POEMS AND SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS
by Robert Burns
1771 - 1779
Song—Handsome Nell Song—O Tibbie, I Hae Seen The Day Song—I Dream'd I Lay Song—I Dream'd I Lay Song—In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer Tragic Fragment—All villain as I am The Tarbolton Lasses Ah, Woe Is Me, My Mother Dear Song—Montgomerie's Peggy The Ploughman's Life
The Ronalds Of The Bennals Song—Here's To Thy Health Song—The Lass Of Cessnock Banks Song—Bonie Peggy Alison Song—Mary Morison
Winter: A Dirge A Prayer, Under The Pressure Of Violent Anguish Paraphrase Of The First Psalm The First Six Verses Of The Ninetieth Psalm Versified Prayer, In The Prospect Of Death Stanzas, On The Same Occasion
1782 Fickle Fortune: A Fragment Song—Raging Fortune—Fragment Of I'll Go And Be A Sodger Song—"No Churchman Am I" My Father Was A Farmer John Barleycorn: A Ballad
Death And Dying Words Of Poor Mailie Poor Mailie's Elegy Song—The Rigs O' Barley Song Composed In August Song—My Nanie, O! Song—Green Grow The Rashes Song—Wha Is That At My Bower-Door
Remorse: A Fragment Epitaph On Wm. Hood, Senr., In Tarbolton Epitaph On James Grieve, Laird Of Boghead, Tarbolton Epitaph On My Own Friend And My Father's Friend, Wm. Muir In Tarbolton Mill Epitaph On My Ever Honoured Father Ballad On The American War Reply To An Announcement By J. Rankine Epistle To John Rankine A Poet's Welcome To His Love-Begotten Daughter^1 Song—O Leave Novels! The Mauchline Lady: A Fragment My Girl She's Airy: A Fragment The Belles Of Mauchline Epitaph On A Noisy Polemic Epitaph On A Henpecked Country Squire Epigram On The Said Occasion Another On The said Occasion On Tam The Chapman Epitaph On John Rankine Lines On The Author's Death Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge The Twa Herds; Or, The Holy Tulyie
Epistle To Davie, A Brother Poet Holy Willie's Prayer Epitaph On Holy Willie Death and Doctor Hornbook Epistle To J. Lapraik, An Old Scottish Bard Second Epistle To J. Lapraik Epistle To William Simson One Night As I Did Wander Tho' Cruel Fate Should Bid Us Part Song—Rantin', Rovin' Robin Elegy On The Death Of Robert Ruisseaux Epistle To John Goldie, In Kilmarnock The Holy Fair Third Epistle To J. Lapraik Epistle To The Rev. John M'math Second Epistle to Davie Song—Young Peggy Blooms Song—Farewell To Ballochmyle Fragment—Her Flowing Locks Halloween To A Mouse Epitaph On John Dove, Innkeeper Epitaph For James Smith Adam Armour's Prayer The Jolly Beggars: A Cantata Song—For A' That Song—Merry Hae I Been Teethin A Heckle The Cotter's Saturday Night Address To The Deil Scotch Drink
The Auld Farmer's New-Year—Morning Salutation To His Auld Mare, Maggie The Twa Dogs The Author's Earnest Cry And Prayer The Ordination Epistle To James Smith The Vision Suppressed Stanza's Of "The Vision" The Rantin' Dog, The Daddie O't Here's His Health In Water Address To The Unco Guid, Or The Rigidly Righteous The Inventory To John Kennedy, Dumfries House To Mr. M'Adam, Of Craigen-Gillan To A Louse Inscribed On A Work Of Hannah More's Song, Composed In Spring To A Mountain Daisy, To Ruin The Lament Despondency: An Ode To Gavin Hamilton, Esq., Mauchline, Recommending a Boy. Versified Reply To An Invitation Song—Will Ye Go To The Indies, My Mary? My Highland Lassie, O Epistle To A Young Friend Address Of Beelzebub A Dream A Dedication To Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Versified Note To Dr. Mackenzie, Mauchline The Farewell To the Brethren of St. James' Lodge, Tarbolton. On A Scotch Bard, Gone To The West Indies Song—Farewell To Eliza A Bard's Epitaph Epitaph For Robert Aiken, Esq. Epitaph For Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Epitaph On "Wee Johnie" The Lass O' Ballochmyle Lines To An Old Sweetheart Motto Prefixed To The Author's First Publication Lines To Mr. John Kennedy Lines Written On A Banknote Stanzas On Naething The Farewell The Calf Nature's Law—A Poem Song—Willie Chalmers Reply To A Trimming Epistle Received From A Tailor The Brigs Of Ayr Fragment Of Song Epigram On Rough Roads Prayer—O Thou Dread Power Song—Farewell To The Banks Of Ayr Address To The Toothache Lines On Meeting With Lord Daer Masonic Song Tam Samson's Elegy Epistle To Major Logan Fragment On Sensibility A Winter Night Song—Yon Wild Mossy Mountains Address To Edinburgh Address To A Haggis
To Miss Logan, With Beattie's Poems, For A New-Year's Gift, Jan. 1, 1787. Mr. William Smellie—A Sketch Rattlin', Roarin' Willie Song—Bonie Dundee Extempore In The Court Of Session Inscribed Under Fergusson's Portrait Epistle To Mrs. Scott of Wauchope-House Verses Intended To Be Written Below A Noble Earl's Picture^1 Prologue, Spoken by Mr. Woods at Edinburgh. Song—The Bonie Moor-Hen Song—My Lord A-Hunting he is gane Epigram At Roslin Inn The Book-Worms On Elphinstone's Translation Of Martial's Epigrams Song—A Bottle And Friend Lines Written Under The Picture Of The Celebrated Miss Burns Epitaph For William Nicol, Of The High School, Edinburgh Epitaph For Mr. William Michie Boat song—Hey, Ca' Thro' Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee Epigram To Miss Ainslie In Church Burlesque Lament For The Absence Of William Creech' s Absence Note To Mr. Renton Of Lamerton Elegy On "Stella" The Bard At Inverary Epigram To Miss Jean Scott On The Death Of John M'Leod, Esq, Elegy On The Death Of Sir James Hunter Blair Impromptu On Carron Iron Works To Miss Ferrier Written By Somebody On The Window Of an Inn at Stirling The Poet's Reply To The Threat Of A Censorious Critic The Libeller's Self-Reproof Verses Written With A Pencil at the Inn at Kenmore Song—The Birks Of Aberfeldy The Humble Petition Of Bruar Water Lines On The Fall Of Fyers Near Loch-Ness. Epigram On Parting With A Kind Host In The Highlands Song—Strathallan's Lament Verses on Castle Gordon Song—Lady Onlie, Honest Lucky Song—Theniel Menzies' Bonie Mary The Bonie Lass Of Albany On Scaring Some Water-Fowl In Loch-Turit Song—Blythe Was She Song—A Rose—Bud By My Early Walk Epitaph For Mr. W. Cruikshank Song—The Banks Of The Devon
Song—Braving Angry Winter's Storms Song—My Peggy's Charms Song—The Young Highland Rover Birthday Ode For 31st December, 1787^1 On The Death Of Robert Dundas, Esq., Of Arniston, Sylvander To Clarinda
1788 Song—Love In The Guise Of Friendship Song—Go On, Sweet Bird, And Sooth My Care Song—Clarinda, Mistress Of My Soul Song—I'm O'er Young To Marry Yet Song—To The Weavers Gin Ye Go Song—M'Pherson's Farewell Song—Stay My Charmer Song—My Hoggie Song—Raving Winds Around Her Blowing Song—Up In The Morning Early Song—How Long And Dreary Is The Night Song—Hey, The Dusty Miller Song—Duncan Davison Song—The Lad They Ca'Jumpin John Song—Talk Of Him That's Far Awa Song—To Daunton Me Song—The Winter It Is Past Song—The Bonie Lad That's Far Awa Verses To Clarinda, with Drinking Glasses Song—The Chevalier's Lament Epistle To Hugh Parker Song—Of A' The Airts The Wind Can Blaw Song—I Hae a Wife O' My Ain Lines Written In Friars'-Carse Hermitage To Alex. Cunningham, ESQ., Writer, Edinburgh Song.—Anna, Thy Charms The Fete Champetre Epistle To Robert Graham, Esq., Of Fintry Song.—The Day Returns Song.—O, Were I On Parnassus Hill A Mother's Lament Song—The Fall Of The Leaf Song—I Reign In Jeanie's Bosom Song—It Is Na, Jean, Thy Bonie Face Song—Auld Lang Syne Song—My Bonie Mary Verses On Aa Parting Kiss Written In Friars Carse Hermitage (Second Version) The Poet's Progress Elegy On The Year 1788 The Henpecked Husband Versicles On Sign-Posts
Robin Shure In Hairst Ode, Sacred To The Memory Of Mrs. Oswald Of Auchencruive Pegasus At Wanlockhead Sappho Redivivus—A Fragment Song—She's Fair And Fause Impromptu Lines To Captain Riddell Lines To John M'Murdo, Esq. Of Drumlanrig Rhyming Reply To A Note From Captain Riddell Caledonia—A Ballad Verses To Miss Cruickshank Beware O' Bonie Ann Ode On The Departed Regency Bill Epistle To James Tennant Of Glenconner A New Psalm For The Chapel Of Kilmarnock Sketch In Verse Inscribed to the Right Hon. C. J. Fox. The Wounded Hare Delia, An Ode Song—The Gard'ner Wi' His Paidle Song—On A Bank Of Flowers Song—Young Jockie Was The Blythest Lad Song—The Banks Of Nith Song—Jamie, Come Try Me Song—I Love My Love In Secret Song—Sweet Tibbie Dunbar Song—The Captain's Lady Song—John Anderson, My Jo Song—My Love, She's But A Lassie Yet Song—Tam Glen Song—Carle, An The King Come Song—The Laddie's Dear Sel' Song—Whistle O'er The Lave O't Song—My Eppie Adair On The Late Captain Grose's Peregrinations Thro' Scotland Epigram On Francis Grose The Antiquary The Kirk Of Scotland's Alarm Sonnet to Robert Graham, Esq., On Receiving A Favour Extemporaneous Effusion On being appointed to an Excise division. Song—Willie Brew'd A Peck O' Maut^1 Song—Ca' The Yowes To The Knowes Song—I Gaed A Waefu' Gate Yestreen Song—Highland Harry Back Again Song—The Battle Of Sherramuir Song—The Braes O' Killiecrankie Song—Awa' Whigs, Awa' Song—A Waukrife Minnie Song—The Captive Ribband Song—My Heart's In The Highlands The Whistle—A Ballad Song—To Mary In Heaven Epistle To Dr. Blacklock The Five Carlins Election Ballad For Westerha' Prologue Spoken At The Theatre Of Dumfries
