Robert Burns: Poems


Sketch—New Year's Day, 1790

To Mrs. Dunlop.

This day, Time winds th' exhausted chain;

To run the twelvemonth's length again:

I see, the old bald-pated fellow,

With ardent eyes, complexion sallow,

Adjust the unimpair'd machine,

To wheel the equal, dull routine.

The absent lover, minor heir,

In vain assail him with their prayer;

Deaf as my friend, he sees them press,

Nor makes the hour one moment less,

Will you (the Major's with the hounds,

The happy tenants share his rounds;

Coila's fair Rachel's care to-day,

And blooming Keith's engaged with Gray)

From housewife cares a minute borrow,

(That grandchild's cap will do to-morrow,)

And join with me a-moralizing;

This day's propitious to be wise in.

First, what did yesternight deliver?

"Another year has gone for ever."

And what is this day's strong suggestion?

"The passing moment's all we rest on!"

Rest on—for what? what do we here?

Or why regard the passing year?

Will Time, amus'd with proverb'd lore,

Add to our date one minute more?

A few days may—a few years must—

Repose us in the silent dust.

Then, is it wise to damp our bliss?

Yes—all such reasonings are amiss!

The voice of Nature loudly cries,

And many a message from the skies,

That something in us never dies:

That on his frail, uncertain state,

Hang matters of eternal weight:

That future life in worlds unknown

Must take its hue from this alone;

Whether as heavenly glory bright,

Or dark as Misery's woeful night.

Since then, my honour'd first of friends,

On this poor being all depends,

Let us th' important now employ,

And live as those who never die.

Tho' you, with days and honours crown'd,

Witness that filial circle round,

(A sight life's sorrows to repulse,

A sight pale Envy to convulse),

Others now claim your chief regard;

Yourself, you wait your bright reward.

Scots' Prologue For Mr. Sutherland

On his Benefit-Night, at the Theatre, Dumfries.

What needs this din about the town o' Lon'on,

How this new play an' that new sang is comin?

Why is outlandish stuff sae meikle courted?

Does nonsense mend, like brandy, when imported?

Is there nae poet, burning keen for fame,

Will try to gie us sangs and plays at hame?

For Comedy abroad he need to toil,

A fool and knave are plants of every soil;

Nor need he hunt as far as Rome or Greece,

To gather matter for a serious piece;

There's themes enow in Caledonian story,

Would shew the Tragic Muse in a' her glory.—

Is there no daring Bard will rise and tell

How glorious Wallace stood, how hapless fell?

Where are the Muses fled that could produce

A drama worthy o' the name o' Bruce?

How here, even here, he first unsheath'd the sword

'Gainst mighty England and her guilty Lord;

And after mony a bloody, deathless doing,

Wrench'd his dear country from the jaws of Ruin!

O for a Shakespeare, or an Otway scene,

To draw the lovely, hapless Scottish Queen!

Vain all th' omnipotence of female charms

'Gainst headlong, ruthless, mad Rebellion's arms:

She fell, but fell with spirit truly Roman,

To glut that direst foe—a vengeful woman;

A woman, (tho' the phrase may seem uncivil,)

As able and as wicked as the Devil!

One Douglas lives in Home's immortal page,

But Douglasses were heroes every age:

And tho' your fathers, prodigal of life,

A Douglas followed to the martial strife,

Perhaps, if bowls row right, and Right succeeds,

Ye yet may follow where a Douglas leads!

As ye hae generous done, if a' the land

Would take the Muses' servants by the hand;

Not only hear, but patronize, befriend them,

And where he justly can commend, commend them;

And aiblins when they winna stand the test,

Wink hard, and say The folks hae done their best!

Would a' the land do this, then I'll be caition,

Ye'll soon hae Poets o' the Scottish nation

Will gar Fame blaw until her trumpet crack,

And warsle Time, an' lay him on his back!

For us and for our Stage, should ony spier,

"Whase aught thae chiels maks a' this bustle here?"

My best leg foremost, I'll set up my brow—

We have the honour to belong to you!

