Death and Doctor Hornbook

Robert Burns

Death and Doctor Hornbook


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!”
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.”

“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 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
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,
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 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.

“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.

Holy Willie’s Prayer

Robert Burns

Holy Willie’s Prayer

“And send the godly in a pet to pray.” – Pope.


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!

The Holy Fair

Robert Burns

The Holy Fair


A robe of seeming truth and trust
Hid crafty Observation;
And secret hung, with poison’d crust,
The dirk of Defamation:

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, 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 speels the holy door,
Wi’ tidings o’ damnation:

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 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, frae the water-fit,
Ascends the holy rostrum:

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
Fast, fast that day.

Wee Miller 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:

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.

Address To The Deil

Robert Burns

Address To The Deil

O Prince! O chief of many throned Pow’rs
That led th’ embattl’d Seraphim to war-

O Thou! whatever title suit thee-
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie,
Wha in yon cavern grim an’ sootie,
Clos’d under hatches,
Spairges about the brunstane cootie,
To scaud poor wretches!

Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee,
An’ let poor damned bodies be;
I’m sure sma’ pleasure it can gie,
Ev’n to a deil,
To skelp an’ scaud poor dogs like me,
An’ hear us squeel!

Great is thy pow’r an’ great thy fame;
Far ken’d an’ noted is thy name;
An’ tho’ yon lowin’ heuch’s thy hame,
Thou travels far;
An’ faith! thou’s neither lag nor lame,
Nor blate, nor scaur.

Whiles, ranging like a roarin lion,
For prey, a’ holes and corners tryin;
Whiles, on the strong-wind’d tempest flyin,
Tirlin the kirks;
Whiles, in the human bosom pryin,
Unseen thou lurks.

I’ve heard my rev’rend graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;
Or where auld ruin’d castles grey
Nod to the moon,
Ye fright the nightly wand’rer’s way,
Wi’ eldritch croon.

When twilight did my graunie summon,
To say her pray’rs, douse, honest woman!
Aft’yont the dyke she’s heard you bummin,
Wi’ eerie drone;
Or, rustlin, thro’ the boortrees comin,
Wi’ heavy groan.

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi’ sklentin light,
Wi’ you, mysel’ I gat a fright,
Ayont the lough;
Ye, like a rash-buss, stood in sight,
Wi’ wavin’ sough.

The cudgel in my nieve did shake,
Each brist’ld hair stood like a stake,
When wi’ an eldritch, stoor “quaick, quaick,”
Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter’d like a drake,
On whistlin’ wings.

Let warlocks grim, an’ wither’d hags,
Tell how wi’ you, on ragweed nags,
They skim the muirs an’ dizzy crags,
Wi’ wicked speed;
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues,
Owre howkit dead.

Thence countra wives, wi’ toil and pain,
May plunge an’ plunge the kirn in vain;
For oh! the yellow treasure’s ta’en
By witchin’ skill;
An’ dawtit, twal-pint hawkie’s gane
As yell’s the bill.

Thence mystic knots mak great abuse
On young guidmen, fond, keen an’ crouse,
When the best wark-lume i’ the house,
By cantrip wit,
Is instant made no worth a louse,
Just at the bit.

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
An’ float the jinglin’ icy boord,
Then water-kelpies haunt the foord,
By your direction,
And ‘nighted trav’llers are allur’d
To their destruction.

And aft your moss-traversin Spunkies
Decoy the wight that late an’ drunk is:
The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkies
Delude his eyes,
Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
Ne’er mair to rise.

When masons’ mystic word an’ grip
In storms an’ tempests raise you up,
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,
Or, strange to tell!
The youngest brither ye wad whip
Aff straught to hell.

Lang syne in Eden’s bonie yard,
When youthfu’ lovers first were pair’d,
An’ all the soul of love they shar’d,
The raptur’d hour,
Sweet on the fragrant flow’ry swaird,
In shady bower;

Then you, ye auld, snick-drawing dog!
Ye cam to Paradise incog,
An’ play’d on man a cursed brogue,
(Black be your fa’!)
An’ gied the infant warld a shog,
‘Maist rui’d a’.

D’ye mind that day when in a bizz
Wi’ reekit duds, an’ reestit gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
‘Mang better folk,
An’ sklented on the man of Uzz
Your spitefu’ joke?

An’ how ye gat him i’ your thrall,
An’ brak him out o’ house an hal’,
While scabs and botches did him gall,
Wi’ bitter claw;
An’ lows’d his ill-tongu’d wicked scaul’,
Was warst ava?

But a’ your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an’ fechtin fierce,
Sin’ that day Michael^2 did you pierce,
Down to this time,
Wad ding a Lallan tounge, or Erse,
In prose or rhyme.

An’ now, auld Cloots, I ken ye’re thinkin,
A certain bardie’s rantin, drinkin,
Some luckless hour will send him linkin
To your black pit;
But faith! he’ll turn a corner jinkin,
An’ cheat you yet.

But fare-you-weel, auld Nickie-ben!
O wad ye tak a thought an’ men’!
Ye aiblins might-I dinna ken-
Stil hae a stake:
I’m wae to think up’ yon den,
Ev’n for your sake!

The Author’s Earnest Cry And Prayer

Robert Burns

The Author’s Earnest Cry And Prayer

To the Right Honourable and Honourable Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons.


Dearest of distillation! last and best-

-How art thou lost!-

Parody on Milton


Ye Irish lords, ye knights an’ squires,

Wha represent our brughs an’ shires,

An’ doucely manage our affairs

In parliament,

To you a simple poet’s pray’rs

Are humbly sent.


Alas! my roupit Muse is hearse!

