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Poem by William M’Vitie


Whisky


O Whisky! Whisky! pest and nuisance,
	Scotia ne’er thy like did ken –
While ither liquors ruin thousands,
	Thou destroys thy thousands ten!

* * *

Caledonia, ancient nation,
	Lang renown’d has been thy name.
Search in history, or tradition,
	Had a land e’er greater fame?

Still thy Sons were brave and noble,
	Good as ever swords did draw;
Tho’ their foes came ’gainst them double,
	On the field they made them fa’.

When the Romans, fearless fellows, 
	Maist part o’ the Globe subdu’d,
Still and on, as stories tell us,
	To their yoke the Scots ne’er bow’d.

Tho’ they made the Lowlands cringe still,
	To their galling tyrannie;
’Midst his mountains, mighty Fingal
	Independent liv’d and free.

When the dauntless Danes sae mighty,
	Landed boldly on our coast,
Scotsmen, ready for the fight ay,
	Made their warriors bite the dust.

When the Southerns sae o’ergade us,
	Tho’ we scarce had ane for ten;
Yet, of those that did invade us,
	Oft times few gade hame again.

From the Reformation’s dawning, 
	Ne’er was mair religious fowk –
Rich and poor, all hated sinning, 
	And in goodness pleasure took.

Heaven sweetly smil’d upon us,
	Happy, happy, were we still;
Rarely did a man among us
	E’er attempt the thing was ill.

Satan’s self, and a’ his legions,
	Still were forc’d to stand aloof,
Scar’d away to ither regions,
	Scotland was nae Devil’s howf.

Satan try’d, and try’d, and try’d,
	Still nae footing cou’d be got,
Men, who all his arts defy’d,
	Ay sent him quaking to the Pit.

Scottish preachers, sons of thunder,
	Gave him then sic awfu’ reels,
If he came, but for a wonder,
	Soon he show’d a pair of heels.

Griev’d at last to be sae baffl’d,
	He a hellish court did call;
And, while rage his words half-stifl’d,
	Thus address’d the Devil’s all.

Friends and followers, faithful proven,
	Well belov’d companions dear,
Sufferers in this burning oven,
	Hear, immortal spirits hear!

Every one whate’er’s his station,
	Knows as well as I can tell,
That of every tongue and nation,
	Part are pris’ners here in Hell,

While some nations, true and trusty,
	Send the sauls by thousands in,
There’s a corner, dry and musty,
	Where we scarcely e’er get ane.

Scotland stands an Isle romantic,
	Where I’ve oft been put to shame.
Furies! thunders! plagues! I’m frantic
	When I mention but its name.
	
There, from holy men in anger,
	I have got full many a tussle;
Sure, these seven years, and langer,
	Not a Scot has cross’d our threshol.

If amang you there’s a Devil,
	Wou’d eternize here his name,
Let him teach these people evil, 
	And establish’d is his fame.
	
For a little all were silent,
	Goblin did on Goblin gaze,
Till Grapplesaul, a spirit vi’lent,
	From his seat himself did raise.

He it was made furious Cain
	Shed his harmless brother’s blood;
He set Bethel’s brats a-jawing,
	When the bears came frae the wood;

He it was caus’d cruel Herod
	Slay the babbies of Bethle’m;
He it was made wicked Nero 
	Set Rome’s city all on flame;
	
He it was made savage Mary
	Roast the holy fowks at Lon’on;
He it is keeps streets of Paris,
	For these years, with blood still runnin’.
	
He it was brought harmless Louis
	And his consort to the block; 
He too purposed to undo us,
	When to Satan thus he spoke:

Prince of hell, with your permission,
	Off for Scotland straight I’ll go;
And, Blast me deeper in perdition,
	If I do not work them woe!

Says Satan, since ye set about it,
	Now the jobs  as good as done,
Crowds of Scots, I dinna doubt it,
	Will be with us very soon.

Grapplesaul made low obeisance, 
	Ghastly on him Nick did smile,
While in haste he left his presence,
	Steering straight for Scotia’s Isle.

There arriv’d, he look’d around him,
	Saw few fowks that follow’d ill;
Pray’rs and Psalms did fair confound him, 
	Thund’ring sermons gall’d him still.

For a weak side always trying,
	He observ’d that Saints severe,
When they chanc’d to get their whey in,
	Now and then would curse and swear.

Well he knew that drink makes way for
	Every other kind of vice,
But that plebeians could not pay for
	Foreign liquors high in price.

Cheaper drink he knew there mud be, 
	Ere he well his point cou’d gain;
So he soon invented WHISKY!
	That was never known till then.

Bent on mischief, ae dark glowming,
	He a farmer’s form did take;
And wi’ a Brewer, hame returning,
	On the road he up did make.
	
Like an honest country carlie,
	To the Brewer he appear’d;
Bade good een, and then how far he
	Mean’t to gang that way was speer’d.

On they travel’d, on they crackit,
	Whyles on this, and whyles on that, –
Grapplefaul his part well acted,
	Every word he said was pat.
	
