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Title: Robert Burns - How To Know Him
Author: Neilson, William Allan, 1869-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Robert Burns - How To Know Him" ***

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                             ROBERT BURNS

                           HOW TO KNOW HIM

                        WILLIAM ALLAN NEILSON
               Professor of English, Harvard University

                              Author of
                      Essentials of Poetry, etc.

                            WITH PORTRAIT

                      THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

                            COPYRIGHT 1917
                      THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

                               PRESS OF
                           BRAUNWORTH & CO.
                          BOOK MANUFACTURERS
                            BROOKLYN, N.Y.

                              MY BROTHER

[Illustration: The Nasmyth Portrait of ROBERT BURNS]


  Address to the Deil                                   282
  Address to the Unco Guid                              176
  Ae Fond Kiss                                           56
  Afton Water                                           116
  Auld Farmer's New-Year Morning Salutation, The        278
  Auld Lang Syne                                        100
  Auld Rob Morris                                       121
  Bannocks o' Barley                                    165
  Bard's Epitaph, A                                     308
  Bessy and Her Spinnin'-Wheel                          145
  Blue-Eyed Lassie, The                                 117
  Bonnie Lad that's Far Awa, The                        139
  Bonnie Lesley                                         118
  Braw Braw Lads                                        140
  Ca' the Yowes                                         115
  Charlie He's My Darling                               168
  Clarinda                                               58
  Come Boat Me o'er to Charlie                          163
  Comin' through the Rye                                154
  Contented wi' Little                                  126
  Cotter's Saturday Night, The                            8
  Death and Doctor Hornbook                             287
  Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, The              23
  De'il's Awa wi' th' Exciseman, The                    154
  Deuk's Dang o'er My Daddie, The                       155
  Duncan Davison                                        153
  Duncan Gray                                           152
  Elegy on Capt. Matthew Henderson                      298
  Epistle to a Young Friend                             200
  Epistle to Davie                                      193
  For the Sake o' Somebody                              136
  Gloomy Night, The                                      40
  Go Fetch to Me a Pint o' Wine                          88
  Green Grow the Rashes                                 123
  Had I the Wyte?                                       148
  Halloween                                             209
  Handsome Nell                                          20
  Highland Balou, The                                   151
  Highland Laddie, The                                  164
  Highland Mary                                         113
  Holy Fair, The                                        228
  Holy Willie's Prayer                                  173
  How Lang and Dreary                                   138
  I Hae a Wife                                           59
  I Hae Been at Crookieden                              167
  I'm Owre Young to Marry Yet                           143
  It Was a' for Our Rightfu' King                       162
  John Anderson, My Jo                                  146
  Jolly Beggars, The                                    241
  Kenmure's On and Awa                                  165
  Lassie wi' the Lint-White Locks                       119
  Last May a Braw Wooer                                 135
  Lea-Rig, The                                          120
  MacPherson's Farewell                                 150
  Man's a Man for a' that, A                            158
  Mary Morison                                           28
  Montgomerie's Peggy                                   120
  My Father Was a Farmer                                126
  My Heart's in the Highlands                           140
  My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose                        102
  My Love She's but a Lassie Yet                        144
  My Nannie O                                            29
  My Nannie's Awa                                        57
  My Wife's a Winsome Wee Thing                         108
  O for Ane an' Twenty, Tam!                            129
  O Merry Hae I Been                                    148
  O This Is No My Ain Lassie                            107
  O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast                       123
  Of a' the Airts                                       106
  On a Scotch Bard, Gone to the West Indies              42
  On John Dove, Innkeeper                               205
  Open the Door to Me, O!                               137
  Poet's Welcome to His Love-Begotten Daughter, The      33
  Poor Mailie's Elegy                                    26
  Poortith Cauld                                        107
  Prayer in the Prospect of Death, A                     32
  Rantin' Dog the Daddie o't, The                       134
  Rigs o' Barley, The                                    30
  Scotch Drink                                          301
  Scots, Wha Hae                                        160
  Simmer's a Pleasant Time                              131
  Tam Glen                                              133
  Tam o' Shanter                                        257
  Tam Samson's Elegy                                    294
  There Was a Lad                                       125
  There'll Never Be Peace till Jamie Comes Hame         166
  To a Haggis                                           306
  To a Louse                                            274
  To a Mountain Daisy                                   276
  To a Mouse                                            272
  To Daunton Me                                         142
  To Mary in Heaven                                     114
  To the Rev. John McMath                               181
  Twa Dogs, The                                         219
  Wandering Willie                                      138
  Weary Pund o' Tow, The                                147
  Wha Is that at My Bower Door?                         156
  What Can a Young Lassie                               142
  Whistle, and I'll Come to Ye, My Lad                  132
  Will Ye Go to the Indies, My Mary?                     40
  Willie Brew'd a Peck o' Maut                          238
  Willie's Wife                                         156
  Ye Banks and Braes (two versions)                     130
  Yestreen I Had a Pint o' Wine                         104


CHAPTER                                                PAGE

      I BIOGRAPHY                                         1
          1. Alloway, Mount Oliphant, and Lochlea         3
          2. Mossgiel                                    31
          3. Edinburgh                                   44
          4. Ellisland                                   58
          5. Dumfries                                    62


    III BURNS AND SCOTTISH SONG                          90

     IV SATIRES AND EPISTLES                            171


     VI CONCLUSION                                      310

        INDEX                                           325





   "I have not the most distant pretence to what the pye-coated
    guardians of Escutcheons call a Gentleman. When at Edinburgh last
    winter, I got acquainted at the Herald's office; and looking thro'
    the granary of honors, I there found almost every name in the
    kingdom; but for me,

        My ancient but ignoble blood
        Has crept thro' scoundrels since the flood.

    Gules, purpure, argent, etc., quite disowned me. My forefathers
    rented land of the famous, noble Keiths of Marshal, and had the
    honor to share their fate. I do not use the word 'honor' with any
    reference to political principles: _loyal_ and _disloyal_ I take
    to be merely relative terms in that ancient and formidable court
    known in this country by the name of 'club-law.' Those who dare
    welcome Ruin and shake hands with Infamy, for what they believe
    sincerely to be the cause of their God or their King, are--as Mark
    Antony in _Shakspear_ says of Brutus and Cassius--'honorable men.'
    I mention this circumstance because it threw my Father on the
    world at large; where, after many years' wanderings and
    sojournings, he picked up a pretty large quantity of observation
    and experience, to which I am indebted for most of my pretensions
    to Wisdom. I have met with few who understood Men, their manners
    and their ways, equal to him; but stubborn, ungainly Integrity,
    and headlong, ungovernable Irascibility, are disqualifying
    circumstances; consequently, I was born, a very poor man's son."

   "You can now, Sir, form a pretty near guess of what sort of Wight
    he is, whom for some time you have honored with your
    correspondence. That Whim and Fancy, keen sensibility and riotous
    passions, may still make him zig-zag in his future path of life is
    very probable; but, come what will, I shall answer for him--the
    most determinate integrity and honor [shall ever characterise
    him]; and though his evil star should again blaze in his meridian
    with tenfold more direful influence, he may reluctantly tax
    friendship with pity, but no more."

These two paragraphs form respectively the beginning and the end of a
long autobiographical letter written by Robert Burns to Doctor John
Moore, physician and novelist. At the time they were composed, the
poet had just returned to his native county after the triumphant
season in Edinburgh that formed the climax of his career. But no
detailed knowledge of circumstances is necessary to rouse interest
in a man who wrote like that. You may be offended by the
self-consciousness and the swagger, or you may be charmed by the
frankness and dash, but you can not remain indifferent. Burns had many
moods besides those reflected in these sentences, but here we can see
as vividly as in any of his poetry the fundamental characteristics of
the man--sensitive, passionate, independent, and as proud as
Lucifer--whose life and work are the subject of this volume.

1. Alloway, Mount Oliphant, and Lochlea

William Burnes, the father of the poet, came of a family of farmers
and gardeners in the county of Kincardine, on the east coast of
Scotland. At the age of twenty-seven, he left his native district for
the south; and when Robert, his eldest child, was born on January 25,
1759, William was employed as gardener to the provost of Ayr. He had
besides leased some seven acres of land, of which he planned to make a
nursery and market-garden, in the neighboring parish of Alloway; and
there near the Brig o' Doon built with his own hands the clay cottage
now known to literary pilgrims as the birthplace of Burns. His wife,
Agnes Brown, the daughter of an Ayrshire farmer, bore him, besides
Robert, three sons and three daughters. In order to keep his sons at
home instead of sending them out as farm-laborers, the elder Burnes
rented in 1766 the farm of Mount Oliphant, and stocked it on borrowed
money. The venture did not prosper, and on a change of landlords the
family fell into the hands of a merciless agent, whose bullying the
poet later avenged by the portrait of the factor in _The Twa Dogs_.

    I've noticed, on our Laird's court-day,--
    And mony a time my heart's been wae,--
    Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash,
    How they maun thole a factor's snash;
    He'll stamp and threaten, curse and swear,
    He'll apprehend them, poind their gear;
    While they maun stan', wi' aspect humble,
    And hear it a', and fear and tremble!

In 1777 Mount Oliphant was exchanged for the farm of Lochlea, about
ten miles away, and here William Burnes labored for the rest of his
life. The farm was poor, and with all he could do it was hard to keep
his head above water. His health was failing, he was harassed with
debts, and in 1784 in the midst of a lawsuit about his lease, he died.

In spite of his struggle for a bare subsistence, the elder Burnes had
not neglected the education of his children. Before he was six, Robert
was sent to a small school at Alloway Mill, and soon after his father
joined with a few neighbors to engage a young man named John Murdoch
to teach their children in a room in the village. This arrangement
continued for two years and a half, when, Murdoch having been called
elsewhere, the father undertook the task of education himself. The
regular instruction was confined chiefly to the long winter evenings,
but quite as important as this was the intercourse between father and
sons as they went about their work.

   "My father," says the poet's brother Gilbert, "was for some time
    almost the only companion we had. He conversed familiarly on all
    subjects with us, as if we had been men; and was at great pains,
    as we accompanied him in the labours of the farm, to lead the
    conversation to such subjects as might tend to increase our
    knowledge, or confirm our virtuous habits. He borrowed Salmon's
    _Geographical Grammar_ for us, and endeavoured to make us
    acquainted with the situation and history of the different
    countries in the world; while, from a book-society in Ayr, he
    procured for us Derham's _Physics and Astro-Theology_, and Ray's
    _Wisdom of God in the Creation_, to give us some idea of astronomy
    and natural history. Robert read all these books with an avidity
    and industry scarcely to be equalled. My father had been a
    subscriber to Stackhouse's _History of the Bible_ ...; from this
    Robert collected a competent knowledge of ancient history; for no
    book was so voluminous as to slacken his industry, or so
    antiquated as to dampen his researches. A brother of my mother,
    who had lived with us some time, and had learned some arithmetic
    by our winter evening's candle, went into a book-seller's shop in
    Ayr to purchase the _Ready Reckoner, or Tradesman's Sure Guide_,
    and a book to teach him to write letters. Luckily, in place of the
    _Complete Letter-Writer_, he got by mistake a small collection of
    letters by the most eminent writers, with a few sensible
    directions for attaining an easy epistolary style. This book was
    to Robert of the greatest consequence. It inspired him with a
    strong desire to excel in letter-writing, while it furnished him
    with models by some of the first writers in our language."

Interesting as are the details as to the antiquated manuals from which
Burns gathered his general information, it is more important to note
the more personal implications in this account. Respect for learning
has long been wide-spread among the peasantry of Scotland, but it is
evident that William Burnes was intellectually far above the average
of his class. The schoolmaster Murdoch has left a portrait of him in
which he not only extols his virtues as a man but emphasizes his
zest for things of the mind, and states that "he spoke the English
language with more propriety--both with respect to diction and
pronunciation--than any man I ever knew, with no greater advantages."
Though tender and affectionate, he seems to have inspired both wife
and children with a reverence amounting to awe, and he struck
strangers as reserved and austere. He recognized in Robert traces of
extraordinary gifts, but he did not hide from him the fact that his
son's temperament gave him anxiety for his future. Mrs. Burnes was a
devoted wife and mother, by no means her husband's intellectual equal,
but vivacious and quick-tempered, with a memory stored with the song
and legend of the country-side. Other details can be filled in from
the poet's own picture of his father's household as given with little
or no idealization in _The Cotter's Saturday Night_.


      My lov'd, my honour'd, much respected friend!
        No mercenary bard his homage pays:
      With honest pride I scorn each selfish end,
        My dearest meed a friend's esteem and praise:
        To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
      The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
        The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
      What Aiken in a cottage would have been--
    Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween.

      November chill blaws load wi' angry sough;                         [wail]
        The shortening winter-day is near a close;
      The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
        The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose:
        The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes,
      This night his weekly moil is at an end,
        Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
      Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
    And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.

      At length his lonely cot appears in view,
        Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
      Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin', stacher through             [stagger]
        To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise an' glee.         [fluttering]
        His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnilie,                             [fire]
      His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
        The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
      Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile,                        [worry]
    An' makes him quite forget his labour an' his toil.

      Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,                         [Soon]
        At service out, amang the farmers roun';
      Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin      [drive, heedful run]
        A cannie errand to a neibor town:                               [quiet]
        Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown,
      In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e,                       [eye]
        Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown,                     [fine]
      Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,                      [hard-won wages]
    To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

      With joy unfeign'd brothers and sisters meet,
        An' each for other's weelfare kindly spiers:                     [asks]
      The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnoticed fleet;
        Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears;                   [wonders]
        The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years;
      Anticipation forward points the view.
        The mother, wi' her needle an' her sheers,
      Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new;        [Makes old clothes]
    The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.

      Their master's an' their mistress's command
        The younkers a' are warnèd to obey;                        [youngsters]
      An' mind their labours wi' an eydent hand,                     [diligent]
        An' ne'er, tho' out o' sight, to jauk or play:                 [trifle]
       'And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway,
      An' mind your duty, duly, morn an' night!
        Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,                          [go]
      Implore His counsel and assisting might:
    They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright!'

      But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
        Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same,                        [knows]
      Tells how a neibor lad cam o'er the moor,
        To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
        The wily mother sees the conscious flame
      Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek;
        Wi' heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name,
      While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;                           [half]
    Weel pleased the mother hears it's nae wild worthless rake.

      Wi' kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;                            [in]
        A strappin' youth; he takes the mother's eye;
      Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill ta'en;
        The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.            [chats, cows]
        The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy,
      But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave;            [shy, bashful]
        The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy
      What makes the youth sae bashfu' an' sae grave;
    Weel-pleased to think her bairn's respected like the lave.    [child, rest]

      O happy love! where love like this is found;
        O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
      I've pacèd much this weary mortal round,
        And sage experience bids me this declare:--
       'If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
      One cordial in this melancholy vale,
        'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair
      In other's arms breathe out the tender tale,
    Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.'

      Is there, in human form, that bears a heart--
        A wretch, a villain, lost to love and truth--
      That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
        Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth?
        Curse on his perjur'd arts, dissembling, smooth!
      Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exil'd?
        Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,
      Points to the parents fondling o'er their child?
    Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction wild?

      But now the supper crowns their simple board,
        The halesome parritch, chief of Scotia's food:              [wholesome]
      The sowpe their only hawkie does afford,                      [milk, cow]
        That 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood;       [beyond, partition,
        The dame brings forth in complimental mood,                        cud]
      To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell;     [well-saved cheese,
        And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it good;                    strong]
      The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell
    How 'twas a towmond auld sin' lint was i' the bell.   [twelve-month, flax,
      The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face
        They round the ingle form a circle wide;
      The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,
        The big ha'-bible, ance his father's pride:              [family-Bible]
        His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,
      His lyart haffets wearing thin an' bare;           [gray hair on temples]
        Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide--
      He wales a portion with judicious care,                         [chooses]
    And 'Let us worship God!' he says with solemn air.

      They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
        They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;
      Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,
        Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
        Or noble Elgin beets the heav'nward flame,                       [fans]
      The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays:
        Compared with these, Italian trills are tame;
      The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise;
    Nae unison hae they with our Creator's praise.                   [No, have]

      The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
        How Abram was the friend of God on high;
      Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage
        With Amalek's ungracious progeny;
        Or how the royal bard did groaning lie
      Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire;
        Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
      Or rapt Isaiah's wild seraphic fire;
    Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.

      Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
        How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
      How He who bore in Heaven the second name
        Had not on earth whereon to lay His head;
        How His first followers and servants sped;
      The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:
        How he, who lone in Patmos banishèd,
      Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,
    And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounced by Heaven's command.

      Then kneeling down to Heaven's Eternal King
        The saint, the father, and the husband prays:
      Hope 'springs exulting on triumphant wing'
        That thus they all shall meet in future days:
        There ever bask in uncreated rays,
      No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
        Together hymning their Creator's praise,
      In such society, yet still more dear;
    While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.

      Compared with this, how poor Religion's pride,
        In all the pomp of method and of art,
      When men display to congregations wide
        Devotion's every grace, except the heart!
        The Power, incensed, the pageant will desert,
      The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;
        But haply, in some cottage far apart,
      May hear, well pleased, the language of the soul;
    And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enrol.

      Then homeward all take off their several way;
        The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
      The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
        And proffer up to Heav'n the warm request,
        That He who stills the raven's clamorous nest,
      And decks the lily fair in flowery pride,
        Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
      For them and for their little ones provide;
    But chiefly in their hearts with grace divine preside.

      From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs,
        That makes her loved at home, revered abroad:
      Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
       'An honest man's the noblest work of God;'
        And certes, in fair Virtue's heavenly road,
      The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
        What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load,
      Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
    Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin'd!

      O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
        For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
      Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
        Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
        And O may Heaven their simple lives prevent
      From luxury's contagion, weak and vile;
        Then, howe'er crowns and coronets be rent,
      A virtuous populace may rise the while,
    And stand a wall of fire around their much-loved isle.

      O Thou! who poured the patriotic tide
        That streamed thro' Wallace's undaunted heart,
      Who dared to nobly stem tyrannic pride,
        Or nobly die--the second glorious part,
        (The patriot's God, peculiarly thou art,
      His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)
        O never, never, Scotia's realm desert;
      But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard,
    In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

No less impressive than that of his father is the intellectual hunger
of the future poet himself. We have had Gilbert's testimony to the
eagerness with which he devoured such books as came within his reach,
and the use he made of his later fragments of schooling points the
same way. He had a quarter at the parish school of Dalrymple when he
was thirteen; and in the following summer he attended the school at
Ayr under his former Alloway instructor. Murdoch's own account of
these three weeks gives an idea of Burns's quickness of apprehension;
and the style of it is worth noting with reference to the
characteristics of the poet's own prose.

