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Poem by Robert Burns


Elegy on Capt. Matthew Henderson


A Gentleman who held the Patent 
for his Honours immediately from
Almighty God.

O DEATH! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikie devil wi a woodie
Haurl thee hame	to his black smiddie
    Oer hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come oer his studdie
    Wi thy auld sides!

Hes gane, hes gane! hes frae us torn,
The ae best fellow eer was born!
Thee, Matthew, Natures sel shall mourn
    By wood and wild,
Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn,
    Frae man exild.

Ye hills, near neibors o the starns,
That proudly cock your creating cairns!
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sai1ing earns,
    Where echo slumbers!
Come join, ye Natures sturdiest bairns,
    My wailing numbers!

Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Ye hazlly shaws and briery dens!
Ye burnies, wimplin down your glens,
    Wi toddlin din,
Or foaming strang wi hasty stens
    Frae lin to lin.

Mourn, little harebells oer the lea;
Ye stately foxgloves fair to see;
Ye woodbines hanging bonnilie,
    In scented bowrs;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
    The first o flowrs.

At dawn when evry grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head,
At evn when beans their fragrance shed
    I th rustling gale,
Ye maukins, whiddin thro the glade,
    Come join my wail.

Mourn, ye wee songsters o the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews calling thro a clud;
    Ye whistling plover;
And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood-
  Hes gane for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi airy wheels
    Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
    Rair for his sake.

Mourn, clamouring craiks at close o day,
Mang fields o flowering clover gay;
And, when ye wing your annual way
    Prae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far warlds wha lies in clay,
    Wham we deplore.

Ye houlets, frae your ivy bowr
In some auld tree, or eldritch towr,
What time the moon wi silent glowr
    Sets up her horn,
Wail thro the dreary midnight hour
    Till waukrife morn!

O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains;
But now, what else for me remains
    But tales of woe?
And frae my een the drapping rains
    Maun ever flow.

Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
    Shoots up its head,
Thy gay green flowry tresses shear
    For him thats dead!

Thou, Autumn, wi thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear!
Thou, Winter, hurling thro the air
    The roaring blast,
Wide oer the naked world declare
    The worth weve lost!

Mourn him, thou sun, great source of light!
Mourn, empress of the silent night!
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
    My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs hes taen his flight,
    Neer to return.

O Henderson! the man! the brother!
And art thou gone, and gone for ever?
And hast thou crost that unknown river,
    Lifes dreary bound?
Like thee, where shall I find another,
    The world around?

Go to your sculpturd tombs, ye great,
In a the tinsel trash o state!
But by thy honest turf Ill wait,
    Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellows fate
    Eer lay in earth.

        THE EPITAPH.

STOP, passenger! my storys brief,
  And truth I shall relate, man;
I tell nae common tale o grief,
  For Matthew was a great man.

If thou uncommon merit hast,
  Yet spurnd at fortunes door, man;
A look of pity hither cast,
  For Matthew was a poor man.

If thou a noble sodger art,
  That passest by this grave, man,
There moulders here a gallant heart;
  For Matthew was a brave man.

If thou on men, their works and ways,
  Canst throw uncommon light, man;
Here lies wha weel bad won thy praise,
  For Matthew was a bright man.

If thou at friendships sacred ca
  Wad life itself resign, man;
The sympathetic tear maun fa,
  For Matthew was a kind man.

If thou art staunch without a stain,
  Like the unchanging blue, man;
This was a kinsman o thy ain,
  For Matthew was a true man.

If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire,
  And neer guid wine did fear, man;
This was thy billie, dam, and sire,
  For Matthew was a queer man.

If ony whiggish whingein sot,
  To blame poor Matthew dare, man;
May dool and sorrow be his lot,
  For Matthew was a rare man.

But now his radiant course is run,
  For Matthews was a bright one;
His soul was like the glorious sun,
  A matchless, Heavnly Light, man.



                      Robert Burns


Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. Theres News, Lasses
  2. Scroggam
  3. Theres a Youth in This City
  4. Lines Written at Loudon Manse
  5. To Alex Cunningham, Writer


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