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Poem by Robert Burns


Halloween


UPON that night, when fairies light
  On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
  On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta’en,
  Beneath the moon’s pale beams;
There, up the Cove, to stray an’ rove
  Amang the rocks and streams
        To sport that night;

Amang the bonnie winding banks
  Where Doon rins wimplin’ clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks
  An’ shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry friendly country-folks
  Together did convene
To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,
  An’ hand their Halloween
        Fu’ blythe that night:

The lasses feat, an cleanly neat,
  Mair braw than when they’re fine;
Their faces blythe fu’ sweetly kythe
  Hearts leal, an’ warm, an’ kin’:
The lads sae trig, wi’ wooer-babs
  Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, an’ some wi’ gabs
  Gar lasses’ hearts gang startin’
        Whyles fast at night.

Then, first an foremost, thro’ the kail,
  Their stocks maun a’ be sought ance:
They steek their een, an’ grape an’ wale
  For muckle anes an’ straught anes.
Poor hav’rel Will fell aff the drift,
  An’ wander’d thro’ the bow-kail,
An’ pou’d, for want o’ better shift,
  A runt was like a sow-tail,
        Sae bow’d, that night.

Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,
  They roar an’ cry a’ throu’ther;
The very wee things toddlin’ rin-
  Wi’ stocks out-owre their shouther;
An’ gif the custock ‘s sweet or sour,
  Wi’ joctelegs they taste them;
Syne coziely, aboon the door,
  Wi’ cannie care they’ve plac’d them
        To lie that night.

The lasses staw frae ‘mang them a’
  To pou their stalks o’ corn;
But Rab s1ips out, an’ jinks about,
  Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippit Nelly hard an’ fast;
  Loud skirled a’ the lasses;
But her tap pickle maist was lost,
  When kiutlin’ i’ the fause-house
        Wi’ him that night.

The auld guidwife’s well-hoordit nits
  Are round an’ round divided,
An’ mony lads’ an’ lasses’ fates
  Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
  An’ burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa, wi’ saucy pride,
  An’ jump out-owre the chimlie
        Fu’ high that night.

Jean slips in twa, wi’ tentie e’e;
  Wha ‘twas, she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, an’ this is me,
  She says in to hersel:
He bleez’d owre her, an’ she owre him,
  As they wad never mair part;
Till fuff! he started up the lum,
  An’ Jean had e’en a sair heart
        To see’t that night.

Poor Willie, wi’ his bow-kail runt,
  Was brunt wi’ primsie Mallie,
An’ Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,
  To be compar’d to Willie:
Mall’s nit lap out, wi’ pridefu’ fling,
  An’ her ain fit it brunt it;
While Willie lap, an’ swoor by jing,
  ‘Twas just the way he wanted
        To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min’,
  She pits hersel an’ Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
  Till white in ase they’re sobbin:
Nell’s heart was dancin’ at the view:
  She whisper’d Rob to leuk for’t:
Bob, stownlins, prie’d her bonnie mou’,
  Fu’ cozie in the neuk for’t,
        Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,
  Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea’es them gashin’ at their cracks,
  An’ slips out by hersel:
She thro’ the yard the nearest taks,
  An’ to the kiln she goes then,
An’ darklins grapit for the bauks,
  And in the blue-clue throws then,
        Right fear’d that night.

An’ aye she win’t, an’ aye she swat,
  I wat she made nae jaukin’;
Till something held within the pat,
  Guid Lord! but she was quaukin’!
But whether ‘twas the Deil himsel,
  Or whether ‘twas a bauk-en’,
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
  She did na wait on talkin
        To spier that night.

Wee Jenny to her grannie says,
  ‘Will ye go wi’ me, grannie?
I’ll eat the apple at the glass,
  I gat frae uncle Johnie:’
She fuff’t her pipe wi’ sic a lunt,
  In wrath she was sae vap’rin,
She noticed na an aizle brunt
  Her braw new worset apron
        Out-thro’ that night.

‘Ye little skelpie-limmer’s face!
  I daur you try sic sportin’,
As seek the foul Thief ony place,
  For him to spae your fortune!
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
  Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
  An’ lived an’ died deleerit,
        On sic a night.