We're your ain bairns, e'en guide us as ye like,

But like good mithers shore before ye strike;

And gratefu' still, I trust ye'll ever find us,

For gen'rous patronage, and meikle kindness

We've got frae a' professions, sets and ranks:

God help us! we're but poor—ye'se get but thanks.

Lines To A Gentleman,

Who had sent the Poet a Newspaper, and offered

to continue it free of Expense.

Kind Sir, I've read your paper through,

And faith, to me, 'twas really new!

How guessed ye, Sir, what maist I wanted?

This mony a day I've grain'd and gaunted,

To ken what French mischief was brewin;

Or what the drumlie Dutch were doin;

That vile doup-skelper, Emperor Joseph,

If Venus yet had got his nose off;

Or how the collieshangie works

Atween the Russians and the Turks,

Or if the Swede, before he halt,

Would play anither Charles the twalt;

If Denmark, any body spak o't;

Or Poland, wha had now the tack o't:

How cut-throat Prussian blades were hingin;

How libbet Italy was singin;

If Spaniard, Portuguese, or Swiss,

Were sayin' or takin' aught amiss;

Or how our merry lads at hame,

In Britain's court kept up the game;

How royal George, the Lord leuk o'er him!

Was managing St. Stephen's quorum;

If sleekit Chatham Will was livin,

Or glaikit Charlie got his nieve in;

How daddie Burke the plea was cookin,

If Warren Hasting's neck was yeukin;

How cesses, stents, and fees were rax'd.

Or if bare arses yet were tax'd;

The news o' princes, dukes, and earls,

Pimps, sharpers, bawds, and opera-girls;

If that daft buckie, Geordie Wales,

Was threshing still at hizzies' tails;

Or if he was grown oughtlins douser,

And no a perfect kintra cooser:

A' this and mair I never heard of;

And, but for you, I might despair'd of.

So, gratefu', back your news I send you,

And pray a' gude things may attend you.

Ellisland, Monday Morning, 1790.

Elegy On Willie Nicol's Mare

Peg Nicholson was a good bay mare,

As ever trod on airn;

But now she's floating down the Nith,

And past the mouth o' Cairn.

Peg Nicholson was a good bay mare,

An' rode thro' thick and thin;

But now she's floating down the Nith,

And wanting even the skin.

Peg Nicholson was a good bay mare,

And ance she bore a priest;

But now she's floating down the Nith,

For Solway fish a feast.

Peg Nicholson was a good bay mare,

An' the priest he rode her sair;

And much oppress'd and bruis'd she was,

As priest-rid cattle are,—&c. &c.

The Gowden Locks Of Anna

Yestreen I had a pint o' wine,

A place where body saw na;

Yestreen lay on this breast o' mine

The gowden locks of Anna.

The hungry Jew in wilderness,

Rejoicing o'er his manna,

Was naething to my hinny bliss

Upon the lips of Anna.

Ye monarchs, take the East and West

Frae Indus to Savannah;

Gie me, within my straining grasp,

The melting form of Anna:

There I'll despise Imperial charms,

An Empress or Sultana,

While dying raptures in her arms

I give and take wi' Anna!

Awa, thou flaunting God of Day!

Awa, thou pale Diana!

Ilk Star, gae hide thy twinkling ray,

When I'm to meet my Anna!

Come, in thy raven plumage, Night,

(Sun, Moon, and Stars, withdrawn a';)

And bring an angel-pen to write

My transports with my Anna!


The Kirk an' State may join an' tell,

To do sic things I maunna:

The Kirk an' State may gae to hell,

And I'll gae to my Anna.

She is the sunshine o' my e'e,

To live but her I canna;

Had I on earth but wishes three,

The first should be my Anna.

Song—I Murder Hate

I murder hate by flood or field,

Tho' glory's name may screen us;

In wars at home I'll spend my blood—

Life-giving wars of Venus.

The deities that I adore

Are social Peace and Plenty;

I'm better pleas'd to make one more,

Than be the death of twenty.