Your Honours’ hearts wi’ grief ‘twad pierce,

To see her sittin on her arse

Low i’ the dust,

And scriechinhout prosaic verse,

An like to brust!


Tell them wha hae the chief direction,

Scotland an’ me’s in great affliction,

E’er sin’ they laid that curst restriction

On aqua-vitae;

An’ rouse them up to strong conviction,

An’ move their pity.


Stand forth an’ tell yon Premier youth

The honest, open, naked truth:

Tell him o’ mine an’ Scotland’s drouth,

His servants humble:

The muckle deevil blaw you south

If ye dissemble!


Does ony great man glunch an’ gloom?

Speak out, an’ never fash your thumb!

Let posts an’ pensions sink or soom

Wi’ them wha grant them;

If honestly they canna come,

Far better want them.


In gath’rin votes you were na slack;

Now stand as tightly by your tack:

Ne’er claw your lug, an’ fidge your back,

An’ hum an’ haw;

But raise your arm, an’ tell your crack

Before them a’.


Paint Scotland greetin owre her thrissle;

Her mutchkin stowp as toom’s a whissle;

An’ damn’d excisemen in a bussle,

Seizin a stell,

Triumphant crushin’t like a mussel,

Or limpet shell!


Then, on the tither hand present her-

A blackguard smuggler right behint her,

An’ cheek-for-chow, a chuffie vintner

Colleaguing join,

Picking her pouch as bare as winter

Of a’ kind coin.


Is there, that bears the name o’ Scot,

But feels his heart’s bluid rising hot,

To see his poor auld mither’s pot

Thus dung in staves,

An’ plunder’d o’ her hindmost groat

By gallows knaves?


Alas! I’m but a nameless wight,

Trode i’ the mire out o’ sight?

But could I like Montgomeries fight,

Or gab like Boswell,

There’s some sark-necks I wad draw tight,

An’ tie some hose well.


God bless your Honours! can ye see’t-

The kind, auld cantie carlin greet,

An’ no get warmly to your feet,

An’ gar them hear it,

An’ tell them wi’a patriot-heat

Ye winna bear it?

Some o’ you nicely ken the laws,

To round the period an’ pause,

An’ with rhetoric clause on clause

To mak harangues;

Then echo thro’ Saint Stephen’s wa’s

Auld Scotland’s wrangs.


Dempster, a true blue Scot I’se warran’;

Thee, aith-detesting, chaste Kilkerran;

An’ that glib-gabbit Highland baron,

The Laird o’ Graham;

An’ ane, a chap that’s damn’d aulfarran’,

Dundas his name:


Erskine, a spunkie Norland billie;

True Campbells, Frederick and Ilay;


An’ Livistone, the bauld Sir Willie;

An’ mony ithers,

Whom auld Demosthenes or Tully

Might own for brithers.


See sodger Hugh, my watchman stented,

If poets e’er are represented;

I ken if that your sword were wanted,

Ye’d lend a hand;

But when there’s ought to say anent it,

Ye’re at a stand.


Arouse, my boys! exert your mettle,

To get auld Scotland back her kettle;

Or faith! I’ll wad my new pleugh-pettle,

Ye’ll see’t or lang,

She’ll teach you, wi’ a reekin whittle,

Anither sang.


This while she’s been in crankous mood,

Her lost Militia fir’d her bluid;

(Deil na they never mair do guid,

Play’d her that pliskie!)

An’ now she’s like to rin red-wud

About her whisky.


An’ Lord! if ance they pit her till’t,

Her tartan petticoat she’ll kilt,

An’durk an’ pistol at her belt,

She’ll tak the streets,

An’ rin her whittle to the hilt,

I’ the first she meets!


For God sake, sirs! then speak her fair,

An’ straik her cannie wi’ the hair,

An’ to the muckle house repair,

Wi’ instant speed,

An’ strive, wi’ a’ your wit an’ lear,

To get remead.


Yon ill-tongu’d tinkler, Charlie Fox,

May taunt you wi’ his jeers and mocks;

But gie him’t het, my hearty cocks!

E’en cowe the cadie!

An’ send him to his dicing box

An’ sportin’ lady.


Tell you guid bluid o’ auld Boconnock’s,

I’ll be his debt twa mashlum bonnocks,

An’ drink his health in auld Nance Tinnock’s

Nine times a-week,

If he some scheme, like tea an’ winnocks,

Was kindly seek.


Could he some commutation broach,

I’ll pledge my aith in guid braid Scotch,

He needna fear their foul reproach

Nor erudition,

Yon mixtie-maxtie, queer hotch-potch,

The Coalition.


Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue;

She’s just a devil wi’ a rung;

An’ if she promise auld or young

To tak their part,

Tho’ by the neck she should be strung,

She’ll no desert.


And now, ye chosen Five-and-Forty,

May still you mither’s heart support ye;

Then, tho’a minister grow dorty,

An’ kick your place,

Ye’ll snap your gingers, poor an’ hearty,

Before his face.


God bless your Honours, a’ your days,

Wi’ sowps o’ kail and brats o’ claise,

In spite o’ a’ the thievish kaes,

That haunt St. Jamie’s!

Your humble poet sings an’ prays,

While Rab his name is.




Let half-starv’d slaves in warmer skies

See future wines, rich-clust’ring, rise;

Their lot auld Scotland ne’re envies,

But, blythe and frisky,

She eyes her freeborn, martial boys

Tak aff their whisky.


What tho’ their Phoebus kinder warms,

While fragrance blooms and beauty charms,

When wretches range, in famish’d swarms,

The scented groves;

Or, hounded forth, dishonour arms

In hungry droves!