   "In 1773," says Murdoch, "Robert Burns came to board and lodge
    with me, for the purpose of revising English grammar, etc., that
    he might be better qualified to instruct his brothers and sisters
    at home. He was now with me day and night, in school, at all
    meals, and in all my walks. At the end of one week, I told him as
    he was now pretty much master of the parts of speech, etc., I
    should like to teach him something of French pronunciation, that
    when he should meet with the name of a French town, ship, officer,
    or the like, in the newspapers, he might be able to pronounce it
    something like a French word. Robert was glad to hear this
    proposal, and immediately we attacked the French with great

   "Now there was little else to be heard but the declension of
    nouns, the conjugation of verbs, etc. When walking together, and
    even at meals, I was constantly telling him the names of different
    objects, as they presented themselves, in French; so that he was
    hourly laying in a stock of words, and sometimes little phrases.
    In short, he took such pleasure in learning, and I in teaching,
    that it was difficult to say which of the two was most zealous in
    the business; and about the end of the second week of our study of
    the French, we began to read a little of the _Adventures of
    Telemachus_ in Fénelon's own words.

   "But now the plains of Mount Oliphant began to whiten, and Robert
    was summoned to relinquish the pleasing scenes that surrounded the
    grotto of Calypso, and armed with a sickle, to seek glory by
    signalising himself in the fields of Ceres; and so he did, for
    although but about fifteen, I was told that he performed the work
    of a man."

The record of Burns's school-days is completed by the mention of a
sojourn, probably in the summer of 1775, in his mother's parish of
Kirkoswald. Hither he went to study mathematics and surveying under a
teacher of local note, and, in spite of the convivial attractions of a
smuggling village, seems to have made progress in his geometry till
his head was turned by a girl who lived next door to the school.

So far the education gained by Burns from his schoolmasters and his
father had been almost exclusively moral and intellectual. It was in
less formal ways that his imagination was fed. From his mother he had
heard from infancy the ballads, legends, and songs that were
traditionary among the peasantry; and the influence of these was
re-enforced by a certain Betty Davidson, an unfortunate relative of
his mother's to whom the family gave shelter for a time.

   "In my infant and boyish days, too," he writes in the letter to
    Doctor Moore already quoted, "I owed much to an old maid of my
    mother's, remarkable for her ignorance, credulity, and
    superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the
    country, of tales and songs concerning devils, ghosts, fairies,
    brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles,
    dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, enchanted towers,
    giants, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent
    seeds of Poesy; but had so strong an effect on my imagination,
    that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a
    sharp look-out in suspicious places; and though nobody can be more
    sceptical in these matters than I, yet it often takes an effort of
    philosophy to shake off these idle terrors."

His private reading also contained much that must have stimulated his
imagination and broadened his interests. It began with a _Life of
Hannibal_, and Hamilton's modernized version of the _History of Sir
William Wallace_, which last, he says, with the touch of flamboyancy
that often recurs in his style, "poured a Scottish prejudice in my
veins, which will boil along there till the flood-gates of life shut
in eternal rest." By the time he was eighteen he had, in addition to
books already mentioned, become acquainted with Shakespeare, Pope
(including the translation of Homer), Thomson, Shenstone, Allan
Ramsay, and a _Select Collection of Songs, Scotch and English_; with
the _Spectator_, the _Pantheon_, Locke's _Essay on the Human
Understanding_, Sterne, and Henry Mackenzie. To these must be added
some books on farming and gardening, a good deal of theology, and, of
course, the Bible.

The pursuing of intellectual interests such as are implied in this
list is the more significant when we remember that it was carried on
in the scanty leisure of a life of labor so severe that it all but
broke the poet's health, and probably left permanent marks on his
physique. Yet he had energy left for still other avocations. It was
when he was no more than fifteen that he first experienced the twin
passions that came to dominate his life, love and song. The girl who
was the occasion was his partner in the harvest field, Nelly
Kilpatrick; the song he addressed to her is the following:


    O, once I lov'd a bonnie lass,
      Aye, and I love her still,
    And whilst that virtue warms my breast
      I'll love my handsome Nell.

    As bonnie lasses I hae seen,
      And mony full as braw,                         [fine]
    But for a modest gracefu' mien
      The like I never saw.

    A bonnie lass, I will confess,
      Is pleasant to the e'e,                         [eye]
    But without some better qualities
      She's no a lass for me.

    But Nelly's looks are blithe and sweet,
      And what is best of a',                         [all]
    Her reputation is complete,
      And fair without a flaw.

    She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
      Both decent and genteel;
    And then there's something in her gait
      Gars ony dress look weel.                     [Makes]

    A gaudy dress and gentle air
      May slightly touch the heart,
    But it's innocence and modesty
      That polishes the dart.

    'Tis this in Nelly pleases me,
      'Tis this enchants my soul!
    For absolutely in my breast
      She reigns without control.

Since there may still be readers who suppose that Burns was a mere
unsophisticated singer, without power of self-criticism, it may be as
well to insert here a passage from a Commonplace Book written in 1783,
ten years after the composition of the song.

    _Criticism on the Foregoing Song_

   "Lest my works should be thought below Criticism; or meet with a
    Critic who, perhaps, will not look on them with so candid and
    favorable an eye; I am determined to criticise them myself.

   "The first distich of the first stanza is quite too much in the
    flimsy strain of our ordinary street ballads; and on the other
    hand, the second distich is too much in the other extreme. The
    expression is a little awkward, and the sentiment too serious.
    Stanza the second I am well pleased with; and I think it conveys a
    fine idea of that amiable part of the Sex--the agreeables, or what
    in our Scotch dialect we call a sweet sonsy Lass. The third Stanza
    has a little of the flimsy turn in it; and the third line has
    rather too serious a cast. The fourth Stanza is a very indifferent
    one; the first line is, indeed, all in the strain of the second
    Stanza, but the rest is mostly an expletive. The thoughts in the
    fifth Stanza come fairly up to my favorite idea [of] a sweet sonsy
    Lass. The last line, however, halts a little. The same sentiments
    are kept up with equal spirit and tenderness in the sixth Stanza,
    but the second and fourth lines ending with short syllables hurts
    the whole. The seventh Stanza has several minute faults; but I
    remember I composed it in a wild enthusiasm of passion, and to
    this hour I never recollect it but my heart melts, and my blood
    sallies at the remembrance."

In spite of the early start in poetry given him by Nelly Kilpatrick,
he did not produce more than a few pieces of permanent value during
the next ten years. He did, however, go on developing and branching
out in his social activities, in spite of the depressing grind of the
farm. He attended a dancing school (much against his father's will),
helped to establish a "Bachelors' Club" for debating, and found time
for further love-affairs. That with Ellison Begbie, celebrated by him
in _The Lass of Cessnock Banks_, he took very seriously, and he
proposed marriage to the girl in some portentously solemn epistles
which remain to us as the earliest examples of his prose. In order to
put himself in a position to marry, he determined to learn the trade
of flax-dressing; and though Ellison refused him, he went to the
neighboring seaport of Irvine to carry out his purpose in the summer
of 1781. The flax-dressing experiment ended disastrously with a fire
which burned the workshop, and Burns returned penniless to the farm.
The poems written about this time express profound melancholy, a mood
natural enough in the circumstances, and aggravated by his poor
nervous and physical condition.

But his spirit could not remain permanently depressed, and shortly
after his return to Lochlea, a trifling accident to a ewe he had
bought prompted him to the following delightful and characteristic


    As Mailie, an' her lambs thegither,                    [together]
    Was ae day nibbling on the tether,                          [one]
    Upon her cloot she coost a hitch,                  [hoof, looped]
    An' owre she warsled in the ditch;             [over, floundered]
    There, groaning, dying, she did lie,
    When Hughoc he cam doytin by.                         [doddering]
      Wi glowrin' een, an' lifted han's,                    [staring]
    Poor Hughoc like a statue stan's;
    He saw her days were near-hand ended,
    But wae's my heart! he could na mend it!
    He gapèd wide, but naething spak;
    At length poor Mailie silence brak:--

     'O thou, whase lamentable face
    Appears to mourn my woefu' case!
    My dying words attentive hear,
    An' bear them to my Master dear.
     'Tell him, if e'er again he keep                           [own]
    As muckle gear as buy a sheep,--                     [much money]
    O bid him never tie them mair
    Wi' wicked strings o' hemp or hair!
    Bat ca' them out to park or hill,                         [drive]
    An' let them wander at their will;
    So may his flock increase, an' grow
    To scores o' lambs, an' packs o' woo'!                     [wool]
     'Tell him he was a Master kin',
    An' aye was guid to me an' mine;
    An' now my dying charge I gie him,                         [give]
    My helpless lambs, I trust them wi' him.
     'O bid him save their harmless lives
    Frae dogs, an' tods, an' butchers' knives!                [foxes]
    But gie them guid cow-milk their fill,
    Till they be fit to fend themsel:                    [look after]
    An' tent them duly, e'en an' morn,                         [tend]
    Wi' teats o' hay an' ripps o' corn.           [bunches, handfuls]
     'An' may they never learn the gates                       [ways]
    Of ither vile wanrestfu' pets--                        [restless]
    To slink thro' slaps, an' reave an' steal,      [holes in fences]
    At stacks o' pease, or stocks o' kail.                   [plants]
    So may they, like their great forbears,
    For mony a year come thro' the shears;
    So wives will gie them bits o' bread,
    An' bairns greet for them when they're dead.               [weep]
     'My poor tup-lamb, my son an' heir,
    O bid him breed him up wi' care!
    An', if he live to be a beast,
    To pit some havins in his breast!                 [put, behavior]
    An' warn him, what I winna name,                       [will not]
    To stay content wi' yowes at hame;                         [ewes]
    An' no to rin an' wear his cloots,                        [hoofs]
    Like ither menseless graceless brutes.               [unmannerly]
     'An neist my yowie, silly thing,                          [next]
    Gude keep thee frae a tether string!
    O may thou ne'er forgather up                      [make friends]
    Wi' ony blastit moorland tup;
    But ay keep mind to moop an' mell,               [nibble, meddle]
    Wi' sheep o' credit like thysel!
     'And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath
    I lea'e my blessin' wi' you baith;
    An' when you think upo' your mither,
    Mind to be kind to ane anither.
     'Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail
    To tell my master a' my tale;
    An' bid him burn this cursed tether;
    An', for thy pains, thou'se get my blether.'            [bladder]

      This said, poor Mailie turn'd her head,
    An' closed her een amang the dead!                         [eyes]


    Lament in rhyme, lament in prose,
    Wi' saut tears tricklin' down your nose,                   [salt]
    Our bardie's fate is at a close,
                    Past a' remead;                          [remedy]
    The last sad cape-stane of his woes--                [cope-stone]
                    Poor Mailie's dead!

    It's no the loss o' warl's gear                   [worldly lucre]
    That could sae bitter draw the tear,
    Or mak our bardie, dowie, wear                         [downcast]
                    The mourning weed:
    He's lost a friend and neibor dear
                    In Mailie dead.

    Thro' a' the toun she trotted by him;
    A lang half-mile she could descry him;
    Wi' kindly bleat, when she did spy him,
                    She ran wi' speed:
    A friend mair faithfu' ne'er cam nigh him
                    Than Mailie dead.

    I wat she was a sheep o' sense,                             [wot]
    An' could behave hersel wi' mense;                      [manners]
    I'll say't, she never brak a fence
                    Thro' thievish greed.
    Our bardie, lanely, keeps the spence                     [parlor]
                    Sin' Mailie's dead.                       [Since]

    Or, if he wanders up the howe,                             [glen]
    Her living image in her yowe                           [ewe-lamb]
    Comes bleating to him, owre the knowe,                    [knoll]
                    For bits o' bread,
    An' down the briny pearls rowe                             [roll]
                    For Mailie dead.

    She was nae get o' moorland tups,                         [issue]
    Wi' tawted ket, an' hairy hips;                   [matted fleece]
    For her forbears were brought in ships
                    Frae 'yont the Tweed;
    A bonnier fleesh ne'er cross'd the clips         [fleece, shears]
                    Than Mailie's, dead.

    Wae worth the man wha first did shape                    [Woe to]
    That vile wanchancie thing--a rape!                   [dangerous]
    It maks guid fellows girn an' gape,                       [growl]
                    Wi' chokin' dread;
    An' Robin's bonnet wave wi' crape
                    For Mailie dead.

    O a' ye bards on bonnie Doon!
    An' wha on Ayr your chanters tune!                     [bagpipes]
    Come, join the melancholious croon
                    O' Robin's reed;
    His heart will never get aboon!                         [rejoice]
                    His Mailie's dead!

How long he continued to mourn for Ellison Begbie, it is hard to say;
but the three following songs, inspired, it would seem, by three
different girls, testify at once to his power of recuperation and the
rapid maturing of his talent. All seem to have been written between
the date of his return from Irvine and the death of his father.


    O Mary, at thy window be,
      It is the wish'd, the trysted hour!
    Those smiles and glances let me see,
      That make the miser's treasure poor:
      How blythely wad I bide the stoure,            [bear, struggle]
    A weary slave frae sun to sun,
      Could I the rich reward secure,
    The lovely Mary Morison.

    Yestreen, when to the trembling string               [Last night]
      The dance gaed thro' the lighted ha',                    [went]
    To thee my fancy took its wing,
      I sat, but neither heard nor saw:
      Tho' this was fair, and that was braw,                   [fine]
    And yon the toast of a' the town,                     [the other]
      I sigh'd, and said amang them a',
    'Ye are na Mary Morison.'

    O Mary, canst thou wreck his peace,
      Wha for thy sake wad gladly die?
    Or canst thou break that heart of his,
      Whase only faut is loving thee?                         [fault]
      If love for love thou wilt na gie,
    At least be pity to me shown!
      A thought ungentle canna be
    The thought o' Mary Morison.


    Behind yon hills where Lugar flows,
      'Mang moors an' mosses many, O,
    The wintry sun the day has clos'd,
      And I'll awa' to Nannie, O.

    The westlin wind blaws loud an' shill,            [western, keen]
      The night's baith mirk and rainy, O;                [both dark]
    But I'll get my plaid, an' out I'll steal,
      An' owre the hill to Nannie, O.                          [over]

    My Nannie's charming, sweet, an' young:
      Nae artfu' wiles to win ye, O:
    May ill befa' the flattering tongue
      That wad beguile my Nannie, O.

    Her face is fair, her heart is true,
      As spotless as she's bonnie, O:
    The opening gowan, wat wi' dew,                      [daisy, wet]
      Nae purer is than Nannie, O.

    A country lad is my degree,
      An' few there be that ken me, O;
    But what care I how few they be,
      I'm welcome aye to Nannie, O.

    My riches a's my penny-fee,                               [wages]
      An' I maun guide it cannie, O;                      [carefully]
    But warl's gear ne'er troubles me,                        [lucre]
      My thoughts are a'--my Nannie, O.

    Our auld guidman delights to view
      His sheep an' kye thrive bonnie, O.                      [cows]
    But I'm as blythe that hauds his pleugh,                  [holds]
      An' has nae care but Nannie, O.

    Come weel, come woe, I care na by,                     [reck not]
      I'll tak what Heav'n will send me, O;
    Nae ither care in life have I,
      But live, an' love my Nannie, O.


    It was upon a Lammas night,
      When corn rigs are bonnie,                             [ridges]
    Beneath the moon's unclouded light
      I held awa to Annie:                              [took my way]
    The time flew by wi' tentless heed,                    [careless]
      Till, 'tween the late and early,
    Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
      To see me thro' the barley.

    The sky was blue, the wind was still,
      The moon was shining clearly;
    I set her down wi' right good will
      Amang the rigs o' barley;
    I kent her heart was a' my ain;                       [knew, own]
      I loved her most sincerely;
    I kissed her owre and owre again                           [over]
      Amang the rigs o' barley.

    I locked her in my fond embrace;
      Her heart was beating rarely;
    My blessings on that happy place,
      Amang the rigs o' barley!
    But by the moon and stars so bright,
      That shone that hour so clearly,
    She aye shall bless that happy night
      Amang the rigs o' barley.

    I hae been blythe wi' comrades dear;
      I hae been merry drinking;
    I hae been joyfu' gatherin' gear;                      [property]
      I hae been happy thinking:
    But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
      Tho' three times doubled fairly,
    That happy night was worth them a',
      Amang the rigs o' barley.

    Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
      An' corn rigs are bonnie:
    I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
      Amang the rigs wi' Annie.

2. Mossgiel

On the death of their father, Robert and Gilbert Burns moved with the
family to the farm of Mossgiel in the next parish of Mauchline. By
putting in a claim for arrears of wages, they succeeded in drawing
enough from the wreck of their father's estate to supply a scanty
stock for the new venture. The records of the first summer show the
poet in anything but a happy frame of mind. His health was miserable;
and the loosening of his moral principles, which he ascribes to the
influence of a young sailor he had met at Irvine, bore fruit in the
birth to him of an illegitimate daughter by a servant girl, Elizabeth
Paton. The verses which carry allusion to this affair are illuminating
for his character. One group is devout and repentant; the other marked
sometimes by cynical bravado, sometimes by a note of exultation. Both
may be regarded as genuine enough expressions of moods which
alternated throughout his life, and which corresponded to conflicting
sides of his nature. Here is a typical example of the former:


    O Thou unknown Almighty Cause
      Of all my hope and fear!
    In whose dread presence ere an hour,
      Perhaps I must appear!

    If I have wander'd in those paths
      Of life I ought to shun;
    As something, loudly in my breast,
      Remonstrates I have done;

    Thou know'st that Thou hast formèd me
      With passions wild and strong;
    And list'ning to their witching voice
      Has often led me wrong.

    Where human weakness has come short,
      Or frailty stept aside,
    Do thou, All-Good! for such Thou art,
      In shades of darkness hide.

    Where with intention I have err'd,
      No other plea I have,
    But thou art good; and Goodness still
      Delighteth to forgive.

In his _Epistle to John Rankine_, with a somewhat hard and heartless
humor, he braves out the affair; in the following _Welcome_ he treats
it with a tender pride, as sincere as his remorse:


    Thou's welcome, wean! Mishanter fa' me,     [child! Misfortune befall]
    If ought of thee, or of thy mammy,
    Shall ever daunton me, or awe me,
                  My sweet wee lady,
    Or if I blush when thou shalt ca' me
                  Tit-ta or daddy.

    What tho' they ca' me fornicator,
    An' tease my name in kintra clatter:                  [country gossip]
    The mair they talk I'm kent the better,                         [more]
                  E'en let them clash;                            [tattle]
    An auld wife's tongue's a feckless matter                     [feeble]
                  To gie ane fash.                    [give one annoyance]

    Welcome, my bonnie, sweet wee dochter--
    Tho' ye come here a wee unsought for,
    An' tho' your comin' I hae fought for
                  Baith kirk an' queir;                            [choir]
    Yet, by my faith, ye're no unwrought for!
                  That I shall swear!

    Sweet fruit o' mony a merry dint,
    My funny toil is no a' tint,                            [not all lost]
    Tho' thou came to the warl' asklent,                           [askew]
                  Which fools may scoff at;
    In my last plack thy part's be in't--                   [a small coin]
                  The better half o't.

