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1 'TWAS in that place o' Scotland's isle,
2 That bears the name o' auld king COIL,
3 Upon a bonie day in June,
4 When wearing thro' the afternoon,
5 Twa Dogs, that were na thrang at hame;
6 Forgather'd ance upon a time.
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7 The first I'll name, they ca'd him Cæsar
8 Was keepet for His Honor's pleasure;
9 His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
10 Shew'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs,
11 But whalpet some place far abroad,
12 Where sailors gang to fish for Cod.
13 His locked, letter'd, braw brass-collar
14 Shew'd him the gentleman an' scholar;
15 But tho' he was o' high degree,
16 The fient a pride na pride had he,
17 But wad hae spent an hour caressan,
18 Ev'n wi' a Tinkler-gipsey's messan:
19 At Kirk or Market, Mill or Smiddie,
20 Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er fae duddie,
21 But he wad stan't, as glad to see him,
22 An' stroan't on stanes an' hillocks wi' him.
23 The tither was a ploughman's collie,
24 A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
25 Wha for his friend an' comrade had him,
26 And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him,
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27 After some dog in
* Cuchullin's dog in Ossian's Fingal.
Highland sang,
28 Was made lang syne, lord knows how lang.
29 He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke,
30 As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.
31 His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face,
32 Ay gat him friends in ilka place;
33 His breast was white, his towzie back,
34 Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black;
35 His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl,
36 Hung owre his hurdies wi' a swirl.
37 Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither,
38 An' unco pack an' thick thegither;
39 Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd an' snowket;
40 Whyles mice and modewurks they howket;
41 Whyles scour'd awa in lang excursion,
42 An' worry'd ither in diversion;
43 Till tir'd at last wi' mony a farce,
44 They set them down upon their arse,
45 An' there began a lang digression
46 About the lords o' the creation.
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47 I've aften wonder'd, honest Luath,
48 What sort o' life poor dogs like you have;
49 An' when the gentry's life I saw,
50 What way poor bodies liv'd ava.
51 Our Laird gets in his racked rents,
52 His coals, his kane, an' a' his stents:
53 He rises when he likes himsel;
54 His flunkies answer at the bell;
55 He ca's his coach; he ca's his horse;
56 He draws a bonie, silken purse
57 As lang's my tail, whare thro' the steeks,
58 The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks.
59 Frae morn to een it's nought but toiling,
60 At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;
61 An' tho' the gentry first are steghan,
62 Yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their peghan
63 Wi' sauce, ragouts, an' sic like trashtrie,
64 That's little short o' downright wastrie.
65 Our Whipper-in, wee, blastet wonner,
66 Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner,
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67 Better than ony Tenant-man
68 His Honor has in a' the lan' :
69 An' what poor Cot-folk pit their painch in.
70 I own it's past my comprehension.
71 Trowth, Cæsar, whyles their fash't enough;
72 A Cotter howkan in a sheugh,
73 Wi' dirty stanes biggan a dyke,
74 Bairan a quarry, an' sic like,
75 Himsel, a wife, he thus sustains,
76 A smytrie o' wee, duddie weans,
77 An' nought but his han'-daurk, to keep
78 Them right an' tight in thack an' raep.
79 An' when they meet wi' fair disasters,
80 Like loss o' health or want o' masters,
81 Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer,
82 An' they maun starve o' cauld and hunger
83 But how it comes, I never kent yet,
84 They're maistly wonderfu' contented;
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85 An' buirdly chiels, and clever hizzies,
86 Are bred in sic a way as this is.
87 But then, to see how ye're negleket,
88 How huff'd, an' cuff'd, an' disrespeket!
89 L d man, our gentry care as little
90 For delvers, ditchers, an' sic cattle;
91 They gang as saucy by poor folk,
92 As I wad by a stinkan brock.
93 I've notic'd, on our Laird's court-day,
94 An' mony a time my heart's been wae,
95 Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash,
96 How they maun thole a factor's snash;
97 He'll stamp an' threaten, curse an' swear,
98 He'll apprehend them, poind their gear;
99 While they maun stan' , wi' aspect humble,
100 An' hear it a', an' fear an' tremble!
101 I see how folk live that hae riches;
102 But surely poor-folk maun be wretches!
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103 They're no sae wretched 's ane wad think;
104 Tho' constantly on poortith's brink,
105 They're sae accustom'd wi' the fight,
106 The view o't gies them little fright.
107 Then chance and fortune are sae guided,
108 They're ay in less or mair provided;
109 An' tho' fatigu'd wi' close employment,
110 A blink o' rest 's a sweet enjoyment.
111 The dearest comfort o' their lives,
112 Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives;
113 The prattling things are just their pride,
114 That sweetens a' their fire side.
115 An' whyles twalpennie-worth o' nappy
116 Can mak the bodies unco happy;
117 They lay aside their private cares,
118 To mind the Kirk and State affairs;
119 They'll talk o' patronage an' priests,
120 Wi' kindling fury i' their breasts,
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121 Or tell what new taxation's comin,
122 An' ferlie at the folk in LON'ON.