Their gun’s a burden on their shouther;

They downa bide the stink o’ powther;

Their bauldest thought’s a hank’ring swither

To stan’ or rin,

Till skelp-a shot-they’re aff, a’throw’ther,

To save their skin.


But bring a Scotchman frae his hill,

Clap in his cheek a Highland gill,

Say, such is royal George’s will,

An’ there’s the foe!

He has nae thought but how to kill

Twa at a blow.


Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him;

Death comes, wi’ fearless eye he sees him;

Wi’bluidy hand a welcome gies him;

An’ when he fa’s,

His latest draught o’ breathin lea’es him

In faint huzzas.


Sages their solemn een may steek,

An’ raise a philosophic reek,

An’ physically causes seek,

In clime an’ season;

But tell me whisky’s name in Greek

I’ll tell the reason.


Scotland, my auld, respected mither!

Tho’ whiles ye moistify your leather,

Till, whare ye sit on craps o’ heather,

Ye tine your dam;

Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither!

Take aff your dram!

The Ordination

Robert Burns

The Ordination

For sense they little owe to frugal Heav’n-

To please the mob, they hide the little giv’n.


Kilmarnock wabsters, fidge an’ claw,

An’ pour your creeshie nations;

An’ ye wha leather rax an’ draw,

Of a’ denominations;

Swith to the Ligh Kirk, ane an’ a’

An’ there tak up your stations;

Then aff to Begbie’s in a raw,

An’ pour divine libations

For joy this day.


Curst Common-sense, that imp o’ hell,

Cam in wi’ Maggie Lauder;

But Oliphant aft made her yell,

An’ Russell sair misca’d her:

This day Mackinlay taks the flail,

An’ he’s the boy will blaud her!

He’ll clap a shangan on her tail,

An’ set the bairns to daud her

Wi’ dirt this day.


Mak haste an’ turn King David owre,

And lilt wi’ holy clangor;

O’ double verse come gie us four,

An’ skirl up the Bangor:

This day the kirk kicks up a stoure;

Nae mair the knaves shall wrang her,

For Heresy is in her pow’r,

And gloriously she’ll whang her

Wi’ pith this day.


Come, let a proper text be read,

An’ touch it aff wi’ vigour,

How graceless Ham leugh at his dad,

Which made Canaan a nigger;

Or Phineas drove the murdering blade,

Wi’ whore-abhorring rigour;

Or Zipporah, the scauldin jad,

Was like a bluidy tiger

I’ th’ inn that day.


There, try his mettle on the creed,

An’ bind him down wi’ caution,

That stipend is a carnal weed

He taks by for the fashion;

And gie him o’er the flock, to feed,

And punish each transgression;

Especial, rams that cross the breed,

Gie them sufficient threshin;

Spare them nae day.


Now, auld Kilmarnock, cock thy tail,

An’ toss thy horns fu’ canty;

Nae mair thou’lt rowt out-owre the dale,

Because thy pasture’s scanty;

For lapfu’s large o’ gospel kail

Shall fill thy crib in plenty,

An’ runts o’ grace the pick an’ wale,

No gi’en by way o’ dainty,

But ilka day.


Nae mair by Babel’s streams we’ll weep,

To think upon our Zion;

And hing our fiddles up to sleep,

Like baby-clouts a-dryin!

Come, screw the pegs wi’ tunefu’ cheep,

And o’er the thairms be tryin;

Oh, rare to see our elbucks wheep,

And a’ like lamb-tails flyin

Fu’ fast this day.


Lang, Patronage, with rod o’ airn,

Has shor’d the Kirk’s undoin;

As lately Fenwick, sair forfairn,

Has proven to its ruin:

Our patron, honest man! Glencairn,

He saw mischief was brewin;

An’ like a godly, elect bairn,

He’s waled us out a true ane,

And sound, this day.

Now Robertson harangue nae mair,

But steek your gab for ever;

Or try the wicked town of Ayr,

For there they’ll think you clever;

Or, nae reflection on your lear,

Ye may commence a shaver;

Or to the Netherton repair,

An’ turn a carpet weaver

Aff-hand this day.


Mu’trie and you were just a match,

We never had sic twa drones;

Auld Hornie did the Laigh Kirk watch,

Just like a winkin baudrons,

And aye he catch’d the tither wretch,

To fry them in his caudrons;

But now his Honour maun detach,

Wi’ a’ his brimstone squadrons,

Fast, fast this day.


See, see auld Orthodoxy’s faes

She’s swingein thro’ the city!

Hark, how the nine-tail’d cat she plays!

I vow it’s unco pretty:

There, Learning, with his Greekish face,

Grunts out some Latin ditty;

And Common-sense is gaun, she says,

To mak to Jamie Beattie

Her plaint this day.


But there’s Morality himsel’,

Embracing all opinions;

Hear, how he gies the tither yell,

Between his twa companions!

See, how she peels the skin an’ fell,

As ane were peelin onions!

Now there, they’re packed aff to hell,

An’ banish’d our dominions,

Henceforth this day.


O happy day! rejoice, rejoice!

Come bouse about the porter!

Morality’s demure decoys

Shall here nae mair find quarter:

Mackinlay, Russell, are the boys

That heresy can torture;

They’ll gie her on a rape a hoyse,

And cowe her measure shorter

By th’ head some day.


Come, bring the tither mutchkin in,

And here’s-for a conclusion-

To ev’ry New Light mother’s son,

From this time forth, Confusion!

If mair they deave us wi’ their din,

Or Patronage intrusion,

We’ll light a spunk, and ev’ry skin,

We’ll rin them aff in fusion

Like oil, some day.

