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Poem by Robert Burns


Sketch Inscribed to the Right Hon. C. J. Fox


HOW Wisdom and Folly meet, mix, and unite;
How Virtue and Vice blend their black and their white;
How Genius, th illustrious father of fiction,
Confounds rule and law, reconciles contradiction-
I sing; If these mortals, the Critics, should bustle,
I care not, not I-let the Critics go whistle!
But now for a Patron, whose name and whose glory
At once may illustrate and honour my story.
Thou first of our orators, first of our wits;
Yet whose parts and acquirements seem just lucky hits;
With knowledge so vast, and with judgment so strong,
No man with the half of em eer could go wrong;
With passions so potent, and fancies so bright,
No man with the half of em eer could go right;
A sorry, poor, misbegot son of the Muses.
For using thy name offers fifty excuses.
Good Lord, what is man! for as simple he looks,
Do but try to develop his hooks and his crooks,
With his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil,
All in all, hes a problem must puzzle the devil.
On his one ruling passion Sir Pope hugely labours,
That, like th old Hebrew walking-switch, eats up its neighbours:
Mankind are his show-box - a friend, would you know him?
Pull the string, Ruling Passion: the picture will show him.
What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system,
One trifling particular, Truth, should have missd him!
For, spite of his fine theoretic positions,
Mankind is a science defies definitions.

Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe,
And think Human-nature they truly describe;
Have you found this, or tother? theres more in the wind;
As by one drunken fellow his comrades youll find.
But such is the flaw, or the depth of the plan,
In the make of the wonderful creature calld Man;
No two virtues, whatever relation they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin-brother to brother
Possessing the one shall imply youve the other.

But truce with abstraction, and truce with a muse
Whose rhymes youll perhaps, Sir, neer deign to peruse:
Will you leave your justings, your jars, and your quarrels,
Contending with Billy for proud-nodding laurels!
My much-honourd Patron, believe your poor Poet,
Your courage much more than your prudence you show it
In vain with Squire Billy for laurels you struggle,
Hell have them by fair trade, if not, he will smuggle;
Not cabinets even of kings would conceal em,
Hed up the back-stairs, and, by God, he would steal em.
Then feats like Squire Billys you neer can achieve em,
It is not, outdo him-the task is, out-thieve him.



                      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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