TO W. S*****N, OCHILTREE.
May — 1785.
1 I Gat your letter, winsome Willie;
2 Wi' gratefu' heart I thank you brawlie;
3 Tho' I maun say't, I wad be silly,
4 An' unco vain,
5 Should I believe, my coaxin billie,
6 Your flatterin strain.
7 But I'se believe ye kindly meant it,
8 I sud be laith to think ye hinted
9 Ironic satire, sidelins sklented,
10 On my poor Musie;
11 Tho' in sic phraisin terms ye've penn'd it,
12 I scarce excuse ye.
13 My senses wad be in a creel,
14 should I but dare a hope to speel,
15 Wi' Allan, or wi' Gilbertfield,
16 The braes o' fame;
17 Or Ferguson, the writer-chiel,
18 A deathless name.
19 (O Ferguson! thy glorious parts,
20 Ill-suited law's dry, musty arts!
21 My curse upon your whunstane hearts,
22 Ye Enbrugh Gentry!
23 The tythe o' what ye waste at cartes
24 Wad stow'd his pantry!)
25 Yet when a tale comes i' my head,
26 Or lasses gie my heart a screed,
27 As whiles they're like to be my dead,
28 (O sad disease!)
29 I kittle up my rustic reed;
30 It gies me ease.
31 Auld COILA, now, may fidge fu' fain,
32 She's gotten Bardies o' her ain,[Page 210]
33 Chiels wha their chanters winna hain,
34 But tune their lays,
35 Till echoes a' resound again
36 Her weel-sung praise.
37 Nae Poet thought her worth his while,
38 To set her name in measur'd style;
39 She lay like some unkend-of isle
40 Beside New Holland,
41 Or whare wild-meeting oceans boil
42 Besouth Magellan.
43 Ramsay an' famous Ferguson
44 Gied Forth an' Tay a lift aboon;
45 Yarrow an' Tweed, to monie a tune,
46 Owre Scotland rings,
47 While Irwin, Lugar, Aire an' Doon,
48 Naebody sings.
49 Th' Illissus, Tiber, Thames an' Seine,
50 Glide sweet in monie a tunefu' line;
51 But Willie set your fit to mine,
52 An' cock your crest,[Page 211]
53 We'll gar our streams an' burnies shine
54 Up wi' the best.
55 We'll sing auld COILA'S plains an' fells,
56 Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells,
57 Her banks an' braes, her dens an' dells,
58 Where glorious WALLACE
59 Aft bure the gree, as story tells,
60 Frae Suthron billies.
61 At WALLACE' name, what Scottish blood,
62 But boils up in a spring-tide flood!
63 Oft have our fearless fathers strode
64 By WALLACE' side,
65 Still pressing onward, red-wat-shod,
66 Or glorious dy'd!
67 O sweet are COILA'S haughs an' woods,
68 When lintwhites chant amang the buds,
69 And jinkin hares, in amorous whids,
70 Their loves enjoy,
71 While thro' the braes the cushat croods
72 With wailfu' cry!
73 Ev'n winter bleak has charms to me,
74 When winds rave thro' the naked tree;
75 Or frosts on hills of Ochiltree
76 Are hoary gray;
77 Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee,
78 Dark'ning the day!
79 O NATURE! a' thy shews an' forms
80 To feeling, pensive hearts hae charms!
81 Whether the Summer kindly warms,
82 Wi' life an' light,
83 Or Winter howls, in gusty storms,
84 The lang, dark night!
85 The Muse, nae Poet ever fand her,
86 Till by himsel he learn'd to wander,
87 Adown some trottin burn's meander,
88 An' no think lang;
89 O sweet, to stray an' pensive ponder
90 A heart-felt sang!
91 The warly race may drudge an' drive,
92 Hog-shouther, jundie, stretch an' strive,[Page 213]
93 Let me fair NATURE'S face descrive,
94 And I, wi' pleasure,
95 Shall let the busy, grumbling hive
96 Bum owre their treasure.
97 Fareweel, 'my rhyme-composing' brither!