‘Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,-
  I mind’t as weel’s yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I’m sure
  I was na past fyfteen:
The simmer had been cauld an’ wat,
  An’ stuff was unco green;
An’ aye a rantin’ kirn we gat,
  An’ just on Halloween
        It fell that night.

Our stibble-rig was Rab M’Graen,
  A clever, sturdy fallow;
His sin gat Eppie Sim wi’ wean,
  That liv’d in Achmacalla;
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,
  An’ he made unco light o’t;
But mony a day was by himsel,
  He was sae sairly frighted
        That vera night.’

Then up gat fechtin’ Jamie Fleck,
  An’ he swoor by his conscience
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
  For it was a’ but nonsense:
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
  An’ out a handfu’ gied him;
Syne bad him slip frae ‘mang the folk,
  Sometime when nae ane see’d him,
        An’ try’t that night.

He marches thro’ amang the stacks,
  Tho’ he was something sturtin’;
The graip he for a harrow take,
  An’ haurls at his curpin:
An’ ev’ry now an’ then, he says,
  ‘Hemp-seed!  I saw thee,
An’ her that is to be my lass
  Come after me an’ draw thee
        As fast this night.’

He whistled up Lord Lennox’ march,
  To keep his courage cheery;
Aitho’ his hair began to arch,
  He was sae fley’d an’ eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
  An’ then a grane an’ gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
  An’ tumbl’d wi’ a wintle
        Out-owre that night.

He roar’d a horrid murder-shout,
  In dreadfu’ desperation!
An’ young an’ auld come rinnin’ out,
  An’ hear the sad narration:
He swoor ’twas hilchin Jean M’Craw,
  Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till stop! she trotted thro’ them a’;
  An’ wha was it but grumphie
        Asteer that night!

Meg fain wad to the barn gene
  To winn three wechts o’ naething;
But for to meet the Dell her lane,
  She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
  And twa red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
  In hopes to see Tam Kipples
        That very night.

She turns the key wi’ cannie thraw,
  An’ owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca’,
  Syne bauldly in she enters;
A ratton rattl’d up the wa’,
  An’ she cried ‘Lord preserve her!’
An’ ran thro’ midden-hole an’ a’,
  An’ pray’d wi’ zeal an’ fervour
        Fu’ fast that night.

They hoy’t out Will, wi’ sair advice;
  They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom’d thrice
  Was timmer-propt for thrawin’:
He take a swirlie auld moss-oak
  For some black gruesome Carlin;
An’ loot a winze, an’ drew a stroke,
  Till skin in blypes cam haurlin’
        Aff’s nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
  As cantie as a kittlin;
But och! that night, amang the shaws,
  She gat a fearfu’ settlin’!
She thro’ the whins, an’ by the cairn,
  An’ owre the hill gaed scrievin’;
Where three laird’s lands met at a burn,
  To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
        Was bent that night.

Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
  As thro’ the glen it wimpled;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
  Whyles in a wiel it dimpled;
Whyles glitter’d to the nightly rays,
  Wi’ bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
  Below the spreading hazel,
        Unseen that night.

Amang the brackens on the brae,
  Between her an’ the moon,
The Deil, or else an outler quey,
  Gat up an’ gae a croon:
Poor Leezie’s heart maist lap the hool;
  Near lavrock height she jumpit,
But miss’d a fit, an’ in the pool
  Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
        Wi’ a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
  The luggies three are ranged;
And every time great care is ta’en,
  To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock’s joys
  Sin’ Mar’s year did desire,
Because he get the toom dish thrice,
  He heav’d them on the fire
        In wrath that night.

Wi’ merry sangs, an’ friendly cracks,
  I wat they did na weary;
And unco tales, an’ funny jokes,-
  Their sports were cheap and cheery;
Till butter’d sow’ns, wi’ fragrant lunt,
  Set a’ their gabs a-steerin’;
Syne, wi’ a social glass o’ strunt,
  They parted aff careerin’
        Fu’ blythe that night.

1785

                      Robert Burns


Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. Tam Samson’s Elegy
  2. To The Same
  3. Could Aught of Song
  4. O Whare Bid Ye Get
  5. It Is Na, Jean, Thy Bonnie Face


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • George MacDonald Halloween ("Sweep up the flure, Janet")
  • John Mayne Halloween ("OF a' the festivals we hear")
  • James McIntyre Halloween ("A tale we'll tell of what hath been")

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