Masterpieces of

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ROBERT BURNS

 

Robert Burns

Scottish poet

born Jan. 25, 1759, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scot.
died July 21, 1796, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire

Main
national poet of Scotland, who wrote lyrics and songs in the Scottish dialect of English. He was also famous for his amours and his rebellion against orthodox religion and morality.

Life
Burns’s father had come to Ayrshire from Kincardineshire in an endeavour to improve his fortunes, but, though he worked immensely hard first on the farm of Mount Oliphant, which he leased in 1766, and then on that of Lochlea, which he took in 1777, ill luck dogged him, and he died in 1784, worn out and bankrupt. It was watching his father being thus beaten down that helped to make Robert both a rebel against the social order of his day and a bitter satirist of all forms of religious and political thought that condoned or perpetuated inhumanity. He received some formal schooling from a teacher as well as sporadically from other sources. He acquired a superficial reading knowledge of French and a bare smattering of Latin, and he read most of the important 18th-century English writers as well as Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden. His knowledge of Scottish literature was confined in his childhood to orally transmitted folk songs and folk tales together with a modernization of the late 15th-century poem “Wallace.” His religion throughout his adult life seems to have been a humanitarian deism.

Proud, restless, and full of a nameless ambition, the young Burns did his share of hard work on the farm. His father’s death made him tenant of the farm of Mossgiel to which the family moved and freed him to seek male and female companionship where he would. He took sides against the dominant extreme Calvinist wing of the church in Ayrshire and championed a local gentleman, Gavin Hamilton, who had got into trouble with the Kirk Session for sabbath breaking. He had an affair with a servant girl at the farm, Elizabeth Paton, who in 1785 bore his first illegitimate child, and on the child’s birth he welcomed it with a lively poem.

Burns developed rapidly throughout 1784 and 1785 as an “occasional” poet who more and more turned to verse to express his emotions of love, friendship, or amusement or his ironical contemplation of the social scene. But these were not spontaneous effusions by an almost-illiterate peasant. Burns was a conscious craftsman; his entries in the commonplace book that he had begun in 1783 reveal that from the beginning he was interested in the technical problems of versification.



 

Though he wrote poetry for his own amusement and that of his friends, Burns remained restless and dissatisfied. He won the reputation of being a dangerous rebel against orthodox religion, and, when in 1786 he fell in love with Jean Armour, her father refused to allow her to marry Burns even though a child was on the way and under Scots law mutual consent followed by consummation constituted a legal marriage. Jean was persuaded by her father to go back on her promise; Robert, hurt and enraged, took up with another girl, Mary Campbell, who died soon after; on September 3 Jean bore him twins out of wedlock. Meanwhile, the farm was not prospering, and Burns, harassed by insoluble problems, thought of emigrating. But he first wanted to show his country what he could do. In the midst of his troubles he went ahead with his plans for publishing a volume of his poems at the nearby town of Kilmarnock. It was entitled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect and appeared on July 31, 1786. Its success was immediate and overwhelming. Simple country folk and sophisticated Edinburgh critics alike hailed it, and the upshot was that Burns set out for Edinburgh on Nov. 27, 1786, to be lionized, patronized, and showered with well-meant but dangerous advice.

The Kilmarnock volume was a remarkable mixture. It included a handful of first-rate Scots poems: “The Twa Dogs,” “Scotch Drink,” “The Holy Fair,” “An Address to the Deil,” “The Death and Dying Words of Poor Maillie,” “To a Mouse,” “To a Louse,” and some others, including a number of verse letters addressed to various friends. There were also a few Scots poems in which he was unable to sustain his inspiration or that are spoiled by a confused purpose. In addition, there were six gloomy and histrionic poems in English, four songs, of which only one, “It Was Upon a Lammas Night,” showed promise of his future greatness as a song writer, and what to contemporary reviewers seemed the stars of the volume, “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” and “To a Mountain Daisy.”

Burns selected his Kilmarnock poems with care: he was anxious to impress a genteel Edinburgh audience. In his preface he played up to contemporary sentimental views about the natural man and the noble peasant, exaggerated his lack of education, pretended to a lack of natural resources and in general acted a part. The trouble was that he was only half acting. He was uncertain enough about the genteel tradition to accept much of it at its face value, and though, to his ultimate glory, he kept returning to what his own instincts told him was the true path for him to follow, far too many of his poems are marred by a naïve and sentimental moralizing.