The Cotter’s Saturday Night

Robert Burns

The Cotter’s Saturday Night

Inscribed to R. Aiken, Esq., of Ayr.



Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,

The short and simple annals of the Poor.



My lov’d, my honour’d, much respected friend!

No mercenary bard his homage pays;

With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,

My dearest meed, a friend’s esteem and praise:

To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,

The lowly train in life’s sequester’d scene,

The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,

What Aiken in a cottage would have been;

Ah! tho’ his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!


November chill blaws loud wi’ angry sugh;

The short’ning winter-day is near a close;

The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;

The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose:

The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes, –

This night his weekly moil is at an end,

Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,

Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,

And weary, o’er the moor, his course does hameward bend.


At length his lonely cot appears in view,

Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;

Th’ expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through

To meet their dead, wi’ flichterin noise and glee.

His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,

His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie’s smile,

The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,

Does a’ his weary kiaugh and care beguile,

And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.


Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,

At service out, amang the farmers roun’;

Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin

A cannie errand to a neibor town:

Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown,

In youthfu’ bloom-love sparkling in her e’e-

Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown,

Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,

To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.


With joy unfeign’d, brothers and sisters meet,

And each for other’s weelfare kindly speirs:

The social hours, swift-wing’d, unnotic’d fleet:

Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.

The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years;

Anticipation forward points the view;

The mother, wi’ her needle and her shears,

Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new;

The father mixes a’ wi’ admonition due.


Their master’s and their mistress’ command,

The younkers a’ are warned to obey;

And mind their labours wi’ an eydent hand,

And ne’er, tho’ out o’ sight, to jauk or play;

“And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway,

And mind your duty, duly, morn and night;

Lest in temptation’s path ye gang astray,

Implore His counsel and assisting might:

They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.”


But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;

Jenny, wha kens the meaning o’ the same,

Tells how a neibor lad came o’er the moor,

To do some errands, and convoy her hame.

The wily mother sees the conscious flame

Sparkle in Jenny’s e’e, and flush her cheek;

With heart-struck anxious care, enquires his name,

While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;

Weel-pleased the mother hears, it’s nae wild, worthless rake.


Wi’ kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;

A strappin youth, he takes the mother’s eye;

Blythe Jenny sees the visit’s no ill ta’en;

The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.

The youngster’s artless heart o’erflows wi’ joy,

But blate an’ laithfu’, scarce can weel behave;

The mother, wi’ a woman’s wiles, can spy

What makes the youth sae bashfu’ and sae grave,

Weel-pleas’d to think her bairn’s respected like the lave.


O happy love! where love like this is found:

O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!

I’ve paced much this weary, mortal round,

And sage experience bids me this declare, –

“If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare-

One cordial in this melancholy vale,

‘Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair

In other’sarms, breathe out the tender tale,

Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.”

Is there, in human form, that bears a heart,

A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth!

That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,

Betray sweet Jenny’s unsuspecting youth?

Curse on his perjur’d arts! dissembling smooth!

Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exil’d?

Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,

Points to the parents fondling o’er their child?

Then paints the ruin’d maid, and their distraction wild?


But now the supper crowns their simple board,

The halesome parritch, chief of Scotia’s food;

The sowp their only hawkie does afford,

That, ‘yont the hallan snugly chows her cood:

The dame brings forth, in complimental mood,

To grace the lad, her weel-hain’d kebbuck, fell;

And aft he’s prest, and aft he ca’s it guid:

The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell

How t’was a towmond auld, sin’ lint was i’ the bell.


The cheerfu’ supper done, wi’ serious face,

They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;

The sire turns o’er, with patriarchal grace,

The big ha’bible, ance his father’s pride:

His bonnet rev’rently is laid aside,

His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;

Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,

He wales a portion with judicious care;

And “Let us worship God!” he says with solemn air.

They chant their artless notes in simple guise,

They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;

Perhaps Dundee’s wild-warbling measures rise;

Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;

Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame;

The sweetest far of Scotia’s holy lays:

Compar’d with these, Italian trills are tame;

The tickl’d ears no heart-felt raptures raise;

Nae unison hae they with our Creator’s praise.


The priest-like father reads the sacred page,

How Abram was the friend of God on high;

Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage

With Amalek’s ungracious progeny;

Or how the royal bard did groaning lie

Beneath the stroke of Heaven’s avenging ire;

Or Job’s pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;

Or rapt Isaiah’s wild, seraphic fire;

Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.


Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,

How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;

How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,

Had not on earth whereon to lay His head:

How His first followers and servants sped;

The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:

How he, who lone in Patmos banished,

Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,

And heard great Bab’lon’s doom pronounc’d by Heaven’s command.


Then, kneeling down to Heaven’s Eternal King,

The saint, the father, and the husband prays:

Hope “springs exulting on triumphant wing,”

That thus they all shall meet in future days,

There, ever bask in uncreated rays,

No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,

Together hymning their Creator’s praise,

In such society, yet still more dear;

While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere


Compar’d with this, how poor Religion’s pride,

In all the pomp of method, and of art;

When men display to congregations wide

Devotion’s ev’ry grace, except the heart!

The Power, incens’d, the pageant will desert,

The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;

But haply, in some cottage far apart,

May hear, well-pleas’d, the language of the soul;

And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.


Then homeward all take off their sev’ral way;

The youngling cottagers retire to rest:

The parent-pair their secret homage pay,

And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,

That he who stills the raven’s clam’rous nest,

And decks the lily fair in flow’ry pride,

Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,

For them and for their little ones provide;

But chiefly, in their hearts with grace divine preside.


