Robert Burns: Poems

1785 (a)

Epistle To Davie, A Brother Poet


While winds frae aff Ben-Lomond blaw,

An' bar the doors wi' driving snaw,

An' hing us owre the ingle,

I set me down to pass the time,

An' spin a verse or twa o' rhyme,

In hamely, westlin jingle.

While frosty winds blaw in the drift,

Ben to the chimla lug,

I grudge a wee the great-folk's gift,

That live sae bien an' snug:

I tent less, and want less

Their roomy fire-side;

But hanker, and canker,

To see their cursed pride.

It's hardly in a body's pow'r

To keep, at times, frae being sour,

To see how things are shar'd;

How best o' chiels are whiles in want,

While coofs on countless thousands rant,

And ken na how to wair't;

But, Davie, lad, ne'er fash your head,

Tho' we hae little gear;

We're fit to win our daily bread,

As lang's we're hale and fier:

"Mair spier na, nor fear na,"^1

Auld age ne'er mind a feg;

The last o't, the warst o't

Is only but to beg.

To lie in kilns and barns at e'en,

When banes are craz'd, and bluid is thin,

Is doubtless, great distress!

[Footnote 1: Ramsay.—R. B.]

Yet then content could make us blest;

Ev'n then, sometimes, we'd snatch a taste

Of truest happiness.

The honest heart that's free frae a'

Intended fraud or guile,

However Fortune kick the ba',

Has aye some cause to smile;

An' mind still, you'll find still,

A comfort this nae sma';

Nae mair then we'll care then,

Nae farther can we fa'.

What tho', like commoners of air,

We wander out, we know not where,

But either house or hal',

Yet nature's charms, the hills and woods,

The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,

Are free alike to all.

In days when daisies deck the ground,

And blackbirds whistle clear,

With honest joy our hearts will bound,

To see the coming year:

On braes when we please, then,

We'll sit an' sowth a tune;

Syne rhyme till't we'll time till't,

An' sing't when we hae done.

It's no in titles nor in rank;

It's no in wealth like Lon'on bank,

To purchase peace and rest:

It's no in makin' muckle, mair;

It's no in books, it's no in lear,

To make us truly blest:

If happiness hae not her seat

An' centre in the breast,

We may be wise, or rich, or great,

But never can be blest;

Nae treasures, nor pleasures

Could make us happy lang;

The heart aye's the part aye

That makes us right or wrang.

Think ye, that sic as you and I,

Wha drudge an' drive thro' wet and dry,

Wi' never-ceasing toil;

Think ye, are we less blest than they,

Wha scarcely tent us in their way,

As hardly worth their while?

Alas! how aft in haughty mood,

God's creatures they oppress!

Or else, neglecting a' that's guid,

They riot in excess!

Baith careless and fearless

Of either heaven or hell;

Esteeming and deeming

It's a' an idle tale!

Then let us cheerfu' acquiesce,

Nor make our scanty pleasures less,

By pining at our state:

And, even should misfortunes come,

I, here wha sit, hae met wi' some—

An's thankfu' for them yet.

They gie the wit of age to youth;

They let us ken oursel';

They make us see the naked truth,

The real guid and ill:

Tho' losses an' crosses

Be lessons right severe,

There's wit there, ye'll get there,

Ye'll find nae other where.

But tent me, Davie, ace o' hearts!

(To say aught less wad wrang the cartes,

And flatt'ry I detest)

This life has joys for you and I;

An' joys that riches ne'er could buy,

An' joys the very best.

There's a' the pleasures o' the heart,

The lover an' the frien';

Ye hae your Meg, your dearest part,

And I my darling Jean!

It warms me, it charms me,

To mention but her name:

It heats me, it beets me,

An' sets me a' on flame!

O all ye Pow'rs who rule above!

O Thou whose very self art love!

Thou know'st my words sincere!

The life-blood streaming thro' my heart,

Or my more dear immortal part,

Is not more fondly dear!

When heart-corroding care and grief

Deprive my soul of rest,

Her dear idea brings relief,

And solace to my breast.

Thou Being, All-seeing,

O hear my fervent pray'r;

Still take her, and make her

Thy most peculiar care!

All hail! ye tender feelings dear!

The smile of love, the friendly tear,

The sympathetic glow!

Long since, this world's thorny ways

Had number'd out my weary days,

Had it not been for you!

Fate still has blest me with a friend,

In ev'ry care and ill;

And oft a more endearing band—

A tie more tender still.

It lightens, it brightens

The tenebrific scene,

To meet with, and greet with

My Davie, or my Jean!

O, how that name inspires my style!

The words come skelpin, rank an' file,

Amaist before I ken!

The ready measure rins as fine,

As Phoebus an' the famous Nine

Were glowrin owre my pen.

My spaviet Pegasus will limp,

Till ance he's fairly het;

And then he'll hilch, and stilt, an' jimp,

And rin an unco fit:

But least then the beast then

Should rue this hasty ride,

I'll light now, and dight now

His sweaty, wizen'd hide.

Holy Willie's Prayer

"And send the godly in a pet to pray."—Pope.


Holy Willie was a rather oldish bachelor elder, in the parish of Mauchline, and much and justly famed for that polemical chattering, which ends in tippling orthodoxy, and for that spiritualized bawdry which refines to liquorish devotion. In a sessional process with a gentleman in Mauchline—a Mr. Gavin Hamilton—Holy Willie and his priest, Father Auld, after full hearing in the presbytery of Ayr, came off but second best; owing partly to the oratorical powers of Mr. Robert Aiken, Mr. Hamilton's counsel; but chiefly to Mr. Hamilton's being one of the most irreproachable and truly respectable characters in the county. On losing the process, the muse overheard him [Holy Willie] at his devotions, as follows:—

O Thou, who in the heavens does dwell,

Who, as it pleases best Thysel',

Sends ane to heaven an' ten to hell,

A' for Thy glory,

And no for ony gude or ill

They've done afore Thee!

I bless and praise Thy matchless might,

When thousands Thou hast left in night,

That I am here afore Thy sight,

For gifts an' grace

A burning and a shining light

To a' this place.

What was I, or my generation,

That I should get sic exaltation,

I wha deserve most just damnation

For broken laws,

Five thousand years ere my creation,

Thro' Adam's cause?

When frae my mither's womb I fell,

Thou might hae plunged me in hell,

To gnash my gums, to weep and wail,

In burnin lakes,

Where damned devils roar and yell,

Chain'd to their stakes.

Yet I am here a chosen sample,

To show thy grace is great and ample;

I'm here a pillar o' Thy temple,

Strong as a rock,

A guide, a buckler, and example,

To a' Thy flock.

O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,

When drinkers drink, an' swearers swear,

An' singin there, an' dancin here,

Wi' great and sma';

For I am keepit by Thy fear

Free frae them a'.

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


"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.]

Tune—"Daintie Davie."

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.