Edinburgh unsettled Burns, and, after a number of amorous and other adventures there and several trips to other parts of Scotland, he settled in the summer of 1788 at a farm in Ellisland, Dumfriesshire. At Edinburgh, too, he arranged for a new and enlarged edition (1787) of his Poems, but little of significance was added to the Kilmarnock selection. He found farming at Ellisland difficult, though he was helped by Jean Armour, with whom he had been reconciled and whom he finally married in 1788.

In Edinburgh Burns had met James Johnson, a keen collector of Scottish songs who was bringing out a series of volumes of songs with the music and who enlisted Burns’s help in finding, editing, improving, and rewriting items. Burns was enthusiastic and soon became virtual editor of Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum. Later, he became involved with a similar project for George Thomson, but Thomson was a more consciously genteel person than Johnson, and Burns had to fight with him to prevent him from “refining” words and music and so ruining their character. Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum (1787–1803) and the first five volumes of Thomson’s A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs for the Voice (1793–1818) contain the bulk of Burns’s songs. Burns spent the latter part of his life in assiduously collecting and writing songs to provide words for traditional Scottish airs. He regarded his work as service to Scotland and quixotically refused payment. The only poem he wrote after his Edinburgh visit that showed a hitherto unsuspected side of his poetic genius was Tam o’Shanter (1791), a spirited, narrative poem in brilliantly handled eight-syllable couplets based on a folk legend.

Meanwhile, Burns corresponded with and visited on terms of equality a great variety of literary and other people who were considerably “above” him socially. He was an admirable letter writer and a brilliant talker, and he could hold his own in any company. At the same time, he was still a struggling tenant farmer, and the attempt to keep himself going in two different social and intellectual capacities was wearing him down. After trying for a long time, he finally obtained a post in the excise service in 1789 and moved to Dumfries in 1791, where he lived until his death. His life at Dumfries was active. He wrote numerous “occasional” poems and did an immense amount of work for the two song collections, in addition to carrying out his duties as exciseman. The outbreak of the French Revolution excited him, and some indiscreet outbursts nearly lost him his job, but his reputation as a good exciseman and a politic but humiliating recantation saved him.



Assessment
Burns was a man of great intellectual energy and force of character who, in a class-ridden society, never found an environment in which he could fully exercise his personality. The fact is that Scottish culture in his day could provide no intellectual background that might replace the Calvinism that Burns rejected. The Edinburgh literati of Burns’s day were second raters, but the problem was more than one of personalities. The only substitute for the rejected Calvinism seemed to be a sentimental deism, a facile belief in the good heart as all, and this was not a creed rich or complex enough to nourish great poetry. That Burns in spite of this produced so much fine poetry shows the strength of his unique genius, and that he has become the Scottish national poet is a tribute to his hold on the popular imagination.

Burns perhaps exhibited his greatest poetic powers in his satires. There is also a remarkable craftsmanship in his verse letters, which display a most adroit counterpointing of the colloquial and the formal. But it is by his songs that Burns is best known, and it is his songs that have carried his reputation round the world. Burns is without doubt the greatest songwriter Great Britain has produced.

Burns wrote all his songs to known tunes, sometimes writing several sets of words to the same air in an endeavour to find the most apt poem for a given melody. Many songs which, it is clear from a variety of evidence, must have been substantially written by Burns he never claimed as his. He never claimed “Auld Lang Syne,” for example, which he described simply as an old fragment he had discovered, but the song we have is almost certainly his, though the chorus and probably the first stanza are old. (Burns wrote it for a simple and moving old air that is not the tune to which it is now sung, as Thomson set it to another tune.) The full extent of Burns’s work on Scottish song will probably never be known.

It is positively miraculous that Burns was able to enter into the spirit of older folk song and re-create, out of an old chorus, such songs as “I’m O’er Young to Marry Yet,” “Green Grow the Rashes, O,” and a host of others. It is this uncanny ability to speak with the great anonymous voice of the Scottish people that explains the special feeling that Burns arouses, feelings that manifest themselves in the “Burns cult.”