From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs,

That makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad:

Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,

“An honest man’s the noblest work of God;”

And certes, in fair virtue’s heavenly road,

The cottage leaves the palace far behind;

What is a lordling’s pomp? a cumbrous load,

Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,

Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d!


O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!

For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent,

Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil

Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!

And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent

From luxury’s contagion, weak and vile!

Then howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,

A virtuous populace may rise the while,

And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d isle.


O Thou! who pour’d the patriotic tide,

That stream’d thro’ Wallace’s undaunted heart,

Who dar’d to nobly stem tyrannic pride,

Or nobly die, the second glorious part:

 (The patriot’s God peculiarly thou art,

His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)

O never, never Scotia’s realm desert;

But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard

In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

The Jolly Beggars

Robert Burns

The Jolly Beggars: A Cantata




When lyart leaves bestrow the yird,

Or wavering like the bauckie-bird,

Bedim cauld Boreas’ blast;

When hailstanes drive wi’ bitter skyte,

And infant frosts begin to bite,

In hoary cranreuch drest;

Ae night at e’en a merry core

O’ randie, gangrel bodies,

In Poosie-Nansie’s held the splore,

To drink their orra duddies;

Wi’ quaffing an’ laughing,

They ranted an’ they sang,

Wi’ jumping an’ thumping,

The vera girdle rang,


First, neist the fire, in auld red rags,

Ane sat, weel brac’d wi’ mealy bags,


And knapsack a’ in order;

His doxy lay within his arm;

Wi’ usquebae an’ blankets warm

She blinkit on her sodger;

An’ aye he gies the tozie drab

The tither skelpin’ kiss,

While she held up her greedy gab,

Just like an aumous dish;

Ilk smack still, did crack still,

Just like a cadger’s whip;

Then staggering an’ swaggering

He roar’d this ditty up-



Tune-“Soldier’s Joy.”


I am a son of Mars who have been in many wars,

And show my cuts and scars wherever I come;

This here was for a wench, and that other in a trench,

When welcoming the French at the sound of the drum.

Lal de daudle, &c.


My ‘prenticeship I past where my leader breath’d his last,

When the bloody die was cast on the heights of Abram:

and I served out my trade when the gallant game was play’d,

And the Morro low was laid at the sound of the drum.


I lastly was with Curtis among the floating batt’ries,

And there I left for witness an arm and a limb;

Yet let my country need me, with Elliot to head me,

I’d clatter on my stumps at the sound of a drum.


And now tho’ I must beg, with a wooden arm and leg,

And many a tatter’d rag hanging over my bum,

I’m as happy with my wallet, my bottle, and my callet,

As when I used in scarlet to follow a drum.

What tho’ with hoary locks, I must stand the winter shocks,

Beneath the woods and rocks oftentimes for a home,

When the t’other bag I sell, and the t’other bottle tell,

I could meet a troop of hell, at the sound of a drum.



He ended; and the kebars sheuk,

Aboon the chorus roar;

While frighted rattons backward leuk,

An’ seek the benmost bore:

A fairy fiddler frae the neuk,

He skirl’d out, encore!

But up arose the martial chuck,

An’ laid the loud uproar.



Tune-“Sodger Laddie.”

I once was a maid, tho’ I cannot tell when,

And still my delight is in proper young men;

Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie,

No wonder I’m fond of a sodger laddie,

Sing, lal de lal, &c.


The first of my loves was a swaggering blade,

To rattle the thundering drum was his trade;

His leg was so tight, and his cheek was so ruddy,

Transported I was with my sodger laddie.

But the godly old chaplain left him in the lurch;

The sword I forsook for the sake of the church:

He ventur’d the soul, and I risked the body,

‘Twas then I proved false to my sodger laddie.

Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot,

The regiment at large for a husband I got;

From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready,

I asked no more but a sodger laddie.


But the peace it reduc’d me to beg in despair,

Till I met old boy in a Cunningham fair,

His rags regimental, they flutter’d so gaudy,

My heart it rejoic’d at a sodger laddie.

And now I have liv’d-I know not how long,

And still I can join in a cup and a song;

But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady,

Here’s to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.




Poor Merry-Andrew, in the neuk,

Sat guzzling wi’ a tinkler-hizzie;

They mind’t na wha the chorus teuk,

Between themselves they were sae busy:

At length, wi’ drink an’ courting dizzy,

He stoiter’d up an’ made a face;

Then turn’d an’ laid a smack on Grizzie,

Syne tun’d his pipes wi’ grave grimace.



Tune-“Auld Sir Symon.”


Sir Wisdom’s a fool when he’s fou;

Sir Knave is a fool in a session;

He’s there but a ‘prentice I trow,

But I am a fool by profession.


My grannie she bought me a beuk,

An’ I held awa to the school;

I fear I my talent misteuk,

But what will ye hae of a fool?


For drink I would venture my neck;

A hizzie’s the half of my craft;

But what could ye other expect

Of ane that’s avowedly daft?


I ance was tied up like a stirk,

For civilly swearing and quaffin;

I ance was abus’d i’ the kirk,

For towsing a lass i’ my daffin.


Poor Andrew that tumbles for sport,

Let naebody name wi’ a jeer;

There’s even, I’m tauld, i’ the Court

A tumbler ca’d the Premier.


Observ’d ye yon reverend lad

Mak faces to tickle the mob;

He rails at our mountebank squad, –

It’s rivalship just i’ the job.


And now my conclusion I’ll tell,

For faith I’m confoundedly dry;

The chiel that’s a fool for himsel’,

Guid Lord! he’s far dafter than I.