I would not die like Socrates,

For all the fuss of Plato;

Nor would I with Leonidas,

Nor yet would I with Cato:

The zealots of the Church and State

Shall ne'er my mortal foes be;

But let me have bold Zimri's fate,

Within the arms of Cozbi!

Gudewife, Count The Lawin

Gane is the day, and mirk's the night,

But we'll ne'er stray for faut o' light;

Gude ale and bratdy's stars and moon,

And blue-red wine's the risin' sun.

Chorus.—Then gudewife, count the lawin,

The lawin, the lawin,

Then gudewife, count the lawin,

And bring a coggie mair.

There's wealth and ease for gentlemen,

And simple folk maun fecht and fen';

But here we're a' in ae accord,

For ilka man that's drunk's a lord.

Then gudewife, &c.

My coggie is a haly pool

That heals the wounds o' care and dool;

And Pleasure is a wanton trout,

An ye drink it a', ye'll find him out.

Then gudewife, &c.

Election Ballad

At the close of the contest for representing the Dumfries Burghs, 1790.

Addressed to R. Graham, Esq. of Fintry.

Fintry, my stay in wordly strife,

Friend o' my muse, friend o' my life,

Are ye as idle's I am?

Come then, wi' uncouth kintra fleg,

O'er Pegasus I'll fling my leg,

And ye shall see me try him.

But where shall I go rin a ride,

That I may splatter nane beside?

I wad na be uncivil:

In manhood's various paths and ways

There's aye some doytin' body strays,

And I ride like the devil.

Thus I break aff wi' a' my birr,

And down yon dark, deep alley spur,

Where Theologics daunder:

Alas! curst wi' eternal fogs,

And damn'd in everlasting bogs,

As sure's the creed I'll blunder!

I'll stain a band, or jaup a gown,

Or rin my reckless, guilty crown

Against the haly door:

Sair do I rue my luckless fate,

When, as the Muse an' Deil wad hae't,

I rade that road before.

Suppose I take a spurt, and mix

Amang the wilds o' Politics—

Electors and elected,

Where dogs at Court (sad sons of bitches!)

Septennially a madness touches,

Till all the land's infected.

All hail! Drumlanrig's haughty Grace,

Discarded remnant of a race

Once godlike—great in story;

Thy forbears' virtues all contrasted,

The very name of Douglas blasted,

Thine that inverted glory!

Hate, envy, oft the Douglas bore,

But thou hast superadded more,

And sunk them in contempt;

Follies and crimes have stain'd the name,

But, Queensberry, thine the virgin claim,

From aught that's good exempt!

I'll sing the zeal Drumlanrig bears,

Who left the all-important cares

Of princes, and their darlings:

And, bent on winning borough touns,

Came shaking hands wi' wabster-loons,

And kissing barefit carlins.

Combustion thro' our boroughs rode,

Whistling his roaring pack abroad

Of mad unmuzzled lions;

As Queensberry blue and buff unfurl'd,

And Westerha' and Hopetoun hurled

To every Whig defiance.

But cautious Queensberry left the war,

Th' unmanner'd dust might soil his star,

Besides, he hated bleeding:

But left behind him heroes bright,

Heroes in Caesarean fight,

Or Ciceronian pleading.

O for a throat like huge Mons-Meg,

To muster o'er each ardent Whig

Beneath Drumlanrig's banners;

Heroes and heroines commix,

All in the field of politics,

To win immortal honours.

M'Murdo and his lovely spouse,

(Th' enamour'd laurels kiss her brows!)

Led on the Loves and Graces:

She won each gaping burgess' heart,

While he, sub rosa, played his part

Amang their wives and lasses.

Craigdarroch led a light-arm'd core,

Tropes, metaphors, and figures pour,

Like Hecla streaming thunder:

Glenriddel, skill'd in rusty coins,

Blew up each Tory's dark designs,

And bared the treason under.

