Robert Burns: Poems


Song—Handsome Nell^1

Tune—"I am a man unmarried."

[Footnote 1: The first of my performances.—R. B.]

Once I lov'd a bonie lass,

Ay, and I love her still;

And whilst that virtue warms my breast,

I'll love my handsome Nell.

As bonie lasses I hae seen,

And mony full as braw;

But, for a modest gracefu' mein,

The like I never saw.

A bonie lass, I will confess,

Is pleasant to the e'e;

But, without some better qualities,

She's no a lass for me.

But Nelly's looks are blythe and sweet,

And what is best of a',

Her reputation is complete,

And fair without a flaw.

She dresses aye sae clean and neat,

Both decent and genteel;

And then there's something in her gait

Gars ony dress look weel.

A gaudy dress and gentle air

May slightly touch the heart;

But it's innocence and modesty

That polishes the dart.

'Tis this in Nelly pleases me,

'Tis this enchants my soul;

For absolutely in my breast

She reigns without control.

Song—O Tibbie, I Hae Seen The Day

Tune—"Invercauld's Reel, or Strathspey."

Choir.—O Tibbie, I hae seen the day,

Ye wadna been sae shy;

For laik o' gear ye lightly me,

But, trowth, I care na by.

Yestreen I met you on the moor,

Ye spak na, but gaed by like stour;

Ye geck at me because I'm poor,

But fient a hair care I.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

When coming hame on Sunday last,

Upon the road as I cam past,

Ye snufft and ga'e your head a cast—

But trowth I care't na by.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

I doubt na, lass, but ye may think,

Because ye hae the name o' clink,

That ye can please me at a wink,

Whene'er ye like to try.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

But sorrow tak' him that's sae mean,

Altho' his pouch o' coin were clean,

Wha follows ony saucy quean,

That looks sae proud and high.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

Altho' a lad were e'er sae smart,

If that he want the yellow dirt,

Ye'll cast your head anither airt,

And answer him fu' dry.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

But, if he hae the name o' gear,

Ye'll fasten to him like a brier,

Tho' hardly he, for sense or lear,

Be better than the kye.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

But, Tibbie, lass, tak' my advice:

Your daddie's gear maks you sae nice;

The deil a ane wad speir your price,

Were ye as poor as I.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

There lives a lass beside yon park,

I'd rather hae her in her sark,

Than you wi' a' your thousand mark;

That gars you look sae high.

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.

Song—I Dream'd I Lay

I dream'd I lay where flowers were springing

Gaily in the sunny beam;

List'ning to the wild birds singing,

By a falling crystal stream:

Straight the sky grew black and daring;

Thro' the woods the whirlwinds rave;

Tress with aged arms were warring,

O'er the swelling drumlie wave.

Such was my life's deceitful morning,

Such the pleasures I enjoyed:

But lang or noon, loud tempests storming

A' my flowery bliss destroy'd.

Tho' fickle fortune has deceiv'd me—

She promis'd fair, and perform'd but ill,

Of mony a joy and hope bereav'd me—

I bear a heart shall support me still.

Song—In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer

Tune—"Go from my window, Love, do."

The sun he is sunk in the west,

All creatures retired to rest,

While here I sit, all sore beset,

With sorrow, grief, and woe:

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

The prosperous man is asleep,

Nor hears how the whirlwinds sweep;

But Misery and I must watch

The surly tempest blow:

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

There lies the dear partner of my breast;

Her cares for a moment at rest:

Must I see thee, my youthful pride,

Thus brought so very low!

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

There lie my sweet babies in her arms;

No anxious fear their little hearts alarms;

But for their sake my heart does ache,

With many a bitter throe:

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

I once was by Fortune carest:

I once could relieve the distrest:

Now life's poor support, hardly earn'd

My fate will scarce bestow:

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

No comfort, no comfort I have!

How welcome to me were the grave!

But then my wife and children dear—

O, wither would they go!

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

O whither, O whither shall I turn!

All friendless, forsaken, forlorn!

For, in this world, Rest or Peace

I never more shall know!

And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

Tragic Fragment

All devil as I am—a damned wretch,

A hardened, stubborn, unrepenting villain,

Still my heart melts at human wretchedness;

And with sincere but unavailing sighs

I view the helpless children of distress:

With tears indignant I behold the oppressor

Rejoicing in the honest man's destruction,

Whose unsubmitting heart was all his crime.—

Ev'n you, ye hapless crew! I pity you;

Ye, whom the seeming good think sin to pity;

Ye poor, despised, abandoned vagabonds,

Whom Vice, as usual, has turn'd o'er to ruin.

Oh! but for friends and interposing Heaven,

I had been driven forth like you forlorn,

The most detested, worthless wretch among you!

O injured God! Thy goodness has endow'd me

With talents passing most of my compeers,

Which I in just proportion have abused—

As far surpassing other common villains

As Thou in natural parts has given me more.

Tarbolton Lasses, The

If ye gae up to yon hill-tap,

Ye'll there see bonie Peggy;

She kens her father is a laird,

And she forsooth's a leddy.

There Sophy tight, a lassie bright,

Besides a handsome fortune:

Wha canna win her in a night,

Has little art in courtin'.

Gae down by Faile, and taste the ale,

And tak a look o' Mysie;

She's dour and din, a deil within,

But aiblins she may please ye.

If she be shy, her sister try,

Ye'll maybe fancy Jenny;

If ye'll dispense wi' want o' sense—

She kens hersel she's bonie.

As ye gae up by yon hillside,

Speir in for bonie Bessy;

She'll gie ye a beck, and bid ye light,

And handsomely address ye.

There's few sae bonie, nane sae guid,

In a' King George' dominion;

If ye should doubt the truth o' this—

It's Bessy's ain opinion!

Ah, Woe Is Me, My Mother Dear

Paraphrase of Jeremiah, 15th Chap., 10th verse.

Ah, woe is me, my mother dear!

A man of strife ye've born me:

For sair contention I maun bear;

They hate, revile, and scorn me.

I ne'er could lend on bill or band,

That five per cent. might blest me;

And borrowing, on the tither hand,

The deil a ane wad trust me.

Yet I, a coin-denied wight,

By Fortune quite discarded;

Ye see how I am, day and night,

By lad and lass blackguarded!

Montgomerie's Peggy

Tune—"Galla Water."

Altho' my bed were in yon muir,

Amang the heather, in my plaidie;

Yet happy, happy would I be,

Had I my dear Montgomerie's Peggy.

When o'er the hill beat surly storms,

And winter nights were dark and rainy;

I'd seek some dell, and in my arms

I'd shelter dear Montgomerie's Peggy.

Were I a baron proud and high,

And horse and servants waiting ready;

Then a' 'twad gie o' joy to me,—

The sharin't with Montgomerie's Peggy.

Ploughman's Life, The

As I was a-wand'ring ae morning in spring,

I heard a young ploughman sae sweetly to sing;

And as he was singin', thir words he did say,—

There's nae life like the ploughman's in the month o' sweet May.

The lav'rock in the morning she'll rise frae her nest,

And mount i' the air wi' the dew on her breast,

And wi' the merry ploughman she'll whistle and sing,

And at night she'll return to her nest back again.

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