Sketch—New Year's Day  Scots' Prologue For Mr. Sutherland Lines To A Gentleman, Elegy On Willie Nicol's Mare Song—The Gowden Locks Of Anna Song—I Murder Hate Song—Gudewife, Count The Lawin Election Ballad At the close of the contest for representing the Dumfries Burghs, 1790. Elegy On Captain Matthew Henderson The Epitaphon Captain Matthew Henderson Verses On Captain Grose Tam O' Shanter: A Tale On The Birth Of A Posthumous Child Elegy On The Late Miss Burnet Of Monboddo
Lament Of Mary, Queen Of Scots, On The Approach Of Spring There'll Never Be Peace Till Jamie Comes Hame Song—Out Over The Forth The Banks O' Doon (First Version) The Banks O' Doon (Second Version) The Banks O' Doon (Third Version) Lament For James, Earl Of Glencairn Lines Sent To Sir John Whiteford, Bart Song—Craigieburn Wood Song—The Bonie Wee Thing Epigram On Miss Davies Song—The Charms Of Lovely Davies Song—What Can A Young Lassie Do Wi' An Auld Man Song—The Posie On Glenriddell's Fox Breaking His Chain Poem On Pastoral Poetry Verses On The Destruction Of The Woods Near Drumlanrig Song—The Gallant Weaver Epigram At Brownhill Inn^1 Song—You're Welcome, Willie Stewart Song—Lovely Polly Stewart Song—Fragment,—Damon And Sylvia Song—Fragment—Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver Song—My Eppie Macnab Song—Fragment—Altho' He Has Left Me Song—O For Ane An' Twenty, Tam Song—Thou Fair Eliza Song—My Bonie Bell Song—Sweet Afton Address To The Shade Of Thomson Song—Nithsdale's Welcome Hame Song—Frae The Friends And Land I Love Song—Such A Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation Song—Ye Jacobites By Name Song—I Hae Been At Crookieden Epistle To John Maxwell, ESQ., Of Terraughty Second Epistle To Robert Graham, ESQ., Of Fintry The Song Of Death Poem On Sensibility Epigram—The Toadeater Epigram—Divine Service In The Kirk Of Lamington Epigram—The Keekin'-Glass A Grace Before Dinner A Grace After Dinner Song—O May, Thy Morn Song—Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever Song—Behold The Hour, The Boat, Arrive Song—Thou Gloomy December Song—My Native Land Sae Far Awa
Song—I do Confess Thou Art Sae Fair Lines On Fergusson, The Poet Song—The Weary Pund O' Tow Song—When She Cam' Ben She Bobbed Song—Scroggam, My Dearie Song—My Collier Laddie Song—Sic A Wife As Willie Had Song—Lady Mary Ann Song—Kellyburn Braes Song—The Slave's Lament Song—O Can Ye Labour Lea? Song—The Deuks Dang O'er My Daddie Song—The Deil's Awa Wi' The Exciseman Song—The Country Lass Song—Bessy And Her Spinnin' Wheel Song—Fragment—Love For Love Song—Saw Ye Bonie Lesley Song—Fragment Of Song Song—I'll Meet Thee On The Lea Rig Song—My Wife's A Winsome Wee Thing Song—Highland Mary Song—Auld Rob Morris The Rights Of Woman—Spoken by Miss Fontenelle Epigram On Miss Fontenelle Extempore On Some Commemorations Of Thomson Song—Duncan Gray Song—A Health To Them That's Awa A Tippling Ballad—When Princes and Prelates
Song—Poortith Cauld And Restless Love Epigram On Politics Song—Braw Lads O' Galla Water Sonnet Written On The Author's Birthday, Song—Wandering Willie Wandering Willie (Revised Version) Lord Gregory: A Ballad Song—Open The Door To Me, Oh Song—Lovely Young Jessie Song—Meg O' The Mill Song—Meg O' The Mill (Another Version) The Soldier's Return: A Ballad Epigram—The True Loyal Natives Epigram—On Commissary Goldie's Brains Lines Inscribed In A Lady's Pocket Almanac Epigram—Thanksgiving For A National Victory Epigram—The Raptures Of Folly Epigram—Kirk and State Excisemen Extempore Reply To An Invitation A Grace After Meat Grace Before And After Meat Impromptu On General Dumourier's Desertion From The French Republican Army Song—The Last Time I Came O'er The Moor Song—Logan Braes Song—Blythe Hae I been On Yon Hill Song—O Were My Love Yon Lilac Fair Bonie Jean—A Ballad Lines On John M'Murdo, ESQ. Epitaph On A Lap-Dog Epigrams Against The Earl Of Galloway Epigram On The Laird Of Laggan Song—Phillis The Fair Song—Had I A Cave Song.—By Allan Stream Song—Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad Song—Phillis The Queen O' The Fair Song—Come, Let Me Take Thee To My Breast Song—Dainty Davie Song—Robert Bruce's March To Bannockburn Song—Behold The Hour, The Boat Arrive Song—Down The Burn, Davie Song—Thou Hast Left Me Ever, Jamie Song—Where Are The Joys I have Met? Song—Deluded Swain, The Pleasure Song—Thine Am I, My Faithful Fair Impromptu On Mrs. Riddell's Birthday Song—My Spouse Nancy Address Spoken by Miss Fontenelle Complimentary Epigram On Maria Riddell
Remorseful Apology Song—Wilt Thou Be My Dearie? Song—A Fiddler In The North The Minstrel At Lincluden A Vision Song—A Red, Red Rose Song—Young Jamie, Pride Of A' The Plain Song—The Flowery Banks Of Cree Monody On a lady famed for her Caprice. The Epitaph On the Same Epigram Pinned To Mrs. Walter Riddell's Carriage Epitaph For Mr. Walter Riddell Epistle From Esopus To Maria Epitaph On A Noted Coxcomb Epitaph On Capt. Lascelles Epitaph On Wm. Graham, Esq., Of Mossknowe Epitaph On John Bushby, Esq., Tinwald Downs Sonnet On The Death Of Robert Riddell Song—The Lovely Lass O' Inverness Song—Charlie, He's My Darling Song—Bannocks O' Bear Meal Song—The Highland Balou The Highland Widow's Lament Song—It Was A' For Our Rightfu' King Ode For General Washington's Birthday Inscription To Miss Graham Of Fintry Song—On The Seas And Far Away Song—Ca' The Yowes To The Knowes Song—She Says She Loes Me Best Of A' Epigram—On Miss Jessy Staig's recovery. To The Beautiful Miss Eliza J-N On her Principles of Liberty and Equality. On Chloris Requesting me to give her a Spring of Blossomed Thorn. On Seeing Mrs. Kemble In Yarico Epigram On A Country Laird (Cardoness) Epigram on the Same Laird's Country Seat Epigram on Dr. Babinton's Looks Epigram On A Suicide Epigram On A Swearing Coxcomb Epigram On An Innkeeper Nicknamed (The Marquis) Epigram On Andrew Turner Song—Pretty Peg Esteem For Chloris Song—Saw Ye My Dear, My Philly Song—How Lang And Dreary Is The Night Song—Inconstancy In Love The Lover's Morning Salute To His Mistress Song—The Winter Of Life Song—Behold, My Love, How Green The Groves Song—The Charming Month Of May Song—Lassie Wi' The Lint-White Locks Dialogue song—Philly And Willy Song—Contented Wi' Little And Cantie Wi' Mair Song—Farewell Thou Stream Song—Canst Thou Leave Me Thus, My Katie Song—My Nanie's Awa Song—The Tear-Drop—Wae is my heart Song—For The Sake O' Somebody
Song—A Man's A Man For A' That The Solemn League And Covenant Lines to John Syme with a Dozen of Porter. Inscription On Mr. Syme's Crystal Goblet Apology To Mr. Syme For Not Dining with him Epitaph For Mr. Gabriel Richardson Epigram On Mr. James Gracie Song—Bonie Peg-a-Ramsay Inscription At Friars' Carse Hermitage Song—Fragment—There Was A Bonie Lass Song—Fragment—Wee Willie Gray Song—O Aye My Wife She Dang Me Song—Gude Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon Song—O Steer Her Up An' Haud Her Gaun Song—The Lass O' Ecclefechan Song—O Let Me In Thes Ae Night Song—I'll Aye Ca' In By Yon Town Ballads on Mr. Heron's Election—Ballad First Ballads on Mr. Heron's Election—Ballad Second Ballads on Mr. Heron's Election—Ballad Third Inscription For An Altar Of Independence Song—The Cardin O't, The Spinnin O't Song—The Cooper O' Cuddy Song—The Lass That Made The Bed To Me Song—Had I The Wyte? She Bade Me Song—Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat? Song—Address To The Woodlark Song.—On Chloris Being Ill Song—How Cruel Are The Parents Song—Yonder Pomp Of Costly Fashion Song—'Twas Na Her Bonie Blue E'e Song—Their Groves O'Sweet Myrtle Song—Forlorn, My Love, No Comfort Near Song—Fragment,—Why, Why Tell The Lover Song—The Braw Wooer Song—This Is No My Ain Lassie Song—O Bonie Was Yon Rosy Brier Song—Song Inscribed To Alexander Cunningham Song—O That's The Lassie O' My Heart
Inscription to Chloris Song—Fragment.—The Wren's Nest Song—News, Lassies, News Song—Crowdie Ever Mair Song—Mally's Meek, Mally's Sweet Song—Jockey's Taen The Parting Kiss Verses To Collector Mitchell
The Dean Of Faculty Epistle To Colonel De Peyster Song—A Lass Wi' A Tocher Song—The Trogger. Complimentary Versicles To Jessie Lewars 1. The Toast 2. The Menagerie 3. Jessie's illness 4. On Her Recovery Song—O Lay Thy Loof In Mine, Lass Song—A Health To Ane I Loe Dear Song—O Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast Inscription To Miss Jessy Lewars Song—Fairest Maid On Devon Banks Glossary