In either wing two champions fought;

Redoubted Staig, who set at nought

The wildest savage Tory;

And Welsh who ne'er yet flinch'd his ground,

High-wav'd his magnum-bonum round

With Cyclopeian fury.

Miller brought up th' artillery ranks,

The many-pounders of the Banks,

Resistless desolation!

While Maxwelton, that baron bold,

'Mid Lawson's port entrench'd his hold,

And threaten'd worse damnation.

To these what Tory hosts oppos'd

With these what Tory warriors clos'd

Surpasses my descriving;

Squadrons, extended long and large,

With furious speed rush to the charge,

Like furious devils driving.

What verse can sing, what prose narrate,

The butcher deeds of bloody Fate,

Amid this mighty tulyie!

Grim Horror girn'd, pale Terror roar'd,

As Murder at his thrapple shor'd,

And Hell mix'd in the brulyie.

As Highland craigs by thunder cleft,

When lightnings fire the stormy lift,

Hurl down with crashing rattle;

As flames among a hundred woods,

As headlong foam from a hundred floods,

Such is the rage of Battle.

The stubborn Tories dare to die;

As soon the rooted oaks would fly

Before th' approaching fellers:

The Whigs come on like Ocean's roar,

When all his wintry billows pour

Against the Buchan Bullers.

Lo, from the shades of Death's deep night,

Departed Whigs enjoy the fight,

And think on former daring:

The muffled murtherer of Charles

The Magna Charter flag unfurls,

All deadly gules its bearing.

Nor wanting ghosts of Tory fame;

Bold Scrimgeour follows gallant Graham;

Auld Covenanters shiver—

Forgive! forgive! much-wrong'd Montrose!

Now Death and Hell engulph thy foes,

Thou liv'st on high for ever.

Still o'er the field the combat burns,

The Tories, Whigs, give way by turns;

But Fate the word has spoken:

For woman's wit and strength o'man,

Alas! can do but what they can;

The Tory ranks are broken.

O that my een were flowing burns!

My voice, a lioness that mourns

Her darling cubs' undoing!

That I might greet, that I might cry,

While Tories fall, while Tories fly,

And furious Whigs pursuing!

What Whig but melts for good Sir James,

Dear to his country, by the names,

Friend, Patron, Benefactor!

Not Pulteney's wealth can Pulteney save;

And Hopetoun falls, the generous, brave;

And Stewart, bold as Hector.

Thou, Pitt, shalt rue this overthrow,

And Thurlow growl a curse of woe,

And Melville melt in wailing:

Now Fox and Sheridan rejoice,

And Burke shall sing, "O Prince, arise!

Thy power is all-prevailing!"

For your poor friend, the Bard, afar

He only hears and sees the war,

A cool spectator purely!

So, when the storm the forest rends,

The robin in the hedge descends,

And sober chirps securely.

Now, for my friends' and brethren's sakes,

And for my dear-lov'd Land o' Cakes,

I pray with holy fire:

Lord, send a rough-shod troop o' Hell

O'er a' wad Scotland buy or sell,

To grind them in the mire!

Elegy On Captain Matthew Henderson

A Gentleman who held the Patent for his Honours immediately from Almighty God.

Should the poor be flattered?—Shakespeare.

O Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!

The meikle devil wi' a woodie

Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie,

O'er hurcheon hides,

And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie

Wi' thy auld sides!

He's gane, he's gane! he's frae us torn,

The ae best fellow e'er was born!

Thee, Matthew, Nature's sel' shall mourn,

By wood and wild,

Where haply, Pity strays forlorn,

Frae man exil'd.

Ye hills, near neighbours o' the starns,

That proudly cock your cresting cairns!

Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing earns,

Where Echo slumbers!

Come join, ye Nature's sturdiest bairns,

My wailing numbers!

Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!

Ye haz'ly shaws and briery dens!

Ye burnies, wimplin' down your glens,

Wi' toddlin din,

Or foaming, strang, wi' hasty stens,

Frae lin to lin.