98 We've been owre lang unkenn'd to ither:
99 Now let us lay our heads thegither,
100 In love fraternal:
101 May Envy wallop in a tether,
102 Black fiend, infernal!
103 While Highlandmen hate tolls an' taxes;
104 While moorlan herds like guid, fat braxies;
105 While Terra firma, on her axis,
106 Diurnal turns,
107 Count on a friend, in faith an' practice,
108 In ROBERT BURNS.
109 My memory's no worth a preen;
110 I had amaist forgotten clean,
111 Ye bad me write you what they mean
112 By this new-light,*
* A cant-term for those religious opinions, which Dr TAYLOR of Norwich has defended so strenuously.
113 'Bout which our herds sae aft hae been
114 Maist like to fight.
115 In days when mankind were but callans,
116 At Grammar, Logic, an' sic talents,
117 They took nae pains their speech to balance,
118 Or rules to gie,
119 But spak their thoughts in plain, braid lallans,
120 Like you or me.
121 In thae auld times, they thought the Moon,
122 Just like a sark, or pair o' shoon,
123 Woor by degrees, till her last roon
124 Gaed past their viewin,
125 An' shortly after she was done
126 They gat a new ane.
127 This past for certain, undisputed;
128 It ne'er cam i' their heads to doubt it,
129 Till chiels gat up an' wad confute it,
130 An' ca'd it wrang;
131 An' muckle din there was about it,
132 Baith loud an' lang.
133 Some herds, weel learn'd upo' the beuk,
134 Wad threap auld folk the thing misteuk;
135 For 'twas the auld moon turn'd a newk
136 An' out o' sight,
137 An' backlins-comin, to the leuk,
138 She grew mair bright.
139 This was deny'd, it was affirm'd;
140 The herds an' hissels were alarm'd;
141 The rev'rend gray-beards rav'd an' storm'd,
142 That beardless laddies
143 Should think they better were inform'd,
144 Than their auld dadies.
145 Frae less to mair it gaed to sticks;
146 Frae words an' aiths to clours an' nicks;[Page 216]
147 An' monie a fallow gat his licks,
148 Wi' hearty crunt;
149 An' some, to learn them for their tricks,
150 Were hang'd an' brunt,
151 This game was play'd in monie lands,
152 An' auld-light caddies bure sic hands,
153 That faith, the youngsters took the sands
154 Wi' nimble shanks,
155 Till Lairds forbad, by strict commands,
156 Sic bluidy pranks.
157 But new-light herds gat sic a cowe,
158 Folk thought them ruin'd stick-an-stowe,
159 Till now amaist on ev'ry knowe
160 Ye'll find ane plac'd;
161 An' some, their New-light fair avow,
162 Just quite barefac'd.
163 Nae doubt the auld-light flocks are bleatan;
164 Their zealous herds are vex'd an' sweatan;
165 Mysel, I've ev'n seen them greetan
166 Wi' girnan spite,[Page 217]
167 To hear the Moon sae sadly lie'd on
168 By word an' write.
169 But shortly they will cowe the louns!
170 Some auld-light herds in neebor towns
171 Are mind't, in things they ca' balloons,
172 To tak a flight,
173 An' stay ae month amang the Moons
174 An' see them right.
175 Guid observation they will gie them;
176 An' when the auld Moon's gaun to le'ae them,
177 The hindmost shaird, they'll fetch it wi' them,
178 Just i' their pouch,
179 An' when the new-light billies see them,
180 I think they'll crouch!
181 Sae, ye observe that a' this clatter
182 Is naething but a 'moonshine matter;'
183 But tho' dull prose-folk latin splatter
184 In logic tulzie,
185 I hope we, Bardies, ken some better
186 Than mind sic brulzie.