David Daiches

 

 

 

 

 


Poems

 

 

 

 

 

Anna


Yestreen I had a pint o' wine,
A place where body saw na;
Yestreen lay on this breast o' mine
The gowden locks of Anna.

The hungry Jew in wilderness
Rejoicing o'er his manna
Was naething to my hiney bliss
Upon the lips of Anna.

Ye Monarchs take the East and West
Frae Indus to Savannah:
Gie me within my straining grasp
The melting form of Anna!

There I'll despise Imperial charms,
An empress or sultana,
While dying raptures in her arms,
I give an' take wi' Anna!

Awa, thou flaunting God of Day!
Awa, thou pale Diana!
Ilk star, gae hide thy twinkling ray,
When I'm to meet my Anna!

Come, in thy raven plumage, Night
(Sun, Moon, and Stars, withdrawn a')
And bring an Angel-pen to write
My transports with my Anna!

The Kirk an State may join, an tell
To do sic things I maunna:
The Kirk an State may gae to Hell,
And I'll gae to my Anna.

She is the sunshine o' my e'e,
To live but her I canna:
Had I on earth but wishes three,
The first should be my Anna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dream


Guid-Mornin' to our Majesty!
May Heaven augment your blisses
On ev'ry new birth-day ye see,
A humble poet wishes.
My bardship here, at your Levee
On sic a day as this is,
Is sure an uncouth sight to see,
Amang thae birth-day dresses
Sae fine this day.

I see ye're complimented thrang,
By mony a lord an' lady;
"God save the King" 's a cuckoo sang
That's unco easy said aye:
The poets, too, a venal gang,
Wi' rhymes weel-turn'd an' ready,
Wad gar you trow ye ne'er do wrang,
But aye unerring steady,
On sic a day.

For me! before a monarch's face
Ev'n there I winna flatter;
For neither pension, post, nor place,
Am I your humble debtor:
So, nae reflection on your Grace,
Your Kingship to bespatter;
There's mony waur been o' the race,
And aiblins ane been better
Than you this day.

'Tis very true, my sovereign King,
My skill may weel be doubted;
But facts are chiels that winna ding,
An' downa be disputed:
Your royal nest, beneath your wing,
Is e'en right reft and clouted,
And now the third part o' the string,
An' less, will gang aboot it
Than did ae day.^1

Far be't frae me that I aspire
To blame your legislation,
Or say, ye wisdom want, or fire,
To rule this mighty nation:
But faith! I muckle doubt, my sire,
Ye've trusted ministration
To chaps wha in barn or byre
Wad better fill'd their station
Than courts yon day.

And now ye've gien auld Britain peace,
Her broken shins to plaister,
Your sair taxation does her fleece,
Till she has scarce a tester:
For me, thank God, my life's a lease,
Nae bargain wearin' faster,
Or, faith! I fear, that, wi' the geese,
I shortly boost to pasture
I' the craft some day.

I'm no mistrusting Willie Pitt,
When taxes he enlarges,
(An' Will's a true guid fallow's get,
A name not envy spairges),
That he intends to pay your debt,
An' lessen a' your charges;
But, God-sake! let nae saving fit
Abridge your bonie barges
An'boats this day.

Adieu, my Liege; may freedom geck
Beneath your high protection;
An' may ye rax Corruption's neck,
And gie her for dissection!
But since I'm here, I'll no neglect,
In loyal, true affection,
To pay your Queen, wi' due respect,
May fealty an' subjection
This great birth-day.

Hail, Majesty most Excellent!
While nobles strive to please ye,
Will ye accept a compliment,
A simple poet gies ye?
Thae bonie bairntime, Heav'n has lent,
Still higher may they heeze ye
In bliss, till fate some day is sent
For ever to release ye
Frae care that day.

For you, young Potentate o'Wales,
I tell your highness fairly,
Down Pleasure's stream, wi' swelling sails,
I'm tauld ye're driving rarely;
But some day ye may gnaw your nails,
An' curse your folly sairly,
That e'er ye brak Diana's pales,
Or rattl'd dice wi' Charlie
By night or day.

