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Poem by Robert Burns

Epistle to John Lapraix, An Old Scottish Bard

WHILE briers an’ woodbines budding green,
An’ paitricks scraichin’ loud at e’en,
An’ morning poussie whiddin’ seen,
    Inspire my Muse,
This freedom, in an unknown frien’,
    I pray excuse.

On Fasten-een we had a rockin’,
To ca’ the crack and weave our stockin’;
And there was muckle fun and jokin’,
    Ye need na doubt;
At length we had a hearty yokin’
    At sang about.

There was ae sang, amang the rest,
Aboon them a’ it pleas’d me best,
That some kind husband had addrest
    To some sweet wife:
It thirl’d the heart-strings thro’ the breast,
    A’ to the life.

I’ve scarce heard ought describ’d sae weel,
What gen’rous, manly bosoms feel;
Thought I ‘Can this be Pope, or Steele,
    Or Beattie’s wark!’
They tauld me ‘twas an odd kind chiel
    About Muirkirk.

It pat me fidgin’ fain to hear ‘t,
And sae about him there I spier’d;
Then a’ that kenn’d him round declar’d
    He had ingine,
That nane excell’d it, few cam near’t,
    It was sae fine.

That, set him to a pint of ale,
An’ either douce or merry tale,
Or rhymes an’ sangs he’d made himsel,
    Or witty catches,
‘Tween Inverness and Teviotdale,
    He had few matches.

Then up I gat, an’ swoor an aith,
Tho’ I should pawn my pleugh and graith,
Or die a cadger pownie’s death,
    At some dyke-back,
A pint an’ gill I’d gie them baith
    To hear your crack.

But, first an’ foremost, I should tell,
Amaist as soon as I could spell,
I to the crambo-jingle fell;
    Tho’ rude an’ rough,
Yet crooning to a body’s sel,
    Does weel eneugh.

I am nae poet, in a sense,
But just a rhymer, like, by chance,
An’ hae to learning nae pretence,
    Yet what the matter?
Whene’er my Muse does on me glance,
    I jingle at her.

Your critic-folk may cock their nose,
And say ‘How can you e’er propose,
You wha ken hardly verse frae prose,
    To mak a sang?’
But, by your leaves, my learned foes,
    Ye’re maybe wrang.

What’s a’ your jargon o’ your schoole,
Your Latin names for horns an’ stools;
If honest nature made you fools,
    What sairs your grammars?
Ye’d better ta’en up spades and shools,
    Or knappin’-hammers.

A set o’ dull conceited hashes
Confuse their brains in college classes!
They gang in stirks, and come out asses,
    Plain truth to speak;
An’ syne they think to climb Parnassus
    By dint o’ Greek!

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire;
Then tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire
    At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, though hamely in attire,
    May touch the heart.

O for a spunk o’ Allan’s glee,
Or Fergusson’s, the bauld an’ slee,
Or bright Lapraik’s, my friend to be,
    If I can hit it!
That would be lear eneugh for me,
    If I could get it.

Now, sir, if ye hae friends enow,
Tho’ real friends, I b’lieve, are few,
Yet, if your catalogue be fou,
    I’se no insist,
But gif ye want ae friend that’s true,
    I’m on your list.

I winna blaw about mysel,
As ill I like my fauts to tell;
But friends, an’ folks that wish me well,
    They sometimes roose me;
Tho’ I maun own, as mony still
    As far abuse me.

There’s ae wee faut they whiles lay to me,
I like the lasses-Gude forgie me!
For mony a plack they wheedle frae me,
    At dance or fair;
Maybe some ither thing they gie me
    They weel can spare.

But Mauchline race, or Mauchline fair,
I should be proud to meet you there;
We’se gie as night’s discharge to care,
    If we forgather,
An’ hae a swap o’ rhymin’-ware
    Wi’ ane anither.

The four-gill chap, we’se gar him clatter,
An’ kirsen him wi’ reekin water;
Syne we’ll sit down an’ tak our whitter,
    To cheer our heart;
An’ faith, we’se be acquainted better
    Before we part.

Awa, ye selfish warly race,
Wha think that havins, sense, an’ grace,
Ev’n love an’ friendship, should give place
    To catch-the-plack!
I dinna like to see your face,
    Nor hear your crack.

But ye whom social pleasure charms,
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
    ‘Each aid the others,’
Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
    My friends, my brothers!

But to conclude my lang epistle,
As my auld pen’s worn to the gristle;
Twa lines frae you wad gar me fissle,
    Who am, most fervent,
While I can either sing, or whistle,
    Your friend and servant.

Robert Burns

Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. Stanzas on the Same Occasion
  2. The Cardin’ O’t
  3. Young Highland Rover
  4. I See a Form, I See a Face
  5. Farewell, Thou Stream

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