    Tho' I should be the waur bested,                          [worse off]
    Thou's be as braw an' bienly clad,               [finely, comfortably]
    An' thy young years as nicely bred
                  Wi' education,
    As ony brat o' wedlock's bed
                  In a' thy station.

    Wee image of my bonnie Betty,
    As fatherly I kiss and daut thee,                                [pet]
    As dear an' near my heart I set thee
                  Wi' as guid will,
    As a' the priests had seen me get thee
                  That's out o' hell.

    Gude grant that thou may aye inherit                             [God]
    Thy mither's looks and gracefu' merit,
    An' thy poor worthless daddy's spirit,
                  Without his failins;
    'Twill please me mair to see thee heir it,
                  Than stockit mailins.                            [farms]

    An' if thou be what I wad hae thee,                       [would have]
    An' tak the counsel I shall gie thee,
    I'll never rue my trouble wi' thee--
                  The cost nor shame o't--
    But be a loving father to thee,
                  And brag the name o't.

At Mossgiel the Burns family was no more successful than in either of
its previous farms. Bad seed and bad weather gave two poor harvests,
and by the summer of 1786 the poet's financial condition was again
approaching desperation. His situation was made still more
embarrassing by the consequences of another of his amours. Shortly
after moving to the parish of Mauchline he had fallen in love with
Jean Armour, the daughter of a mason in the village. What was for
Burns a prolonged courtship ensued, and in the spring of 1786 he
learned that Jean's condition was such that he gave her a paper
acknowledging her as his wife. To his surprise and mortification the
girl's father, who is said to have had a personal dislike to him and
who well may have thought a man with his reputation and prospects was
no promising son-in-law, opposed the marriage, forced Jean to give up
the paper, and sent her off to another town. Burns chose to regard
Jean's submission to her father as inexcusable faithlessness, and
proceeded to indulge in the ecstatic misery of the lover betrayed.
There is no doubt that he suffered keenly from the affair: he writes
to his friends that he could "have no nearer idea of the place of
eternal punishment" than what he had felt in his "own breast on her
account. I have tried often to forget her: I have run into all kinds
of dissipation and riot ... to drive her out of my head, but all in
vain." This is in a later letter than that in which he has "sunk into
a lurid calm," and "subsided into the time-settled sorrow of the sable

Yet other evidence shows that at this crisis also Burns's emotional
experience was far from simple. It was probably during the summer of
the same year that there occurred the passages with the mysterious
Highland Mary, a girl whose identity, after voluminous controversy,
remains vague, but who inspired some of his loftiest love poetry.
Though Burns's feeling for her seems to have been a kind of interlude
in reaction from the "cruelty" of Jean, he idealized it beyond his
wont, and the subject of it has been exalted to the place among his
heroines which is surely due to the long-suffering woman who became
his wife.

In this same summer Burns formed the project of emigrating. He
proposed to go to the West Indies, and return for Jean when he had
made provision to support her. This offer was refused by James Armour,
but Burns persevered with the plan, obtained a position in Jamaica,
and in the autumn engaged passage in a ship sailing from Greenock. The
song, _Will Ye Go to the Indies; My Mary_, seems to imply that
Highland Mary was invited to accompany him, but substantial evidence
of this, as of most things concerning his relations with Mary
Campbell, is lacking. _From Thee, Eliza, I Must Go_, supposed to be
addressed to Elizabeth Miller, also belongs to this summer, and is
taken to refer to another of the "under-plots in his drama of love."

Meantime, at the suggestion of his friend and patron, Gavin Hamilton,
Burns had begun to arrange for a subscription edition of his poems. It
seems to have been only after he went to Mossgiel that he had
seriously conceived the idea of writing for publication, and the
decision was followed by a year of the most extraordinary fertility in
composition. To 1785-1786 are assigned such satires as _Holy Willie_
and the _Address to the Unco Guid_; a group of the longer poems
including _The Cotter's Saturday Night_, _The Jolly Beggars_,
_Halloween_, _The Holy Fair_, _The Twa Dogs_ and _The Vision_; some
shorter but no less famous pieces, such as the poems _To a Louse_, _To
a Mouse_, _To the Deil_, _To a Mountain Daisy_ and _Scotch Drink_; and
a number of the best of his _Epistles_. Many of these, especially the
church satires, had obtained a considerable local fame through
circulation in manuscript, so that, proposals having been issued for
an edition to be printed by Wilson of Kilmarnock, it was not found
difficult to obtain subscriptions for more than half the edition of
six hundred and twelve copies. The prospect of some return from this
enterprise induced James Armour to take legal measures to obtain
support for Jean's expected child, and Burns, fearing imprisonment,
was forced to go into hiding while his book was passing the press. The
church, too, had taken cognizance of his offense, and both Jean and he
had to stand up before the congregation on three occasions to receive
rebuke and make profession of repentance. He was at the same time
completing the preparations for his voyage. In such extraordinary
circumstances appeared the famous Kilmarnock edition, the immediate
success of which soon produced a complete alteration in the whole
outlook of the poet.

In the first place, the consideration Burns gained from his volume
induced Armour to relax his pursuit, and in September, when Jean
became the mother of twins, the poet was in such a mood that the
sentiment of paternity began to weigh against the proposed emigration.
Some weeks later he learned through a friend that Doctor Blacklock, a
poet and scholar of standing in literary circles in Edinburgh, had
praised his volume highly, and urged a second and larger edition. The
upshot was that he gave up his passage (his trunk had been packed and
was part way to Greenock), and determined instead on a visit to
Edinburgh. The only permanent result of the whole West Indian scheme
was thus a sheaf of amorous and patriotic farewells, of which the
following may be taken as examples:


    Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary,
      And leave auld Scotia's shore?
    Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary,
      Across the Atlantic's roar?

    O sweet grows the lime and the orange,
      And the apple on the pine;
    But a' the charms o' the Indies
      Can never equal thine.

    I hae sworn by the Heavens to my Mary,
      I hae sworn by the Heavens to be true;
    And sae may the Heavens forget me,
      When I forget my vow!

    O plight me your faith, my Mary,
      And plight me your lily-white hand;
    O plight me your faith, my Mary,
      Before I leave Scotia's strand.

    We hae plighted our troth, my Mary,
      In mutual affection to join;
    And curst be the cause that shall part us!
      The hour, and the moment o' time!


      The gloomy night is gathering fast,
    Loud roars the wild inconstant blast,
    Yon murky cloud is foul with rain,
    I see it driving o'er the plain;
    The hunter now has left the moor,
    The scatter'd coveys meet secure,
    While here I wander, prest with care,
    Along the lonely banks of Ayr.

      The Autumn mourns her ripening corn
    By early Winter's ravage torn;
    Across her placid azure sky,
    She sees the scowling tempest fly:
    Chill runs my blood to hear it rave,
    I think upon the stormy wave,
    Where many a danger I must dare,
    Far from the bonnie banks of Ayr.

      'Tis not the surging billow's roar,
    'Tis not that fatal, deadly shore;
    Tho' death in ev'ry shape appear,
    The wretched have no more to fear:
    But round my heart the ties are bound,
    That heart transpierc'd with many a wound:
    These bleed afresh, those ties I tear,
    To leave the bonnie banks of Ayr.

      Farewell, old Coila's hills and dales,
    Her heathy moors and winding vales;
    The scenes where wretched fancy roves,
    Pursuing past unhappy loves!
    Farewell, my friends! Farewell, my foes!
    My peace with these, my love with those;
    The bursting tears my heart declare,
    Farewell, my bonnie banks of Ayr!


    A' ye wha live by sowps o' drink,                               [sups]
    A' ye wha live by crambo-clink,                                [rhyme]
    A' ye wha live an' never think,
                    Come mourn wi' me!
    Our billie's gi'en us a' a jink,                    [fellow, the slip]
                    An' owre the sea.

    Lament him, a' ye rantin core,                            [jovial set]
    Wha dearly like a random-splore;                              [frolic]
    Nae mair he'll join the merry roar,
                    In social key;
    For now he's taen anither shore,
                    An' owre the sea!

    The bonnie lasses weel may wiss him,                        [wish for]
    And in their dear petitions place him,
    The widows, wives, an' a' may bless him
                    Wi' tearfu' e'e;
    For weel I wat they'll sairly miss him                   [wot, sorely]
                    That's owre the sea!

    O Fortune, they hae room to grumble!
    Hadst thou taen aff some drowsy bummle,                        [drone]
    Wha can do nought but fyke an' fumble,                          [fuss]
                    'Twad been nae plea;                       [grievance]
    But he was gleg as ony wumble,                         [lively, auger]
                    That's owre the sea!

    Auld cantie Kyle may weepers wear,          [cheerful, mourning bands]
    An' stain them wi' the saut, saut tear:                         [salt]
    'Twill mak her poor auld heart, I fear,
                    In flinders flee;                          [fragments]
    He was her Laureat mony a year,
                    That's owre the sea!

    He saw misfortune's cauld nor-west
    Lang mustering up a bitter blast;
    A jillet brak his heart at last--                               [jilt]
                    Ill may she be!
    So took a berth afore the mast,
                    An' owre the sea.

    To tremble under Fortune's cummock                            [cudgel]
    On scarce a bellyfu' o' drummock,                     [meal and water]
    Wi' his proud independent stomach,
                    Could ill agree;
    So row't his hurdies in a hammock,                  [rolled, buttocks]
                    An' owre the sea.

    He ne'er was gi'en to great misguidin',
    Yet coin his pouches wad na bide in;                   [pockets would]
    Wi' him it ne'er was under hidin',
                    He dealt it free:
    The Muse was a' that he took pride in,
                    That's owre the sea.

    Jamaica bodies, use him weel,
    An' hap him in a cozie biel;                          [cover, shelter]
    Ye'll find him aye a dainty chiel,                            [fellow]
                    And fu' o' glee;
    He wad na wrang'd the vera deil,
                    That's owre the sea.

    Fareweel, my rhyme-composing billie!
    Your native soil was right ill-willie;                        [unkind]
    But may ye flourish like a lily,
                    Now bonnilie!
    I'll toast ye in my hindmost gillie,                       [last gill]
                    Tho' owre the sea!

3. Edinburgh

On the twenty-seventh of November, 1786, mounted on a borrowed pony,
Burns set out for Edinburgh. He seems to have arrived there without
definite plans, for, after having found lodging with his old friend
Richmond, he spent the first few days strolling about the city. At
home Burns had been an enthusiastic freemason, and it was through a
masonic friend, Mr. James Dalrymple of Orangefield, near Ayr, that he
was introduced to Edinburgh society. A decade or two earlier, that
society, under the leadership of men like Adam Smith and David Hume
had reached a high degree of intellectual distinction. A decade or two
later, under Sir Walter Scott and the Reviewers it was again to be in
some measure, if for the last time, a rival to London as a literary
center. But when Burns visited it there was a kind of interregnum,
and, little though he or they guessed it, none of the celebrities he
met possessed genius comparable to his own. In a very few weeks it was
evident that he was to be the lion of the season. By December
thirteenth he is writing to a friend at Ayr:

   "I have found a worthy warm friend in Mr. Dalrymple, of
    Orangefield, who introduced me to Lord Glencairn, a man whose
    worth and brotherly kindness to me I shall remember when time
    shall be no more. By his interest it is passed in the Caledonian
    Hunt, and entered in their books, that they are to take each a
    copy of the second edition [of the poems], for which they are to
    pay one guinea. I have been introduced to a good many of the
    Noblesse, but my avowed patrons and patronesses are the Duchess of
    Gordon, the Countess of Glencairn, with my Lord and Lady
    Betty--the Dean of Faculty [Honorable Henry Erskine]--Sir John
    Whitefoord. I have likewise warm friends among the literati;
    Professors [Dugald] Stewart, Blair, and Mr. Mackenzie--the Man of

Through Glencairn he met Creech the book-seller, with whom he
arranged for his second edition, and through the patrons he mentions
and the Edinburgh freemasons, among whom he was soon at home, a large
subscription list was soon made up. In the _Edinburgh Magazine_ for
October, November, and December, James Sibbald had published favorable
notices of the Kilmarnock edition, with numerous extracts, and when
Henry Mackenzie gave it high praise in his _Lounger_ for December
ninth, and the _London Monthly Review_ followed suit in the same
month, it was felt that the poet's reputation was established.

Of Burns's bearing in the fashionable and cultivated society into
which he so suddenly found himself plunged we have many contemporary
accounts. They are practically unanimous in praise of the taste and
tact with which he acquitted himself. While neither shy nor
aggressive, he impressed every one with his brilliance in
conversation, his shrewdness in observation, and criticism, and his
poise and common sense in his personal relations. One of the best
descriptions of him was given by Sir Walter Scott to Lockhart. Scott
as a boy of sixteen met Burns at the house of Doctor Adam Ferguson,
and thus reports:

   "His person was strong and robust; his manners rustic, not
    clownish; a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity, which
    received part of its effect perhaps from one's knowledge of his
    extraordinary talents.... I would have taken the poet, had I not
    known what he was, for a very sagacious country farmer of the old
    Scotch school; that is, none of your modern agriculturists who
    keep labourers for their drudgery, but the _douce guidman_ who
    held his own plough. There was a strong expression of sense and
    shrewdness in all his lineaments: the eye alone, I think,
    indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large,
    and of a cast which glowed (I say literally glowed) when he spoke
    with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human
    head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time.
    His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence, without the
    slightest presumption. Among the men who were the most learned of
    their time and country, he expressed himself with perfect
    firmness, but without the least intrusive forwardness; and when he
    differed an opinion, he did not hesitate to express it firmly, yet
    at the same time with modesty.... I have only to add, that his
    dress corresponded with his manner. He was like a farmer dressed
    in his best to dine with the laird. I do not speak _in malam
    partem_, when I say I never saw a man in company with his
    superiors in station and information, more perfectly free from
    either the reality or the affectation of embarrassment. I was
    told, but did not observe it, that his address to females was
    extremely deferential, and always with a turn either to the
    pathetic or humorous, which engaged their attention particularly.
    I have heard the Duchess of Gordon remark this."

Burns's letters written at this time show an amused consciousness of
his social prominence, but never for a moment did he lose sight of the
fact that it was only the affair of a season, and that in a few months
he would have to resume his humble station. Yet this intellectual
detachment did not prevent his enjoying opportunities for social and
intellectual intercourse such as he had never known and was never
again to know. Careful as he was to avoid presuming on his new
privileges, he clearly threw himself into the discussions in which he
took part with all the zest of his temperament; and in the less formal
convivial clubs to which he was welcomed he became at once the king of
good fellows. To the noblemen and others who befriended him he
expressed himself in language which may seem exaggerated; but the
warmth of his disposition, and the letter writers of the eighteenth
century on whom he had formed his style, sufficiently account for it
without the suspicion of affectation or flattery. Whatever his vices,
ingratitude to those who showed him kindness was not among them; and
the sympathetic reader is more apt to feel pathos than to take offense
in his tributes to his patrons. The real though not extraordinary
kindness of the Earl of Glencairn, for example, was acknowledged again
and again in prose and verse; and the _Lament_ Burns wrote upon his
death closes with these lines which rewarded the noble lord with an
immortality he might otherwise have missed:

    The bridegroom may forget the bride
      Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
    The monarch may forget the crown
      That on his head an hour has been;
    The mother may forget the child
      That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
    But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
      And a' that thou hast done for me!

After a sojourn of a little more than five months, Burns left
Edinburgh early in May for a tour in the south of Scotland. The poet
was mounted on an old mare, Jenny Geddes, which he had bought in
Edinburgh, and which he still owned when he settled at Ellisland. He
was accompanied by his bosom friend, Robert Ainslie. The letters and
journals written during the four weeks of this tour give evidence of
his appreciation of scenery and his shrewd judgment of character. He
was received with much consideration in the houses he visited, and was
given the freedom of the burgh of Dumfries. On the ninth of June,
1787, he was back at Mauchline; and, calling at Armour's house to see
his child, he was revolted by the "mean, servile complaisance" he met
with--the result of his Edinburgh triumphs. His disgust at the family,
however, did not prevent a renewal of his intimacy with Jean. After a
few days at home, he seems to have made a short tour in the West
Highlands. July was spent at Mossgiel, and early in August he returned
to Edinburgh in order to settle his accounts with Creech, his
publisher. On the twenty-fifth he set out for a longer tour in the
North accompanied by his friend Nicol, an Edinburgh schoolmaster, the
Willie who "brewed a peck o' maut." They proceeded by Linlithgow,
Falkirk, Stirling, Crieff, Dunkeld, Aberfeldie, Blair Athole,
Strathspey, to Inverness. The most notable episode of the journey
northwards was a visit at the castle of the Duke of Athole, which
passed with great satisfaction to both Burns and his hosts, and of
which his _Humble Petition of Bruar Water_ is a poetical memorial. At
Stonehaven and Montrose he extended his acquaintance among his
father's relatives. He reached Edinburgh again on September sixteenth,
having traveled nearly six hundred miles. In October he made still
another excursion, through Clackmannanshire and into the south of
Perthshire, visiting Ramsay of Ochtertyre, near Stirling, and Sir
William Murray of Ochtertyre in Strathearn. In all these visits made
by Burns to the houses of the aristocracy, it is interesting to note
his capacity for pleasing and profitable intercourse with people of a
class and tradition far removed from his own. Sensitive to an extreme
and quick to resent a slight, he was at the same time finely
responsive to kindness, and his conduct was governed by a tact and
frank naturalness that are among the not least surprising of his
powers. In spite of the fervor and floridness of some of his
expressions of gratitude for favors from his noble friends, Burns was
no snob; and it was characteristic of him to give up a visit to the
Duchess of Gordon rather than separate from his companion Nicol, who,
in a fit of jealous sulks, refused to accompany him to Castle Gordon.

The settlement with Creech proved to be a very tedious affair, and in
the beginning of December the poet was about to leave the city in
disgust when an accident occurred which gave opportunity for one of
the most extraordinary episodes in the history of his relations with
women. Just before, he had met a Mrs. McLehose who lived in Edinburgh
with her three children, while her husband, from whom she had
separated on account of ill-treatment, had emigrated to Jamaica. A
correspondence began immediately after the first meeting, with the
following letter:


   "I had set no small store by my tea-drinking tonight, and have not
    often been so disappointed. Saturday evening I shall embrace the
    opportunity with the greatest pleasure. I leave this town this day
    se'ennight, and probably I shall not return for a couple of
    twelvemonths; but I must ever regret that I so lately got an
    acquaintance I shall ever highly esteem, and in whose welfare I
    shall ever be warmly interested. Our worthy common friend, Miss
    Nimmo, in her usual pleasant way, rallied me a good deal on my new
    acquaintance, and, in the humour of her ideas, I wrote some lines,
    which I enclose to you, as I think they have a good deal of poetic
    merit; and Miss Nimmo tells me that you are not only a critic but
    a poetess. Fiction, you know, is the native region of poetry; and
    I hope you will pardon my vanity in sending you the bagatelle as a
    tolerable offhand _jeu d'esprit_. I have several poetic trifles,
    which I shall gladly leave with Miss Nimmo or you, if they were
    worth house-room; as there are scarcely two people on earth by
    whom it would mortify me more to be forgotten, though at the
    distance of nine score miles. I am, Madam, With the highest

                   "Your very humble servant,

                           "ROBERT BURNS."

