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Poem by Robert Burns


Epistle from Esopus to Maria


FROM those drear solitudes and frowsy cells,
Where infamy with sad repentance dwells;
Where turnkeys make the jealous portal fast,
And deal from iron hands the spare repast;
Where truant prentices, yet young in sin,
Blush at the curious stranger peeping in;
Where strumpets, relics of the drunken roar,
Resolve to drink, nay, half to whore, no more;
Where tiny thieves not destind yet to swing,
Beat hemp for others, riper for the string:
Prom these dire scenes my wretched lines I date,
To tell Maria her Esopus fate.
Alas!  I feel I am no actor here!
Tis real hangmen real scourges bear!
Prepare, Maria, for a horrid tale
Will turn thy very rouge to deadly pale;
Will make thy hair, tho erst from gipsy polld,
By barber woven, and by barber sold,
Though twisted smooth with Harrys nicest care,
Like hoary bristles to erect and stare.
The hero of the mimic scene, no more
I start in Hamlet, in Othello roar;
Or, haughty Chieftain, mid the din of arms,
In Highland bonnet woo Malvinas charms;
While sans-culottes stoop up the mountain high,
And steal from me Marias prying eye.
Blessd Highland bonnet! once my proudest dress,
Now prouder still, Marias temples press.
I see her wave thy towering plumes afar,
And call each coxcomb to the wordy war.
I see her face the first of Irelands sons,
And even out-Irish his Hibernian bronze;
The crafty colonel leaves the tartand lines,
For other wars, where he a hero shines:
The hopeful youth, in Scottish senate bred,
Who owns a Bushbys heart without the head.
Comes mid a string of coxcombs to display
That _veni, vidi, vici,_ is his way;
The shrinking bard adown an alley skulks,
And dreads a meeting worse than Woolwich hulks;
Though there his heresies in church and state
Might well award him Muir and Palmers fate:
Still she undaunted reels and rattles on,
And dares the public like a noontide sun.
What scandal calld Marias jaunty stagger
The ricket reeling of a crooked swagger?
Whose spleen? een worse than Burnss venom when
He dips in gall unmixd his eager pen,
And pours his vengeance in the burning line!
Who christend thus Marias lyre divine
The idiot strum of vanity bemused,
And even th abuse of poesy abused?
Who calld her verse a parish workhouse, made
For motley, foundling fancies, stolen or strayd?
A workhouse! ah, that sound awakes my woes,
And pillows on the thorn my rackd repose!
In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
And all my frowsy couch in sorrow steep;
That straw where many a rogue has lain of yore,
And vermind gipsies litterd heretofore.

Why, LonsdaIe, thus thy wrath on vagrants pour?
Must earth no rascal, save thyself, endure?
Must thou alone in guilt immortal swell,
And make a vast monopoly of hell?
Thou knowst the virtues cannot hate thee worse;
The vices also, must they club their curse?
Or must no tiny sin to others fall,
Because thy guilts supreme enough for all?

Maria, send me too thy griefs and cares;
In all of thee sure thy Esopus shares.
As thou at all mankind the flag unfurls,
Who on my fair one satires vengeance hurls?
Who calls thee pert, affected, vain coquette,
A wit in folly, and afool in wit?
Who says that fool alone is not thy due,
And quotes thy treacheries to prove it true?
Our force united on thy foes well turn,
And dare the war with all of woman born:
For who can write and speak as thou and I?
My periods that decyphering defy,
And thy still matchless tongue that conquers all reply.



                      Robert Burns


Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. Tam Samsons Elegy
  2. Could Aught of Song
  3. O Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet?
  4. Scroggam
  5. Stanzas on the Same Occasion


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