POEMS AND SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS
Robert Burns was born near Ayr, Scotland, 25th of January, 1759. He was the son of William Burnes, or Burness, at the time of the poet's birth a nurseryman on the banks of the Doon in Ayrshire. His father, though always extremely poor, attempted to give his children a fair education, and Robert, who was the eldest, went to school for three years in a neighboring village, and later, for shorter periods, to three other schools in the vicinity. But it was to his father and to his own reading that he owed the more important part of his education; and by the time that he had reached manhood he had a good knowledge of English, a reading knowledge of French, and a fairly wide acquaintance with the masterpieces of English literature from the time of Shakespeare to his own day. In 1766 William Burness rented on borrowed money the farm of Mount Oliphant, and in taking his share in the effort to make this undertaking succeed, the future poet seems to have seriously overstrained his physique. In 1771 the family move to Lochlea, and Burns went to the neighboring town of Irvine to learn flax-dressing. The only result of this experiment, however, was the formation of an acquaintance with a dissipated sailor, whom he afterward blamed as the prompter of his first licentious adventures. His father died in 1784, and with his brother Gilbert the poet rented the farm of Mossgiel; but this venture was as unsuccessful as the others. He had meantime formed an irregular intimacy with Jean Armour, for which he was censured by the Kirk-session. As a result of his farming misfortunes, and the attempts of his father-in-law to overthrow his irregular marriage with Jean, he resolved to emigrate; and in order to raise money for the passage he published (Kilmarnock, 1786) a volume of the poems which he had been composing from time to time for some years. This volume was unexpectedly successful, so that, instead of sailing for the West Indies, he went up to Edinburgh, and during that winter he was the chief literary celebrity of the season. An enlarged edition of his poems was published there in 1787, and the money derived from this enabled him to aid his brother in Mossgiel, and to take and stock for himself the farm of Ellisland in Dumfriesshire. His fame as poet had reconciled the Armours to the connection, and having now regularly married Jean, he brought her to Ellisland, and once more tried farming for three years. Continued ill-success, however, led him, in 1791, to abandon Ellisland, and he moved to Dumfries, where he had obtained a position in the Excise. But he was now thoroughly discouraged; his work was mere drudgery; his tendency to take his relaxation in debauchery increased the weakness of a constitution early undermined; and he died at Dumfries in his thirty-eighth year.
[See Burns' Birthplace: The living room in the Burns birthplace cottage.]
It is not necessary here to attempt to disentangle or explain away the numerous amours in which he was engaged through the greater part of his life. It is evident that Burns was a man of extremely passionate nature and fond of conviviality; and the misfortunes of his lot combined with his natural tendencies to drive him to frequent excesses of self-indulgence. He was often remorseful, and he strove painfully, if intermittently, after better things. But the story of his life must be admitted to be in its externals a painful and somewhat sordid chronicle. That it contained, however, many moments of joy and exaltation is proved by the poems here printed.
Burns' poetry falls into two main groups: English and Scottish. His English poems are, for the most part, inferior specimens of conventional eighteenth-century verse. But in Scottish poetry he achieved triumphs of a quite extraordinary kind. Since the time of the Reformation and the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, the Scots dialect had largely fallen into disuse as a medium for dignified writing. Shortly before Burns' time, however, Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson had been the leading figures in a revival of the vernacular, and Burns received from them a national tradition which he succeeded in carrying to its highest pitch, becoming thereby, to an almost unique degree, the poet of his people.
He first showed complete mastery of verse in the field of satire. In "The Twa Herds," "Holy Willie's Prayer," "Address to the Unco Guid," "The Holy Fair," and others, he manifested sympathy with the protest of the so-called "New Light" party, which had sprung up in opposition to the extreme Calvinism and intolerance of the dominant "Auld Lichts." The fact that Burns had personally suffered from the discipline of the Kirk probably added fire to his attacks, but the satires show more than personal animus. The force of the invective, the keenness of the wit, and the fervor of the imagination which they displayed, rendered them an important force in the theological liberation of Scotland.
The Kilmarnock volume contained, besides satire, a number of poems like "The Twa Dogs" and "The Cotter's Saturday Night," which are vividly descriptive of the Scots peasant life with which he was most familiar; and a group like "Puir Mailie" and "To a Mouse," which, in the tenderness of their treatment of animals, revealed one of the most attractive sides of Burns' personality. Many of his poems were never printed during his lifetime, the most remarkable of these being "The Jolly Beggars," a piece in which, by the intensity of his imaginative sympathy and the brilliance of his technique, he renders a picture of the lowest dregs of society in such a way as to raise it into the realm of great poetry.
But the real national importance of Burns is due chiefly to his songs. The Puritan austerity of the centuries following the Reformation had discouraged secular music, like other forms of art, in Scotland; and as a result Scottish song had become hopelessly degraded in point both of decency and literary quality. From youth Burns had been interested in collecting the fragments he had heard sung or found printed, and he came to regard the rescuing of this almost lost national inheritance in the light of a vocation. About his song-making, two points are especially noteworthy: first, that the greater number of his lyrics sprang from actual emotional experiences; second, that almost all were composed to old melodies. While in Edinburgh he undertook to supply material for Johnson's "Musical Museum," and as few of the traditional songs could appear in a respectable collection, Burns found it necessary to make them over. Sometimes he kept a stanza or two; sometimes only a line or chorus; sometimes merely the name of the air; the rest was his own. His method, as he has told us himself, was to become familiar with the traditional melody, to catch a suggestion from some fragment of the old song, to fix upon an idea or situation for the new poem; then, humming or whistling the tune as he went about his work, he wrought out the new verses, going into the house to write them down when the inspiration began to flag. In this process is to be found the explanation of much of the peculiar quality of the songs of Burns. Scarcely any known author has succeeded so brilliantly in combining his work with folk material, or in carrying on with such continuity of spirit the tradition of popular song. For George Thomson's collection of Scottish airs he performed a function similar to that which he had had in the "Museum"; and his poetical activity during the last eight or nine years of his life was chiefly devoted to these two publications. In spite of the fact that he was constantly in severe financial straits, he refused to accept any recompense for this work, preferring to regard it as a patriotic service. And it was, indeed, a patriotic service of no small magnitude. By birth and temperament he was singularly fitted for the task, and this fitness is proved by the unique extent to which his productions were accepted by his countrymen, and have passed into the life and feeling of his race.
1771 - 1779
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!
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!
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.
Ronalds Of The Bennals, The
In Tarbolton, ye ken, there are proper young men, And proper young lasses and a', man; But ken ye the Ronalds that live in the Bennals, They carry the gree frae them a', man.
Their father's laird, and weel he can spare't, Braid money to tocher them a', man; To proper young men, he'll clink in the hand Gowd guineas a hunder or twa, man.