    [December 6, 1787.]

The night before Burns was to take tea with his new acquaintance, he
was overturned by a drunken coachman, and received an injury to his
knee which confined him to his rooms for several weeks. Meantime the
correspondence went on with ever-increasing warmth, from "Madam,"
through "My dearest Madam," "my dear kind friend," "my lovely friend,"
to "my dearest angel." They early agreed to call each other Clarinda
and Sylvander, and the Arcadian names are significant of the
sentimental nature of the relation. By the time of their second
meeting--about a month after the first,--they had exchanged intimate
confidences, had discovered endless affinities, and had argued by the
page on religion, Clarinda striving to win Sylvander over to her
orthodox Calvinism. When he was again able to go out, his visits
became for both of them "exquisite" and "rapturous" experiences,
Clarinda struggling to keep on the safe side of discretion by means of
"Reason" and "Religion," Sylvander protesting his complete submission
to her will. The appearance of passion in their letters goes on
increasing, and Clarinda's fits of perturbation in the next morning's
reflections grow more acute. She does not seem to have become the
poet's mistress, and it is impossible to gather what either of them
expected the outcome of their intercourse to be. With a few notable
exceptions, the verses which were occasioned rather than inspired by
the affair are affected and artificial; and in spite of the warmth of
the expressions in his letters it is hard to believe that his passion
went very deep. In any case, on his return to Mauchline to find Jean
Armour cast out by her own people after having a second time borne him
twins, he faced his responsibilities in a more manly and honorable
fashion than ever before, and made Jean his wife. The explanation of
his final resolution is given repeatedly in almost the same words in
his letters: "I found a much loved female's positive happiness or
absolute misery among my hands, and I could not trifle with such a
sacred deposit." It would appear that, however far the affair between
him and Clarinda had passed beyond the sentimental friendship it began
with, he did not regard it as placing in his hands any such "sacred
deposit" as the fate of Jean, nor had one or two intrigues with
obscure girls in Edinburgh shaken an affection which was much more
deep-rooted than he often imagined. Clarinda was naturally deeply
wounded by his marriage, and her reproaches of "villainy" led to a
breach which was only gradually bridged. At one time, just before she
set out for Jamaica to join her husband in an unsuccessful attempt at
a reconciliation, Burns's letters again became frequent, the old
fervor reappeared, and a couple of his best songs were produced. But
at this time he had the--shall we say reassuring?--belief that he was
not to see her again, and could indulge an emotion that had always
been largely theatrical without risk to either of them. On her return
he wrote her, it would seem, only once. For the character of Burns the
incident is of much curious interest; for literature its importance
lies in the two songs, _Ae fond Kiss_ and _My Nannie's Awa_. The
former was written shortly before her departure for the West Indies;
the second in the summer of her absence. It is noteworthy that in them
"Clarinda" has given place to "Nancy" and "Nannie." Beside them is
placed for contrast, one of the pure Clarinda effusions.


    Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!                  [One]
    Ae farewell, and then for ever!
    Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
    Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
    Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
    While the star of hope she leaves him?
    Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me,
    Dark despair around benights me.

    I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
    Naething could resist my Nancy;
    But to see her was to love her,
    Love but her, and love for ever.
    Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
    Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
    Never met--or never parted,
    We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

    Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
    Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
    Thine be ilka joy and treasure,                 [every]
    Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure,
    Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
    Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
    Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
    Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.


    Now in her green mantle blythe Nature arrays,
    And listens the lambkins that bleat o'er the braes,        [hillsides]
    While birds warble welcomes in ilka green shaw;          [wooded dell]
    But to me it's delightless--my Nannie's awa.

    The snawdrap and primrose our woodlands adorn
    And violets bathe in the weet o' the morn:                 [wet (dew)]
    They pain my sad bosom, sae sweetly they blaw,
    They mind me o' Nannie--and Nannie's awa.

    Thou laverock, that springs frae the dews o' the lawn           [lark]
    The shepherd to warn o' the grey-breaking dawn,
    And thou, mellow mavis, that hails the night-fa',             [thrush]
    Give over for pity--my Nannie's awa.

    Come, autumn, sae pensive, in yellow and gray,
    And soothe me wi' tidings o' nature's decay;
    The dark, dreary winter, and wild-driving snaw
    Alane can delight me--now Nannie's awa.


    Clarinda, mistress of my soul,
      The measured time is run!
    The wretch beneath the dreary pole
      So marks his latest sun.

    To what dark cave of frozen night
      Shall poor Sylvander hie,
    Depriv'd of thee, his life and light,
      The sun of all his joy?

    We part--but by these precious drops
      That fill thy lovely eyes!
    No other light shall guide my steps
      Till thy bright beams arise.

    She, the fair sun of all her sex,
      Has blest my glorious day;
    And shall a glimmering planet fix
      My worship to its ray?

4. Ellisland

In the spring of 1788 when Burns married Jean Armour, he took two
other steps of the first importance for his future career. The
Edinburgh period had come and gone, and all that his intercourse with
his influential friends had brought him was the four or five hundred
pounds of profit from his poems and an opportunity to enter the excise
service. With part of the money he relieved his brother Gilbert from
pressing obligations at Mossgiel by the loan of one hundred and eighty
pounds, and with the rest leased the farm of Ellisland on the bank of
the Nith, five or six miles above Dumfries. But before taking up the
farm he devoted six weeks or so to tuition in the duties of an
exciseman, so that he had this occupation to fall back on in case of
another farming failure. During the summer he superintended the
building of the farm-house, and in December Jean joined her husband.
His satisfaction in his domestic situation is characteristically
expressed in a song composed about this time.


    I hae a wife o' my ain,
      I'll partake wi' naebody;
    I'll tak cuckold frae nane,
      I'll gie cuckold to naebody.

    I hae a penny to spend,
      There--thanks to naebody;
    I hae naething to lend,
      I'll borrow frae naebody.

    I am naebody's lord,
      I'll be slave to naebody;
    I hae a guid braid sword,
      I'll tak dunts frae naebody.                  [blows]

    I'll be merry and free,
      I'll be sad for naebody;
    Naebody cares for me,
      I care for naebody.

Early in his residence at Ellisland he formed a close relation with a
neighboring proprietor, Colonel Robert Riddel. For him he copied into
two volumes a large part of what he considered the best of his
unpublished verse and prose, thus forming the well-known Glenriddel
Manuscript. Had not one already become convinced of the fact from
internal evidence, it would be clear enough from this prose volume
that Burns's letters were often as much works of art to him as his
poems. This is of supreme importance in weighing the epistolary
evidence for his character and conduct. Even when his words seem to be
the direct outpourings of his feelings--of love, of friendship, of
gratitude, of melancholy, of devotion, of scorn--a comparative
examination will show that in prose as much as in verse we are dealing
with the work of a conscious artist, enamored of telling expression,
aware of his reader, and anything but the naif utterer of
unsophisticated emotion. To recall this will save us from much
perplexity in the interpretation of his words, and will clear up many
an apparent contradiction in his evidence about himself.

Burns was never very sanguine about success on the Ellisland farm. By
the end of the summer of 1789 he concluded that he could not depend on
it, determined to turn it into a dairy farm to be conducted mainly by
his wife and sisters, and took up the work in the excise for which he
had prepared himself. He had charge of a large district of ten
parishes, and had to ride some two hundred miles a week in all
weathers. With the work he still did on the farm one can see that he
was more than fully employed, and need not wonder that there was
little time for poetry. Yet these years at Ellisland were on the whole
happy years for himself and his family; he found time for pleasant
intercourse with some of his neighbors, for a good deal of
letter-writing, for some interest in politics, and for the
establishing, with Colonel Riddel, of a small neighborhood library. As
an excise officer he seems to have been conscientious and efficient,
though at times, in the case of poor offenders, he tempered justice
with mercy. Ultimately, despairing of making the farm pay and hoping
for promotion in the government service, he gave up his lease, sold
his stock, and in the autumn of 1791 moved to Dumfries, where he was
given a district which did not involve keeping a horse, and which paid
him about seventy pounds a year. Thus ended the last of Burns's
disastrous attempts to make a living from the soil.

5. Dumfries

The house in which the Burnses with their three sons first lived in
Dumfries was a three-roomed cottage in the Wee Vennel, now Banks
Street. Though his income was small, it must be remembered that the
cost of food was low. "Beef was 3d. to 5d. a lb.; mutton, 3d. to
4-1/2d.; chickens, 7d. to 8d. a pair; butter (the lb. of 24 oz.), 7d.
to 9d.; salmon, 6d. to 9-1/2d. a lb.; cod, 1d. and even 1/2d. a lb."
Though hardly in easy circumstances then, Burns's situation was such
that it was possible to avoid his greatest horror, debt.

Meantime, his interest in politics had greatly quickened. He had been
from youth a sentimental Jacobite; but this had little effect upon his
attitude toward the parties of the day. In Edinburgh he had worn the
colors of the party of Fox, presumably out of compliment to his Whig
friends, Glencairn and Erskine. During the Ellisland period, however,
he had written strongly against the Regency Bill supported by Fox; and
in the general election of 1790 he opposed the Duke of Queensberry and
the local Whig candidate. But in his early months in Dumfries we find
him showing sympathy with the doctrines of the French Revolution, a
sympathy which was natural enough in a man of his inborn democratic
tendencies. A curious outcome of these was an incident not yet fully
cleared up. In February, 1792, Burns, along with some fellow officers,
assisted by a body of dragoons, seized an armed smuggling brig which
had run aground in the Solway, and on her being sold, he bought for
three pounds four of the small guns she carried. These he is said to
have presented "to the French Convention," but they were seized by
the British Government at Dover. As a matter of fact, the Convention
was not constituted till September, and the Legislative Assembly which
preceded it was not hostile to Britain. Thus, Burns's action, though
eccentric and extravagant, was not treasonable in law or in spirit,
and does not seem to have entailed on him any unfortunate

In the course of that year symptoms of the infection of part of the
British public with revolutionary principles began to be evident, and
the government was showing signs of alarm. The Whig opposition was
clamoring for internal reform, and Burns sided more and more
definitely with it, and was rash enough to subscribe for a Reform
paper called _The Gazetteer_, an action which would have put him under
suspicion from his superiors, had it become known. Some notice of his
Liberal tendencies did reach his official superiors, and an inquiry
was made into his political principles which caused him no small
alarm. In a letter to Mr. Graham of Fintry, through whom he had
obtained his position, he disclaimed all revolutionary beliefs and all
political activity. No action was taken against him, nor was his
failure to obtain promotion to an Examinership due to anything but
the slow progress involved in promotion by seniority. Hereafter, he
exercised considerable caution in the expression of his political
sympathies, though he allowed himself to associate with men of
revolutionary opinions. The feeling that he was not free to utter what
he believed on public affairs was naturally chafing to a man of his
independent nature.

Burns's chief enjoyment in these days was the work he was doing for
Scottish song. While in Edinburgh he had made the acquaintance of an
engraver, James Johnson, who had undertaken the publication of the
_Scots Musical Museum_, a collection of songs and music. Burns agreed
to help him by the collection and refurbishing of the words of old
songs, and when these were impossible, by providing new words for the
melodies. The work finally extended to six volumes; and before it was
finished a more ambitious undertaking, managed by a Mr. George
Thomson, was set on foot. Burns was invited to cooperate in this also,
and entered into it with such enthusiasm that he was Thomson's main
support. In both of these publications the poet worked purely with
patriotic motives and for the love of song, and had no pecuniary
interest in either. Once Thomson sent him a present of five pounds
and endangered their relations thereby; later, when Burns was in his
last illness, he asked and received from Thomson an advance of the
same amount. Apart from these sums Burns never made or sought to make
a penny from his writings after the publication of the first Edinburgh
edition. Twice he declined journalistic work for a London paper.
Poetry was the great consolation of his life, and even in his severest
financial straits he refused to consider the possibility of writing
for money, regarding it as a kind of prostitution.

By the autumn of 1795 signs began to appear that the poet's
constitution was breaking down. The death of his daughter Elizabeth
and a severe attack of rheumatism plunged him into deep melancholy and
checked for a time his song-writing; and though for a time he
recovered, his disease returned early in the next year. It seems
clear, too, that though the change from Ellisland to Dumfries relieved
him of much of the severer physical exertion, other factors more than
counterbalanced this relief. Burns had never been a slave to drink for
its own sake; it had always been the accompaniment--in those days an
almost inevitable accompaniment--of sociability. Some of his
wealthier friends in the vicinity were in this respect rather
excessive in their hospitality; in Dumfries the taverns were always at
hand; and as Burns came to realize the comparative failure of his
career as a man, he found whisky more and more a means of escape for
depression. Even if we distrust the local gossip that made much of the
dissipations of his later years, it appears from the evidence of his
physician that alcohol had much to do with the rheumatic and digestive
troubles that finally broke him down. In July, 1796, he was sent, as a
last resort, to Brow-on-Solway to try sea-bathing and country life;
but he returned little improved, and well-nigh convinced that his
illness was mortal. His mental condition is shown by the fact that
pressure from a solicitor for the payment of a tailor's debt of some
seven pounds, incurred for his volunteer's uniform, threw him into a
panic lest he should be imprisoned, and his last letters are pitiful
requests for financial help, and two notes to his father-in-law urging
him to send her mother to Jean, as she was about to give birth to
another child. In such harassing conditions he sank into delirium, and
died on July 21, 1796. The child, who died in infancy, was born on
the day his father was buried.

With Burns's death a reaction in popular opinion set in. He was given
a military funeral; and a subscription which finally amounted to one
thousand two hundred pounds was raised for his family. The official
biography, by Doctor Currie of Liverpool, doubled this sum, so that
Jean was enabled to bring up the children respectably, and end her
days in comfort. Scotland, having done little for Burns in his life,
was stricken with remorse when he died, and has sought ever since to
atone for her neglect by an idolatry of the poet and by a more than
charitable view of the man.



Three forms of speech were current in Scotland in the time of Burns,
and, in different proportions, are current to-day: in the Highlands,
north and west of a slanting line running from the Firth of Clyde to
Aberdeenshire, Gaelic; in the Lowlands, south and east of the same
line, Lowland Scots; over the whole country, among the more educated
classes, English. Gaelic is a Celtic language, belonging to an
entirely different linguistic group from English, and having close
affinities to Irish and Welsh. This tongue Burns did not know. Lowland
Scots is a dialect of English, descended from the Northumbrian dialect
of Anglo-Saxon. It has had a history of considerable interest. Down to
the time of Chaucer, whose influence had much to do with making the
Midland dialect the literary standard for the Southern kingdom, it is
difficult to distinguish the written language of Edinburgh from that
of York, both being developments of Northumbrian. But as English
writers tended more and more to conform to the standard of London,
Northern Middle English gradually ceased to be written; while in
Scotland, separated and usually hostile as it was politically, the
Northern speech continued to develop along its own lines, until in the
beginning of the sixteenth century it attained a form more remote from
standard English and harder for the modern reader than it had been a
century before. The close connection between Scotland and France,
continuing down to the time of Queen Mary, led to the introduction of
many French words which never found a place in English; the proximity
of the Highlands made Gaelic borrowings easy; and the Scandinavian
settlements on both coasts contributed additional elements to the
vocabulary. Further, in its comparative isolation, Scots developed or
retained peculiarities in grammar and pronunciation unknown or lost in
the South. Thus by 1550, the form of English spoken in Scotland was in
a fair way to become an independent language.

This process, however, was rudely halted by the Reformation. The
triumph of this movement in England and its comparative failure in
France threw Scotland, when it became Protestant, into close relations
with England, while the "auld Alliance" with France practically ended
when Mary of Scots returned to her native country. Leaders like John
Knox, during the early struggles of the Reformation, spent much time
in England; and when they came home their speech showed the effect of
their intercourse with their southern brethren of the reformed faith.
The language of Knox, as recorded in his sermons and his _History_, is
indeed far from Elizabethan English, but it is notably less "broad"
than the Scots of Douglas and Lindesay. Scotland had no vernacular
translation of the Bible; and this important fact, along with the
English associations of many of the Protestant ministers, finally made
the speech of the Scottish pulpit, and later of Scottish religion in
general, if not English, at least as purely English as could be

The process thus begun was carried farther in the next generation
when, in 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, and the
Court removed to London. England at that time was, of course, much
more advanced in culture than its poorer neighbor to the north, and
the courtiers who accompanied James to London found themselves marked
by their speech as provincial, and set themselves to get rid of their
Scotticisms with an eagerness in proportion to their social
aspirations. Scottish men of letters now came into more intimate
relation with English literature, and finding that writing in English
opened to them a much larger reading public, they naturally adopted
the southern speech in their books. Thus men like Alexander, Earl of
Stirling, and William Drummond of Hawthornden belong both in language
and literary tradition to the English Elizabethans.

Religion, society, and literature having all thrown their influence
against the native speech of Scotland, it followed that the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the progressive disuse of
that speech among the upper classes of the country, until by the time
of Burns, Scots was habitually spoken only by the peasantry and the
humbler people in the towns. The distinctions between social classes
in the matter of dialect were, of course, not absolute. Occasional
members even of the aristocracy prided themselves on their command of
the vernacular; and among the country folk there were few who could
not make a brave attempt at English when they spoke with the laird or
the minister. With Burns himself, Lowland Scots was his customary
speech at home, about the farm, in the tavern and the Freemasons'
lodge; but, as we have seen, his letters, being written mainly to
educated people, are almost all pure English, as was his conversation
with these people when he met them.

The linguistic situation that has been sketched finds interesting
illustration in the language of Burns's poems. The distinction which
is usually made, that he wrote poetry in Scots and verse in English,
has some basis, but is inaccurately expressed and needs qualification.
The fundamental fact is that for him Scots was the natural language
of the emotions, English of the intellect. The Scots poems are in
general better, not chiefly because they are in Scots but because they
are concerned with matters of natural feeling; the English poems are
in general poetically poorer, not because they are in English but
because they are so frequently the outcome of moods not dominated by
spontaneous emotion, but intellectual, conscious, or theatrical. He
wrote English sometimes as he wore his Sunday blacks, with dignity but
not with ease; sometimes as he wore the buff and blue, with buckskins
and top-boots, which he donned in Edinburgh--"like a farmer dressed in
his best to dine with the laird." In both cases he was capable of
vigorous, common-sense expression; in neither was he likely to exhibit
the imagination, the tenderness, or the humor which characterized the
plowman clad in home-spun.

