Robert Burns


Epistle To John Rankine


O ROUGH, rude, ready-witted Rankine,
The wale o’ cocks for fun and drinkin’!
There’s mony godly folks are thinkin’
    Your dreams an’ tricks
Will send you, Korah-like a-sinkin’,
    Straught to auld Nick’s.

Ye hae sae mony cracks an’ cants,
And in your wicked, drucken rants,
Ye mak a devil o’ the saunts,
    An’ fill them fou;
And then their failings, flaws, an’ wants,
    Are a’ seen thro’.

Hypocrisy, in mercy spare it!
That holy robe, O dinna tear it!
Spare ‘t for their sakes wha aften wear it,
    The lads in black;
But your curst wit, when it comes near it,
    Rives’t aff their back.

Think, wicked sinner, wha ye’re skaithing,
It’s just the blue-gown badge an’ claithing
O’ saunts; tak that, ye lea’e them naithing
    To ken them by,
Frae ony unregenerate heathen
    Like you or I.

I’ve sent you here some rhyming ware,
A’ that I bargain’d for, an’ mair;
Sae, when ye hae an hour to spare,
    I ‘will expect
Yon sang; ye’ll sen’t, wi’ cannie care,
    And no neglect.

Tho’, faith, sma’ heart hae I to sing!
My Muse dow scarcely spread her wing!
I’ve play’d mysel a bonnie spring,
    An’ danc’d my fill!
I’d better gane an’ sair’d the king
    At Bunker’s Hill.

’Twas ae night lately, in my fun,
I gaed a roving wi’ the gun,
An’ brought a paitrick to the grun’,
    A bonnie hen;
And, as the twilight was begun,
    Thought nane would ken.

The poor wee thing was little hurt;
I straikit it a wee for sport,
Ne’er thinkin they wad fash me for ‘t;
    But, Deil-may-care!
Somebody tells the poacher-court
    The hale affair.

Some auld us’d hands had ta’en a note,
That sic a hen had got a shot;
I was suspected for the plot;
    I scorn’d to lie;
So gat the whissle o’ my groat,
    An’ pay’t the fee.

But, by my gun, o’ guns the wale,
An’ by my pouther an’ my hail,
An’ by my hen, an’ by her tail,
    I vow an’ swear!
The game shall pay, o’er moor an’ dale,
    For this, niest year.

As soon’s the clockin’-time is by,
An’ the wee pouts begun to cry,
Lord, I’se hae sportin by an’ by,
    For my gowd guinea;
Tho’ I should herd the buckskin kye
    For ’t, in Virginia.

Trowth, they had muckle for to blame!
’Twas neither broken wing nor limb,
But twa-three draps about the wame
    Scarce thro’ the feathers;
An’ baith a yellow George to claim,
    An’ thole their blethers!

It pits me aye as mad’s a hare;
So I can rhyme nor write nae mair;
But pennyworths again is fair,
    When time’s expedient:
Meanwhile I am, respected Sir,
    Your most obedient.

[1784]


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