Yet aft a ragged cowt's been known,
To mak a noble aiver;
So, ye may doucely fill the throne,
For a'their clish-ma-claver:
There, him^2 at Agincourt wha shone,
Few better were or braver:
And yet, wi' funny, queer Sir John,^3
He was an unco shaver
For mony a day.

For you, right rev'rend Osnaburg,
Nane sets the lawn-sleeve sweeter,
Altho' a ribbon at your lug
Wad been a dress completer:
As ye disown yon paughty dog,
That bears the keys of Peter,
Then swith! an' get a wife to hug,
Or trowth, ye'll stain the mitre
Some luckless day!

Young, royal Tarry-breeks, I learn,
Ye've lately come athwart her-
A glorious galley,^4 stem and stern,
Weel rigg'd for Venus' barter;
But first hang out, that she'll discern,
Your hymeneal charter;
Then heave aboard your grapple airn,
An' large upon her quarter,
Come full that day.

Ye, lastly, bonie blossoms a',
Ye royal lasses dainty,
Heav'n mak you guid as well as braw,
An' gie you lads a-plenty!
But sneer na British boys awa!
For kings are unco scant aye,
An' German gentles are but sma',
They're better just than want aye
On ony day.

Gad bless you a'! consider now,
Ye're unco muckle dautit;
But ere the course o' life be through,
It may be bitter sautit:
An' I hae seen their coggie fou,
That yet hae tarrow't at it.
But or the day was done, I trow,
The laggen they hae clautit
Fu' clean that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Red, Red Rose


Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,

That's newly sprung in June:

Oh my luve is like the melodie,

That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi' the sun;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel a while!

And I will come again, my luve,

Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter: A Dirge


The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

"The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,"
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want-O do Thou grant
This one request of mine!-
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tragic Fragment


All devil as I am-a damned wretch,
A hardened, stubborn, unrepenting villain,
Still my heart melts at human wretchedness;
And with sincere but unavailing sighs
I view the helpless children of distress:
With tears indignant I behold the oppressor
Rejoicing in the honest man's destruction,
Whose unsubmitting heart was all his crime. -
Ev'n you, ye hapless crew! I pity you;
Ye, whom the seeming good think sin to pity;
Ye poor, despised, abandoned vagabonds,
Whom Vice, as usual, has turn'd o'er to ruin.
Oh! but for friends and interposing Heaven,
I had been driven forth like you forlorn,
The most detested, worthless wretch among you!
O injured God! Thy goodness has endow'd me
With talents passing most of my compeers,
Which I in just proportion have abused-
As far surpassing other common villains
As Thou in natural parts has given me more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie


The Author's Only Pet Yowe

An Unco Mournfu' Tale

As Mailie, an' her lambs thegither,
Was ae day nibbling on the tether,
Upon her cloot she coost a hitch,
An owre she warsl'd in the ditch:
There, groaning, dying, she did lie,
When Hughoc he cam doytin by.

Wi' glowrin een, and lifted han's
Poor Hughoc like a statue stan's;
He saw her days were near-hand ended,
But, wae's my heart! he could na mend it!
He gaped wide, but naething spak,
At length poor Mailie silence brak.

"O thou, whase lamentable face
Appears to mourn my woefu' case!
My dying words attentive hear,
An' bear them to my Master dear.

"Tell him, if e'er again he keep
As muckle gear as buy a sheep -
O, bid him never tie them mair,
Wi' wicked strings o' hemp or hair!
But ca' them out to park or hill,
An' let them wander at their will:
So may his flock increase, an' grow
To scores o' lambs, an' packs o' woo'!

"Tell him, he was a Master kin',
An' aye was guid to me an' mine;
An now my dying charge I gie him,
My helpless lambs, I trust them wi' him.

"O, bid him save their harmless lives,
Frae dogs, an' tods, an' butchers' knives!
But gie them guid cow-milk their fill,
Till they be fit to fend themsel';
An' tent them duly, e'en an' morn,
Wi' taets o' hay an' ripps o' corn.

"An' may they never learn the gates,
Of ither vile, wanrestfu' pets -
To slink thro' slaps, an' reave an' steal
At stacks o' pease, or stocks o' kail!
So may they, like their great forbears,
For mony a year come thro' the shears:
So wives will gie them bits o' bread,
An bairns greet for them when they're dead.

