EPISTLE TO A YOUNG FRIEND.
May — 1786
1 I Lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
2 A Something to have sent you,
3 Tho' it should serve nae other end
4 Than just a kind memento;
5 But how the subject theme may gang,
6 Let time and chance determine;
7 Perhaps it may turn out a Sang;
8 Perhaps, turn out a Sermon.
9 Ye'll try the world soon my lad,
10 And ANDREW dear believe me,
11 Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
12 And muckle they may grieve ye:
13 For care and trouble set your thought,
14 Ev'n when your end's attained;
15 And a' your views may come to nought:
16 Where ev'ry nerve is strained.
17 I'll no say, men are villains a';
18 The real, harden'd wicked,
19 Wha hae nae check but human law,
20 Are to a few restricked:
21 But Och, mankind are unco weak,
22 An' little to be trusted;
23 If Self the wavering balance shake,
24 It's rarely right adjusted!
25 Yet they wha fa' in Fortune's strife,
26 Their fate we should na censure,
27 For still th' important end of life,
28 They equally may answer:[Page 178]
29 A man may hae an honest heart,
30 Tho' Poortith hourly stare him;
31 A man may tak a neebor's part,
32 Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
33 Ay free, aff han', your story tell,
34 When wi' a bosom crony;
35 But still keep something to yoursel
36 Ye scarcely tell to ony.
37 Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
38 Frae critical dissection;
39 But keek thro' ev'ry other man,
40 Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.
41 The sacred lowe o' weel plac'd love,
42 Luxuriantly indulge it;
43 But never tempt th'illicit rove,
44 Tho' naething should divulge it:
45 I wave the quantum o' the sin;
46 The hazard of concealing;
47 But Och! it hardens a' within,
48 And petrifies the feeling!
49 To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
50 Assiduous wait upon her;
51 And gather gear by ev'ry wile,
52 That's justify'd by Honor:
53 Not for to hide it in a hedge,
54 Nor for a train-attendant;
55 But for the glorious priviledge
56 Of being independant.
57 The fear o' Hell's a hangman's whip,
58 To haud the wretch in order;
59 But where ye feel your Honor grip,
60 Let that ay be your border:
61 It's slightest touches, instant pause —
62 Debar a' side-pretences;
63 And resolutely keep it's laws,
64 Uncaring consequences.
65 The great CREATOR to revere,
66 Must sure become the Creature;
67 But still the preaching cant forbear,
68 And ev'n the rigid feature:[Page 180]
69 Yet ne'er with Wits prophane to range,
70 Be complaisance extended;
71 An athiest-laugh's a poor exchange
72 For Deity offended!
73 When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,
74 Religion may be blinded;
75 Or if she gie a random-sting,
76 It may be little minded;
77 But when on Life we're tempest-driven,
78 A Conscience but a canker —
79 A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n,
80 Is sure a noble anchor!
81 Adieu, dear, amiable Youth!
82 Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
83 May Prudence, Fortitude and Truth
84 Erect your brow undaunting!
85 In ploughman phrase 'GOD send you speed,'
86 Still daily to grow wiser;
87 And may ye better reck the rede,
88 Than ever did th' Adviser!
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About this text
Author: Robert Burns
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Burns, Robert, 1759-1796. POEMS, CHIEFLY IN THE SCOTTISH DIALECT, BY ROBERT BURNS. Kilmarnock: printed by John Wilson, M,DCC,LXXXVI., 1786, pp. 176-180. 240p.; 8⁰. (ESTC T91548) (Page images digitized by National Library of Scotland.)
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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