123 As bleak-fac'd Hallowmass returns,
124 They get the jovial, rantan Kirns,
125 When rural life, of ev'ry station,
126 Unite in common recreation;
127 Love blinks, Wit slaps, an' social Mirth
128 Forgets there's care upo' the earth.
129 That merry day the year begins,
130 They bar the door on frosty win's;
131 The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream,
132 An' sheds a heart-inspiring steam;
133 The luntan pipe, an' sneeshin mill,
134 Are handed round wi' right guid will;
135 The cantie, auld folks, crackan crouse,
136 The young anes rantan thro' the house
137 My heart has been fae fain to see them,
138 That I for joy hae barket wi' them.
139 Still it's owre true that ye hae said,
140 Sic game is now owre aften play'd;
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141 There's monie a creditable stock
142 O' decent, honest, fawsont folk,
143 Are riven out baith root an' branch,
144 Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench,
145 Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster
146 In favor wi' some gentle Master,
147 Wha aiblins thrang a parliamentin,
148 For Britain's guid his saul indentin
149 Haith lad ye little ken about it;
150 For Britain's guid! guid faith! I doubt it
151 Say rather, gaun as PREMIERS lead him
152 An' saying aye or no's they bid him:
153 At Operas an' Plays parading,
154 Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading:
155 Or maybe, in a frolic daft,
156 To HAGUE or CALAIS takes a waft,
157 To make a tour an' tak a whirl,
158 To learn bon ton an' see the worl' .
159 There, at VIENNA or VERSAILLES,
160 He rives his father's auld entails;
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161 Or by MADRID he takes the rout,
162 To thrum guittars an' fecht wi' nowt;
163 Or down Italian Vista startles,
164 Wh re-hunting amang groves o' myrtles
165 Then bowses drumlie German-water,
166 To mak himsel look fair and fatter,
167 An' purge the bitter ga's an' cankers,
168 O' curst Venetian b res an' ch ncres.
169 For Britain's guid! for her destruction!
170 Wi' dissipation, feud an' faction!
171 Hech man! dear sirs! is that the gate,
172 They waste fae mony a braw estate!
173 Are we sae foughten and harass'd
174 For gear to gang that gate at last!
175 O would they stay aback frae courts,
176 An' please themsels wi' countra sports,
177 It wad for ev'ry ane be better,
178 The Laird, the Tenant, an' the Cotter!
179 For thae frank, rantan, ramblan billies,
180 Fient haet o' them 's ill hearted fellows;
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181 Except for breakin o' their timmer,
182 Or speakin lightly o' their Limmer,
183 Or shootin of a hare or moorcock,
184 The ne'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk.
185 But will ye tell me, master Cæsar,
186 Sure great folk's life's a life o' pleasure?
187 Nae cauld nor hunger e'er can steer them,
188 The vera thought o't need na fear them.
189 L d man, were ye but whyles where I am,
190 The gentles ye wad neer envy them!
191 It's true, they need na starve or sweat,
192 Thro' Winter's cauld, or Summer's heat;
193 They've nae sair-wark to craze their banes,
194 An' fill auld-age wi' grips an' granes;
195 But human-bodies are sic fools,
196 For a' their colledges an' schools,
197 That when nae real ills perplex them,
198 They mak enow themsels to vex them;
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199 An' ay the less they hae to sturt them,
200 In like proportion, less will hurt them:
201 A country fellow at the pleugh,
202 His acre's till'd, he's right eneugh;
203 A country girl at her wheel,
204 Her dizzen's done, she's unco weel;
205 But Gentlemen, an' Ladies warst,
206 Wi' ev'n down want o' wark are curst.
207 They loiter, lounging, lank an' lazy;
208 Tho' deil-haet ails them, yet uneasy;
209 Their days, insipid, dull an' tasteless,
210 Their nights, unquiet, lang an' restless.
211 An' ev'n their sports, their balls an' races,
212 Their galloping thro' public places,
213 There's sic parade, sic pomp an' art,
214 The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
215 The Men cast out in party-matches,
216 Then sowther a' in deep debauches.
217 Aenight, they're mad wi' drink an' wh ring,
218 Niest day their life is past enduring.
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219 The Ladies arm-in-arm in clusters,
220 As great an' gracious a' as sisters;
221 But hear their absent thoughts o' ither,
222 They're a run deils an' jads thegither.
223 Whyles, owre the wee bit cup an' platie,
224 They sip the scandal-potion pretty;
225 Or lee-lang nights, wi' crabbet leuks,
226 Pore owre the devil's pictur'd beuks;
227 Stake on a chance a farmer's stackyard,
228 An' cheat like ony unhang'd blackguard.
229 There's some exceptions, man an' woman;
230 But this is Gentry's life in common.
231 By this, the fun was out o' sight,
232 An' darker gloamin brought the night:
233 The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone,
234 The kye stood rowtan i' the loan;
235 When up they gat an' shook their lugs,
236 Rejoic'd they were na men but dogs;
237 An' each took off his several way,
238 Resolv'd to meet some ither day.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE TWA DOGS, A TALE.
Author: Robert Burns
Genres: narrative verse; dialogue

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Source edition

Burns, Robert, 1759-1796. POEMS, CHIEFLY IN THE SCOTTISH DIALECT, BY ROBERT BURNS. Kilmarnock: printed by John Wilson, M,DCC,LXXXVI., 1786, pp. [9]-21. 240p.; 8⁰. (ESTC T91548) (Page images digitized by National Library of Scotland.)

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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.

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