"My poor toop-lamb, my son an' heir,
O, bid him breed him up wi' care!
An' if he live to be a beast,
To pit some havins in his breast!
An' warn him - what I winna name -
To stay content wi' yowes at hame;
An' no to rin an' wear his cloots,
Like ither meseless, graceless brutes.

"An' neist, my yowie, silly thing,
Gude keep thee frae a tether string!
O, may thou ne'er forgather up,
Wi' ony blastit, moorland toop;
But aye keep mind to moop an' mell,
Wi' sheep o' credit like thysel'!

"And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath,
I lea'e my blessin wi' you baith:
An' when you think upo' your mither,
Mind to be kind to ane anither.

"Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail,
To tell my master a' my tale;
An' bid him burn this cursed tether,
An' for thy pains thou'se get my blather."

This said, poor Mailie turn'd her head,
An' closed her een amang the dead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To a Mountain Daisy


Wee, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
Thou bonie gem.

Alas! it's no thy neibor sweet,
The bonie lark, companion meet,
Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet
Wi' spreck'd breast,
When upward-springing, blythe, to greet
The purpling east.

Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Scarce rear'd above the parent-earth
Thy tender form.

The flaunting flowers our gardens yield
High shelt'ring woods an' wa's maun shield:
But thou, beneath the random bield
O' clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble-field
Unseen, alane.

There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snawie-bosom sun-ward spread,
Thou lifts thy unassuming head
In humble guise;
But now the share uptears thy bed,
And low thou lies!

Such is the fate of artless maid,
Sweet flow'ret of the rural shade!
By love's simplicity betray'd
And guileless trust;
Till she, like thee, all soil'd, is laid
Low i' the dust.

Such is the fate of simple bard,
On life's rough ocean luckless starr'd!
Unskilful he to note the card
Of prudent lore,
Till billows rage and gales blow hard,
And whelm him o'er!

Such fate to suffering Worth is giv'n,
Who long with wants and woes has striv'n,
By human pride or cunning driv'n
To mis'ry's brink;
Till, wrench'd of ev'ry stay but Heav'n,
He ruin'd sink!

Ev'n thou who mourn'st the Daisy's fate,
That fate is thine--no distant date;
Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives elate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crush'd beneath the furrow's weight
Shall be thy doom.


 

 

 

 

 

Peggy


Now westlin winds and slaught'ring guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather;
And the moorcock springs, on whirring wings,
Amang the blooming heather;
Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain,
Delights the weary farmer;
And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night.
To muse upou my charmer.

The partridge loves the fruitful fells;
The plover loves the mountains;
The woodcock haunts tbe lonely dell;
The soaring hern the fountains:
Thro' lofty groves the cushat roves,
The path of man to shun it;
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush,
The spreading thorn the linnet.

Thus ev'ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away, the cruel sway!
Tyrannic man's dominion;
The sportsman's joy, the murd'ring cry,
The flutt'ring, gory pinion!

But Peggy dear, the evening's clear,
Thick flies the skimming swallow;
The sky is blue, the fields in view,
All fading-green and yellow:
Come let us stray our gladsome way,
And view the charms of nature;
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn,
And every happy creature.

We'll gently walk, and sweetly talk,
Till the silent moon shine clearly;
I'll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest,
Swear how I love thee dearly:
Not vernal show'rs to budding flow'rs,
Not autumn to the farmer,
So dear can be as thou to me,
My fair, my lovely charmer!

My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my love is like a melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands of life shall run.

And fare the weel, my only luve!
And fare the well awhile!
And I will come again, my love.
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

O, Were My Love


O, were my love yon lilac fair
Wi' purple blossoms to the spring,
And I a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing.
How I wad mourn when it was torn
By Autumn wild and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing
When youthfu May its bloom renew'd.

O, gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa',
And I mysel a drap o' dew
Into her bonie breast to fa',
O, there, beyond expression blest,
I'd feast on beauty a' the night,
Seal'd on her silk-saft faulds to rest,
Till fley'd awa by Phoebus' light!

