John Lapraik

Epistle to R****t B***s

O far fam’d RAB! my silly Muse,
That thou sae prais’d langsyne,
When she did scarce ken verse by prose,
Now dares to spread her wing.

Unconcious of the least desert,
Nor e’er expecting fame,
I sometimes did myself divert,
Wi’ jingling worthless rhyme.

When sitting lanely by myself,
Just unco griev’d and wae,
To think that Fortune, fickle Joe!
Had kick’d me o’er the brae!

And when I was amaist half-drown’d
Wi’ dolefu’ grief and care,
I’d may-be rhyme a verse or twa,
To drive away despair.

Or when I met a chiel like you,
Sae gi’en to mirth an’ fun,
Wha lik’d to speel Parnassus’ hill
An drink at Helicon,

I’d aiblins catch a wee bit spark
O’ his Poetic fire,
An rhyme awa like ane half-mad,
Until my Muse did tire.

I lik’d the Lasses unco weel,
Langsyne when I was young,
Which fortimes kittled up my Muse
To write a kind love sang;

Yet still it ne’er ran in my head,
To trouble Mankind with
My dull, insipid, thowless rhyme,
And stupid, senseless stuff;

Till your kind Muse, wi’ friendly blast,
First tooted up my fame,
And sounded loud, through a’ the Wast,
My lang forgotten name.

Quoth I, "Shall I, like to a sumph,
"Sit douss and dowie here,
"And suffer the ill-natur’d warld
"To ca’ RAB BURNS a liar.

"He says that I can sing fu’ weel,
"An through the warld has sent it-
"Na; faith I rhyme a hearty blaud,
"Though I should aye repent it."

Syne I gat up, wi unco glee,
An snatch’d my grey goose quill,
An cry’d, "Come here, my Muse, fy come,
"An rhyme wi’ a’ your skill."

The Hizzy was right sweer to try’t,
An’ fearce wad be persuaded:
She said, I was turn’d auld an’ stiff,
My youthfu’ fire quite faded.

Quoth she, "Had ye begun langsyne,
"When ye were brisk and young,
"I doubtna but ye might hae past,
"And sung a glorious sang:

"But now ye’re clean gane out o’ tune,
"Your auld grey scaulp turn’d bare:
"Mair meet that ye were turning douse
"And try’ng to say your pray’r.

"The folk’s a’ laughing at you, else,
"Ye’ll gar them laugh aye father:
"When ye gang out, they’ll point and say,
"There gangs the Poetafter."

"Devil care," said I, haud just your toungue,
"Begin and nae mair say;
"I maun maintain my honour now,
"Though I should seldom pray!

"I oft when in a merry tift
"Have rhym’d for my diversion;
"I’ll now go try to rhyme for bread
"And let the warld be clashin’."

"Weel, weel," says she, "fin ye’re fae bent,
"Come, let us go begin then;
"We’ll try to do the best we can,
"I’m sure we’ll aye say something."

Syne till’t I gat, an’ rhym’d away,
‘Till I hae made a Book o’t,
An though I should rue ‘t ‘a my life,
I’ll gie the warld a look o’t.

I’m weel aware the greatest part
(I fain hope not the whole)
Will look upon’t as senseless stuff,
And me’s a crazy fool.

Whether that it be nonsense a’
Or some o’t not amiss
And whether I’ve done right or wrang,
I leave the warld to guess:

But I should tell them, bye the bye,
Though it is may-be idle,
That fint a book scarce e’er I read,
Save ance or twice the Bible.

An’ what the learned folk ca’ grammar,
I naething ken about it;
Although I b’lieve it be owre true,
Ane can do nought without it.

But maist my life has just been spent
(Which to my cost I feel)
In fechtin fair wi’ luckless brutes,
Till they kick’d up my heel.

Now fare-ye-well, my guid frien’ RAB,
May luck and health attend ye;
If I do weel, I’ll bless the day
That e’er I came to ken ye:

But on the tither han’, should folk
Me for my nonsense blason,
Nae doubt I’ll curse th’ unlucky day,
I listen’d to your fraisin.

May that great Name that ye hae got
Untainted aye remain!
And may the Laurels on your head
Ay flourish fresh and green!

The LORD maintain your honour aye,
And then ye needna fear,
While I can write, or speak, or think,
I am your frien’ sincere!

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