Robert Burns

To William Simpson

I GAT your letter, winsome Willie;
Wi’ gratefu’ heart I thank you brawlie;
Tho’ I maun say’t, I wad be silly,
    An’ unco vain,
Should I believe, my coaxin’ billie,
    Your flatterin’ strain.

But I’se believe ye kindly meant it:
I sud be laith to think ye hinted
Ironic satire, sidelins sklented
    On my poor Musie;
Tho’ in sic phraisin’ terms ye’ve penn’d it,
    I scarce excuse ye.

My senses wad be in a creel,
Should I but dare a hope to speel,
Wi’ Allan, or wi’ Gilbertfield,
    The braes o’ fame;
Or Fergusson, the writer-chiel,
    A deathless name.

(O Fergusson! thy glorious parts
Ill suited law’s dry, musty arts!
My curse upon your whunstane hearts,
    Ye E’nbrugh gentry!
The tythe o’ what ye waste at cartes
    Wad stow’d his pantry!)

Yet when a tale comes i’ my head,
Or lasses gie my heart a screed,
As whiles they’re like to be my dead,
    (O sad disease!)
I kittle up my rustic reed;
    It gies me ease.

Auld Coils, now, may fidge fu’ fain,
She’s gotten poets o’ her sin,
Chiels wha their chanters winna hain,
    But tune their lays,
Till echoes a’ resound again
    Her weel-sung praise.

Nae poet thought her worth his while,
To set her name in measur’d style;
She lay like some unkenn’d-of isle,
    Beside New Holland,
Or where wild-meeting oceans boil
    Besouth Magellan.

Ramsay an’ famous Fergusson
Gied Forth an’ Tay a lift aboon;
Yarrow an’ Tweed, to mony a tune,
    Owre Scotland rings,
While Irwin, Luger, Ayr, an’ Doon,
    Naebody sings.

Th’ Ilissus, Tiber, Thames, an’ Seine,
Glide sweet in mony a tunefu’ line;
But, Willie, set your fit to mine,
    An’ cock your crest,
We’ll gar our streams an’ burnies shine
    Up wi’ the best.

We’ll sing auld Coils’s plains an’ fells,
Her moors red-brown wi’ heather bells,
Her banks an’ braes, her dens an’ dells,
    Where glorious Wallace
Aft bure the gree, as story tells,
    Frae Southron billies.

At Wallace’ name, what Scottish blood
But boils up in a spring-tide flood!
Oft have our fearless fathers strode
    By Wallace’ side,
Still pressing onward, red-wat-shod,
    Or glorious died.

O, sweet are Coila’s haughs an’ woods,
When lintwhites chant amang the buds,
And jinkin’ hares, in amorous whids,
    Their loves enjoy,
While thro’ the brass the cusbat croods
    Wi’ wailfu’ cry!

Ev’n winter bleak has charms to me
When winds rave thro’ the naked tree;
Or frost on hills of Ochiltree
    Are hoary gray;
Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee,
    Dark’ning the day!

O Nature! a’ thy shows an’ forms
To feeling, pensive hearts hae charms!
Whether the summer kindly warm;
    Wi’ life an’ light,
Or winter howls, in gusty storm,
    The lang, dark night!

The Muse, nae poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel he learn’d to wander
Adown some trottin’ burn’s meander,
    An’ no think lang;
O sweet, to stray an’ pensive ponder
    A heart-felt sang!

The warly race may drudge an’ drive,’
Hog-shouther, jundie, stretch, an’ strive;
Let me fair Nature’s face descrive,
    And I, wi’ pleasure,
Shall let the busy, grumbling hive
    Bum owre their treasure.

Fareweel, ‘my rhyme-composing brither!’
We’ve been owre lang unkenn’d to ither:
Now let us lay our heads thegither,
    In love fraternal;
May Envy wallop in a tether,
    Black fiend infernal!

While Highlandmen hate tolls an’ taxes;
While moorlan’ herds like guid fat braxies
While Terra Firma, on her axis,
    Diurnal turns,
Count on a friend, in faith an’ practice,
    In Robert Burns.


MY memory’s no worth a preen;
I had amaist forgotten clean,
Ye bade me write you what they mean
    By this New-Light,
‘Bout which our herds sae aft have been
    Maist like to fight.

In days when mankind were but callans
At grammar, logic, an’ sic talents,
They took nae pains their speech to balance,
    Or rules to gie,
But spak their thoughts in plain, braid Lallans,
    Like you or me.

In thae auld tunes, they thought the moon,
Just like a sark, or pair o’ shoon,
Wore by degrees, till her last roon,
    Gaed past their viewin’,
An’ shortly after she was done,
    They gat a new one.

This past for certain, undisputed;
It ne’er cam i’ their heads to doubt it,
Till chiels gat up an’ wad confute it,
    An’ ca’d it wrang;
An’ muckle din there was about it,
    Baith loud an’ lang.

Some herds, weel learn’d upo’ the beuk,
Wad threap auld folk the thing misteuk;
For ‘twas the auld moon turn’d a neuk,
    An’ out o’ sight,
An’ backlins-comin, to the leuk,
    She grew mair bright.

This was deny’d, it was affirm’d;
The herds an’ hissels were alarm’d:
The rev’rend gray-beards rav’d an’ storm’d,
    That beardless laddies
Should think they better were inform’d
    Than their auld daddies.

Frae less to mair it gaed to sticks;
Frae words an’ aiths to clours an’ nicks;
An’ mony a fallow gat his licks,
    Wi’ hearty crunt;
An’ soms, to learn them for their tricks,
    Were hang’d an’ brunt.

This game was play’d in mony lands,
An’ auld-light caddies bure sic hands,
That, faith, the youngsters took the sands
    Wi’ nimble shanks;
The lairds forbad, by strict commands,
    Sic bluidy pranks.

But new-light herds gat sic a cowe,
Folk thought them ruin’d stick-an-stowe,
Till now amaist on ev’ry knowe
    Ye’ll find ane plac’d;
An’ some, their new-light fair avow,
    Just quite barefac’d.

Nae doubt the auld-light flocks are bleatin’;
Their zealous herds are vex’d an’ sweatin’;
Mysel, I’ve even seen them greetin’
    Wi’ girnin spite,
To hear the moon sae sadly lied on
    By word an’ write.

But shortly they will cowe the louns!
Some auld-light herds in neibor-touns
Are mind’t, in things they ca’ balloons,
    To tak a flight,
An’ stay ae month amang the moons,
    An’ see them right.

Guid observation they will gie them;
An’ when the auld moon ‘s gaun to lea’e them;
The hindmost shaird, they’ll fetch it wi’ them,
    Just i’ their pouch,
An’ when the new-light billies see them,
    I think they’ll crouch!

Sae, ye observe that a’ this clatter
Is naething but a ‘moonshine matter’;
But tho’ dull-prose folk Latin splatter
    In logic tulzie,
I hope we bardies ken some better
    Than mind sic brulzie.

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