Mourn, little harebells o'er the lea;

Ye stately foxgloves, fair to see;

Ye woodbines hanging bonilie,

In scented bow'rs;

Ye roses on your thorny tree,

The first o' flow'rs.

At dawn, when ev'ry grassy blade

Droops with a diamond at his head,

At ev'n, when beans their fragrance shed,

I' th' rustling gale,

Ye maukins, whiddin thro' the glade,

Come join my wail.

Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;

Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;

Ye curlews, calling thro' a clud;

Ye whistling plover;

And mourn, we whirring paitrick brood;

He's gane for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;

Ye fisher herons, watching eels;

Ye duck and drake, wi' airy wheels

Circling the lake;

Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,

Rair for his sake.

Mourn, clam'ring craiks at close o' day,

'Mang fields o' flow'ring clover gay;

And when ye wing your annual way

Frae our claud shore,

Tell thae far warlds wha lies in clay,

Wham we deplore.

Ye houlets, frae your ivy bow'r

In some auld tree, or eldritch tow'r,

What time the moon, wi' silent glow'r,

Sets up her horn,

Wail thro' the dreary midnight hour,

Till waukrife morn!

O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!

Oft have ye heard my canty strains;

But now, what else for me remains

But tales of woe;

And frae my een the drapping rains

Maun ever flow.

Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year!

Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:

Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear

Shoots up its head,

Thy gay, green, flow'ry tresses shear,

For him that's dead!

Thou, Autumn, wi' thy yellow hair,

In grief thy sallow mantle tear!

Thou, Winter, hurling thro' the air

The roaring blast,

Wide o'er the naked world declare

The worth we've lost!

Mourn him, thou Sun, great source of light!

Mourn, Empress of the silent night!

And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,

My Matthew mourn!

For through your orbs he's ta'en his flight,

Ne'er to return.

O Henderson! the man! the brother!

And art thou gone, and gone for ever!

And hast thou crost that unknown river,

Life's dreary bound!

Like thee, where shall I find another,

The world around!

Go to your sculptur'd tombs, ye Great,

In a' the tinsel trash o' state!

But by thy honest turf I'll wait,

Thou man of worth!

And weep the ae best fellow's fate

E'er lay in earth.

The Epitaph

Stop, passenger! my story's brief,

And truth I shall relate, man;

I tell nae common tale o' grief,

For Matthew was a great man.

If thou uncommon merit hast,

Yet spurn'd at Fortune's door, man;

A look of pity hither cast,

For Matthew was a poor man.

If thou a noble sodger art,

That passest by this grave, man;

There moulders here a gallant heart,

For Matthew was a brave man.

If thou on men, their works and ways,

Canst throw uncommon light, man;

Here lies wha weel had won thy praise,

For Matthew was a bright man.

If thou, at Friendship's sacred ca',

Wad life itself resign, man:

Thy sympathetic tear maun fa',

For Matthew was a kind man.

If thou art staunch, without a stain,

Like the unchanging blue, man;

This was a kinsman o' thy ain,

For Matthew was a true man.

If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire,

And ne'er guid wine did fear, man;

This was thy billie, dam, and sire,

For Matthew was a queer man.

If ony whiggish, whingin' sot,

To blame poor Matthew dare, man;

May dool and sorrow be his lot,

For Matthew was a rare man.

But now, his radiant course is run,

For Matthew's was a bright one!

His soul was like the glorious sun,

A matchless, Heavenly light, man.

Verses On Captain Grose

Written on an Envelope, enclosing a Letter to Him.

Ken ye aught o' Captain Grose?—Igo, and ago,

If he's amang his friends or foes?—Iram, coram, dago.

Is he to Abra'm's bosom gane?—Igo, and ago,

Or haudin Sarah by the wame?—Iram, coram dago.

Is he south or is he north?—Igo, and ago,

Or drowned in the river Forth?—Iram, coram dago.

Is he slain by Hielan' bodies?—Igo, and ago,

And eaten like a wether haggis?—Iram, coram, dago.

Where'er he be, the Lord be near him!—Igo, and ago,

As for the deil, he daur na steer him.—Iram, coram, dago.