Then niest outspak a raucle carlin,

Wha kent fu’ weel to cleek the sterlin;

For mony a pursie she had hooked,

An’ had in mony a well been douked;

Her love had been a Highland laddie,

But weary fa’ the waefu’ woodie!

Wi’ sighs an’ sobs she thus began

To wail her braw John Highlandman.



Tune-“O, an ye were dead, Guidman.”


A Highland lad my love was born,

The Lalland laws he held in scorn;

But he still was faithfu’ to his clan,

My gallant, braw John Highlandman.



Sing hey my braw John Highlandman!

Sing ho my braw John Highlandman!

There’s not a lad in a’ the lan’

Was match for my John Highlandman.


With his philibeg an’ tartan plaid,

An’ guid claymore down by his side,

The ladies’ hearts he did trepan,

My gallant, braw John Highlandman.

Sing hey, &c.


We ranged a’ from Tweed to Spey,

An’ liv’d like lords an’ ladies gay;

For a Lalland face he feared none, –

My gallant, braw John Highlandman.

Sing hey, &c.


They banish’d him beyond the sea.

But ere the bud was on the tree,

Adown my cheeks the pearls ran,

Embracing my John Highlandman.

Sing hey, &c.


But, och! they catch’d him at the last,

And bound him in a dungeon fast:

My curse upon them every one,

They’ve hang’d my braw John Highlandman!

Sing hey, &c.


And now a widow, I must mourn

The pleasures that will ne’er return:

The comfort but a hearty can,

When I think on John Highlandman.

Sing hey, &c.




A pigmy scraper wi’ his fiddle,

Wha us’d at trystes an’ fairs to driddle.

Her strappin limb and gausy middle

 (He reach’d nae higher)

Had hol’d his heartie like a riddle,

An’ blawn’t on fire.

Wi’ hand on hainch, and upward e’e,

He croon’d his gamut, one, two, three,

Then in an arioso key,

The wee Apoll

Set off wi’ allegretto glee

His giga solo.



Tune-“Whistle owre the lave o’t.”


Let me ryke up to dight that tear,

An’ go wi’ me an’ be my dear;

An’ then your every care an’ fear

May whistle owre the lave o’t.




I am a fiddler to my trade,

An’ a’ the tunes that e’er I played,

The sweetest still to wife or maid,

Was whistle owre the lave o’t.


At kirns an’ weddins we’se be there,

An’ O sae nicely’s we will fare!

We’ll bowse about till Daddie Care

Sing whistle owre the lave o’t.

I am, &c.


Sae merrily’s the banes we’ll pyke,

An’ sun oursel’s about the dyke;

An’ at our leisure, when ye like,

We’ll whistle owre the lave o’t.

I am, &c.


But bless me wi’ your heav’n o’ charms,

An’ while I kittle hair on thairms,

Hunger, cauld, an’ a’ sic harms,

May whistle owre the lave o’t.

I am, &c.




Her charms had struck a sturdy caird,

As weel as poor gut-scraper;

He taks the fiddler by the beard,

An’ draws a roosty rapier-

He swoor, by a’ was swearing worth,

To speet him like a pliver,

Unless he would from that time forth

Relinquish her for ever.

Wi’ ghastly e’e poor tweedle-dee

Upon his hunkers bended,

An’ pray’d for grace wi’ ruefu’ face,

An’ so the quarrel ended.

But tho’ his little heart did grieve

When round the tinkler prest her,

He feign’d to snirtle in his sleeve,

When thus the caird address’d her:



Tune-“Clout the Cauldron.”

My bonie lass, I work in brass,

A tinkler is my station:

I’ve travell’d round all Christian ground

In this my occupation;

I’ve taen the gold, an’ been enrolled

In many a noble squadron;

But vain they search’d when off I march’d

To go an’ clout the cauldron.

I’ve taen the gold, &c.

Despise that shrimp, that wither’d imp,

With a’ his noise an’ cap’rin;

An’ take a share with those that bear

The budget and the apron!

And by that stowp! my faith an’ houp,

And by that dear Kilbaigie,^2

If e’er ye want, or meet wi’ scant,

May I ne’er weet my craigie.

And by that stowp, &c.




The caird prevail’d-th’ unblushing fair

In his embraces sunk;

Partly wi’ love o’ercome sae sair,

An’ partly she was drunk:

Sir Violino, with an air

That show’d a man o’ spunk,

Wish’d unison between the pair,

An’ made the bottle clunk

To their health that night.

But hurchin Cupid shot a shaft,

That play’d a dame a shavie-

The fiddler rak’d her, fore and aft,

Behint the chicken cavie.

Her lord, a wight of Homer’s craft,^3

Tho’ limpin wi’ the spavie,

He hirpl’d up, an’ lap like daft,

An’ shor’d them Dainty Davie.

O’ boot that night.


He was a care-defying blade

As ever Bacchus listed!

Tho’ Fortune sair upon him laid,

His heart, she ever miss’d it.

He had no wish but-to be glad,

Nor want but-when he thirsted;

He hated nought but-to be sad,

An’ thus the muse suggested

His sang that night.



Tune-“For a’ that, an’ a’ that.”

I am a Bard of no regard,

Wi’ gentle folks an’ a’ that;

But Homer-like, the glowrin byke,

Frae town to town I draw that.




For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

An’ twice as muckle’s a’ that;

I’ve lost but ane, I’ve twa behin’,

I’ve wife eneugh for a’ that.


I never drank the Muses’ stank,

Castalia’s burn, an’ a’ that;

But there it streams an’ richly reams,

My Helicon I ca’ that.

For a’ that, &c.


Great love Idbear to a’ the fair,

Their humble slave an’ a’ that;

But lordly will, I hold it still

A mortal sin to thraw that.