There's ane they ca' Jean, I'll warrant ye've seen As bonie a lass or as braw, man; But for sense and guid taste she'll vie wi' the best, And a conduct that beautifies a', man.
The charms o' the min', the langer they shine, The mair admiration they draw, man; While peaches and cherries, and roses and lilies, They fade and they wither awa, man,
If ye be for Miss Jean, tak this frae a frien', A hint o' a rival or twa, man; The Laird o' Blackbyre wad gang through the fire, If that wad entice her awa, man.
The Laird o' Braehead has been on his speed, For mair than a towmond or twa, man; The Laird o' the Ford will straught on a board, If he canna get her at a', man.
Then Anna comes in, the pride o' her kin, The boast of our bachelors a', man: Sae sonsy and sweet, sae fully complete, She steals our affections awa, man.
If I should detail the pick and the wale O' lasses that live here awa, man, The fau't wad be mine if they didna shine The sweetest and best o' them a', man.
I lo'e her mysel, but darena weel tell, My poverty keeps me in awe, man; For making o' rhymes, and working at times, Does little or naething at a', man.
Yet I wadna choose to let her refuse, Nor hae't in her power to say na, man: For though I be poor, unnoticed, obscure, My stomach's as proud as them a', man.
Though I canna ride in weel-booted pride, And flee o'er the hills like a craw, man, I can haud up my head wi' the best o' the breed, Though fluttering ever so braw, man.
My coat and my vest, they are Scotch o' the best, O'pairs o' guid breeks I hae twa, man; And stockings and pumps to put on my stumps, And ne'er a wrang steek in them a', man.
My sarks they are few, but five o' them new, Twal' hundred, as white as the snaw, man, A ten-shillings hat, a Holland cravat; There are no mony poets sae braw, man.
I never had frien's weel stockit in means, To leave me a hundred or twa, man; Nae weel-tocher'd aunts, to wait on their drants, And wish them in hell for it a', man.
I never was cannie for hoarding o' money, Or claughtin't together at a', man; I've little to spend, and naething to lend, But deevil a shilling I awe, man.
Song—Here's To Thy Health
Here's to thy health, my bonie lass, Gude nicht and joy be wi' thee; I'll come nae mair to thy bower-door, To tell thee that I lo'e thee. O dinna think, my pretty pink, But I can live without thee: I vow and swear I dinna care, How lang ye look about ye.
Thou'rt aye sae free informing me, Thou hast nae mind to marry; I'll be as free informing thee, Nae time hae I to tarry: I ken thy frien's try ilka means Frae wedlock to delay thee; Depending on some higher chance, But fortune may betray thee.
I ken they scorn my low estate, But that does never grieve me; For I'm as free as any he; Sma' siller will relieve me. I'll count my health my greatest wealth, Sae lang as I'll enjoy it; I'll fear nae scant, I'll bode nae want, As lang's I get employment.
But far off fowls hae feathers fair, And, aye until ye try them, Tho' they seem fair, still have a care; They may prove waur than I am. But at twal' at night, when the moon shines bright, My dear, I'll come and see thee; For the man that loves his mistress weel, Nae travel makes him weary.
Lass Of Cessnock Banks, The^1
[Footnote 1: The lass is identified as Ellison Begbie, a servant wench, daughter of a "Farmer Lang".]
A Song of Similes
Tune—"If he be a Butcher neat and trim."
On Cessnock banks a lassie dwells; Could I describe her shape and mein; Our lasses a' she far excels, An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
She's sweeter than the morning dawn, When rising Phoebus first is seen, And dew-drops twinkle o'er the lawn; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
She's stately like yon youthful ash, That grows the cowslip braes between, And drinks the stream with vigour fresh; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
She's spotless like the flow'ring thorn, With flow'rs so white and leaves so green, When purest in the dewy morn; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her looks are like the vernal May, When ev'ning Phoebus shines serene, While birds rejoice on every spray; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her hair is like the curling mist, That climbs the mountain-sides at e'en, When flow'r-reviving rains are past; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her forehead's like the show'ry bow, When gleaming sunbeams intervene And gild the distant mountain's brow; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her cheeks are like yon crimson gem, The pride of all the flowery scene, Just opening on its thorny stem; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her bosom's like the nightly snow, When pale the morning rises keen, While hid the murm'ring streamlets flow; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her lips are like yon cherries ripe, That sunny walls from Boreas screen; They tempt the taste and charm the sight; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her teeth are like a flock of sheep, With fleeces newly washen clean, That slowly mount the rising steep; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her breath is like the fragrant breeze, That gently stirs the blossom'd bean, When Phoebus sinks behind the seas; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
Her voice is like the ev'ning thrush, That sings on Cessnock banks unseen, While his mate sits nestling in the bush; An' she has twa sparkling roguish een.
But it's not her air, her form, her face, Tho' matching beauty's fabled queen; 'Tis the mind that shines in ev'ry grace, An' chiefly in her roguish een.
Song—Bonie Peggy Alison
Tune—"The Braes o' Balquhidder."
Chor.—And I'll kiss thee yet, yet, And I'll kiss thee o'er again: And I'll kiss thee yet, yet, My bonie Peggy Alison.
Ilk care and fear, when thou art near I evermair defy them, O! Young kings upon their hansel throne Are no sae blest as I am, O! And I'll kiss thee yet, yet, &c.
When in my arms, wi' a' thy charms, I clasp my countless treasure, O! I seek nae mair o' Heaven to share Than sic a moment's pleasure, O! And I'll kiss thee yet, yet, &c.
And by thy een sae bonie blue, I swear I'm thine for ever, O! And on thy lips I seal my vow, And break it shall I never, O! And I'll kiss thee yet, yet, &c.
Tune—"Bide ye yet."
O Mary, at thy window be, It is the wish'd, the trysted hour! Those smiles and glances let me see, That make the miser's treasure poor: How blythely was I bide the stour, A weary slave frae sun to sun, Could I the rich reward secure, The lovely Mary Morison.
Yestreen, when to the trembling string The dance gaed thro' the lighted ha', To thee my fancy took its wing, I sat, but neither heard nor saw: Tho' this was fair, and that was braw, And yon the toast of a' the town, I sigh'd, and said among them a', "Ye are na Mary Morison."
Oh, Mary, canst thou wreck his peace, Wha for thy sake wad gladly die? Or canst thou break that heart of his, Whase only faut is loving thee? If love for love thou wilt na gie, At least be pity to me shown; A thought ungentle canna be The thought o' Mary Morison.
Winter: A Dirge
The wintry west extends his blast, And hail and rain does blaw; Or the stormy north sends driving forth The blinding sleet and snaw: While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down, And roars frae bank to brae; And bird and beast in covert rest, And pass the heartless day.
"The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast," The joyless winter day Let others fear, to me more dear Than all the pride of May: The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul, My griefs it seems to join; The leafless trees my fancy please, Their fate resembles mine!
Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme These woes of mine fulfil, Here firm I rest; they must be best, Because they are Thy will! Then all I want—O do Thou grant This one request of mine!— Since to enjoy Thou dost deny, Assist me to resign.
Prayer, Under The Pressure Of Violent Anguish
O Thou Great Being! what Thou art, Surpasses me to know; Yet sure I am, that known to Thee Are all Thy works below.
Thy creature here before Thee stands, All wretched and distrest; Yet sure those ills that wring my soul Obey Thy high behest.
Sure, Thou, Almighty, canst not act From cruelty or wrath! O, free my weary eyes from tears, Or close them fast in death!
But, if I must afflicted be, To suit some wise design, Then man my soul with firm resolves, To bear and not repine!
Paraphrase Of The First Psalm
The man, in life wherever plac'd, Hath happiness in store, Who walks not in the wicked's way, Nor learns their guilty lore!
Nor from the seat of scornful pride Casts forth his eyes abroad, But with humility and awe Still walks before his God.
That man shall flourish like the trees, Which by the streamlets grow; The fruitful top is spread on high, And firm the root below.
But he whose blossom buds in guilt Shall to the ground be cast, And, like the rootless stubble, tost Before the sweeping blast.
For why? that God the good adore, Hath giv'n them peace and rest, But hath decreed that wicked men Shall ne'er be truly blest.
First Six Verses Of The Ninetieth Psalm Versified, The
O Thou, the first, the greatest friend Of all the human race! Whose strong right hand has ever been Their stay and dwelling place!
Before the mountains heav'd their heads Beneath Thy forming hand, Before this ponderous globe itself Arose at Thy command;
That Pow'r which rais'd and still upholds This universal frame, From countless, unbeginning time Was ever still the same.
Those mighty periods of years Which seem to us so vast, Appear no more before Thy sight Than yesterday that's past.
Thou giv'st the word: Thy creature, man, Is to existence brought; Again Thou say'st, "Ye sons of men, Return ye into nought!"
Thou layest them, with all their cares, In everlasting sleep; As with a flood Thou tak'st them off With overwhelming sweep.
They flourish like the morning flow'r, In beauty's pride array'd; But long ere night cut down it lies All wither'd and decay'd.
Prayer, In The Prospect Of Death
O Thou unknown, Almighty Cause Of all my hope and fear! In whose dread presence, ere an hour, Perhaps I must appear!