_The Cotter's Saturday Night_ is an interesting illustration of these
distinctions. The opening stanza is a dedicatory address on English
models to a lawyer friend and patron; it is pure English in language,
stiff and imitatively "literary" in style. The stanzas which follow
describing the homecoming of the cotter, the family circle, the
supper, and the daughter's suitor, are in broad Scots, the language
harmonizing perfectly with the theme, and they form poetically the
sound core of the poem. In the description of family worship, Burns
did what his father would do in conducting that worship, adopted
English as more reverent and respectful, but inevitably as more
restrained emotionally; and in the moralizing passage which follows,
as in the apostrophes to Scotia and to the Almighty at the close, he
naturally sticks to English, and in spite of a genuine enough
exaltation of spirit achieves a result rather rhetorical than

Contrast again songs like _Corn Rigs_ or _Whistle and I'll Come To
Thee, My Lad_, with most of the songs to Clarinda. The former, in
Scots, are genial, whole-hearted, full of the power of kindling
imaginative sympathy, thoroughly contagious in their lusty emotion or
sly humor. The latter, in English, are stiff, coldly contrived,
consciously elegant or marked by the sentimental factitiousness of the
affair that occasioned them. But their inferiority is due less to the
difference in language than to the difference in the mood. When,
especially at a distance, his relation to Clarinda really touched his
imagination, we have the genuinely poetical _My Nannie's Awa_ and _Ae
Fond Kiss_. The latter poem can be, with few changes, turned into
English without loss of quality; and its most famous lines have almost
no dialect:

    Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
    Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
    Never met--or never parted,
    We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Finally, there are the English poems to Highland Mary. For some
reason not yet fully understood, the affair with Mary Campbell was
treated by him in a spirit of reverence little felt in his other love
poetry, and this spirit was naturally expressed by him in English. But
in the almost English

   "Ye banks and braes and streams around
    The Castle of Montgomery,"

and in the pure English _To Mary in Heaven_, he is not at all hampered
by the use of the Southern speech, Scots would not have heightened the
poetry here, and for Burns Scots would have been less appropriate,
less natural even, for the expression of an almost sacred theme.

The case, then, seems to stand thus. Burns commanded two languages,
which he employed instinctively for different kinds of subject and
mood. The subjects and moods which evoked vernacular utterance were
those that with all writers are more apt to yield poetry, and in
consequence most of his best poetry is in Scots. But when a theme
naturally evoking English was imaginatively felt by him, the use of
English did not prevent his writing poetically. And there were themes
which he could handle equally well in either speech--as we see, for
example, in the songs in _The Jolly Beggars_.

Yet the language had an importance in itself. Though its vocabulary is
limited in matters of science, philosophy, religion, and the like,
Lowland Scots is very rich in homely terms and in humorous and tender
expressions. For love, or for celebrating the effects of whisky,
English is immeasurably inferior. The free use of the diminutive
termination in _ie_ or _y_--a termination capable of expressing
endearment, familiarity, ridicule, and contempt as well as mere
smallness--not only has considerable effect in emotional shading, but
contributes to the liquidness of the verse by lessening the number of
consonantal endings that make English seem harsh and abrupt to many
foreign ears. Moreover, the very indeterminateness of the dialect, the
possibility of using varying degrees of "broadness," increased the
facility of rhyming, and added notably to the ease and spontaneity of
composition. Thus in Scots Burns was not only more at home, but had a
medium in some respects more plastic than English.

Language, however, was not the only element in his inheritance which
helped to determine the nature and quality of Burns's production. He
was extremely sensitive to suggestion from his predecessors, and
frankly avowed his obligations to them, so that to estimate his
originality it is necessary to know something of the men at whose
flame he kindled.

As the Northern dialect of English was, before the Reformation, in a
fair way to become an independent national speech, so literature north
of the Tweed had promise of a development, not indeed independent, but
distinct. Of the writers of the Middle Scots period, Henryson and
Dunbar, Douglas and Lindesay, Burns, it is true, knew little; and the
tradition that they founded underwent in the latter part of the
sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries an experience in
many respects parallel to that which has been described in the matter
of language. The effect of the Reformation upon all forms of artistic
creation will be discussed when we come to speak particularly of the
history of Scottish song; for the moment it is sufficient to say that
the absorption in theological controversy was unfavorable to the
continuation of a poetical development. Under James VI, however, there
were a few writers who maintained the tradition, notably Alexander
Montgomery, Alexander Scott, and the Sempills. To the first of these
is to be credited the invention of the stanza called, from the poems
in which Montgomery used it, the stanza of _The Banks of Helicon_ or
of _The Cherry and the Slae_. It was imitated by some of Montgomery's
contemporaries, revived by Allan Ramsay, and thus came to Burns down a
line purely Scottish, as it never seems to have been used in any other
tongue. He first employed it in the _Epistle to Davie_, and it was
made by him the medium of some of his most characteristic ideas.

    It's no in titles nor in rank:
    It's no in wealth like Lon'on Bank,
        To purchase peace and rest.
    It's no in makin muckle, mair,             [much, more]
    It's no in books, it's no in lear,           [learning]
        To make us truly blest:
    If happiness hae not her seat
        An' centre in the breast,
    We may be wise, or rich, or great,
        But never can be blest!
      Nae treasures nor pleasures
        Could make us happy lang;
      The heart aye's the part aye
        That makes us right or wrang.

_The Piper of Kilbarchan_, by Sir Robert Sempill of Beltrees
(1595?-1661?), set a model for the humorous elegy on the living which
reached Burns through Ramsay and Fergusson, and was followed by him in
those on Poor Mailie and Tam Samson. The stanza in which it is written
is far older than Sempill, having been traced as far back as the
troubadours in the twelfth century, and being found frequently in both
English and French through the Middle Ages; but from the time of
Sempill on, it was cultivated with peculiar intensity in Scotland, and
is the medium of so many of Burns's best-known pieces that it is often
called Burns's stanza.

    Lament in rhyme, lament in prose,
    Wi' saut tears tricklin' down your nose;
    Our Bardie's fate is at a close,
                Past a' remead;
    The last, sad cape-stane o' his woe's--
                Poor Mailie's dead!

The seventeenth century was a barren one for Scottish literature. The
attraction of the larger English public and the disuse of the
vernacular among the upper classes already discussed, drew to the
South or to the Southern speech whatever literary talent appeared in
the North, and it seemed for a time that, except for the obscure
stream of folk poetry, Scottish vernacular literature was at an end.
In the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, interest began to
revive. In 1706-9-11 James Watson published the three volumes of his
_Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems_, and in the third
decade began to appear Allan Ramsay's _Tea Table Miscellany_
(1724-40). These collections rescued from oblivion a large quantity of
vernacular verse, some of it drawn from manuscripts of pre-Reformation
poetry, some of it contemporary, some of it anonymous and of uncertain
date, having come down orally or in chap-books and broadsides. The
welcome given to these volumes was an early instance of that renewed
interest in older and more primitive literature that was manifested
still more strikingly when Percy published his _Reliques of Ancient
English Poetry_ in 1765. Its influence on the production of vernacular
literature was evident at once in the original work of Ramsay himself;
and the movement which culminated in Burns, though having its roots
far back in the work of Henryson and Dunbar, was in effect a Scottish
renascence, in which the chief agents before Burns were Hamilton of
Gilbertfield, Ramsay himself, Robert Fergusson, and song-writers like
Mrs. Cockburn and Lady Anne Lindsay.

Of this fact Burns was perfectly aware, and he was not only candid but
generous in his acknowledgment of his debt to his immediate

    My senses wad be in a creel,               [head would be turned]
    Should I but dare a hope to speel,                        [climb]
    Wi' Allan, or wi' Gilbertfield,
        The braes o' fame;                                    [hills]
    Or Fergusson, the writer-chiel,                   [lawyer-fellow]
        A deathless name.

He knew Ramsay's collection and had a perhaps exaggerated admiration
for _The Gentle Shepherd_. This poem, published in 1728, not only
holds a unique position in the history of the pastoral drama, but is
important in the present connection as being to Burns the most signal
evidence of the possibility of a dignified literature in the modern
vernacular. Hamilton and Ramsay had exchanged rhyming epistles in the
six-line stanza, and in these Burns found the model for his own
epistles. Hamilton's _Last Dying Words of Bonny Heck_--a favorite
grey-hound--had been imitated by Ramsay in _Lucky Spence's Last
Advice_ and the _Last Speech of a Wretched Miser_, and the form had
become a Scottish convention before Burns produced his _Death and
Dying Words of Poor Mailie_. As important as any of these was the
example set by Ramsay and bettered by Burns of refurbishing old
indecent or fragmentary songs. Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) was
regarded by Burns still more highly than Ramsay, and his influence was
even more potent. In his autobiographical letter to Doctor Moore he
tells that about 1782 he had all but given up rhyming: "but meeting
with Fergusson's _Scotch Poems_, I strung anew my wildly-sounding,
rustic lyre with emulating vigour." In the preface to the Kilmarnock
edition he is still more explicit as to his attitude.

   "To the poems of a Ramsay, or the glorious dawnings of the poor,
    unfortunate Fergusson, he, with equal unaffected sincerity,
    declares, that, even in the highest pulse of vanity, he has not
    the most distant pretensions. These two justly admired Scotch
    Poets he has often had in his eye in the following pieces; but
    rather with a view to kindle at their flame, than for servile

To be more specific, Burns found the model for his _Cotter's Saturday
Night_ in Fergusson's _Farmer's Ingle_, for _The Holy Fair_ in his
_Leith Races_, for _Scotch Drink_ in his _Caller Water_, for _The Twa
Dogs_ and _The Brigs of Ayr_ in his _Planestanes and Causey_, and
_Kirkyard Eclogues_. In later years Burns grew somewhat more critical
of Ramsay, especially as a reviser of old songs; but for Fergusson he
retained to the end a sympathetic admiration. When he went to
Edinburgh, one of his first places of pilgrimage was the grave of him
whom he apostrophized thus,

    O thou, my elder brother in misfortune,
    By far my elder brother in the muse!

And he later obtained from the managers of the Canongate Kirk
permission to erect a stone over the tomb.

The fact, then, that Burns owed much to the tradition of vernacular
poetry in Scotland and especially to his immediate predecessors is no
new discovery, however recent critics may have plumed themselves upon
it. Burns knew it well, and was ever ready to acknowledge it. What is
more important than the mere fact of his inheritance is the use he
made of it. In taking from his elders the fruits of their experience
in poetical conception and metrical arrangement, he but did what
artists have always done; in outdistancing these elders and in almost
every case surpassing their achievement on the lines they had laid
down, he did what only the greater artists succeed in doing. It is not
in mere inventiveness and novelty but in first-hand energy of
conception, in mastering for himself the old thought and the old form
and uttering them with his personal stamp, in making them carry over
to the reader with a new force or vividness or beauty, that the poet's
originality consists. In these respects Burns's originality is no whit
lessened by an explicit recognition of his indebtedness to the stock
from which he grew.

His relation to the purely English literature which he read is
different and produced very different results. Shakespeare he
reverenced, and that he knew him well is shown by the frequency of
Shakespearean turns of phrase in his letters, as well as by direct
quotation. But of influence upon his poetry there is little trace. He
had a profound admiration for the indomitable will of Milton's Satan,
and he makes it clear that this admiration affected his conduct. The
most frequent praise of English writers in his letters is, however,
given to the eighteenth-century authors--to Pope, Thomson, Shenstone,
Gray, Young, Blair, Beattie, and Goldsmith in verse, to Sterne,
Smollett, and Henry Mackenzie in prose. Echoes of these poets are
common in his work, and the most frigid of his English verses show
their influence most clearly. To the sentimental tendency in the
thought of the eighteenth century he was highly responsive, and the
expression of it in _The Man of Feeling_ appealed to him especially.
In a mood which recurred painfully often he was apt to pride himself
on his "sensibility": the letters to Clarinda are full of it. The less
fortunate effects of it are seen both in his conduct and in his poems
in a fondness for nursing his emotions and extracting pleasure from
his supposed miseries; the more fortunate aspects are reflected in the
tender humanity of poems like those _To a Mouse_, _On Seeing a Wounded
Hare_, and _To a Daisy_--perhaps even in the _Address to the Deil_. He
had naturally a warm heart and strong impulses; it is only when an
element of consciousness or mawkishness appears that his "sensibility"
is to be ascribed to the fashionable philosophy of the day and the
influence of his English models.

For better or worse, then, Burns belongs to the literary history of
Britain as a legitimate descendant of easily traced ancestors. Like
other great writers he made original contributions from his individual
temperament and from his particular environment and experience. But
these do not obliterate the marks of his descent, nor are they so
numerous or powerful as to give support to the old myth of the "rustic
phenomenon," the isolated poetical miracle appearing in defiance of
the ordinary laws of literary dependence and tradition.

If this is true of his models it is no less true of his methods.
Though simplicity and spontaneity are among the most obvious of the
qualities of his work, it is not to be supposed that such effects were
obtained by a birdlike improvisation. "All my poetry," he said, "is
the effect of easy composition but laborious correction," and the
careful critic will perceive ample evidence in support of the
statement. We shall see in the next chapter with what pains he fitted
words to melody in his songs; an examination of the variant readings
which make the establishment of his text peculiarly difficult shows
abundant traces of deliberation and the labor of the file. In the
following song, the first four lines of which are old, it is
interesting to note that, though he preserves admirably the tone of
the fragment which gave him the impulse and the idea, the twelve lines
which he added are in the effects produced by manipulation of the
consonants and vowels and in the use of internal rhyme a triumph of
conscious artistic skill. The interest in technique which this implies
is exhibited farther in many passages of his letters, especially those
to George Thomson.


    Go fetch to me a pint o' wine,
      An' fill it in a silver tassie;              [goblet]
    That I may drink, before I go,
      A service to my bonnie lassie.
    The boat rocks at the pier o' Leith,
      Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the ferry,        [from]
    The ship rides by the Berwick-law,
      And I maun leave my bonnie Mary.               [must]

    The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
      The glittering spears are rankèd ready;
    The shouts o' war are heard afar,
      The battle closes thick and bloody;
    But it's no the roar o' sea or shore
      Wad mak me langer wish to tarry;
    Nor shout o' war that's heard afar,
      It's leaving thee, my bonnie Mary.



With song-writing Burns began his poetical career, with song-writing
he closed it; and, brilliant as was his achievement in other fields,
it is as a song-writer that he ranks highest among his peers, it is
through his songs that he has rooted himself most deeply in the hearts
of his countrymen.

The most notable and significant fact in connection with his making of
songs is their relation to the melodies to which they are sung. In the
vast majority of cases these are old Scottish tunes, which were known
to Burns before he wrote his songs, and were singing in his ear during
the process of composition. The poet was no technical musician.
Murdoch, his first teacher, says that Robert and Gilbert Burns "were
left far behind by all the rest of the school" when he tried to teach
them a little church music, "Robert's ear, in particular, was
remarkably dull, and his voice untunable. It was long before I could
get them to distinguish one tune from another." Either Murdoch
exaggerated, or the poet's ear developed later (Murdoch is speaking of
him between the ages of six and nine); for he learned to fiddle a
little, once at least attempted to compose an air, could read music
fairly easily, and could write down a melody from memory. His
correspondence with Johnson and Thomson shows that he knew a vast
number of old tunes and was very sensitive to their individual quality
and suggestion.[1] Such a sentence as the following from one of his
Commonplace Books shows how important his responsiveness to music was
for his poetical composition.

   "These old Scottish airs are so nobly sentimental that when one
    would compose to them, to _south_ the tune, as our Scottish phrase
    is, over and over, is the readiest way to catch the inspiration
    and raise the Bard into that glorious enthusiasm so strongly
    characteristic of our old Scotch Poetry."

 [1] The question of the nature and extent of Burns's musical abilities
may be summed up in the words of the latest and most thorough student
of his melodies:--"His knowledge of music was in fact elemental; his
taste lay entirely in melody, without ever reaching an appreciation of
contra-puntal or harmonious music. Nor, although in his youth he had
learned the grammar of music and become acquainted with clefs, keys,
and notes at the rehearsals of church music, which were in his day a
practical part of the education of the Scottish peasantry, did he ever
arrive at composition, except in the case of one melody which he
composed for a song of his own at the age of about twenty-three, and
this melody displeased him so much that he destroyed it and never
attempted another. In the same way, although he practised the violin,
he did not attain to excellence in execution, his playing being
confined to strathspeys and other slow airs of the pathetic kind. On
the other hand, his perception and his love of music are undeniable.
For example, he possessed copies of the principal collections of
Scottish vocal and instrumental music of the eighteenth century, and
repeatedly refers to them in the Museum and in his letters. His copy
of the _Caledonian Pocket Companion_ (the largest collection of
Scottish music), which copy still exists with pencil notes in his
handwriting, proves that he was familiar with the whole contents. At
intervals in his writings he names at least a dozen different
collections to which he refers and from which he quotes with personal
knowledge. Also he knew several hundred different airs, not vaguely
and in a misty way, but accurately as regards tune, time, and rhythm,
so that he could distinguish one from another, and describe minute
variations in the several copies of any tune which passed through his
hands.... Many of the airs he studied and selected for his verses were
either pure instrumental tunes, never before set to words, or the airs
(from dance books) of lost songs, with the first lines as
titles."--(James C. Dick, _The Songs of Robert Burns_, 1903, Preface,
pp. viii, ix.)

Again, once when Thomson had sent him a tune to be fitted with words,
he replied:

   "_Laddie lie near me_ must _lie by me_ for some time. I do not
    know the air; and until I am complete master of a tune in my own
    singing (such as it is), I never can compose for it. My way is: I
    consider the poetic sentiment correspondent to my idea of the
    musical expression; then choose my theme; begin one stanza; when
    that is composed, which is generally the most difficult part of
    the business, I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for
    subjects in nature around me that are in unison and harmony with
    the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom, humming
    every now and then the air with the verses I have framed. When I
    feel my muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside
    of my study, and then commit my effusion to paper; swinging at
    intervals on the hindlegs of my elbow chair, by way of calling
    forth my own critical strictures as my pen goes on. Seriously,
    this at home is almost invariably my way." [September, 1793.]

His wife, who had a good voice and a wide knowledge of folk-song,
seems often to have been of assistance, and a further interesting
detail is given by Sir James Stuart-Menteath from the evidence of a
Mrs. Christina Flint.

   "When Burns dwelt at Ellisland, he was accustomed, after composing
    any of his beautiful songs, to pay Kirsty a visit, that he might
    hear them sung by her. He often stopped her in the course of the
    singing when he found any word harsh and grating to his ear, and
    substituted one more melodious and pleasing. From Kirsty's
    extensive acquaintance with the old Scottish airs, she was
    frequently able to suggest to the poet music more suitable to the
    song she was singing than that to which he had set it."