For a’ that, &c.


In raptures sweet, this hour we meet,

Wi’ mutual love an’ a’ that;

But for how lang the flie may stang,

Let inclination law that.

For a’ that, &c.


Their tricks an’ craft hae put me daft,

They’ve taen me in, an’ a’ that;

But clear your decks, and here’s-“The Sex!”

I like the jads for a’ that.




For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

An’ twice as muckle’s a’ that;

My dearest bluid, to do them guid,

They’re welcome till’t for a’ that.



So sang the bard – and Nansie’s wa’s

Shook with a thunder of applause,

Re-echo’d from each mouth!

They toom’d their pocks, they pawn’d their duds,

They scarcely left to co’er their fuds,

To quench their lowin drouth:

Then owre again, the jovial thrang

The poet did request

To lowse his pack an’ wale a sang,

A ballad o’ the best;

He rising, rejoicing,

Between his twa Deborahs,

Looks round him, an’ found them

Impatient for the chorus.


tune-“Jolly Mortals, fill your Glasses.”


See the smoking bowl before us,

Mark our jovial ragged ring!

Round and round take up the chorus,

And in raptures let us sing-




A fig for those by law protected!

Liberty’s a glorious feast!

Courts for cowards were erected,

Churches built to please the priest.


What is title, what is treasure,

What is reputation’s care?

If we lead a life of pleasure,

‘Tis no matter how or where!

A fig for, &c.


With the ready trick and fable,

Round we wander all the day;

And at night in barn or stable,

Hug our doxies on the hay.

A fig for, &c.

Does the train-attended carriage

Thro’ the country lighter rove?

Does the sober bed of marriage

Witness brighter scenes of love?

A fig for, &c.


Life is al a variorum,

We regard not how it goes;

Let them cant about decorum,

Who have character to lose.

A fig for, &c.


Here’s to budgets, bags and wallets!

Here’s to all the wandering train.

Here’s our ragged brats and callets,

One and all cry out, Amen!




A fig for those by law protected!

Liberty’s a glorious feast!

Courts for cowards were erected,

Churches built to please the priest.


Robert Burns




Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,

The simple pleasure of the lowly train;

To me more dear, congenial to my heart,

One native charm, than all the gloss of art.



Upon that night, when fairies light

On Cassilis Downans dance,

Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,

On sprightly coursers prance;

Or for Colean the rout is ta’en,

Beneath the moon’s pale beams;

There, up the Cove, to stray an’ rove,

Amang the rocks and streams

To sport that night;


Amang the bonie winding banks,

Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear;

Where Bruce ance rul’d the martial ranks,

An’ shook his Carrick spear;

Some merry, friendly, countra-folks

Together did convene,

To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,

An’ haud their Halloween

Fu’ blythe that night.


The lasses feat, an’ cleanly neat,

Mair braw than when they’re fine;

Their faces blythe, fu’ sweetly kythe,

Hearts leal, an’ warm, an’ kin’:

The lads sae trig, wi’ wooer-babs

Weel-knotted on their garten;

Some unco blate, an’ some wi’ gabs

Gar lasses’ hearts gang startin

Whiles fast at night.


Then, first an’ foremost, thro’ the kail,

Their stocks maun a’ be sought ance;


They steek their een, and grape an’ wale

For muckle anes, an’ straught anes.

Poor hav’rel Will fell aff the drift,

An’ wandered thro’ the bow-kail,

An’ pou’t for want o’ better shift

A runt was like a sow-tail

Sae bow’t that night.

Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,

They roar an’ cry a’ throu’ther;

The vera wee-things, toddlin, rin,

Wi’ stocks out owre their shouther:

An’ gif the custock’s sweet or sour,

Wi’ joctelegs they taste them;

Syne coziely, aboon the door,

Wi’ cannie care, they’ve plac’d them

To lie that night.


The lassies staw frae ‘mang them a’,

To pou their stalks o’ corn;

But Rab slips out, an’ jinks about,

Behint the muckle thorn:

He grippit Nelly hard and fast:

Loud skirl’d a’ the lasses;

But her tap-pickle maist was lost,

Whan kiutlin in the fause-house

Wi’ him that night.


The auld guid-wife’s weel-hoordit nits

Are round an’ round dividend,

An’ mony lads an’ lasses’ fates

Are there that night decided:

Some kindle couthie side by side,

And burn thegither trimly;

Some start awa wi’ saucy pride,

An’ jump out owre the chimlie

Fu’ high that night.


Jean slips in twa, wi’ tentie e’e;

Wha ’twas, she wadna tell;

But this is Jock, an’ this is me,

She says in to hersel’:

He bleez’d owre her, an’ she owre him,

As they wad never mair part:

Till fuff! he started up the lum,

An’ Jean had e’en a sair heart

To see’t that night.


Poor Willie, wi’ his bow-kail runt,

Was brunt wi’ primsie Mallie;

An’ Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,

To be compar’d to Willie:

Mall’s nit lap out, wi’ pridefu’ fling,

An’ her ain fit, it brunt it;

While Willie lap, and swore by jing,

‘Twas just the way he wanted

To be that night.


Nell had the fause-house in her min’,

She pits hersel an’ Rob in;

In loving bleeze they sweetly join,

Till white in ase they’re sobbin:

Nell’s heart was dancin at the view;

She whisper’d Rob to leuk for’t:

Rob, stownlins, prie’d her bonie mou’,

Fu’ cozie in the neuk for’t,

Unseen that night.