If I have wander'd in those paths Of life I ought to shun, As something, loudly, in my breast, Remonstrates I have done;
Thou know'st that Thou hast formed me With passions wild and strong; And list'ning to their witching voice Has often led me wrong.
Where human weakness has come short, Or frailty stept aside, Do Thou, All-Good—for such Thou art— In shades of darkness hide.
Where with intention I have err'd, No other plea I have, But, Thou art good; and Goodness still Delighteth to forgive.
Stanzas, On The Same Occasion
Why am I loth to leave this earthly scene? Have I so found it full of pleasing charms? Some drops of joy with draughts of ill between— Some gleams of sunshine 'mid renewing storms, Is it departing pangs my soul alarms? Or death's unlovely, dreary, dark abode? For guilt, for guilt, my terrors are in arms: I tremble to approach an angry God, And justly smart beneath His sin-avenging rod.
Fain would I say, "Forgive my foul offence," Fain promise never more to disobey; But, should my Author health again dispense, Again I might desert fair virtue's way; Again in folly's part might go astray; Again exalt the brute and sink the man; Then how should I for heavenly mercy pray Who act so counter heavenly mercy's plan? Who sin so oft have mourn'd, yet to temptation ran?
O Thou, great Governor of all below! If I may dare a lifted eye to Thee, Thy nod can make the tempest cease to blow, Or still the tumult of the raging sea: With that controlling pow'r assist ev'n me, Those headlong furious passions to confine, For all unfit I feel my pow'rs to be, To rule their torrent in th' allowed line; O, aid me with Thy help, Omnipotence Divine!
Fickle Fortune: A Fragment
Though fickle Fortune has deceived me, She pormis'd fair and perform'd but ill; Of mistress, friends, and wealth bereav'd me, Yet I bear a heart shall support me still.
I'll act with prudence as far 's I'm able, But if success I must never find, Then come misfortune, I bid thee welcome, I'll meet thee with an undaunted mind.
Raging Fortune—Fragment Of Song
O raging Fortune's withering blast Has laid my leaf full low, O! O raging Fortune's withering blast Has laid my leaf full low, O!
My stem was fair, my bud was green, My blossom sweet did blow, O! The dew fell fresh, the sun rose mild, And made my branches grow, O!
But luckless Fortune's northern storms Laid a' my blossoms low, O! But luckless Fortune's northern storms Laid a' my blossoms low, O!
Impromptu—"I'll Go And Be A Sodger"
O why the deuce should I repine, And be an ill foreboder? I'm twenty-three, and five feet nine, I'll go and be a sodger!
I gat some gear wi' mickle care, I held it weel thegither; But now it's gane, and something mair— I'll go and be a sodger!
Song—"No Churchman Am I"
Tune—"Prepare, my dear Brethren, to the tavern let's fly."
No churchman am I for to rail and to write, No statesman nor soldier to plot or to fight, No sly man of business contriving a snare, For a big-belly'd bottle's the whole of my care.
The peer I don't envy, I give him his bow; I scorn not the peasant, though ever so low; But a club of good fellows, like those that are here, And a bottle like this, are my glory and care.
Here passes the squire on his brother—his horse; There centum per centum, the cit with his purse; But see you the Crown how it waves in the air? There a big-belly'd bottle still eases my care.
The wife of my bosom, alas! she did die; for sweet consolation to church I did fly; I found that old Solomon proved it fair, That a big-belly'd bottle's a cure for all care.
I once was persuaded a venture to make; A letter inform'd me that all was to wreck; But the pursy old landlord just waddl'd upstairs, With a glorious bottle that ended my cares.
"Life's cares they are comforts"—a maxim laid down By the Bard, what d'ye call him, that wore the black gown; And faith I agree with th' old prig to a hair, For a big-belly'd bottle's a heav'n of a care.
A Stanza Added In A Mason Lodge
Then fill up a bumper and make it o'erflow, And honours masonic prepare for to throw; May ev'ry true Brother of the Compass and Square Have a big-belly'd bottle when harass'd with care.
My Father Was A Farmer
Tune—"The weaver and his shuttle, O."
My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O, And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O; He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne'er a farthing, O; For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.
Then out into the world my course I did determine, O; Tho' to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming, O; My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education, O: Resolv'd was I at least to try to mend my situation, O.
In many a way, and vain essay, I courted Fortune's favour, O; Some cause unseen still stept between, to frustrate each endeavour, O; Sometimes by foes I was o'erpower'd, sometimes by friends forsaken, O; And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken, O.
Then sore harass'd and tir'd at last, with Fortune's vain delusion, O, I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, and came to this conclusion, O; The past was bad, and the future hid, its good or ill untried, O; But the present hour was in my pow'r, and so I would enjoy it, O.
No help, nor hope, nor view had I, nor person to befriend me, O; So I must toil, and sweat, and moil, and labour to sustain me, O; To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, O; For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for Fortune fairly, O.
Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro' life I'm doom'd to wander, O, Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O: No view nor care, but shun whate'er might breed me pain or sorrow, O; I live to-day as well's I may, regardless of to-morrow, O.
But cheerful still, I am as well as a monarch in his palace, O, Tho' Fortune's frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O: I make indeed my daily bread, but ne'er can make it farther, O: But as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.
When sometimes by my labour, I earn a little money, O, Some unforeseen misfortune comes gen'rally upon me, O; Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my goodnatur'd folly, O: But come what will, I've sworn it still, I'll ne'er be melancholy, O.
All you who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, O, The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther, O: Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O, A cheerful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you, O.
John Barleycorn: A Ballad
There was three kings into the east, Three kings both great and high, And they hae sworn a solemn oath John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down, Put clods upon his head, And they hae sworn a solemn oath John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on, And show'rs began to fall; John Barleycorn got up again, And sore surpris'd them all.
The sultry suns of Summer came, And he grew thick and strong; His head weel arm'd wi' pointed spears, That no one should him wrong.
The sober Autumn enter'd mild, When he grew wan and pale; His bending joints and drooping head Show'd he began to fail.
His colour sicken'd more and more, He faded into age; And then his enemies began To show their deadly rage.
They've taen a weapon, long and sharp, And cut him by the knee; Then tied him fast upon a cart, Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back, And cudgell'd him full sore; They hung him up before the storm, And turned him o'er and o'er.
They filled up a darksome pit With water to the brim; They heaved in John Barleycorn, There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor, To work him farther woe; And still, as signs of life appear'd, They toss'd him to and fro.
They wasted, o'er a scorching flame, The marrow of his bones; But a miller us'd him worst of all, For he crush'd him between two stones.
And they hae taen his very heart's blood, And drank it round and round; And still the more and more they drank, Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold, Of noble enterprise; For if you do but taste his blood, 'Twill make your courage rise.
'Twill make a man forget his woe; 'Twill heighten all his joy; 'Twill make the widow's heart to sing, Tho' the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn, Each man a glass in hand; And may his great posterity Ne'er fail in old Scotland!
Death And Dying Words Of Poor Mailie, The Author's Only Pet Yowe., The
An Unco Mournfu' Tale
As Mailie, an' her lambs thegither, Was ae day nibbling on the tether, Upon her cloot she coost a hitch, An' owre she warsl'd in the ditch: There, groaning, dying, she did lie, When Hughoc he cam doytin by.
Wi' glowrin een, and lifted han's Poor Hughoc like a statue stan's; He saw her days were near-hand ended, But, wae's my heart! he could na mend it! He gaped wide, but naething spak, At langth poor Mailie silence brak.
"O thou, whase lamentable face Appears to mourn my woefu' case! My dying words attentive hear, An' bear them to my Master dear.
"Tell him, if e'er again he keep As muckle gear as buy a sheep— O, bid him never tie them mair, Wi' wicked strings o' hemp or hair! But ca' them out to park or hill, An' let them wander at their will: So may his flock increase, an' grow To scores o' lambs, an' packs o' woo'!
"Tell him, he was a Master kin', An' aye was guid to me an' mine; An' now my dying charge I gie him, My helpless lambs, I trust them wi' him.
"O, bid him save their harmless lives, Frae dogs, an' tods, an' butcher's knives! But gie them guid cow-milk their fill, Till they be fit to fend themsel'; An' tent them duly, e'en an' morn, Wi' taets o' hay an' ripps o' corn.
"An' may they never learn the gaets, Of ither vile, wanrestfu' pets— To slink thro' slaps, an' reave an' steal At stacks o' pease, or stocks o' kail! So may they, like their great forbears, For mony a year come thro the shears: So wives will gie them bits o' bread, An' bairns greet for them when they're dead.
"My poor toop-lamb, my son an' heir, O, bid him breed him up wi' care! An' if he live to be a beast, To pit some havins in his breast!
"An' warn him—what I winna name— To stay content wi' yowes at hame; An' no to rin an' wear his cloots, Like ither menseless, graceless brutes.
"An' neist, my yowie, silly thing, Gude keep thee frae a tether string! O, may thou ne'er forgather up, Wi' ony blastit, moorland toop; But aye keep mind to moop an' mell, Wi' sheep o' credit like thysel'!
"And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath, I lea'e my blessin wi' you baith: An' when you think upo' your mither, Mind to be kind to ane anither.
"Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail, To tell my master a' my tale; An' bid him burn this cursed tether, An' for thy pains thou'se get my blather."
This said, poor Mailie turn'd her head, And clos'd her een amang the dead!
Poor Mailie's Elegy
Lament in rhyme, lament in prose, Wi' saut tears trickling down your nose; Our bardie's fate is at a close, Past a' remead! The last, sad cape-stane o' his woes; Poor Mailie's dead!
It's no the loss o' warl's gear, That could sae bitter draw the tear, Or mak our bardie, dowie, wear The mourning weed: He's lost a friend an' neebor dear In Mailie dead.
Thro' a' the town she trotted by him; A lang half-mile she could descry him; Wi' kindly bleat, when she did spy him, She ran wi' speed: A friend mair faithfu' ne'er cam nigh him, Than Mailie dead.
I wat she was a sheep o' sense, An' could behave hersel' wi' mense: I'll say't, she never brak a fence, Thro' thievish greed. Our bardie, lanely, keeps the spence Sin' Mailie's dead.
Or, if he wanders up the howe, Her living image in her yowe Comes bleating till him, owre the knowe, For bits o' bread; An' down the briny pearls rowe For Mailie dead.
She was nae get o' moorland tips, Wi' tauted ket, an' hairy hips; For her forbears were brought in ships, Frae 'yont the Tweed. A bonier fleesh ne'er cross'd the clips Than Mailie's dead.
Wae worth the man wha first did shape That vile, wanchancie thing—a raip! It maks guid fellows girn an' gape, Wi' chokin dread; An' Robin's bonnet wave wi' crape For Mailie dead.
O, a' ye bards on bonie Doon! An' wha on Ayr your chanters tune! Come, join the melancholious croon O' Robin's reed! His heart will never get aboon— His Mailie's dead!
Song—The Rigs O' Barley
Tune—"Corn Rigs are bonie."
It was upon a Lammas night, When corn rigs are bonie, Beneath the moon's unclouded light, I held awa to Annie; The time flew by, wi' tentless heed, Till, 'tween the late and early, Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed To see me thro' the barley.
Corn rigs, an' barley rigs, An' corn rigs are bonie: I'll ne'er forget that happy night, Amang the rigs wi' Annie.
The sky was blue, the wind was still, The moon was shining clearly; I set her down, wi' right good will, Amang the rigs o' barley: I ken't her heart was a' my ain; I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kiss'd her owre and owre again, Amang the rigs o' barley. Corn rigs, an' barley rigs, &c.
I lock'd her in my fond embrace; Her heart was beating rarely: My blessings on that happy place, Amang the rigs o' barley! But by the moon and stars so bright, That shone that hour so clearly! She aye shall bless that happy night Amang the rigs o' barley. Corn rigs, an' barley rigs, &c.
I hae been blythe wi' comrades dear; I hae been merry drinking; I hae been joyfu' gath'rin gear; I hae been happy thinking: But a' the pleasures e'er I saw, Tho' three times doubl'd fairly, That happy night was worth them a', Amang the rigs o' barley. Corn rigs, an' barley rigs, &c.
Song Composed In August
Tune—"I had a horse, I had nae mair."
Now westlin winds and slaught'ring guns Bring Autumn's pleasant weather; The moorcock springs on whirring wings Amang the blooming heather: Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain, Delights the weary farmer; And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night, To muse upon my charmer.
The partridge loves the fruitful fells, The plover loves the mountains; The woodcock haunts the lonely dells, The soaring hern the fountains: Thro' lofty groves the cushat roves, The path of man to shun it; The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush, The spreading thorn the linnet.
Thus ev'ry kind their pleasure find, The savage and the tender; Some social join, and leagues combine, Some solitary wander: Avaunt, away! the cruel sway, Tyrannic man's dominion; The sportsman's joy, the murd'ring cry, The flutt'ring, gory pinion!
But, Peggy dear, the ev'ning's clear, Thick flies the skimming swallow, The sky is blue, the fields in view, All fading-green and yellow: Come let us stray our gladsome way, And view the charms of Nature; The rustling corn, the fruited thorn, And ev'ry happy creature.
We'll gently walk, and sweetly talk, Till the silent moon shine clearly; I'll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest, Swear how I love thee dearly: Not vernal show'rs to budding flow'rs, Not Autumn to the farmer, So dear can be as thou to me, My fair, my lovely charmer!
Tune—"My Nanie, O."
Behind yon hills where Lugar flows, 'Mang moors an' mosses many, O, The wintry sun the day has clos'd, And I'll awa to Nanie, O.
The westlin wind blaws loud an' shill; The night's baith mirk and rainy, O; But I'll get my plaid an' out I'll steal, An' owre the hill to Nanie, O.
My Nanie's charming, sweet, an' young; Nae artfu' wiles to win ye, O: May ill befa' the flattering tongue That wad beguile my Nanie, O.
Her face is fair, her heart is true; As spotless as she's bonie, O: The op'ning gowan, wat wi' dew, Nae purer is than Nanie, O.
A country lad is my degree, An' few there be that ken me, O; But what care I how few they be, I'm welcome aye to Nanie, O.
My riches a's my penny-fee, An' I maun guide it cannie, O; But warl's gear ne'er troubles me, My thoughts are a' my Nanie, O.
Our auld guidman delights to view His sheep an' kye thrive bonie, O; But I'm as blythe that hands his pleugh, An' has nae care but Nanie, O.
Come weel, come woe, I care na by; I'll tak what Heav'n will sen' me, O: Nae ither care in life have I, But live, an' love my Nanie, O.
Song—Green Grow The Rashes
Chor.—Green grow the rashes, O; Green grow the rashes, O; The sweetest hours that e'er I spend, Are spent amang the lasses, O.
There's nought but care on ev'ry han', In ev'ry hour that passes, O: What signifies the life o' man, An' 'twere na for the lasses, O. Green grow, &c.
The war'ly race may riches chase, An' riches still may fly them, O; An' tho' at last they catch them fast, Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O. Green grow, &c.
But gie me a cannie hour at e'en, My arms about my dearie, O; An' war'ly cares, an' war'ly men, May a' gae tapsalteerie, O! Green grow, &c.
For you sae douce, ye sneer at this; Ye're nought but senseless asses, O: The wisest man the warl' e'er saw, He dearly lov'd the lasses, O. Green grow, &c.
Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears Her noblest work she classes, O: Her prentice han' she try'd on man, An' then she made the lasses, O. Green grow, &c.
Song—Wha Is That At My Bower-Door
Tune—"Lass, an I come near thee."
"Wha is that at my bower-door?" "O wha is it but Findlay!" "Then gae your gate, ye'se nae be here:" "Indeed maun I," quo' Findlay; "What mak' ye, sae like a thief?" "O come and see," quo' Findlay; "Before the morn ye'll work mischief:" "Indeed will I," quo' Findlay.
"Gif I rise and let you in"— "Let me in," quo' Findlay; "Ye'll keep me waukin wi' your din;" "Indeed will I," quo' Findlay; "In my bower if ye should stay"— "Let me stay," quo' Findlay; "I fear ye'll bide till break o' day;" "Indeed will I," quo' Findlay.
"Here this night if ye remain"— "I'll remain," quo' Findlay; "I dread ye'll learn the gate again;" "Indeed will I," quo' Findlay. "What may pass within this bower"— "Let it pass," quo' Findlay; "Ye maun conceal till your last hour:" "Indeed will I," quo' Findlay.
Remorse: A Fragment
Of all the numerous ills that hurt our peace, That press the soul, or wring the mind with anguish Beyond comparison the worst are those By our own folly, or our guilt brought on: In ev'ry other circumstance, the mind Has this to say, "It was no deed of mine:" But, when to all the evil of misfortune This sting is added, "Blame thy foolish self!" Or worser far, the pangs of keen remorse, The torturing, gnawing consciousness of guilt— Of guilt, perhaps, when we've involved others, The young, the innocent, who fondly lov'd us; Nay more, that very love their cause of ruin! O burning hell! in all thy store of torments There's not a keener lash! Lives there a man so firm, who, while his heart Feels all the bitter horrors of his crime, Can reason down its agonizing throbs; And, after proper purpose of amendment, Can firmly force his jarring thoughts to peace? O happy, happy, enviable man! O glorious magnanimity of soul!
Epitaph On Wm. Hood, Senr., In Tarbolton
Here Souter Hood in death does sleep; To hell if he's gane thither, Satan, gie him thy gear to keep; He'll haud it weel thegither.
Epitaph On James Grieve, Laird Of Boghead, Tarbolton
Here lies Boghead amang the dead In hopes to get salvation; But if such as he in Heav'n may be, Then welcome, hail! damnation.
Epitaph On My Own Friend And My Father's Friend, Wm. Muir In Tarbolton Mill
An honest man here lies at rest As e'er God with his image blest; The friend of man, the friend of truth, The friend of age, and guide of youth: Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd, Few heads with knowledge so informed: If there's another world, he lives in bliss; If there is none, he made the best of this.
Epitaph On My Ever Honoured Father
O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains, Draw near with pious rev'rence, and attend! Here lie the loving husband's dear remains, The tender father, and the gen'rous friend; The pitying heart that felt for human woe, The dauntless heart that fear'd no human pride; The friend of man—to vice alone a foe; For "ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side."^1
[Footnote 1: Goldsmith.—R.B.]