But please transmit th' enclosed letter,—Igo, and ago,

Which will oblige your humble debtor.—Iram, coram, dago.

So may ye hae auld stanes in store,—Igo, and ago,

The very stanes that Adam bore.—Iram, coram, dago,

So may ye get in glad possession,—Igo, and ago,

The coins o' Satan's coronation!—Iram coram dago.

Tam O' Shanter

A Tale.

"Of Brownyis and of Bogillis full is this Buke."

Gawin Douglas.

When chapman billies leave the street,

And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet;

As market days are wearing late,

And folk begin to tak the gate,

While we sit bousing at the nappy,

An' getting fou and unco happy,

We think na on the lang Scots miles,

The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles,

That lie between us and our hame,

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame,

Gathering her brows like gathering storm,

Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,

As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:

(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,

For honest men and bonie lasses).

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,

As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!

She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,

A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;

That frae November till October,

Ae market-day thou was na sober;

That ilka melder wi' the Miller,

Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;

That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on

The Smith and thee gat roarin' fou on;

That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday,

Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday,

She prophesied that late or soon,

Thou wad be found, deep drown'd in Doon,

Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,

By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk.

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,

To think how mony counsels sweet,

How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,

The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale: Ae market night,

Tam had got planted unco right,

Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,

Wi reaming saats, that drank divinely;

And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,

His ancient, trusty, drougthy crony:

Tam lo'ed him like a very brither;

They had been fou for weeks thegither.

The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;

And aye the ale was growing better:

The Landlady and Tam grew gracious,

Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious:

The Souter tauld his queerest stories;

The Landlord's laugh was ready chorus:

The storm without might rair and rustle,

Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,

E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.

As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,

The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:

Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,

O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts for ever;

Or like the Borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

Or like the Rainbow's lovely form

Evanishing amid the storm.—

Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,

The hour approaches Tam maun ride;

That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,

That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;

And sic a night he taks the road in,

As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;

The rattling showers rose on the blast;

The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;

Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:

That night, a child might understand,

The deil had business on his hand.

Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg,

A better never lifted leg,

Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,

Despising wind, and rain, and fire;

Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet,

Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,

Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,

Lest bogles catch him unawares;

Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,

Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford,

Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;

And past the birks and meikle stane,

Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;

And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,

Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn;

And near the thorn, aboon the well,

Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.

Before him Doon pours all his floods,

The doubling storm roars thro' the woods,

The lightnings flash from pole to pole,

Near and more near the thunders roll,

When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,

Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze,

Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,

And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!

What dangers thou canst make us scorn!

Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;

Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!

The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,

Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle,

But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,

Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,

She ventur'd forward on the light;

And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

Warlocks and witches in a dance:

Nae cotillon, brent new frae France,

But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,

Put life and mettle in their heels.

A winnock-bunker in the east,

There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;

A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,

To gie them music was his charge:

He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,

Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.—

Coffins stood round, like open presses,

That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses;

And (by some devilish cantraip sleight)

Each in its cauld hand held a light.

By which heroic Tam was able

To note upon the haly table,

A murderer's banes, in gibbet-airns;

Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;

A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,

Wi' his last gasp his gabudid gape;

Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted:

Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;

A garter which a babe had strangled:

A knife, a father's throat had mangled.

Whom his ain son of life bereft,

The grey-hairs yet stack to the heft;

Wi' mair of horrible and awfu',

Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,

The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;

The Piper loud and louder blew,

The dancers quick and quicker flew,

The reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,

Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,

And coost her duddies to the wark,

And linkit at it in her sark!

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans,

A' plump and strapping in their teens!

Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen,

Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!—

Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,

That ance were plush o' guid blue hair,

I wad hae gien them off my hurdies,

For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!

But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,

Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,

Louping an' flinging on a crummock.

I wonder did na turn thy stomach.

But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie:

There was ae winsome wench and waulie

That night enlisted in the core,

Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;

(For mony a beast to dead she shot,

And perish'd mony a bonie boat,

And shook baith meikle corn and bear,

And kept the country-side in fear);

Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,

That while a lassie she had worn,

In longitude tho' sorely scanty,

It was her best, and she was vauntie.

Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,

That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,

Wi twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches),

Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour,

Sic flights are far beyond her power;

To sing how Nannie lap and flang,

(A souple jade she was and strang),

And how Tam stood, like ane bewithc'd,

And thought his very een enrich'd:

Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,

And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main:

Till first ae caper, syne anither,

Tam tint his reason a thegither,

And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"

And in an instant all was dark:

And scarcely had he Maggie rallied.

When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,

When plundering herds assail their byke;

As open pussie's mortal foes,

When, pop! she starts before their nose;

As eager runs the market-crowd,

When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;

So Maggie runs, the witches follow,

Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollow.

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin!

In hell, they'll roast thee like a herrin!

In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!

Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!

Now, do thy speedy-utmost, Meg,

And win the key-stone o' the brig;^1

There, at them thou thy tail may toss,

A running stream they dare na cross.

But ere the keystane she could make,

The fient a tail she had to shake!

For Nannie, far before the rest,

Hard upon noble Maggie prest,

And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;

But little wist she Maggie's mettle!

Ae spring brought off her master hale,

But left behind her ain grey tail:

The carlin claught her by the rump,

And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,

Ilk man and mother's son, take heed:

Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,

Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind,

Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear;

Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.

On The Birth Of A Posthumous Child

Born in peculiar circumstances of family distress.

Sweet flow'ret, pledge o' meikle love,

And ward o' mony a prayer,

What heart o' stane wad thou na move,

Sae helpless, sweet, and fair?

November hirples o'er the lea,

Chil, on thy lovely form:

And gane, alas! the shelt'ring tree,

Should shield thee frae the storm.

[Footnote 1: It is a well-known fact that witches, or any evil

spirits, have no power to follow a poor wight any further than

the middle of the next running stream. It may be proper likewise

to mention to the benighted traveller, that when he falls in with

bogles, whatever danger may be in his going forward, there is

much more hazard in turning back.—R.B.]

May He who gives the rain to pour,

And wings the blast to blaw,

Protect thee frae the driving show'r,

The bitter frost and snaw.

May He, the friend o' Woe and Want,

Who heals life's various stounds,

Protect and guard the mother plant,

And heal her cruel wounds.

But late she flourish'd, rooted fast,

Fair in the summer morn,

Now feebly bends she in the blast,

Unshelter'd and forlorn.

Blest be thy bloom, thou lovely gem,

Unscath'd by ruffian hand!

And from thee many a parent stem

Arise to deck our land!

Elegy On The Late Miss Burnet Of Monboddo

Life ne'er exulted in so rich a prize,

As Burnet, lovely from her native skies;

Nor envious death so triumph'd in a blow,

As that which laid th' accomplish'd Burnet low.

Thy form and mind, sweet maid, can I forget?

In richest ore the brightest jewel set!

In thee, high Heaven above was truest shown,

As by His noblest work the Godhead best is known.

In vain ye flaunt in summer's pride, ye groves;

Thou crystal streamlet with thy flowery shore,

Ye woodland choir that chaunt your idle loves,

Ye cease to charm; Eliza is no more.

Ye healthy wastes, immix'd with reedy fens;

Ye mossy streams, with sedge and rushes stor'd:

Ye rugged cliffs, o'erhanging dreary glens,

To you I fly—ye with my soul accord.

Princes, whose cumb'rous pride was all their worth,

Shall venal lays their pompous exit hail,

And thou, sweet Excellence! forsake our earth,

And not a Muse with honest grief bewail?

We saw thee shine in youth and beauty's pride,

And Virtue's light, that beams beyond the spheres;

But, like the sun eclips'd at morning tide,

Thou left us darkling in a world of tears.

The parent's heart that nestled fond in thee,

That heart how sunk, a prey to grief and care;

So deckt the woodbine sweet yon aged tree;

So, from it ravish'd, leaves it bleak and bare.