But Merran sat behint their backs,

Her thoughts on Andrew Bell:

She lea’es them gashin at their cracks,

An’ slips out-by hersel’;

She thro’ the yard the nearest taks,

An’ for the kiln she goes then,

An’ darklins grapit for the bauks,

And in the blue-clue throws then,

Right fear’t that night.


An’ ay she win’t, an’ ay she swat-

I wat she made nae jaukin;

Till something held within the pat,

Good Lord! but she was quaukin!

But whether ’twas the deil himsel,

Or whether ’twas a bauk-en’,

Or whether it was Andrew Bell,

She did na wait on talkin

To spier that night.


Wee Jenny to her graunie says,

“Will ye go wi’ me, graunie?

I’ll eat the apple at the glass,

I gat frae uncle Johnie:”

She fuff’t her pipe wi’ sic a lunt,

In wrath she was sae vap’rin,

She notic’t na an aizle brunt

Her braw, new, worset apron

Out thro’ that night.


“Ye little skelpie-limmer’s face!

I daur you try sic sportin,

As seek the foul thief ony place,

For him to spae your fortune:

Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!

Great cause ye hae to fear it;

For mony a ane has gotten a fright,

An’ liv’d an’ died deleerit,

On sic a night.


“Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,

I mind’t as weel’s yestreen-

I was a gilpey then, I’m sure

I was na past fyfteen:

The simmer had been cauld an’ wat,

An’ stuff was unco green;

An’ eye a rantin kirn we gat,

An’ just on Halloween

It fell that night.


“Our stibble-rig was Rab M’Graen,

A clever, sturdy fallow;

His sin gat Eppie Sim wi’ wean,

That lived in Achmacalla:

He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,

An’he made unco light o’t;

But mony a day was by himsel’,

He was sae sairly frighted

That vera night.”


Then up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,

An’ he swoor by his conscience,

That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;

For it was a’ but nonsense:

The auld guidman raught down the pock,

An’ out a handfu’ gied him;

Syne bad him slip frae’ mang the folk,

Sometime when nae ane see’d him,

An’ try’t that night.


He marches thro’ amang the stacks,

Tho’ he was something sturtin;

The graip he for a harrow taks,

An’ haurls at his curpin:

And ev’ry now an’ then, he says,

“Hemp-seed I saw thee,

An’ her that is to be my lass

Come after me, an’ draw thee

As fast this night.”


He wistl’d up Lord Lennox’ March

To keep his courage cherry;

Altho’ his hair began to arch,

He was sae fley’d an’ eerie:

Till presently he hears a squeak,

An’ then a grane an’ gruntle;

He by his shouther gae a keek,

An’ tumbled wi’ a wintle

Out-owre that night.


He roar’d a horrid murder-shout,

In dreadfu’ desperation!

An’ young an’ auld come rinnin out,

An’ hear the sad narration:

He swoor ’twas hilchin Jean M’Craw,

Or crouchie Merran Humphie-

Till stop! she trotted thro’ them a’;

And wha was it but grumphie

Asteer that night!


Meg fain wad to the barn gaen,

To winn three wechts o’ naething;

But for to meet the deil her lane,

She pat but little faith in:

She gies the herd a pickle nits,

An’ twa red cheekit apples,

To watch, while for the barn she sets,

In hopes to see Tam Kipples

That vera night.


She turns the key wi’ cannie thraw,

An’owre the threshold ventures;

But first on Sawnie gies a ca’,

Syne baudly in she enters:

A ratton rattl’d up the wa’,

An’ she cry’d Lord preserve her!

An’ ran thro’ midden-hole an’ a’,

An’ pray’d wi’ zeal and fervour,

Fu’ fast that night.


They hoy’t out Will, wi’ sair advice;

They hecht him some fine braw ane;

It chanc’d the stack he faddom’t thrice

Was timmer-propt for thrawin:

He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak

For some black, grousome carlin;

An’ loot a winze, an’ drew a stroke,

Till skin in blypes cam haurlin

Aff’s nieves that night.


A wanton widow Leezie was,

As cantie as a kittlen;

But och! that night, amang the shaws,

She gat a fearfu’ settlin!

She thro’ the whins, an’ by the cairn,

An’ owre the hill gaed scrievin;

Whare three lairds’ lan’s met at a burn,

To dip her left sark-sleeve in,

Was bent that night.


Whiles owre a linn the burnie plays,

As thro’ the glen it wimpl’t;

Whiles round a rocky scar it strays,

Whiles in a wiel it dimpl’t;

Whiles glitter’d to the nightly rays,

Wi’ bickerin’, dancin’ dazzle;

Whiles cookit undeneath the braes,

Below the spreading hazel

Unseen that night.


Amang the brachens, on the brae,

Between her an’ the moon,

The deil, or else an outler quey,

Gat up an’ ga’e a croon:

Poor Leezie’s heart maist lap the hool;

Near lav’rock-height she jumpit,

But mist a fit, an’ in the pool

Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,

Wi’ a plunge that night.


In order, on the clean hearth-stane,

The luggies three are ranged;

An’ ev’ry time great care is ta’en

To see them duly changed:

Auld uncle John, wha wedlock’s joys

Sin’ Mar’s-year did desire,

Because he gat the toom dish thrice,

He heav’d them on the fire

In wrath that night.


Wi’ merry sangs, an’ friendly cracks,

I wat they did na weary;

And unco tales, an’ funnie jokes-

Their sports were cheap an’ cheery:

Till butter’d sowens,^16 wi’ fragrant lunt,

Set a’ their gabs a-steerin;

Syne, wi’ a social glass o’ strunt,

They parted aff careerin

Fu’ blythe that night.

Epistle To J. Lapraik

Robert Burns

Epistle To J. Lapraik, An Old Scottish Bard



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.