Ballad On The American War
When Guilford good our pilot stood An' did our hellim thraw, man, Ae night, at tea, began a plea, Within America, man: Then up they gat the maskin-pat, And in the sea did jaw, man; An' did nae less, in full congress, Than quite refuse our law, man.
Then thro' the lakes Montgomery takes, I wat he was na slaw, man; Down Lowrie's Burn he took a turn, And Carleton did ca', man: But yet, whatreck, he, at Quebec, Montgomery-like did fa', man, Wi' sword in hand, before his band, Amang his en'mies a', man.
Poor Tammy Gage within a cage Was kept at Boston—ha', man; Till Willie Howe took o'er the knowe For Philadelphia, man; Wi' sword an' gun he thought a sin Guid Christian bluid to draw, man; But at New York, wi' knife an' fork, Sir-Loin he hacked sma', man.
Burgoyne gaed up, like spur an' whip, Till Fraser brave did fa', man; Then lost his way, ae misty day, In Saratoga shaw, man. Cornwallis fought as lang's he dought, An' did the Buckskins claw, man; But Clinton's glaive frae rust to save, He hung it to the wa', man.
Then Montague, an' Guilford too, Began to fear, a fa', man; And Sackville dour, wha stood the stour, The German chief to thraw, man: For Paddy Burke, like ony Turk, Nae mercy had at a', man; An' Charlie Fox threw by the box, An' lows'd his tinkler jaw, man.
Then Rockingham took up the game, Till death did on him ca', man; When Shelburne meek held up his cheek, Conform to gospel law, man: Saint Stephen's boys, wi' jarring noise, They did his measures thraw, man; For North an' Fox united stocks, An' bore him to the wa', man.
Then clubs an' hearts were Charlie's cartes, He swept the stakes awa', man, Till the diamond's ace, of Indian race, Led him a sair faux pas, man: The Saxon lads, wi' loud placads, On Chatham's boy did ca', man; An' Scotland drew her pipe an' blew, "Up, Willie, waur them a', man!"
Behind the throne then Granville's gone, A secret word or twa, man; While slee Dundas arous'd the class Be-north the Roman wa', man: An' Chatham's wraith, in heav'nly graith, (Inspired bardies saw, man), Wi' kindling eyes, cry'd, "Willie, rise! Would I hae fear'd them a', man?"
But, word an' blow, North, Fox, and Co. Gowff'd Willie like a ba', man; Till Suthron raise, an' coost their claise Behind him in a raw, man: An' Caledon threw by the drone, An' did her whittle draw, man; An' swoor fu' rude, thro' dirt an' bluid, To mak it guid in law, man.
Reply To An Announcement By J. Rankine On His Writing To The Poet, That A Girl In That Part Of The Country Was With A Child To Him.
I am a keeper of the law In some sma' points, altho' not a'; Some people tell me gin I fa', Ae way or ither, The breaking of ae point, tho' sma', Breaks a' thegither.
I hae been in for't ance or twice, And winna say o'er far for thrice; Yet never met wi' that surprise That broke my rest; But now a rumour's like to rise— A whaup's i' the nest!
Epistle To John Rankine
Enclosing Some Poems
O Rough, rude, ready-witted Rankine, The wale o' cocks for fun an' drinkin! There's mony godly folks are thinkin, Your dreams and tricks Will send you, Korah-like, a-sinkin Straught to auld Nick's.
Ye hae saw mony cracks an' cants, And in your wicked, drucken rants, Ye mak a devil o' the saunts, An' fill them fou; And then their failings, flaws, an' wants, Are a' seen thro'.
Hypocrisy, in mercy spare it! That holy robe, O dinna tear it! Spare't for their sakes, wha aften wear it— The lads in black; But your curst wit, when it comes near it, Rives't aff their back.
Think, wicked Sinner, wha ye're skaithing: It's just the Blue-gown badge an' claithing O' saunts; tak that, ye lea'e them naething To ken them by Frae ony unregenerate heathen, Like you or I.
I've sent you here some rhyming ware, A' that I bargain'd for, an' mair; Sae, when ye hae an hour to spare, I will expect, Yon sang ye'll sen't, wi' cannie care, And no neglect.
Tho' faith, sma' heart hae I to sing! My muse dow scarcely spread her wing; I've play'd mysel a bonie spring, An' danc'd my fill! I'd better gaen an' sair't the king, At Bunkjer's Hill.
'Twas ae night lately, in my fun, I gaed a rovin' wi' the gun, An' brought a paitrick to the grun'— A bonie hen; And, as the twilight was begun, Thought nane wad ken.
The poor, wee thing was little hurt; I straikit it a wee for sport, Ne'er thinkin they wad fash me for't; But, Deil-ma-care! Somebody tells the poacher-court The hale affair.
Some auld, us'd hands had taen a note, That sic a hen had got a shot; I was suspected for the plot; I scorn'd to lie; So gat the whissle o' my groat, An' pay't the fee.
But by my gun, o' guns the wale, An' by my pouther an' my hail, An' by my hen, an' by her tail, I vow an' swear! The game shall pay, o'er muir an' dale, For this, niest year.
As soon's the clockin-time is by, An' the wee pouts begun to cry, Lord, I'se hae sporting by an' by For my gowd guinea, Tho' I should herd the buckskin kye For't in Virginia.
Trowth, they had muckle for to blame! 'Twas neither broken wing nor limb, But twa-three draps about the wame, Scarce thro' the feathers; An' baith a yellow George to claim, An' thole their blethers!
It pits me aye as mad's a hare; So I can rhyme nor write nae mair; But pennyworths again is fair, When time's expedient: Meanwhile I am, respected Sir, Your most obedient.
A Poet's Welcome To His Love-Begotten Daughter^1
[Footnote 1: Burns never published this poem.]
The First Instance That Entitled Him To The Venerable Appellation Of Father
Thou's welcome, wean; mishanter fa' me, If thoughts o' thee, or yet thy mamie, Shall ever daunton me or awe me, My bonie lady, Or if I blush when thou shalt ca' me Tyta or daddie.
Tho' now they ca' me fornicator, An' tease my name in kintry clatter, The mair they talk, I'm kent the better, E'en let them clash; An auld wife's tongue's a feckless matter To gie ane fash.
Welcome! my bonie, sweet, wee dochter, Tho' ye come here a wee unsought for, And tho' your comin' I hae fought for, Baith kirk and queir; Yet, by my faith, ye're no unwrought for, That I shall swear!
Wee image o' my bonie Betty, As fatherly I kiss and daut thee, As dear, and near my heart I set thee Wi' as gude will As a' the priests had seen me get thee That's out o' hell.
Sweet fruit o' mony a merry dint, My funny toil is now a' tint, Sin' thou came to the warl' asklent, Which fools may scoff at; In my last plack thy part's be in't The better ha'f o't.
Tho' I should be the waur bestead, Thou's be as braw and bienly clad, And thy young years as nicely bred Wi' education, As ony brat o' wedlock's bed, In a' thy station.
Lord grant that thou may aye inherit Thy mither's person, grace, an' merit, An' thy poor, worthless daddy's spirit, Without his failins, 'Twill please me mair to see thee heir it, Than stockit mailens.
For if thou be what I wad hae thee, And tak the counsel I shall gie thee, I'll never rue my trouble wi' thee, The cost nor shame o't, But be a loving father to thee, And brag the name o't.
Song—O Leave Novels^1
[Footnote 1: Burns never published this poem.]
O leave novels, ye Mauchline belles, Ye're safer at your spinning-wheel; Such witching books are baited hooks For rakish rooks, like Rob Mossgiel; Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons, They make your youthful fancies reel; They heat your brains, and fire your veins, And then you're prey for Rob Mossgiel.
Beware a tongue that's smoothly hung, A heart that warmly seems to feel; That feeling heart but acts a part— 'Tis rakish art in Rob Mossgiel. The frank address, the soft caress, Are worse than poisoned darts of steel; The frank address, and politesse, Are all finesse in Rob Mossgiel.
Fragment—The Mauchline Lady
Tune—"I had a horse, I had nae mair."
When first I came to Stewart Kyle, My mind it was na steady; Where'er I gaed, where'er I rade, A mistress still I had aye.
But when I came roun' by Mauchline toun, Not dreadin anybody, My heart was caught, before I thought, And by a Mauchline lady.
Fragment—My Girl She's Airy
My girl she's airy, she's buxom and gay; Her breath is as sweet as the blossoms in May; A touch of her lips it ravishes quite: She's always good natur'd, good humour'd, and free; She dances, she glances, she smiles upon me; I never am happy when out of her sight.
The Belles Of Mauchline
In Mauchline there dwells six proper young belles, The pride of the place and its neighbourhood a'; Their carriage and dress, a stranger would guess, In Lon'on or Paris, they'd gotten it a'.
Miss Miller is fine, Miss Markland's divine, Miss Smith she has wit, and Miss Betty is braw: There's beauty and fortune to get wi' Miss Morton, But Armour's the jewel for me o' them a'.
