks the gossips clatter bright, How fumblin' cuiffs their dearies slight; Wae worth the name! Nae howdie gets a social night, Or plack frae them.
When neibors anger at a plea, An' just as wud as wud can be, How easy can the barley brie Cement the quarrel! It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee, To taste the barrel.
Alake! that e'er my muse has reason, To wyte her countrymen wi' treason! But mony daily weet their weason Wi' liquors nice, An' hardly, in a winter season, E'er Spier her price.
Wae worth that brandy, burnin trash! Fell source o' mony a pain an' brash! Twins mony a poor, doylt, drucken hash, O' half his days; An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash To her warst faes.
Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well! Ye chief, to you my tale I tell, Poor, plackless devils like mysel'! It sets you ill, Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell, Or foreign gill.
May gravels round his blather wrench, An' gouts torment him, inch by inch, What twists his gruntle wi' a glunch O' sour disdain, Out owre a glass o' whisky-punch Wi' honest men!
O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks! Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks! When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks Are my poor verses! Thou comes—they rattle in their ranks, At ither's a-s!
Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost! Scotland lament frae coast to coast! Now colic grips, an' barkin hoast May kill us a'; For loyal Forbes' charter'd boast Is ta'en awa?
Thae curst horse-leeches o' the' Excise, Wha mak the whisky stells their prize! Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice! There, seize the blinkers! An' bake them up in brunstane pies For poor damn'd drinkers.
Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill, An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will, Tak a' the rest, An' deal't about as thy blind skill Directs thee best.
The Auld Farmer's New-Year-Morning Salutation To His Auld Mare, Maggie
On giving her the accustomed ripp of corn to hansel in the New Year.
A Guid New-year I wish thee, Maggie! Hae, there's a ripp to thy auld baggie: Tho' thou's howe-backit now, an' knaggie, I've seen the day Thou could hae gaen like ony staggie, Out-owre the lay.
Tho' now thou's dowie, stiff, an' crazy, An' thy auld hide as white's a daisie, I've seen thee dappl't, sleek an' glaizie, A bonie gray: He should been tight that daur't to raize thee, Ance in a day.
Thou ance was i' the foremost rank, A filly buirdly, steeve, an' swank; An' set weel down a shapely shank, As e'er tread yird; An' could hae flown out-owre a stank, Like ony bird.
It's now some nine-an'-twenty year, Sin' thou was my guid-father's mear; He gied me thee, o' tocher clear, An' fifty mark; Tho' it was sma', 'twas weel-won gear, An' thou was stark.
When first I gaed to woo my Jenny, Ye then was trotting wi' your minnie: Tho' ye was trickie, slee, an' funnie, Ye ne'er was donsie; But hamely, tawie, quiet, an' cannie, An' unco sonsie.
That day, ye pranc'd wi' muckle pride, When ye bure hame my bonie bride: An' sweet an' gracefu' she did ride, Wi' maiden air! Kyle-Stewart I could bragged wide For sic a pair.
Tho' now ye dow but hoyte and hobble, An' wintle like a saumont coble, That day, ye was a jinker noble, For heels an' win'! An' ran them till they a' did wauble, Far, far, behin'!
When thou an' I were young an' skeigh, An' stable-meals at fairs were dreigh, How thou wad prance, and snore, an' skreigh An' tak the road! Town's-bodies ran, an' stood abeigh, An' ca't thee mad.
When thou was corn't, an' I was mellow, We took the road aye like a swallow: At brooses thou had ne'er a fellow, For pith an' speed; But ev'ry tail thou pay't them hollowm Whare'er thou gaed.
The sma', droop-rumpl't, hunter cattle Might aiblins waur't thee for a brattle; But sax Scotch mile, thou try't their mettle, An' gar't them whaizle: Nae whip nor spur, but just a wattle O' saugh or hazel.
Thou was a noble fittie-lan', As e'er in tug or tow was drawn! Aft thee an' I, in aught hours' gaun, In guid March-weather, Hae turn'd sax rood beside our han', For days thegither.