 

 

 

 

 

 

On A Bank Of Flowers


On a bank of flowers in a summer day
For summer lightly drest,
The youthful, blooming Nelly lay,
With love and sleep opprest;
When Willie, wand'ring thro the wood
Who for her favour oft had suedÑ
He gaz'd, he wish'd He fear'd, he blush'd
And trembled where he stood.

Her closèd eyes, like weapons sheath'd,
Were sealed in soft repose;
Her lips, still as she fragrant breath'd,
It richer dyed the rose.
The springing lilies, sweetly Crest,
Wild-wanton kissed her rival breast:
He gaz'd, he wish'd, He fear'd he blush'd
His bosom ill at rest.

Her robes, light-waving in the breeze,
Her tender limbs embrace;
Her lovely form, her native ease,
All harmony and grace.
Tumultuous tides his pulses roll,
A faltering, ardent kiss he stole;
He gaz'd, he wish'd, He fear'd, he blush'd,
And sigh'd his very soul.

As flies the partridge from the brake
On fear-inspired wings
So Nelly starting, half-awake
Away affrighted springs.
But Willie, follow'd---as he should
He overtook her in the wood;
He vow'd, he pray'd, He found the maid
Forgiving all, and good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Barleycorn: A Ballad


There was three kings unto the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show'rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris'd them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel arm'd wi' pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he bagan to fail.

His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him further woe;
And still, as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.

They wasted, o'er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.

'Twill make a man forget his woe;
'Twill heighten all his joy;
'Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Tho' the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Morison


O Mary, at thy window be!
It is the wish'd the trysted hour.
Those smiles and glances let me see,
That makes the miser's treasure poor.
How blythely wad I bide the stoure,
A weary slave frae sun to sun,
Could I the rich reward secure --
The lovely Mary Morison!

Yestreen, when to the trembling string
The dance gaed thro the lighted ha',
To thee my fancy took its wing,
I sat, but neither heard or saw:
Tho' this was fair, and that was braw,
And yon the toast of a'the town,
I sigh'd, and said amang them a' --
"Ye are na Mary Morison!"

O, Mary, canst thou wreck his peace
Wha for thy sake wad gladly die?
Or canst thou break that heart of his
Whase only faut is loving thee?
If love for love thou wilt na gie,
At least be pity to me shown:
A thought ungentle canna be
The thought o' Mary Morison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean


OF a' the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly like the west,
For there the bonnie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best:
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between;
But day and night my fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There 's not a bonnie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There 's not a bonnie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epitaph on Holy Willie


Here Holy Willie's sair worn clay
Taks up its last abode;
His saul has ta'en some other way,
I fear, the left-hand road.

Stop! there he is, as sur's a gun,
Poor, silly body, see him;
Nae wonder he's as black's the grun,
Observe wha's standing wi' him.

Your brunstane devilship, I see,
Has got him there before ye;
But haud your nine-tail cat a wee,
Till ance you've heard my story.

Your pity I will not implore,
For pity ye have nane;
Justice, alas! has gi'en him o'er,
And mercy's day is gane.

But hear me, Sir, deil as ye are,
Look something to your credit;
A coof like him wad stain your name,
If it were kent ye did it.


 

 

 

 

 

Highland Mary


Ye banks, and braes, and streams around
The castle o' Montgomery,
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie!
There Simmer first unfald her robes,
And there the langest tarry:
For there I took the last Fareweel
O' my sweet Highland Mary.

How sweetly bloom'd the gay, green birk,
How rich the hawthorn's blossom;
As underneath their fragrant shade,
I clasp'd her to my bosom!
The golden Hours, on angel wings,
Flew o'er me and my Dearie;
For dear to me as light and life
Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Wi' mony a vow, and lock'd embrace,
Our parting was fu' tender;
And pledging aft to meet again,
We tore oursels asunder:
But Oh, fell Death's untimely frost,
That nipt my Flower sae early!
Now green's the sod, and cauld's the clay,
That wraps my Highland Mary!

O pale, pale now, those rosy lips
I aft hae kiss'd sae fondly!
And clos'd for ay, the sparkling glance,
That dwalt on me sae kindly!
And mouldering now in silent dust,
That heart that lo'ed me dearly!
But still within my bosom's core
Shall live my Highland Mary.

 

 

 

 

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