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Poem by Robert Fergusson

Caller Oysters

                     Happy the Man, who void of Cares and Strife,
                     In Silken or in Leathern Purse retains
                     A splendid Shilling: he nor hears with pain
                     New Oysters cry'd, nor sighs for cheerful Ale


Of a' the waters that can hobble
A fishin yole or salmon coble,
And can reward the fisher's trouble,
     Or south or north,
There's nane sae spacious and sae noble
     As Firth o' Forth.
In her the skate and codlin sail,
The eel fou souple wags her tail,
Wi herrin, fleuk and mackarel,
     And whitens dainty:
Their spindle-shanks the labsters trail,
     Wi partans plenty.

Auld Reikie's sons blyth faces wear;
September's merry month is near,
That brings in Neptune's caller cheer,
     New oysters fresh;
The halesomest and nicest gear
     	Of fish or flesh.

O! then we needna gie a plack
For dand'ring mountebank or quack,
Wha o' their drogs sae bauldly crack,
     And spred sic notions,
As gar their feckless patient tak
     Their stinkin potions.

Come prie, frail man! for gin thou art sick,
The oyster is a rare cathartic,
As ever doctor patient gart lick
     To cure his ails;
Whether you hae the head or heart-ake,
     It ay prevails.

Ye tiplers, open a' your poses,
Ye wha are faush'd wi plouky noses!
Fling owr your craig sufficient doses,
		You'll thole a hunder,
To fleg awa your simmer roses,
     And naething under.

Whan big as burns the gutters rin,
Gin ye hae catcht a droukit skin,
To Luckie Middlemist's loup in,
     And sit fu snug
Owr oysters and a dram o' gin,
     Or haddock lug.

When auld Saunt Giles, at aucht o'clock,
Gars merchant louns their chopies lock,
There we adjourn wi hearty fock
     To birl our bodles,
And get wharewi to crack our joke,
     And clear our noddles.

Whan Phoebus did his windocks steek,
How aften at that ingle cheek
Did I my frosty fingers beek,
     And taste gude fare!
I trou there was nae hame to seek
     Whan steghin there.

While glakit fools, owr rife o' cash,
Pamper their weyms wi fousom trash,
I think a chiel may gayly pass;
     He's no ill boden
That gusts his gab wi oyster sauce,
     And hen weel soden.

At Musselbrough, and eke Newhaven,
The fisher-wives will get top livin,
When lads gang out on Sunday's even
     To treat their joes,
And tak of fat pandours a prieven,
     Or mussel brose.

Than sometimes ere they flit their doup,
They'll ablins a' their siller coup
For liquor clear frae cutty stoup,
     To weet their wizen,
And swallow owr a dainty soup,
     For fear they gizzen.

A' ye wha canna stand sae sicker,
Whan twice you've toom'd the big-ars'd bicker,
Mix caller oysters wi your liquor,
     And I'm your debtor,
If greedy priest or drouthy vicar
     Will thole it better.

Robert Fergusson

Robert Fergusson's other poems:
  1. Ode to the Gowdspink
  2. To the Tron-Kirk Bell
  3. The Daft-Days
  4. The Sitting of the Session
  5. To Sir John Fielding, on His Attempts to Suppress The Beggars Opera

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