Epitaph On A Noisy Polemic
Below thir stanes lie Jamie's banes; O Death, it's my opinion, Thou ne'er took such a bleth'rin bitch Into thy dark dominion!
Epitaph On A Henpecked Country Squire
As father Adam first was fool'd, (A case that's still too common,) Here lies man a woman ruled, The devil ruled the woman.
Epigram On The Said Occasion
O Death, had'st thou but spar'd his life, Whom we this day lament, We freely wad exchanged the wife, And a' been weel content.
Ev'n as he is, cauld in his graff, The swap we yet will do't; Tak thou the carlin's carcase aff, Thou'se get the saul o'boot.
One Queen Artemisia, as old stories tell, When deprived of her husband she loved so well, In respect for the love and affection he show'd her, She reduc'd him to dust and she drank up the powder. But Queen Netherplace, of a diff'rent complexion, When called on to order the fun'ral direction, Would have eat her dead lord, on a slender pretence, Not to show her respect, but—to save the expense!
On Tam The Chapman
As Tam the chapman on a day, Wi'Death forgather'd by the way, Weel pleas'd, he greets a wight so famous, And Death was nae less pleas'd wi' Thomas, Wha cheerfully lays down his pack, And there blaws up a hearty crack: His social, friendly, honest heart Sae tickled Death, they could na part; Sae, after viewing knives and garters, Death taks him hame to gie him quarters.
Epitaph On John Rankine
Ae day, as Death, that gruesome carl, Was driving to the tither warl' A mixtie—maxtie motley squad, And mony a guilt-bespotted lad— Black gowns of each denomination, And thieves of every rank and station, From him that wears the star and garter, To him that wintles in a halter: Ashamed himself to see the wretches, He mutters, glowrin at the bitches,
"By God I'll not be seen behint them, Nor 'mang the sp'ritual core present them, Without, at least, ae honest man, To grace this damn'd infernal clan!" By Adamhill a glance he threw, "Lord God!" quoth he, "I have it now; There's just the man I want, i' faith!" And quickly stoppit Rankine's breath.
Lines On The Author's Death
Written With The Supposed View Of Being Handed To Rankine After The Poet's Interment
He who of Rankine sang, lies stiff and dead, And a green grassy hillock hides his head; Alas! alas! a devilish change indeed.
Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge
When chill November's surly blast Made fields and forests bare, One ev'ning, as I wander'd forth Along the banks of Ayr, I spied a man, whose aged step Seem'd weary, worn with care; His face furrow'd o'er with years, And hoary was his hair.
"Young stranger, whither wand'rest thou?" Began the rev'rend sage; "Does thirst of wealth thy step constrain, Or youthful pleasure's rage? Or haply, prest with cares and woes, Too soon thou hast began To wander forth, with me to mourn The miseries of man.
"The sun that overhangs yon moors, Out-spreading far and wide, Where hundreds labour to support A haughty lordling's pride;— I've seen yon weary winter-sun Twice forty times return; And ev'ry time has added proofs, That man was made to mourn.
"O man! while in thy early years, How prodigal of time! Mis-spending all thy precious hours— Thy glorious, youthful prime! Alternate follies take the sway; Licentious passions burn; Which tenfold force gives Nature's law. That man was made to mourn.
"Look not alone on youthful prime, Or manhood's active might; Man then is useful to his kind, Supported in his right: But see him on the edge of life, With cares and sorrows worn; Then Age and Want—oh! ill-match'd pair— Shew man was made to mourn.
"A few seem favourites of fate, In pleasure's lap carest; Yet, think not all the rich and great Are likewise truly blest: But oh! what crowds in ev'ry land, All wretched and forlorn, Thro' weary life this lesson learn, That man was made to mourn.
"Many and sharp the num'rous ills Inwoven with our frame! More pointed still we make ourselves, Regret, remorse, and shame! And man, whose heav'n-erected face The smiles of love adorn,— Man's inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn!
"See yonder poor, o'erlabour'd wight, So abject, mean, and vile, Who begs a brother of the earth To give him leave to toil; And see his lordly fellow-worm The poor petition spurn, Unmindful, tho' a weeping wife And helpless offspring mourn.
"If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave, By Nature's law design'd, Why was an independent wish E'er planted in my mind? If not, why am I subject to His cruelty, or scorn? Or why has man the will and pow'r To make his fellow mourn?
"Yet, let not this too much, my son, Disturb thy youthful breast: This partial view of human-kind Is surely not the last! The poor, oppressed, honest man Had never, sure, been born, Had there not been some recompense To comfort those that mourn!
"O Death! the poor man's dearest friend, The kindest and the best! Welcome the hour my aged limbs Are laid with thee at rest! The great, the wealthy fear thy blow From pomp and pleasure torn; But, oh! a blest relief for those That weary-laden mourn!"
The Twa Herds; Or, The Holy Tulyie
An Unco Mournfu' Tale
"Blockheads with reason wicked wits abhor, But fool with fool is barbarous civil war,"—Pope.
O a' ye pious godly flocks, Weel fed on pastures orthodox, Wha now will keep you frae the fox, Or worrying tykes? Or wha will tent the waifs an' crocks, About the dykes?
The twa best herds in a' the wast, The e'er ga'e gospel horn a blast These five an' twenty simmers past— Oh, dool to tell! Hae had a bitter black out-cast Atween themsel'.
O, Moddie,^1 man, an' wordy Russell,^2 How could you raise so vile a bustle; Ye'll see how New-Light herds will whistle, An' think it fine! The Lord's cause ne'er gat sic a twistle, Sin' I hae min'.
O, sirs! whae'er wad hae expeckit Your duty ye wad sae negleckit, Ye wha were ne'er by lairds respeckit To wear the plaid; But by the brutes themselves eleckit, To be their guide.
What flock wi' Moodie's flock could rank?— Sae hale and hearty every shank! Nae poison'd soor Arminian stank He let them taste; Frae Calvin's well, aye clear, drank,— O, sic a feast!
[Footnote 1: Rev. Mr. Moodie of Riccarton.]
[Footnote 2: Rev. John Russell of Kilmarnock.]
The thummart, willcat, brock, an' tod, Weel kend his voice thro' a' the wood, He smell'd their ilka hole an' road, Baith out an in; An' weel he lik'd to shed their bluid, An' sell their skin.
What herd like Russell tell'd his tale; His voice was heard thro' muir and dale, He kenn'd the Lord's sheep, ilka tail, Owre a' the height; An' saw gin they were sick or hale, At the first sight.
He fine a mangy sheep could scrub, Or nobly fling the gospel club, And New-Light herds could nicely drub Or pay their skin; Could shake them o'er the burning dub, Or heave them in.
Sic twa—O! do I live to see't?— Sic famous twa should disagree't, And names, like "villain," "hypocrite," Ilk ither gi'en, While New-Light herds, wi' laughin spite, Say neither's liein!
A' ye wha tent the gospel fauld, There's Duncan^3 deep, an' Peebles^4 shaul, But chiefly thou, apostle Auld,^5 We trust in thee, That thou wilt work them, het an' cauld, Till they agree.
Consider, sirs, how we're beset; There's scarce a new herd that we get, But comes frae 'mang that cursed set, I winna name; I hope frae heav'n to see them yet In fiery flame.
[Footnote 3: Dr. Robert Duncan of Dundonald.]
[Footnote 4: Rev. Wm. Peebles of Newton-on-Ayr.]
[Footnote 5: Rev. Wm. Auld of Mauchline.]
Dalrymple^6 has been lang our fae, M'Gill^7 has wrought us meikle wae, An' that curs'd rascal ca'd M'Quhae,^8 And baith the Shaws,^9 That aft hae made us black an' blae, Wi' vengefu' paws.
Auld Wodrow^10 lang has hatch'd mischief; We thought aye death wad bring relief; But he has gotten, to our grief, Ane to succeed him,^11 A chield wha'll soundly buff our beef; I meikle dread him.
And mony a ane that I could tell, Wha fain wad openly rebel, Forby turn-coats amang oursel', There's Smith^12 for ane; I doubt he's but a grey nick quill, An' that ye'll fin'.
O! a' ye flocks o'er a, the hills, By mosses, meadows, moors, and fells, Come, join your counsel and your skills To cowe the lairds, An' get the brutes the power themsel's To choose their herds.
Then Orthodoxy yet may prance, An' Learning in a woody dance, An' that fell cur ca'd Common Sense, That bites sae sair, Be banished o'er the sea to France: Let him bark there.
Then Shaw's an' D'rymple's eloquence, M'Gill's close nervous excellence
[Footnote 6: Rev. Dr. Dalrymple of Ayr.]
[Footnote 7: Rev. Wm. M'Gill, colleague of Dr. Dalrymple.]
[Footnote 8: Minister of St. Quivox.]
[Footnote 9: Dr. Andrew Shaw of Craigie, and Dr. David Shaw of Coylton.]
[Footnote 10: Dr. Peter Wodrow of Tarbolton.]
[Footnote 11: Rev. John M'Math, a young assistant and successor to Wodrow.]
[Footnote 12: Rev. George Smith of Galston.]
M'Quhae's pathetic manly sense, An' guid M'Math, Wi' Smith, wha thro' the heart can glance, May a' pack aff.
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'.