Now thcr tawk’t of rising markets, 
	Smuggling next became the theme;
Hout, says the fiend, what foolish work it’s 
	Liquor might be made at hame.

Sir, said the Brewer, I have really
	Had a notion many a time, 
That we might Spirits brew fu’ brawly,
	If some body wou’d begin.

Then what’s the reason ye neglect it?
	Said the gloomy Grapplesaul; 
Get a Still, and I’ll inspect it,
	How to do’t I’ll tell you all.

Straight he told him how to make it, 
	How to use it when ’twas made.
The Brewer brawly cou’d uptake it;
	For he was an active blade.

The Brewer said he would be at it,
	Soon as he got a’ prepar’d: 
Then said the fiend, ye needna’ doubt it,
	That your pains will well be war’d,

Now come near the Brewer’s dwelling,
	Says the fiend, I leave you here;
Up the country lies my mailing,
	Twenty miles and something mair.

But I’ll call, and taste your liquor,
	See if ye’ve got a’ things right;
Soon to pass this way I’m sicker – 
	So I bid you now good night.
	
The Brewer forward a’ things hastit,
	And in twa weeks did begin;
When, just as he was gawn to taste it,
	Grapplesaul came stepping in.

The Brewer cry’d, I’m glad to see you;
	Ye have happen’d unco well; 
Here’s a drink prepar’d to gie you,
	Ye maun taste it first yoursel.

When the fiend beheld the liquor,
	Soon he twigg’d a hearty waught, 
Syne, wi’ a kind of hellish nicker,
	Cry’d, O what a glorious draught!

This is not your o’er sea Brandy, 
	Nor your Rum, made far frae hame
This maun now be Scotlan’s dandie, 
	Whisky! Whisky! that’s its name.

Whene’er ’twas nam’d, down darkness sell,
	The sun himself grew dusky; 
While all the gloomy caves of Hell,
	Back echo’d Whisky! Whisky!

Our Island to its centre shook,
	Its heav’nly guardians fled; 
While down their checks, in torrents, broke;
	Tears such as Angels shed,

From that day, Whisky wi’ slow advances, 
	Spreads the country thro’ and thro’;
As a spark, that feeble once is, 
	Sets hale cities in a lowe.

Yet before it grew sae common,
	Sixty seasons slipt away; 
The last good race, baith man and woman
	Mingl’d wi’ their native clay.

The next that rose, of grace mair scanty,
	Were a wicked drinking set; 
Whisky now became as plenty,
	As dub water ’mang their feet.

Now the iron age commenced, 
	Scotland turn’d a perfect Hell!
Ills, that ne’er before were mention’dt 
	Rose and flourish’d – Virtue fell.

Sabbaths, once so well observed, 
	Now were spent in drinking still;
Those that half the week were starved, 
	Woudna want their Sunday’s gill.

That tremendous name, their fathers 
	Ne’er pronoune’d unless with awe,
Now was us’d in a’ their blethers, 
	A’ their nasty blackguard jaw!

On the night, the wish’d for night,
	When wark fowks get their weekly hire,
Their fathers thought they werena’ right, 
	Till at their ain bit cozie fire.

Happy, there they spent the even,
	Took a frugal quiet repast; 
Join’d in fervent prayer to Heav’n,
	And betook themselves to rest.

But, since Whisky turn’d victorious, 
	These unblemish’d days are gone!
Tradesmen now sit bousing, glorious, 
	Till the hours of twelve or one.

Hame they reel, like brutish monsters,
	To their starving weans and wives;
Breaking dishes, plates and trenchers, 
	Threat’ning oft their very lives!

From there work there’s thousands fetched;
	And cag’d up for Whisky debt; 
Some leave wives and weans wretched,
	And away for sogers set.

Thousands, snug in ways of doing,
	Lost to a’ their private cares, 
Drank, and brought themselves to ruin;
	Settling Britain’s State affairs.

Willie Wilson was a weaver,
	Good as e’er a shuttle threw; 
Tall and handsome, young and clever,
	But a devil ay when fow.

Ae night he had drunk his wages,
	Ev’ry boddle o’t was gane; 
Hame he like a fury rages,
	As the clock was striking ane.

Bess, his wife, had lang been waiting,
	She at last to bed did creep; 
In her arms the wean was greeting,
	Hunger wadna’ let it sleep.

Willie, cursing, swearing, stamping,
	Brattl’d loudly at the door! 
Betty, poor thing, heard him ramping -–
	And got up to draw the bar.

Willie, soon as e’er he enter’d, 
	Ca’d her bessom, b – h and jade!
Betty to expost’late ventur’d –	
	Tho’ to speak she was afraid.

Mild and meek, she did reprove him,
	Standing shiv’ring in her shirt;
Out he pull’d e knife, the ruffian, 
	And deep plung’d it in her heart!

In the bed the bairn lay screaming, 
	Bess was welt’ring in her gore!
Willie, now in Hell a freeman, 
	Hurry’d quickly to the door.

