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Poem by Robert Burns

The Cotter’s Saturday Night

  MY lov’d, my honour’d, much respected friend!
    No mercenary bard his homage pays:
  With honest pride I scorn each selfish end,
    My dearest meed a friend’s esteem and praise:
    To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
  The lowly train in life’s sequester’d scene;
    The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
  What Aiken in a cottage would have been-
Ah! tho’ his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween.

  November chill blaws loud wi’ angry sough;
    The short’ning winter-day is near a close;
  The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
    The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose:
    The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes,
  This night his weekly moil is at an end,
    Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
  Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o’er the moor, his course does hameward bend.

  At length his lonely cot appears in view,
    Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
  Th’ expectant wee things, toddlin’, stacher through
    To meet their Dad, wi’ flichterin’ noise an’ glee.
    His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnilie,
  His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie’s smile,
    The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
  Does a’ his weary kiaugh and care beguile,
An’ makes him quite forget his labour an’ his toil.

  Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,
    At service out, amang the farmers roun’;
  Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin
    A cannie errand to a neibor town:
    Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown,
  In youthfu’ bloom, love sparkling in her e’e,
    Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown,
  Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

  With joy unfeign’d brothers and sisters meet,
    An’ each for other’s weelfare kindly spiers:
  The social hours, swift-wing’d, unnoticed fleet;
    Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears;
    The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years;
  Anticipation forward points the view.
    The mother, wi’ her needle an’ her sheers,
  Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new;
The father mixes a’ wi’ admonition due.

  Their master’s an’ their mistress’s command,
    The younkers a’ are warned to obey;
  An’ mind their labours wi’ an eydent hand,
    An’ ne’er, tho’ out o’ sight, to jauk or play:
    ‘And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway,
  An’ mind your duty, duly, morn an’ night!
    Lest in temptation’s path ye gang astray,
  Implore His counsel and assisting might:
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright!’

  But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
    Jenny, wha kens the meaning o’ the same,
  Tells how a neibor lad cam o’er the moor,
    To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
    The wily mother sees the conscious flame
  Sparkle in Jenny’s e’e, and flush her cheek;
    Wi’ heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name,
  While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel pleased the mother hears it’s nae wild worthless rake.

  Wi’ kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;
    A strappin’ youth; he takes the mother’s eye;
  Blythe Jenny sees the visit’s no ill ta’en;
    The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
    The youngster’s artless heart o’erflows wi’ joy,
  But blate and laithfu’, scarce can weel behave;
    The mother, wi’ a woman’s wiles, can spy
  What makes the youth sae bashfu’ an’ sae grave;
Weel-pleased to think her bairn’s respected like the’ lave.

  O happy love! where love like this is found;
    O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
  I’ve paced much this weary mortal round,
    And sage experience bids me this declare-
    ‘If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
  One cordial in this melancholy vale,
    ‘Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair
  In other’s arms breathe out the tender tale,
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.’

  Is there, in human form, that bears a heart-
    A wretch, a villain, lost to love and truth-
  That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
    Betray sweet Jenny’s unsuspecting youth?
    Curse on his perjur’d arts, dissembling smooth!
  Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exil’d?
    Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,
  Points to the parents fondling o’er their child?
Then paints the ruin’d maid, and their distraction wild?

  But now the supper crowns their simple board,
    The halesome parritch, chief of Scotia’s food:
The sowpe their only hawkie does afford,
    That ‘yont the hallan snugly chows her cood;
    The dame brings forth in complimental mood,,
  To grace the lad, her weel hain’d kebbuck, fell;
    And aft he’s prest, and aft he ca’s it good;
  The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell
How ‘twas a towmond auld sin’ lint was i’ the bell.

  The cheerfu’ supper done, wi’ serious face
    They round the ingle form a circle wide;
  The sire turns o’er, wi’ patriarchal grace,
    The big ha’-bible, ance his father’s pride:
    His bonnet rev’rent1y is laid aside,
  His lyart haffets wearing thin an’ bare;
    Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide-
  He wales a portion with judicious care,
And ‘Let us worship God!’ he says with solemn air.

  They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
    They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim:
  Perhaps Dundee’s wild warbling measuree rise,
    Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
    Or noble Elgin beets the heav’nward flame,
  The sweetest far of Scotia’s holy lays:
    Compared with these, Italian trills are tame;
  The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise;
Nae unison hae they with our Creator’s praise.

  The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
    How Abram was the friend of God on high;
  Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage
    With Amalek’s ungracious progeny;
    Or how the royal bard did groaning lie
  Beneath the stroke of Heaven’s avenging lie
    Or Job’s pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
  Or rapt Isaiah’s wild seraphic fire;
Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.

  Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
    How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
  How He who bore in Heaven the second name
    Had not on earth whereon to lay His head;
    How His first followers and servants sped;
  The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:
    How he, was lone in Patmos banished,
  Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,
And heard great Bab’lon’s doom pronounced by Heaven’s command.

  Then kneeling down to Heaven’s Eternal King
    The saint, the father, and the husband prays:
  Hope ‘springs exulting on triumphant wing’
    That thus they all shall meet in future days:
    There ever bask in uncreated rays,
  No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
    Together hymning their Creator’s praise,
  In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.

  Compared with this, how poor Religion’s pride,
    In all the romp of method and of art,
  When men display to congregations wide
    Devotion’s every grace, except the heart!
    The Power, incensed, the pageant will desert,
  The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;
    But haply, in some cottage far apart,
  May hear, well pleased, the language of the soul;
And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enrol.

  Then homeward all take off their several way;
    The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
  The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
    And proffer up to Heav’n the warm request,
    That He who stills the raven’s clamorous nest,
  And decks the lily fair in flowery pride,
    Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
  For them and for their little ones provide;
But chiefly in their hearts with grace divine preside.

  From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
    That makes her loved at home, revered abroad:
  Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
    ‘An honest man ‘s the noblest work of God;’
    And certes, in fair virtue’s heavenly road,
  The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
    What is a lordling’s pomp? a cumbrous load,
  Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d!

  O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
    For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
  Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
    Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
    And O may Heaven their simple lives prevent
  From luxury’s contagion, weak and vile;
    Then, howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
  A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-loved isle.

  O Thou! who poured the patriotic tide
    That streamed thro’ Wallace’s undaunted heart,
  Who dared to nobly stem tyrannic pride,
    Or nobly die-the second glorious part,
    (The patriot’s God, peculiarly thou art,
  His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)
    O never, never, Scotia’s realm desert;
  But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard, 
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

Íîÿáðü, 1785

Robert Burns

Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. Epitaph on Wee Johnny
  2. The Caird’s Second Song
  3. The Sailor’s Song
  4. Prologue, Spoken at the Theatre, Dumfries, on New Year’s Day Evening [1790]
  5. Address, Spoken by Miss Fontenelle, on her Benefit-night, December 4, 1793, at the Theatre, Dumfries

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