Kirsty and Jean were not his only aids in the criticism of the musical
quality of his songs. From the time of the Edinburgh visit, at least,
he was in the habit of seizing the opportunity afforded by the
possession of a harpsichord or a good voice by the daughters of his
friends, and in several cases he rewarded his accompanist by making
her the heroine of the song. Without drawing on the evidence of
parallel phenomena in other ages and literatures, we can be sure
enough that this persistent consciousness of the airs to which his
songs were to be sung, and this critical observation of their fitness,
had much to do with the extraordinary melodiousness of so many of

We have seen that Burns received an important impulse to
productiveness through his cooperation in the compiling of two
national song collections. James Johnson, the editor of the first of
these, was an all but illiterate engraver, ill-equipped for such an
undertaking; and as the work grew in scale until it reached six
volumes, Burns became virtually the editor--even writing the prefaces
to several of the volumes. George Thomson, the editor of the other, _A
Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs_, was a government clerk,
an amateur in music, of indifferent taste and with a preference for
English to the vernacular. In his collection the airs were harmonized
by Pleyel, Kozeluch, Haydn, and Beethoven; and he had the impudence to
meddle with the contributions both of Burns and of the eminent
composers who arranged the melodies. Nothing is more striking than the
patience and modesty of Burns in tolerating the criticism and
alterations of Thomson. The main purpose in both _The Scots Musical
Museum_ and the _Select Collection_ was the preservation of the
national melodies, but when the editors came to seek words to go with
them they found themselves confronted with a difficult problem. To
understand its nature, it will be necessary to extend our historical

In addition to the effects of the Reformation in Scotland already
indicated, there was another even more serious for arts and letters.
The reaction against Catholicism in Scotland was peculiarly violent,
and the form of Protestantism which replaced it was extremely
puritanical. In the matter of intellectual education, it is true,
Knox's ideas and institutions were enlightened, and have borne
important fruit in making prevail in his country an uncommonly high
level of general education and a reverence for learning. But on the
artistic side the reformed ministers were the enemies not only of
everything that suggested the ornateness of the old religion, but of
beauty in every form. Under their influence, an influence
extraordinarily pervasive and despotic, art and song were suppressed,
and Scotland was left a very mirthless country, absorbed in
theological and political discussion, and having little outlet for the
instinct of sport except heresy-hunting.

Such at least seemed to be the case on the surface. But human nature
is not to be totally changed even by such a force as the Reformation.
Especially among the peasantry occasions recurred--weddings, funerals,
harvest-homes, New-Year's Eves, and the like--when, the minister being
at a safe distance and whisky having relaxed the awe of the kirk
session, the "wee sinfu' fiddle" was produced, and song and the dance
broke forth. It was under such clandestine conditions that the
traditional songs of Scotland had been handed down for some
generations before Burns's day, and the conditions had gravely
affected their character. The melodies could not be stained, but the
words had degenerated until they had lost most of whatever imaginative
quality they had possessed, and had acquired instead only grossness.

Such words, it was clear, Johnson could not use in his _Museum_, and
the discovery of Burns was to him the most extraordinary good fortune.
For Burns not only knew, as we have seen, the old songs--words and
airs--by the score, but was able to purify, complete, or replace the
words according to the degree of their corruption. Various poets have
caught up scraps of folk-song and woven them into their verse; but
nowhere else has a poet of the people appeared with such a rare
combination of original genius and sympathetic feeling for the tone
and accent of the popular muse, as enabled Burns to recreate Scottish
song. If patriotic Scots wish to justify the achievement of Burns on
moral grounds, it is here that their argument lies: for whatever of
coarseness and license there may have been in his life and writings,
it is surely more than counter-balanced by the restoration to his
people of the possibility of national music and clean mirth.

One can not classify the songs of Burns into two clearly separated
groups, original and remodeled, for no hard lines can be drawn. Since
he practically always began with the tune, he frequently used the
title or the first line of the old song. He might do this, yet
completely change the idea; or he might retain the idea but use none
of the old words. In other cases the first stanza or the chorus is
retained; in still others the new song is sprinkled with here a phrase
and there an epithet recalling the derelict that gave rise to it. Some
are made up of stanzas from several different predecessors, others are
almost centos of stock phrases.

The contribution thus made to Johnson's collection, of songs rescued
or remade or wholly original, amounted to some one hundred
eighty-four; to Thomson's about sixty-four. Some examples will make
clear the nature of his services.

_Auld Lang Syne_, perhaps the most wide-spread of all songs among the
English-speaking peoples, is in its oldest extant form attributed on
uncertain grounds to Francis Sempill of Beltrees or Sir Robert
Aytoun.[2] That still older forms had existed appears from its title
in the broadside in which it is preserved:

   "An excellent and proper new ballad, entitled Old Long Syne. Newly
    corrected and amended, with a large and new edition [sic] of
    several excellent love lines."

 [2] The melody to which the song is now sung is not that to which
Burns wrote it, but was an old strathspey tune. It is possible,
however, that he agreed to its adoption by Thomson.

It opens thus:

    Should old acquaintance be forgot
      And never thought upon,
    The Flames of Love extinguishèd
      And freely past and gone?
    Is thy kind Heart now grown so cold
      In that Loving Breast of thine,
    That thou can'st never once reflect
      On old-long-syne.

And so on, for eighty lines.

Allan Ramsay rewrote it for his _Tea-Table Miscellany_ (1724), and a
specimen stanza will show that it was still going down-hill:

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
      Tho' they return with scars?
    These are the noble hero's lot,
      Obtain'd in glorious wars;
    Welcome, my Varo, to my breast,
      Thy arms about me twine,
    And make me once again as blest
      As I was lang syne.

The remaining four stanzas are worse. Burns may have had further hints
to work on which are now lost; but the best, part of the song, stanzas
three and four, are certainly his, and it is unlikely that he
inherited more than some form of the first verse and the chorus.


    Should auld acquaintance be forgot                          [old]
      And never brought to min'?                               [mind]
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
      And auld lang syne?                                  [long ago]

        For auld lang syne, my dear.
          For auld lang syne,
        We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
          For auld lang syne.

    And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,               [will pay for]
      And surely I'll be mine;
    And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
      For auld lang syne.

    We twa hae run about the braes,             [two have, hillsides]
      And pu'd the gowans fine;                     [pulled, daisies]
    But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
      Sin' auld lang syne.

    We twa hae paidled i' the burn,                    [waded, brook]
      From morning sun till dine;                              [noon]
    But seas between us braid hae roar'd                      [broad]
      Sin' auld lang syne.

    And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,                    [comrade]
      And gie's a hand o' thine;                            [give me]
    And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,  [draught of good will]
      For auld lang syne.

A more remarkable case of patchwork is _A Red, Red Rose_. Antiquarian
research has discovered in chap-books and similar sources four songs,
from each of which a stanza, in some such form as follows, seems to
have proved suggestive to Burns:

    (1) Her cheeks are like the Roses
          That blossom fresh in June,
        O, she's like a new strung instrument
          That's newly put in tune.

    (2) Altho' I go a thousand miles
          I vow thy face to see,
        Altho' I go ten thousand miles
        I'll come again to thee, dear Love,
          I'll come again to thee.

    (3) The seas they shall run dry,
          And rocks melt into sands;
        Then I'll love you still, my dear,
          When all those things are done.

    (4) Fare you well, my own true love,
          And fare you well for a while,
        And I will be sure to return back again,
          If I go ten thousand mile.

The genealogy of the lyric is still more complicated than these
sources imply, but the specimens given are enough to show the nature
of the ore from which Burns extracted the pure gold of his well-known


    O, my love is like a red red rose
      That's newly sprung in June:
    O, my love is like the melodie
      That's sweetly play'd in tune.

    As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
      So deep in love am I:
    And I will love thee still, my dear,
      Till a' the seas gang dry.                       [go]

    Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
      And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
    And I will love thee still, my dear,
      While the sands o' life shall run.

    And fare thee weel, my only love,
      And fare thee weel a while!
    And I will come again, my love,
      Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

Of the songs already quoted, the germ of _Ae Fond Kiss_ lies in the
first line of Robert Dodsley's _Parting Kiss_,

   "One fond kiss before we part;"

_I Hae a Wife o' My Ain_, borrows with slight modification the first
two lines; a model for _My Nannie O_ has been found in an anonymous
eighteenth-century fragment as well as in a song of Ramsay's, but
neither contributes more than the phrase which names the tune as well
as the words; _The Rigs o' Barley_ was suggested by a verse of an old

    O, corn rigs and rye rigs,
      O, corn rigs are bonie;
    And whene'er you meet a bonie lass
      Preen up her cockernonie.

_Handsome Nell_, _Mary Morison_, _Will Ye Go to the Indies_, _The
Gloomy Night_, and _My Nannie's Awa_ are entirely original; and a
comparison of their poetical quality with those having their model or
starting point in an older song will show that, however brilliantly
Burns acquitted himself in his task of refurbishing traditional
material, he was in no way dependent upon such material for

From what has been said of the occasions of these verses, however, it
is clear that inspiration from the outside was not lacking. The
traditional association of wine, woman, and song certainly held for
Burns, nearly all his lyrics being the outcome of his devotion to at
least two of these, some of them, like the following, to all three.


    Yestreen I had a pint o' wine,             [Last night]
      A place where body saw na';              [nobody saw]
    Yestreen lay on this breast o' mine
      The gowden locks of Anna.                    [golden]
    The hungry Jew in wilderness
      Rejoicing o'er his manna,
    Was naething to my hinny bliss                  [honey]
      Upon the lips of Anna.

    Ye monarchs, tak the east and west,
      Frae Indus to Savannah!
    Gie me within my straining grasp
      The melting form of Anna.
    There I'll despise imperial charms,
      An Empress or Sultana,
    While dying raptures in her arms
      I give and take with Anna!

    Awa, thou flaunting god o' day!
      Awa, thou pale Diana!
    Ilk star, gae hide thy twinkling ray         [Each, go]
      When I'm to meet my Anna.
    Come, in thy raven plumage, night!
      (Sun, moon, and stars withdrawn a')
    And bring an angel pen to write
      My transports wi' my Anna!


    The kirk and state may join, and tell
      To do such things I mauna:                 [must not]
    The kirk and state may gae to hell,
      And I'll gae to my Anna.
    She is the sunshine o' my ee,
      To live but her I canna;                    [without]
    Had I on earth but wishes three,
      The first should be my Anna.

Nothing could be more hopeless than to attempt to classify Burns's
songs according to the amours that occasioned them, and to seek to
find a constant relation between the reality and intensity of the
passion and the vitality of the poetry. At times some relation does
seem apparent, as we may discern beneath the vigor of the song just
quoted a trace of a conscious attempt to brave his conscience in
connection with the one proved infidelity to Jean after his marriage.
Again, in such songs as _Of a' the Airts_, _Poortith Cauld_, and
others addressed to Jean herself, we have an expression of his less
than rapturous but entirely genuine affection for his wife.


    Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,         [directions]
      I dearly like the west,
    For there the bonnie lassie lives,
      The lassie I lo'e best:                        [love]
    There wild woods grow, and rivers row,           [roll]
      And mony a hill between;
    But day and night my fancy's flight
      Is ever wi' my Jean.

    I see her in the dewy flowers,
      I see her sweet and fair:
    I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
      I hear her charm the air:
    There's not a bonnie flower that springs
      By fountain, shaw, or green;               [woodland]
    There's not a bonnie bird that sings,
      But minds me o' my Jean.


        O this is no my ain lassie,
          Fair tho' the lassie be;
        O weel ken I my ain lassie,
          Kind love is in her e'e.

    I see a form, I see a face,
    Ye weel may wi' the fairest place:
    It wants, to me, the witching grace,
      The kind love that's in her e'e.

    She's bonnie, blooming, straight, and tall,
    And lang has had my heart in thrall;
    And aye it charms my very saul,                            [soul]
      The kind love that's in her e'e.

    A thief sae pawkie is my Jean,                              [sly]
    To steal a blink, by a' unseen;                          [glance]
    But gleg as light are lovers' e'en,                [nimble, eyes]
      When kind love is in the e'e.

    It may escape the courtly sparks,
    It may escape the learnèd clerks;
    But weel the watching lover marks
    The kind love that's in her e'e.


    O poortith cauld, and restless love,               [cold poverty]
      Ye wreck my peace between ye;
    Yet poortith a' I could forgive,
      An' 'twere na for my Jeanie.                    [If 'twere not]

        O why should fate sic pleasure have,                   [such]
          Life's dearest bands untwining?
        Or why sae sweet a flower as love
          Depend on Fortune's shining?

    The warld's wealth when I think on,
      Its pride, and a' the lave o't,--                        [rest]
    My curse on silly coward man,
      That he should be the slave o't.

    Her een sae bonnie blue betray
      How she repays my passion;
    But prudence is her o'erword aye,                       [refrain]
      She talks of rank and fashion.

    O wha can prudence think upon,
      And sic a lassie by him?
    O wha can prudence think upon,
      And sae in love as I am?

    How blest the wild-wood Indian's fate!
      He woos his artless dearie--
    The silly bogles, Wealth and State,                     [goblins]
      Can never make him eerie.                              [afraid]


    She is a winsome wee thing,
    She is a handsome wee thing,
    She is a lo'esome wee thing,
      This sweet wee wife o' mine.

    I never saw a fairer,
    I never lo'ed a dearer,
    And neist my heart I'll wear her,                [next]
      For fear my jewel tine.                     [be lost]

    The warld's wrack, we share o't,
    The warstle and the care o't;                [struggle]
    Wi' her I'll blythely bear it,
      And think my lot divine.

Similarly, most of the lyrics addressed to Clarinda in Edinburgh are
marked by the sentimentalism and affectation of an affair that engaged
only one side, and that among the least pleasing, of the many-sided
temperament of the poet.

But, in general, with Burns as with other poets, it was not the
catching of a first-hand emotion at white heat that resulted in the
best poetry, but the stimulating of his imagination by the vision of a
person or a situation that may have had but the hint of a prototype in
the actual. We have already noted that the best of the Clarinda poems
were written in absence, and that they drop the Arcadian names which
typified the make-believe element in that complex affair. So a number
of his most charming songs are addressed to girls of whom he had had
but a glimpse. But that glimpse sufficed to kindle him, and for the
poetry it was all advantage that it was no more.

His relations with women were extremely varied in nature. At one
extreme there were friendships like that with Mrs. Dunlop, the letters
to whom show that their common interests were mainly moral and
intellectual, and were mingled with no emotion more fiery than
gratitude. At the other extreme stand relations like that with Anne
Park, the heroine of _Yestreen I had a Pint o' Wine_, which were
purely passionate and transitory. Between these come a long procession
affording excellent material for the ingenuity of those skilled in the
casuistry of the sexes: the boyish flame for Handsome Nell; the
slightly more mature feeling for Ellison Begbie; the various phases of
his passion for Jean Armour; the perhaps partly factitious reverence
for Highland Mary; the respectful adoration for Margaret Chalmers to
whom he is supposed to have proposed marriage in Edinburgh; the
deliberate posing in his compliments to Chloris (Jean Lorimer); the
grateful gallantry to Jessie Lewars, who ministered to him on his

In the later days in Dumfries, when his vitality was running low and
he was laboring to supply Thomson with verses even when the
spontaneous impulse to compose was rare, we find him theorizing on the
necessity of enthroning a goddess for the nonce. Speaking of
_Craigieburn-wood_ and Jean Lorimer, he writes to his prosaic editor:

   "The lady on whom it was made is one of the finest women in
    Scotland; and in fact (_entre nous_) is in a manner to me what
    Sterne's Eliza was to him--a Mistress, or Friend, or what you
    will, in the guileless simplicity of Platonic love. (Now, don't
    put any of your squinting constructions on this, or have any
    clishmaclaver about it among our acquaintances.) I assure you that
    to my lovely Friend you are indebted for many of your best songs
    of mine. Do you think that the sober gin-horse routine of
    existence could inspire a man with life, and love, and joy--could
    fire him with enthusiasm, or melt him with pathos equal to the
    genius of your Book? No, no!!! Whenever I want to be more than
    ordinary _in song_; to be in some degree equal to your diviner
    airs, do you imagine I fast and pray for the celestial emanation?
    _Tout au contraire!_ I have a glorious recipe; the very one that
    for his own use was invented by the Divinity of Healing and Poesy
    when erst he piped to the flocks of Admetus. I put myself in a
    regimen of admiring a fine woman; and in proportion to the
    adorability of her charms, in proportion you are delighted with my
    verses. The lightning of her eye is the godhead of Parnassus, and
    the witchery of her smile the divinity of Helicon!"

Burns is here, of course, on his rhetorical high horse, and the songs
to Chloris hardly bear him out; but there is much in the passage to
enlighten us as to his composing processes. In his younger days his
hot blood welcomed every occasion of emotional experience; toward the
end, he sought such occasions for the sake of the patriotic task that
lightened with its idealism the gathering gloom of his breakdown. But
throughout, and this is the important point to note in relating his
poetry to his life, his one mode of complimentary address to a woman
was in terms of gallantry.

The following group of love songs illustrate the various phases of his
temperament which we have been discussing. The first two are to Mary
Campbell, and exhibit Burns in his most reverential attitude toward


    Ye banks, and braes, and streams around
      The castle o' Montgomery,
    Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
      Your waters never drumlie!                              [muddy]
    There Simmer first unfauld her robes,          [may S. f. unfold]
      And there the langest tarry;
    For there I took the last fareweel
      O' my sweet Highland Mary.

    How sweetly bloom'd the gay green birk,                   [birch]
      How rich the hawthorn's blossom,
    As underneath their fragrant shade
      I clasp'd her to my bosom!
    The golden hours on angel wings
      Flew o'er me and my dearie;
    For dear to me as light and life
      Was my sweet Highland Mary.

    Wi' mony a vow and lock'd embrace
      Our parting was fu' tender;
    And, pledging aft to meet again,
      We tore oursels asunder;
    But oh! fell death's untimely frost,
      That nipt my flower sae early!
    Now green's the sod, and cauld's the clay,                 [cold]
      That wraps my Highland Mary!

    O pale, pale now, those rosy lips,
      I aft hae kiss'd sae fondly!
    And closed for aye the sparkling glance,
      That dwelt on me sae kindly!
    And mould'ring now in silent dust,
      That heart that lo'ed me dearly!                        [loved]
    But still within my bosom's core
      Shall live my Highland Mary.


    Thou lingering star, with lessening ray,
      That lov'st to greet the early morn,
    Again thou usherest in the day
      My Mary from my soul was torn.
    O Mary! dear departed shade!
      Where is thy place of blissful rest?
    Seest thou thy lover lowly laid?
      Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

    That sacred hour can I forget?
      Can I forget the hallow'd grove,
    Where by the winding Ayr we met,
      To live one day of parting love?
    Eternity will not efface
      Those records dear of transports past;
    Thy image at our last embrace--
      Ah! little thought we 'twas our last!

