Robert Burns

Elegy on Capt. Matthew Henderson

A Gentleman who held the Patent 
for his Honours immediately from
Almighty God.

O DEATH! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikie devil wi’ a woodie
Haurl thee hame	to his black smiddie
    O’er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o’er his studdie
    Wi’ thy auld sides!

He’s gane, he’s gane! he’s frae us torn,
The ae best fellow e’er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature’s sel’ shall mourn
    By wood and wild,
Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn,
    Frae man exil’d.

Ye hills, near neibors o’ the starns,
That proudly cock your creating cairns!
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sai1ing earns,
    Where echo slumbers!
Come join, ye Nature’s sturdiest bairns,
    My wailing numbers!

Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Ye haz’lly shaws and briery dens!
Ye burnies, wimplin’ down your glens,
    Wi’ toddlin din,
Or foaming strang wi’ hasty stens
    Frae lin to lin.

Mourn, little harebells o’er the lea;
Ye stately foxgloves fair to see;
Ye woodbines hanging bonnilie,
    In scented bow’rs;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
    The first o’ flow’rs.

At dawn when ev’ry grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head,
At ev’n when beans their fragrance shed
    I’ th’ rustling gale,
Ye maukins, whiddin’ thro’ the glade,
    Come join my wail.

Mourn, ye wee songsters o’ the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews calling thro’ a clud;
    Ye whistling plover;
And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood-
  He’s gane for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi’ airy wheels
    Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
    Rair for his sake.

Mourn, clamouring craiks at close o’ day,
‘Mang fields o’ flowering clover gay;
And, when ye wing your annual way
    Prae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far warlds wha lies in clay,
    Wham we deplore.

Ye houlets, frae your ivy bow’r
In some auld tree, or eldritch tow’r,
What time the moon wi’ silent glowr
    Sets up her horn,
Wail thro’ the dreary midnight hour
    Till waukrife morn!

O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains;
But now, what else for me remains
    But tales of woe?
And frae my een the drapping rains
    Maun ever flow.

Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
    Shoots up its head,
Thy gay green flow’ry tresses shear
    For him that’s dead!

Thou, Autumn, wi’ thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear!
Thou, Winter, hurling thro’ the air
    The roaring blast,
Wide o’er the naked world declare
    The worth we’ve lost!

Mourn him, thou sun, great source of light!
Mourn, empress of the silent night!
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
    My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs he’s ta’en his flight,
    Ne’er to return.

O Henderson! the man! the brother!
And art thou gone, and gone for ever?
And hast thou crost that unknown river,
    Life’s dreary bound?
Like thee, where shall I find another,
    The world around?

Go to your sculptur’d tombs, ye great,
In a’ the tinsel trash o’ state!
But by thy honest turf I’ll wait,
    Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellow’s fate
    E’er lay in earth.

        THE EPITAPH.

STOP, passenger! my story’s brief,
  And truth I shall relate, man;
I tell nae common tale o’ grief,
  For Matthew was a great man.

If thou uncommon merit hast,
  Yet spurn’d at fortune’s door, man;
A look of pity hither cast,
  For Matthew was a poor man.

If thou a noble sodger art,
  That passest by this grave, man,
There moulders here a gallant heart;
  For Matthew was a brave man.

If thou on men, their works and ways,
  Canst throw uncommon light, man;
Here lies wha weel bad won thy praise,
  For Matthew was a bright man.

If thou at friendship’s sacred ca’
  Wad life itself resign, man;
The sympathetic tear maun fa’,
  For Matthew was a kind man.

If thou art staunch without a stain,
  Like the unchanging blue, man;
This was a kinsman o’ thy ain,
  For Matthew was a true man.

If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire,
  And ne’er guid wine did fear, man;
This was thy billie, dam, and sire,
  For Matthew was a queer man.

If ony whiggish whingein’ sot,
  To blame poor Matthew dare, man;
May dool and sorrow be his lot,
  For Matthew was a rare man.

But now his radiant course is run,
  For Matthew’s was a bright one;
His soul was like the glorious sun,
  A matchless, Heav’nly Light, man.

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