Thou never braing't, an' fetch't, an' fliskit; But thy auld tail thou wad hae whiskit, An' spread abreed thy weel-fill'd brisket, Wi' pith an' power; Till sprittie knowes wad rair't an' riskit An' slypet owre.
When frosts lay lang, an' snaws were deep, An' threaten'd labour back to keep, I gied thy cog a wee bit heap Aboon the timmer: I ken'd my Maggie wad na sleep, For that, or simmer.
In cart or car thou never reestit; The steyest brae thou wad hae fac't it; Thou never lap, an' sten't, and breastit, Then stood to blaw; But just thy step a wee thing hastit, Thou snoov't awa.
My pleugh is now thy bairn-time a', Four gallant brutes as e'er did draw; Forbye sax mae I've sell't awa, That thou hast nurst: They drew me thretteen pund an' twa, The vera warst.
Mony a sair daurk we twa hae wrought, An' wi' the weary warl' fought! An' mony an anxious day, I thought We wad be beat! Yet here to crazy age we're brought, Wi' something yet.
An' think na', my auld trusty servan', That now perhaps thou's less deservin, An' thy auld days may end in starvin; For my last fow, A heapit stimpart, I'll reserve ane Laid by for you.
We've worn to crazy years thegither; We'll toyte about wi' ane anither; Wi' tentie care I'll flit thy tether To some hain'd rig, Whare ye may nobly rax your leather, Wi' sma' fatigue.
The Twa Dogs^1
'Twas in that place o' Scotland's isle, That bears the name o' auld King Coil, Upon a bonie day in June, When wearin' thro' the afternoon, Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame, Forgather'd ance upon a time.
The first I'll name, they ca'd him Caesar, Was keepit for His Honor's pleasure: His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, Shew'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs; But whalpit some place far abroad, Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.
His locked, letter'd, braw brass collar Shew'd him the gentleman an' scholar; But though he was o' high degree, The fient a pride, nae pride had he; But wad hae spent an hour caressin, Ev'n wi' al tinkler-gipsy's messin: At kirk or market, mill or smiddie, Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er sae duddie, But he wad stan't, as glad to see him, An' stroan't on stanes an' hillocks wi' him.
The tither was a ploughman's collie— A rhyming, ranting, raving billie, Wha for his friend an' comrade had him, And in freak had Luath ca'd him, After some dog in Highland Sang,^2 Was made lang syne,—Lord knows how lang.
He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke, As ever lap a sheugh or dyke. His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face Aye gat him friends in ilka place; His breast was white, his touzie back Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black; His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl, Hung owre his hurdie's wi' a swirl.
[Footnote 1: Luath was Burns' own dog.]
[Footnote 2: Luath, Cuchullin's dog in Ossian's "Fingal."—R. B.]
Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, And unco pack an' thick thegither; Wi' social nose whiles snuff'd an' snowkit; Whiles mice an' moudieworts they howkit; Whiles scour'd awa' in lang excursion, An' worry'd ither in diversion; Until wi' daffin' weary grown Upon a knowe they set them down. An' there began a lang digression. About the "lords o' the creation."
I've aften wonder'd, honest Luath, What sort o' life poor dogs like you have; An' when the gentry's life I saw, What way poor bodies liv'd ava.
Our laird gets in his racked rents, His coals, his kane, an' a' his stents: He rises when he likes himsel'; His flunkies answer at the bell; He ca's his coach; he ca's his horse; He draws a bonie silken purse, As lang's my tail, where, thro' the steeks, The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks.
Frae morn to e'en, it's nought but toiling At baking, roasting, frying, boiling; An' tho' the gentry first are stechin, Yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their pechan Wi' sauce, ragouts, an' sic like trashtrie, That's little short o' downright wastrie. Our whipper-in, wee, blasted wonner, Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner, Better than ony tenant-man His Honour has in a' the lan': An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in, I own it's past my comprehension.
Trowth, Caesar, whiles they're fash't eneugh: A cottar howkin in a sheugh, Wi' dirty stanes biggin a dyke, Baring a quarry, an' sic like; Himsel', a wife, he thus sustains, A smytrie o' wee duddie weans, An' nought but his han'-daurk, to keep Them right an' tight in thack an' rape.