    Ayr gurgling kiss'd his pebbled shore,
      O'erhung with wild woods, thickening green;
    The fragrant birch, and hawthorn hoar,
      Twin'd amorous round the raptur'd scene.
    The flowers sprang wanton to be prest,
      The birds sang love on ev'ry spray,
    Till too, too soon, the glowing west
      Proclaim'd the speed of wingèd day.

    Still o'er these scenes my memory wakes,
      And fondly broods with miser care!
    Time but the impression stronger makes,
      As streams their channels deeper wear.
    My Mary, dear departed shade!
      Where is thy place of blissful rest?
    Seest thou thy lover lowly laid?
      Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

The group that follow are addressed either to unknown divinities or to
girls who inspired only a passing devotion. In the case of _Bonnie
Lesley_, there was no question of a love-affair: the song is merely a
compliment to a young lady he met and admired. _Auld Rob Morris_ is
probably purely dramatic.


(Second Version)

        Ca' the yowes to the knowes,                   [ewes, knolls]
        Ca' them where the heather grows,
        Ca' them where the burnie rows,              [brooklet rolls]
          My bonnie dearie.

    Hark! the mavis' evening sang                          [thrush's]
    Sounding Clouden's woods amang;
    Then a-faulding let us gang,                      [a-folding, go]
      My bonnie dearie.

    We'll gae down by Clouden side,                              [go]
    Thro' the hazels, spreading wide
    O'er the waves that sweetly glide
      To the moon sae clearly.

    Yonder Clouden's silent towers,
    Where at moonshine's midnight hours,
    O'er the dewy bending flowers,
      Fairies dance sae cheery.

    Ghaist nor bogle shall thou fear;                 [Ghost, goblin]
    Thou'rt to Love and Heaven sae dear,
    Nocht of ill may come thee near,                         [Nought]
      My bonnie dearie.

    Fair and lovely as thou art,
    Thou hast stown my very heart;                           [stolen]
    I can die--but canna part,
      My bonnie dearie.


    Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
    Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
    My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
    Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

    Thou stock-dove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
    Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
    Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
    I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

    How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
    Far mark'd with the courses of clear winding rills;
    There daily I wander as noon rises high,
    My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

    How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
    Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
    There oft as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea,
    The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.             [birch]

    Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
    And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
    How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
    As gathering sweet flow'rets she stems thy clear wave.

    Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
    Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
    My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
    Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.


    I gaed a waefu' gate yestreen,            [went, road last night]
      A gate, I fear, I'll dearly rue;
    I gat my death frae twa sweet een,                    [got, eyes]
      Twa lovely een o' bonnie blue.
    'Twas not her golden ringlets bright,
      Her lips like roses wat wi' dew,                          [wet]
    Her heaving bosom lily-white;
      It was her een sae bonnie blue.

    She talk'd, she smil'd, my heart she wyl'd,            [beguiled]
      She charm'd my soul I wist na how;
    And aye the stound, the deadly wound,                      [pang]
      Came frae her een sae bonnie blue.                       [from]
    But 'spare to speak, and spare to speed'--
      She'll aiblins listen to my vow:                      [perhaps]
    Should she refuse, I'll lay my dead                       [death]
      To her twa een sae bonnie blue.


    O saw ye bonnie Lesley
      As she gaed o'er the border?                             [went]
    She's gane, like Alexander,
      To spread her conquests farther.

    To see her is to love her,
      And love but her for ever;
    For Nature made her what she is,
      And never made anither!

    Thou art a queen, fair Lesley,
      Thy subjects, we before thee:
    Thou art divine, fair Lesley,
      The hearts o' men adore thee.

    The Deil he could na scaith thee,                          [harm]
      Or aught that wad belang thee;
    He'd look into thy bonnie face,
      And say, 'I canna wrang thee.'

    The Powers aboon will tent thee;                   [above, guard]
      Misfortune sha'na steer thee;               [shall not disturb]
    Thou'rt like themselves sae lovely,
      That ill they'll ne'er let near thee.

    Return again, fair Lesley,
      Return to Caledonie!
    That we may brag we hae a lass
      There's nane again sae bonnie.                       [no other]


        Lassie wi' the lint-white locks,           [flaxen]
          Bonnie lassie, artless lassie,
        Wilt thou wi' me tent the flocks?           [watch]
          Wilt thou be my dearie, O?

    Now nature cleeds the flowery lea,            [clothes]
    And a' is young and sweet like thee;
    O wilt thou share its joys wi' me,
      And say thou'lt be my dearie, O.

    The primrose bank, the wimpling burn,         [winding]
    The cuckoo on the milk-white thorn,
    The wanton lambs at early morn
      Shall welcome thee, my dearie, O.

    And when the welcome simmer-shower
    Has cheer'd ilk drooping little flower,         [every]
    We'll to the breathing woodbine bower
      At sultry noon, my dearie, O.

    When Cynthia lights, wi' silver ray,
    The weary shearer's hameward way.            [reaper's]
    Thro' yellow waving fields we'll stray,
      And talk o' love, my dearie, O.

    And when the howling wintry blast
    Disturbs my lassie's midnight rest;
    Enclaspèd to my faithfu' breast,
      I'll comfort thee, my dearie, O.


    Altho' my bed were in yon muir,
      Amang the heather, in my plaidie,
    Yet happy, happy would I be,
      Had I my dear Montgomerie's Peggy.

    When o'er the hill beat surly storms,
      And winter nights were dark and rainy,
    I'd seek some dell, and in my arms
      I'd shelter dear Montgomerie's Peggy.

    Were I a Baron proud and high,
      And horse and servants waiting ready,
    Then a' 't wad gie o' joy to me,                  [it would give]
      The sharin't wi' Montgomerie's Peggy.


    When o'er the hill the eastern star
      Tells bughtin-time is near, my jo;                   [folding-]
    And owsen frae the furrow'd field                          [oxen]
      Return sae dowf and wearie O;                            [dull]
    Down by the burn, where scented birks
      Wi' dew are hanging clear, my jo,                  [sweetheart]
    I'll meet thee on the lea-rig,                     [grassy ridge]
      My ain kind dearie O.                                     [own]

    In mirkest glen, at midnight hour,                      [darkest]
      I'd rove, and ne'er be eerie O,                        [scared]
    If thro' that glen I gaed to thee,                         [went]
      My ain kind dearie O.
    Altho' the night were ne'er sae wild,
      And I were ne'er sae wearie O,
    I'd meet thee on the lea-rig,
      My ain kind dearie O.

    The hunter lo'es the morning sun,                         [loves]
      To rouse the mountain deer, my jo;
    At noon the fisher takes the glen,
      Along the burn to steer, my jo;
    Gie me the hour o' gloamin grey                        [twilight]
      It maks my heart sae cheery O,
    To meet thee on the lea-rig,
      My ain kind dearie O.


    There's auld Rob Morris that wons in yon glen,                [dwells]
    He's the king o' gude fellows and wale of auld men;             [pick]
    He has gowd in his coffers, he has owsen and kine,        [gold, oxen]
    And ae bonnie lassie, his dautie and mine.              [one, darling]

    She's fresh as the morning, the fairest in May;
    She's sweet as the ev'ning amang the new hay;
    As blythe and as artless as the lambs on the lea,
    And dear to my heart as the light to my e'e.

    But oh! she's an heiress, auld Robin's a laird,
    And my daddie has nought but a cot-house and yard;            [garden]
    A wooer like me maunna hope to come speed,                  [must not]
    The wounds I must hide that will soon be my dead.              [death]

    The day comes to me, but delight brings me nane;
    The night comes to me, but my rest it is gane;
    I wander my lane, like a night-troubled ghaist,         [alone, ghost]
    And I sigh as my heart it wad burst in my breast.

    O had she but been of a lower degree,
    I then might hae hoped she wad smiled upon me;
    O how past descriving had then been my bliss,             [describing]
    As now my distraction no words can express!

_O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast_, besides being one of the most
exquisite of his songs, has a pathetic interest from the circumstances
under which it was composed. During the last few months of his life, a
young girl called Jessie Lewars, sister of one of his colleagues in
the excise, came much to his house and was of great service to Mrs.
Burns and him in his last illness. One day he offered to write new
verses to any tune she might play him. She sat down and played over
several times the melody of an old song, beginning,

    The robin came to the wren's nest,
      And keekit in, and keekit in.

The following lines were the characteristic result:


    O, wert thou in the cauld blast,                 [cold]
      On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
    My plaidie to the angry airt,               [direction]
      I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee,
    Or did misfortune's bitter storms
      Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
    Thy bield should be my bosom,                 [shelter]
      To share it a', to share it a'.

    Or were I in the wildest waste,
      Sae black and bare, sae black and bare,
    The desert were a paradise,
      If thou wert there, if thou wert there.
    Or were I monarch o' the globe,
      Wi' thee to reign, wi' thee to reign,
    The brightest jewel in my crown
      Wad be my queen, wad be my queen.

This group may well close with his great hymn of general allegiance to
the sex.


    Green grow the rashes, O,
      Green grow the rashes, O;
    The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
      Are spent amang the lasses, O!

    There's nought but care on ev'ry han',
      In ev'ry hour that passes, O;
    What signifies the life o' man,
      An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.

    The warly race may riches chase,              [worldly]
      An' riches still may fly them, O;
    An' tho' at last they catch them fast,
      Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O.

    But gie me a canny hour at e'en,                [quiet]
      My arms about my dearie, O;
    An' warly cares, an' warly men,
      May a' gae tapsalteerie, O!             [upside-down]

    For you sae douce, ye sneer at this,           [sedate]
      Ye're nought but senseless asses, O:
    The wisest man the warl' e'er saw,
      He dearly lov'd the lasses, O.

    Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears
      Her noblest work she classes, O;
    Her prentice han' she tried on man,
      An' then she made the lasses, O.

Equally personal, but not connected with love, are a few
autobiographical poems of which the following are typical. The third
of these, though prosaic enough, is interesting as perhaps Burns's
most elaborate summing up of the philosophy of his own career.


    There was a lad was born in Kyle,
    But whatna day o' whatna style                             [what]
    I doubt it's hardly worth the while
      To be sae nice wi' Robin.

        Robin was a rovin' boy,                          [roystering]
          Rantin' rovin', rantin' rovin';
        Robin was a rovin' boy,
          Rantin' rovin' Robin.

    Our monarch's hindmost year but ane                         [one]
    Was five-and-twenty days begun,
    'Twas then a blast o' Janwar win'
      Blew hansel in on Robin.                       [his first gift]

    The gossip keekit in his loof,                     [peeped, palm]
    Quo' scho, 'Wha lives will see the proof,             [Quoth she]
    This waly boy will be nae coof,                    [choice, dolt]
      I think we'll ca' him Robin.                             [call]

   'He'll hae misfortunes great an' sma',
    But aye a heart aboon them a';                            [above]
    He'll be a credit till us a',                                [to]
      We'll a' be proud o' Robin.

   'But sure as three times three mak nine,
    I see by ilka score and line,                              [each]
    This chap will dearly like our kin',                        [sex]
      So leeze me on thee, Robin.                       [blessing on]

   'Guid faith,' quo' scho, 'I doubt you, stir,                 [sir]
    Ye gar the lasses lie aspar,                      [make, aspread]
    But twenty fauts ye may hae waur,                 [faults, worse]
      So blessings on thee, Robin!'


    Contented wi' little, and cantie wi' mair,                       [cheerful]
    Whene'er I forgather wi' Sorrow and Care,                            [meet]
    I gie them a skelp, as they're creepin' alang,                      [spank]
    Wi' a cog o' gude swats, and an auld Scottish sang.      [bowl of good ale]

    I whyles claw the elbow o' troublesome thought;                 [sometimes]
    But man is a soger, and life is a faught:                  [soldier, fight]
    My mirth and gude humour are coin in my pouch,                     [pocket]
    And my freedom's my lairdship nae monarch daur touch.                [dare]

    A towmond o' trouble, should that be my fa',             [twelvemonth, lot]
    A night o' gude fellowship sowthers it a';                        [solders]
    When at the blythe end of our journey at last,
    Wha the deil ever thinks o' the road he has past?           [Who the devil]

    Blind Chance, let her snapper and stoyte on her way,     [stumble, stagger]
    Be't to me, be't frae me, e'en let the jad gae:
    Come ease or come travail, come pleasure or pain,
    My warst word is--'Welcome, and welcome again!'


    My Father was a Farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
    And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O;
    He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne'er a farthing, O,
    For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.

    Then out into the world my course I did determine, O;
    Tho' to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming, O:
    My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education, O;
    Resolv'd was I, at least to try, to mend my situation, O.

    In many a way, and vain essay, I courted Fortune's favour, O:
    Some cause unseen still stept between to frustrate each endeavour, O;
    Sometimes by foes I was o'erpower'd, sometimes by friends forsaken, O;
    And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken, O.

    Then sore harass'd, and tir'd at last, with Fortune's vain delusion, O,
    I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, and came to this conclusion, O--
    The past was bad, and the future hid; its good or ill untrièd, O;
    But the present hour was in my pow'r, and so I would enjoy it, O.

    No help, nor hope, nor view had I, nor person to befriend me, O;
    So I must toil, and sweat and broil, and labour to sustain me, O;
    To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, O;
    For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for Fortune fairly, O.

    Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro' life I'm doom'd to wander, O,
    Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O;
    No view nor care, but shun whate'er might breed me pain or sorrow, O,
    I live to-day as well's I may, regardless of to-morrow, O.

    But cheerful still, I am as well as a monarch in a palace, O.
    Tho' Fortune's frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O;
    I make indeed my daily bread, but ne'er can make it farther, O;
    But, as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.

    When sometimes by my labour I earn a little money, O,
    Some unforeseen misfortune comes generally upon me, O--
    Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my good-natur'd folly, O;
    But come what will, I've sworn it still, I'll ne'er be melancholy, O.

    All you who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, O,
    The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther, O;
    Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O,
    A cheerful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you, O.

The stress laid upon that part of Burns's production which has
relation, near or remote, to his personal experiences with women is,
in the current estimate, somewhat disproportionate. A surprisingly
large number of his most effective songs are purely dramatic, are
placed in the mouth of a man who is clearly not the poet, or, more
frequently, in the mouth of a woman. There is little evidence that
Burns would have been capable of sustained dramatic composition; on
the other hand, he was far from being limited to purely personal lyric
utterance. His versatility in giving expression to the amorous moods
of the other sex is almost as great as in direct confession. A group
of these dramatic lyrics will demonstrate this.


    An' O for ane an' twenty, Tam!
      An' hey, sweet are an' twenty, Tam!
    I'll learn my kin a rattlin' sang,                             [teach]
      An' I saw ane an' twenty, Tam.                                  [If]

    They snool me sair, and haud me down,             [snub, sorely, hold]
      An' gar me look like bluntie, Tam!                    [make, a fool]
    But three short years will soon wheel roun',
      An' then comes ane an' twenty, Tam.

    A gleib o' lan', a claut o' gear,          [portion, handful of money]
      Was left me by my auntie, Tam;
    At kith or kin I need na spier,                                  [ask]
      An' I saw ane and twenty, Tam.

    They'll hae me wed a wealthy coof,                        [have, dolt]
      Tho' I mysel' hae plenty, Tam;
    But hear'st thou, laddie? there's my loof,                      [hand]
      I'm thine at ane and twenty, Tam!


(Second Version)

    Ye flowery banks o' bonnie Doon,
      How can ye blume sae fair?
    How can ye chant, ye little birds,
      And I sae fu' o' care?

    Thou'll break my heart, thou bonnie bird,
      That sings upon the bough;
    Thou minds me o' the happy days,            [remindest]
      When my fause luve was true.

    Thou'll break my heart, thou bonnie bird,
      That sings beside thy mate;
    For sae I sat, and sae I sang,
      And wist na o' my fate.

    Aft hae I rov'd by bonnie Doon,
      To see the wood-bine twine,
    And ilka bird sang o' its love,
      And sae did I o' mine.

    Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
      Frae off its thorny tree:
    But my fause luver staw my rose,                [stole]
      And left the thorn wi' me.

(Third Version)

    Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,
      How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
    How can ye chant, ye little birds,
      And I sae weary fu' o' care?
    Thou'lt break my heart, thou warbling bird,
      That wantons thro' the flowering thorn;
    Thou minds me o' departed joys,
      Departed never to return.

    Aft hae I rov'd by bonnie Doon,
      To see the rose and woodbine twine;
    And ilka bird sang o' its love,
      And fondly sae did I o' mine.
    Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose,
      Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree;
    And my fause lover staw my rose,                [stole]
      But ah! he left the thorn wi' me.


    Simmer's a pleasant time,
      Flow'rs of ev'ry colour;
    The water rins o'er the heugh,                             [crag]
      And I long for my true lover.

        Ay waukin O,                                         [waking]
          Waukin still and wearie:
        Sleep I can get nane
          For thinking on my dearie.

    When I sleep I dream,
      When I wauk I'm eerie;                 [superstitiously afraid]
    Sleep I can get nane
      For thinking on my dearie.

    Lanely night comes on,
      A' the lave are sleeping;                                [rest]
    I think on my bonnie lad
      And I bleer my een with greetin'.               [eyes, weeping]


        O whistle, and I'll come to ye, my lad;
        O whistle, and I'll come to ye, my lad:
        Tho' father and mither and a' should gae mad,
        O whistle, and I'll come to ye, my lad.

    But warily tent, when ye come to court me,            [take care]
    And come na unless the back-yett be a-jee;           [gate, ajar]
    Syne up the back-stile, and let naebody see,               [then]
    And come as ye were na comin' to me.
    And come as ye were na comin' to me.

    At kirk, or at market, whene'er ye meet me,
    Gang by me as tho' that ye car'd na a flee:             [go, fly]
    But steal me a blink o' your bonnie black e'e,           [glance]
    Yet look as ye were na lookin' at me.
    Yet look as ye were na lookin' at me.

    Aye vow and protest that ye care na for me,
    And whiles ye may lightly my beauty a wee;               [slight]
    But court na anither, tho' jokin' ye be,
    For fear that she wyle your fancy frae me.              [beguile]
    For fear that she wyle your fancy frae me.


    My heart is a breaking, dear tittie,                     [sister]
      Some counsel unto me come len',
    To anger them a' is a pity;
      But what will I do wi' Tam Glen?

    I'm thinking, wi' sic a braw fellow,                       [fine]
      In poortith I might mak a fen';                [poverty, shift]
    What care I in riches to wallow,
      If I maunna marry Tam Glen?                          [must not]

    There's Lowrie the laird o' Dumeller,
     'Guid-day to you'--brute! he comes ben:
    He brags and he blaws o' his siller,                      [money]
      But when will he dance like Tam Glen?

    My minnie does constantly deave me,              [mother, deafen]
      And bids me beware o' young men;
    They flatter, she says, to deceive me;
      But wha can think sae o' Tam Glen?

    My daddie says, gin I'll forsake him,                        [if]
      He'll gie me guid hunder marks ten:                   [hundred]
    But, if it's ordain'd I maun take him,
      O wha will I get but Tam Glen?

