[Page [113]]


1 IN royal Anna's golden days,
2 Hard was the task to gain the bays:
3 Hard was it then the hill to climb;
4 Some broke a neck, some lost a limb.
5 The vot'ries for poetic fame,
6 Got aff decrepit, blind, an' lame:
7 Except that little fellow Pope,
8 Few ever then got near its top:
9 An' Homer's crutches he may thank,
10 Or down the brae he'd got a clank.
11 Swift, Thomson, Addison, an' Young
12 Made Pindus echo to their tongue,
[Page 114]
13 In hopes to please a learned age;
14 But Doctor Johnston, in a rage,
15 Unto posterity did shew
16 Their blunders great, their beauties few.
17 But now he's dead, we weel may ken;
18 For ilka dunce maun hae a pen,
19 To write in uncouth rhymes;
20 An' yet forsooth they please the times.
21 A ploughman chiel, Rab Burns his name,
22 Pretends to write; an' thinks nae shame
23 To souse his sonnets on the court;
24 An' what is strange, they praise him for't.
25 Even folks, wha're of the highest station,
26 Ca' him the glory of our nation.
27 But what is more surprising still,
28 A milkmaid must tak up her quill;
29 An' she will write, shame fa' the rabble!
30 That think to please wi' ilka bawble.
31 They may thank heav'n, auld Sam's asleep:
32 For could he ance but get a peep,
33 He, wi' a vengeance wad them sen'
34 A' headlong to the dunces' den.
[Page 115]
35 Yet Burns, I'm tauld, can write wi' ease,
36 An' a' denominations please;
37 Can wi' uncommon glee impart
38 A usefu' lesson to the heart;
39 Can ilka latent thought expose,
40 An' Nature trace whare'er she goes:
41 Of politics can talk wi' skill,
42 Nor dare the critics blame his quill.
43 But then a rustic country quean
44 To write was e'er the like o't seen?
45 A milk maid poem-books to print;
46 Mair fit she wad her dairy tent;
47 Or labour at her spinning wheel,
48 An' do her wark baith swift an' weel.
49 Frae that she may some profit share,
50 But winna frae her rhyming ware.
51 Does she, poor silly thing, pretend
52 The manners of our age to mend?
53 Mad as we are, we're wise enough
54 Still to despise sic paultry stuff.
[Page 116]
55 "May she wha writes, of wit get mair,
56 An' a' that read an ample share
57 Of candour ev'ry fault to screen,
58 That in her dogg'ral scrawls are seen."
59 All this and more, a critic said;
60 I heard and slunk behind the shade:
61 So much I dread their cruel spite,
62 My hand still trembles when I write.


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Genres: occasional poem

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Source edition

Little, Janet, 1759-1813. The Poetical Works of Janet Little, the Scotch Milkmaid. Air: Printed by John & Peter Wilson, 1792, pp. [113]-116.  (ESTC T126549) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles.)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Janet Little (later Richmond)