Still the child continu’d crying,
	Neighbours waken’d that were near;
Betty’s waefu’ groans, when dying, 
	They cou’d likewise plainly, hear.

In they rush’d, got candles lighted, 
	View’d the horrid scene aghast!
There the child lay screaming, frighted, 
	Betty just had breath’d her last.

Still the child cry’d, O my Daddy, 
	Dady did my mammy kill! –
Some pursu’d, baith quick and ready, 
	And o’ertook the murd’rer Will.

To the jail they straight convey’d him – 
	Somehow he a knife had got;
And, when nae ane was beside him, 
	With a slash he cut his throat.

Wi’ the fright, the bairn distracted, 
	Lost his wits that ne’er came back,
Eithly seen in all he acted 
	All he ever after spake,

Sandy Short was blyth and brisk ay,
	Happy as a man cou’d be, 
Till the curs’d infernal Whisky
	Brought him quite to miserie.

Sandy liv’d into the country,
	Was a joiner to his trade; 
Snug his house, and bein’ his pantry,
	Routh o’ wark he always had.

Lang he loe’d a labourer’s daughter, 
	Bonny Blooming Jessy Gray;
For his consort when he fought her, 
	Jelly didna’ say him nay.

Seven years flew by fu’ cheerfu’,
	Never did a day seem lang; 
Sandy toil’d, and Jess was carefu’,
	Bairnies thrave, and wark was thrang.

But at time of barley tillage, 
	First of summer ninety-two,
Up a sign rose in the village, 
	Whisky here, by David Dow.

Sandy took but little heed o’t
	For twa months, and near to three;
Till by chance he having pree’d o’t, 
	Ay the mair he wish’d to pree,

Now the nights were langer turning, 
	Neighbours sometimes did convene –
Sandy drank whyles till the morning 
	Loot him see to stagger harne,

Now, when wild reforming notions 
	Spread like locusts every where,
Sandy and some more made motions 
	For a weekly meeting there.

Now behold them, farmers, tradesmen,
	All deep learned politicians; 
Fancy plowmen, carters, spademen,
	Scrawling to the King petitions!

Hear them growling and complaining, 
	O’ the burdens they must bear;
While they’re spending mair one evening, 
	Than their taxes for a year,

Sandy Short, amang the rest ay, 
	Loud against the times did rail;
And tho’ stupid as a beast ay,
	Thought that cash shou’d never fail.

When the farmers, living round him, 
	Orders brought for carts and plows;
In his shop they never found him – 
	He was drunk in Davie Dow’s!

By and by, all custom left him, 
	Not a stroke of wark had he;
Drink of feeling quite bereft him, 
	Still he didna’ care a flee.

Jess saw poortith fast a-coming,
	Wi’ its dreary dismal train, 
Try’d to turn him; luckless woman!
	All her labour was in vain.

Hear her praying and intreating, 
	He wou’d mind his wife and bairns;
He replies, the affairs of Britain 
	Come before sic low concerns.
	
Still he kept his drinking custom, 
	While he cou’d a farthing get;
Then, as lang as fowks wou’d trust him, 
	Deeply drown’d himself in debt,

Drove at last to desperation, 
	All his cash and credit gane;
Dwindl’d to a perfect vision, 
	Quite decay’d to skin and bane.

He enlists wi’ Captain Murphy;
	Jeffy breaks her heart at last. – 
Thus their young and helpless orphans
	Are upon the parish cast.

These are thy atchievements, Whisky, 
	O thou horrid drink of hell!
Thou hast brought more woes on Scotia 
	Than the tongue of man can tell.

Since thou bred the dissipation
	That prevails now every where,
Success seems to leave our nation, 
	Lang sae justly fam’d in war.

Men that now recruit our forces, 
	Drunkards curs’d before they go,
Fall in heaps of lifeless corses, 
	When they come to face the foe.

You in power, O quickly rouse you,
	Put a stop to a’ these ills, 
Put an end to a’ sic bousing,
	Crush, O crush the Whisky Stills!

Fair fa’ thee honest Willie Pitt, 
	Thou’s stopt them just a little;
For Scotia’s sake, O never let 
	Them warm another kettle!

Auld Scotland wou’d do brawly yet
	If whisky was forgotten; 
And fowks wa’d bless the name of Pitt
	When he was dead and rotten.

Lang may Britannia flourish on,
	In spite of Devils all, 
Till Nature’s last tremendous
	O may she never fall!

May Princes of Hanover’s line
	Ay reign with pleasure o’er her;
And foes be crush’d, that now combine 
	In legions to devour her.

And O may Whisky ne’er again 
	Bring such sad woes upon her!
Nor cause these crimes that are a stain 
	To any nation’s honour.



William M’Vitie

Poem Theme: Whisky

William M’Vitie's other poems:
  1. An Epistle to David Crawford


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • David Sillar Whisky ("Poets, wi’ muckle wit an’ skill")

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