    Yestreen at the Valentine's dealing,                 [Last night]
      My heart to my mou gied a sten:             [mouth gave a leap]
    For thrice I drew ane without failing,
      And thrice it was written, 'Tam Glen.'

    The last Halloween I was waukin'                       [watching]
      My droukit sark-sleeve,[3] as ye ken;        [drenched chemise]
    His likeness cam up the house stalkin'--
      And the very grey breeks o' Tam Glen!                [trousers]

    Come, counsel, dear tittle, don't tarry;
      I'll gie you my bonnie black hen,                        [give]
    Gif ye will advise me to marry                               [If]
      The lad I lo'e dearly, Tam Glen.                         [love]

 [3] See note 17 on Halloween, p. 218.


    O wha my babie-clouts will buy?                    [baby-clothes]
    Wha will tent me when I cry?                           [care for]
    Wha will kiss me whare I lie?--
      The rantin' dog the daddie o't.                         [of it]

    Wha will own he did the faut?                             [fault]
    Wha will buy my groanin' maut?              [ale for the midwife]
    Wha will tell me how to ca't?                           [name it]
      The rantin' dog the daddie o't.

    When I mount the creepie-chair.             [stool of repentance]
    Wha will sit beside me there?
    Gie me Rob, I seek nae mair,--                             [Give]
      The rantin' dog the daddie o't.

    Wha will crack to me my lane?                       [chat, alone]
    Wha will mak me fidgin' fain?            [tingling with fondness]
    Wha will kiss me o'er again?--
      The rantin' dog the daddie o't.


    Last May a braw wooer cam down the lang glen,                        [fine]
      And sair wi' his love he did deave me:                   [sorely, deafen]
    I said there was naething I hated like men--
      The deuce gae wi'm to believe me, believe me,               [go with him]
      The deuce gae wi'm to believe me.

    He spak o' the darts in my bonnie black een,
      And vow'd for my love he was dying;
    I said he might die when he liked for Jean:
      The Lord forgie me for lying, for lying.
      The Lord forgie me for lying!

    A weel-stockèd mailen, himsel' for the laird,                        [farm]
      And marriage aff-hand, were his proffers:
    I never loot on that I kend it, or car'd;                        [admitted]
      But thought I might hae waur offers, waur offers,                 [worse]
      But thought I might hae waur offers.

    But what wad ye think? In a fortnight or less,
      The deil tak his taste to gae near her!                           [devil]
    He up the lang loan to my black cousin Bess,                         [lane]
      Guess ye how, the jad! I could bear her, could bear her,
      Guess ye how, the jad! I could bear her.

    But a' the niest week as I petted wi' care,                 [next, fretted]
      I gaed to the tryst o' Dalgarnock;                                 [fair]
    And wha but my fine fickle lover was there?
      I glowr'd as I'd seen a warlock, a warlock,              [stared, wizard]
      I glowr'd as I'd seen a warlock.

    But owre my left shouther I gae him a blink,       [shoulder, gave, glance]
      Lest neebors might say I was saucy;
    My wooer he caper'd as he'd been in drink,
      And vow'd I was his dear lassie, dear lassie,
      And vow'd I was his dear lassie.

    I spier'd for my cousin fu' couthy and sweet,               [asked, kindly]
      Gin she had recover'd her hearin',                                   [If]
    And how her new shoon fit her auld shachl't feet--      [shoes, ill-shaped]
      But, heavens! how he fell a swearin', a swearin'.
      But, heavens! how he fell a swearin'.

    He begged for gudesake I wad be his wife,
      Or else I wad kill him wi' sorrow:
    So e'en to preserve the poor body in life,
      I think I maun wed him to-morrow, to-morrow,                       [must]
      I think I maun wed him to-morrow.


    My heart is sair, I dare na tell,                [sore]
      My heart is sair for somebody;
    I could wake a winter night,
      For the sake o' somebody!
        Oh-hon! for somebody!
        Oh-hey! for somebody!
    I could range the world around,
      For the sake o' somebody.

    Ye powers that smile on virtuous love,
      O, sweetly smile on somebody!
    Frae ilka danger keep him free,                 [every]
      And send me safe my somebody.
        Oh-hon! for somebody!
        Oh-hey! for somebody!
    I wad do--what wad I not?
      For the sake o' somebody!


    Oh, open the door, some pity to shew,
      Oh, open the door to me, O!
    Tho' thou hast been false, I'll ever prove true,
      Oh, open the door to me, O!

    Cauld is the blast upon my pale cheek,
      But caulder thy love for me, O!
    The frost, that freezes the life at my heart,
      Is nought to my pains frae thee, O!

    The wan moon is setting behind the white wave,
      And time is setting with me, O!
    False friends, false love, farewell! for mair
      I'll ne'er trouble them nor thee, O!

    She has open'd the door, she has open'd it wide;
      She sees his pale corse on the plain, O!
   'My true love!' she cried, and sank down by his side,
      Never to rise again, O!


    Here awa, there awa, wandering Willie,                     [away]
      Here awa, there awa, haud awa hame;                      [hold]
    Come to my bosom, my ae only dearie,                        [one]
      Tell me thou bring'st me my Willie the same.

    Loud tho' the winter blew cauld at our parting,
      'Twas na the blast brought the tear in my e'e;
    Welcome now, Simmer, and welcome, my Willie,
      The Simmer to Nature, my Willie to me!

    Rest, ye wild storms, in the cave o' your slumbers;
      How your dread howling a lover alarms!
    Wauken, ye breezes, row gently, ye billows,               [Awake]
      And waft my dear laddie ance mair to my arms.       [once more]

    But oh, if he's faithless, and minds na his Nannie,
      Flow still between us, thou wide-roaring main;
    May I never see it, may I never trow it,
      But, dying, believe that my Willie's my ain!              [own]


    How lang and dreary is the night.
      When I am frae my dearie!
    I restless lie frae e'en to morn,
      Tho' I were ne'er sae weary.

        For O, her lanely nights are lang;
          And O, her dreams are eerie;            [fearful]
        And O, her widow'd heart is sair,            [sore]
          That's absent frae her dearie.

    When I think on the lightsome days
      I spent wi' thee, my dearie,
    And now that seas between us roar,
      How can I be but eerie!

    How slow ye move, ye heavy hours;
      The joyless day how drearie!
    It wasna sae ye glinted by,                   [glanced]
      When I was wi' my dearie.


    O how can I be blithe and glad,
      Or how can I gang brisk and braw,                    [go, fine]
    When the bonnie lad that I lo'e best
      Is o'er the hills and far awa?

    It's no the frosty winter wind,
      It's no the driving drift and snaw;
    But aye the tear comes in my e'e,
      To think on him that's far awa.

    My father pat me frae his door,                             [put]
      My friends they hae disown'd me a':
    But I hae ane will tak my part,                        [have one]
      The bonnie lad that's far awa.

    A pair o' gloves he bought to me,
      And silken snoods he gae me twa;                [fillets, gave]
    And I will wear them for his sake,
      The bonnie lad that's far awa.

    O weary winter soon will pass,
      And spring will cleed the birken shaw:    [clothe, birch woods]
    And my young babie will be born,
      And he'll be hame that's far awa.


    Braw braw lads on Yarrow braes,                           [hills]
      That wander thro' the blooming heather;
    But Yarrow braes nor Ettrick shaws                        [woods]
      Can match the lads o' Gala Water.

    But there is ane, a secret ane,
      Aboon them a' I lo'e him better;                         [love]
    And I'll be his, and he'll be mine,
      The bonnie lad o' Gala Water.

    Altho' his daddie was nae laird,                       [landlord]
      And tho' I hae nae meikle tocher,                  [much dowry]
    Yet rich in kindest, truest love,
      We'll tent our flocks by Gala Water.                    [watch]

    It ne'er was wealth, it ne'er was wealth,
      That coft contentment, peace, and pleasure;            [bought]
    The bands and bliss o' mutual love,
      O that's the chiefest warld's treasure!


    My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
    My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
    A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
    My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

    Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
    The birth-place of valour, the country of worth;
    Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
    The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

    Farewell to the mountains, high cover'd with snow;
    Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
    Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
    Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

The foregoing are all placed in the mouths of girls, and it is
difficult to deny that they ring as true as the songs that are known
to have sprung from the poet's direct experience. Scarcely less
notable than their sincerity is their variety. Pathos of desertion,
gay defiance of opposition, yearning in absence, confession of
coquetry, joyous confession of affection returned--these are only a
few of the phases of woman's love rendered here with a felicity that
leaves nothing to be desired. What woman has so interpreted the
feelings of her sex?

The next two express a girl's repugnance at the thought of marriage
with an old man; and the two following form a pair treating the same
theme, one from the girl's point of view, the other from the lover's.
The later verses of _My Love She's but a Lassie Yet_, however, though
full of vivacity, have so little to do with the first or with one
another that the song seems to be a collection of scraps held together
by a common melody.


    What can a young lassie, what shall a young lassie,
      What can a young lassie do wi' an auld man?
    Bad luck on the penny that tempted my minnie                  [mother]
      To sell her poor Jenny for siller an' lan'!                  [money]

    He's always compleenin' frae mornin' to e'enin',
      He boasts and he hirples the weary day lang:         [coughs, limps]
    He's doylt and he's dozin, his bluid it is frozen,  [stupid, benumbed]
      O, dreary's the night wi' a crazy auld man!

    He hums and he hankers, he frets and he cankers,
      I never can please him do a' that I can;
    He's peevish, and jealous of a' the young fellows:
      O, dool on the day I met wi' an auld man!                      [woe]

    My auld auntie Katie upon me takes pity,
      I'll do my endeavour to follow her plan:
    I'll cross him and rack him, until I heart-break him,
      And then his auld brass will buy me a new pan.


    The blude-red rose at Yule may blaw,
    The simmer lilies bloom in snaw,
    The frost may freeze the deepest sea;
    But an auld man shall never daunton me.                         [tame]

    To daunton me, and me sae young,
    Wi' his fause heart and flatt'ring tongue,                     [false]
    That is the thing you ne'er shall see;
    For an auld man shall never daunton me.

    For a' his meal and a' his maut,                                [malt]
    For a' his fresh beef and his saut,                             [salt]
    For a' his gold and white monie,
    An auld man shall never daunton me.

    His gear may buy him kye and yowes,               [wealth, cows, ewes]
    His gear may buy him glens and knowes;                        [knolls]
    But me he shall not buy nor fee,                                [hire]
    For an auld man shall never daunton me.

    He hirples twa fauld as he dow,                    [limps double, can]
    Wi' his teethless gab and his auld beld pow,        [mouth, bald head]
    And the rain rains down frae his red bleer'd e'e--
    That auld man shall never daunton me.


    I am my mammie's ae bairn,                           [only child]
      Wi' unco folk I weary, Sir;                           [strange]
    And lying in a man's bed,
      I'm fley'd wad mak me eerie, Sir.          [frightened, scared]

        I'm owre young, I'm owre young,                         [too]
          I'm owre young to marry yet;
        I'm owre young, 'twad be a sin
          To tak me frae my mammie yet.

    [My mammie coft me a new gown,                           [bought]
      The kirk maun hae the gracing o't;                       [must]
    Were I to lie wi' you, kind Sir,
      I'm fear'd ye'd spoil the lacing o't.]

    Hallowmas is come and gane,
      The nights are lang in winter, Sir;
    And you an' I in ae bed,
      In troth I dare na venture, Sir.

    Fu' loud and shrill the frosty wind
      Blaws thro' the leafless timmer, Sir;                  [timber]
    But if ye come this gate again,                             [way]
      I'll aulder be gin simmer, Sir.                     [older, by]


        My love she's but a lassie yet;
          My love she's but a lassie yet;
        We'll let her stand a year or twa,
          She'll no be half sae saucy yet.

    I rue the day I sought her, O,
      I rue the day I sought her, O;
    Wha gets her needs na say he's woo'd,
      But he may say he's bought her, O!

    Come, draw a drap o' the best o't yet;
      Come, draw a drap o' the best o't yet;
    Gae seek for pleasure where ye will,               [Go]
      But here I never miss'd it yet.

    [We're a' dry wi' drinking o't;
      We're a' dry wi' drinking o't;
    The minister kiss'd the fiddler's wife,
      An' could na preach for thinkin' o't.]

_Bessy and Her Spinnin'-Wheel_ stands by itself as the rendering of
the mood of contented solitude, and is further remarkable for its
charming verses of natural description. _John Anderson My Jo_ is the
classical expression of love in age, inimitable in its simplicity and
tenderness. The two following poems supply a humorous contrast.


    O leeze me on my spinnin'-wheel,                             [Blessings on]
    O leeze me on my rock and reel;                                   [distaff]
    Frae tap to tae that deeds me bien,      [top to toe, clothes, comfortably]
    And haps me fiel and warm at e'en!                            [wraps, well]
    I'll set me down and sing and spin,
    While laigh descends the simmer sun,                                  [low]
    Blest wi' content, and milk and meal--
    O leeze me on my spinnin'-wheel.

    On ilka hand the burnies trot,                           [every, brooklets]
    And meet below my theekit cot;                                   [thatched]
    The scented birk and hawthorn white                                 [birch]
    Across the pool their arms unite,
    Alike to screen the birdie's nest,
    And little fishes' caller rest:                                      [cool]
    The sun blinks kindly in the biel',                               [shelter]
    Where blythe I turn my spinnin'-wheel.

    On lofty aiks the cushats wail,                             [oaks, pigeons]
    And Echo cons the doolfu' tale;                          [repeats, doleful]
    The lintwhites in the hazel braes,                                [linnets]
    Delighted, rival ither's lays:
    The craik amang the claver hay,                        [corn-crake, clover]
    The paitrick whirrin' o'er the ley.                     [partridge, meadow]
    The swallow jinkin' round my shiel,                          [dodging, cot]
    Amuse me at my spinnin'-wheel.

    Wi' sma' to sell, and less to buy,
    Aboon distress, below envy,                                         [Above]
    O wha wad leave this humble state,
    For a' the pride of a' the great?
    Amid their flaring, idle toys,
    Amid their cumbrous, dinsome joys,                                  [noisy]
    Can they the peace and pleasure feel
    Of Bessy at her spinnin'-wheel?


    John Andersen my jo, John,                 [sweetheart]
      When we were first acquent,
    Your locks were like the raven,
      Your bonnie brow was brent;                [straight]
    But now your brow is beld, John,                 [bald]
      Your locks are like the snaw;
    But blessings on your frosty pow,                [head]
      John Anderson, my jo.

    John Anderson my jo, John,
      We clamb the hill thegither;
    And mony a canty day, John,                     [jolly]
    We've had wi' ane anither:
    Now we maun totter down, John,                   [must]
      And hand in hand we'll go,
    And sleep thegither at the foot,             [together]
      John Anderson, my jo.


        The weary pund, the weary pund,             [pound]
          The weary pund o' tow;                     [yarn]
        I think my wife will end her life
          Before she spin her tow.

    I bought my wife a stane o' lint          [stone, flax]
      As gude as e'er did grow;                      [good]
    And a' that she has made o' that,
      Is ae poor pund o' tow.                         [one]

    There sat a bottle in a bole,                   [niche]
      Beyond the ingle lowe,                [chimney flame]
    And aye she took the tither souk           [other suck]
      To drouk the stowrie tow.             [drench, dusty]

    Quoth I, 'For shame, ye dirty dame,
      Gae spin your tap o' tow!'                    [bunch]
    She took the rock, and wi' a knock            [distaff]
      She brak it o'er my pow.                       [pate]

    At last her feet--I sang to see't--
      Gaed foremost o'er the knowe;            [went, hill]
    And or I wad anither jad,                    [ere, wed]
      I'll wallop in a tow.                    [kick, rope]


    O, merry hae I been teethin' a heckle,                 [huckling-comb]
      An' merry hae I been shapin' a spoon;
    O, merry hae I been cloutin' a kettle,                      [patching]
      An' kissin' my Katie when a' was done,
    O, a' the lang day I ca' at my hammer,                    [knock with]
      An' a' the lang day I whistle and sing,
    O, a' the lang night I cuddle my kimmer,                    [mistress]
      An' a' the lang night am as happy's a king.

    Bitter in dool I lickit my winnins                  [sorrow, earnings]
      O' marrying Bess, to gie her a slave:
    Bless'd be the hour she cool'd in her linens,                 [shroud]
      And blythe be the bird that sings on her grave.
    Come to my arms, my Katie, my Katie,
      An' come to my arms, an' kiss me again!
    Drucken or sober, here's to thee, Katie!
      And bless'd be the day I did it again.

_Had I the Wyte_ is, we may hope, also purely imaginative drama; it is
certainly vividly imagined and carried through with a delightful
mixture of sympathy and humorous detachment.


    Had I the wyte, had I the wyte,                           [blame]
      Had I the wyte? she bade me!
    She watch'd me by the hie-gate side,                   [highroad]
      And up the loan she shaw'd me;                           [lane]
    And when I wadna venture in,
      A coward loon she ca'd me:                             [rascal]
    Had kirk and state been in the gate,             [way (opposing)]
      I lighted when she bade me.

    Sae craftilie she took me ben,                               [in]
      And bade me make nae clatter;
   'For our ramgunshoch glum gudeman                          [surly]
      Is o'er ayont the water;'                              [beyond]
    Whae'er shall say I wanted grace,
      When I did kiss and daut her,                             [pet]
    Let him be planted in my place,
      Syne say I was the fautor.                 [Then, transgressor]

    Could I for shame, could I for shame,
      Could I for shame refused her?
    And wadna manhood been to blame,
      Had I unkindly used her?
    He clawed her wi' the ripplin-kame,                   [wool-comb]
      And blae and bluidy bruised her;                         [blue]
    When sic a husband was frae hame,
      What wife but had excused her?

    I dighted ay her een sae blue,                      [wiped, eyes]
      And bann'd the cruel randy;                 [cursed, scoundrel]
    And weel I wat her willing mou'                      [wot, mouth]
      Was e'en like sugar-candy.
    At gloamin-shot it was, I trow,                          [sunset]
      I lighted, on the Monday;
    But I cam through the Tysday's dew,                   [Tuesday's]
      To wanton Willie's brandy.

_Macpherson's Farewell_, made famous by Carlyle's appreciation, is a
glorified version of the "Dying Words" of a condemned bandit, such as
were familiar in broadsides after every notorious execution. Part of
the refrain is old. One may imagine _The Highland Balou_ the lullaby
of Macpherson's child.


    Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong,
      The wretch's destinie!
    Macpherson's time will not be long
      On yonder gallows tree.

        Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,                       [jovially]
          Sae dauntingly gaed he;
        He played a spring and danced it round,         [lively tune]
          Below the gallows tree.

    Oh, what is death but parting breath?
      On mony a bloody plain
    I've dared his face, and in his place
      I scorn him yet again!

    Untie these bands from off my hands,
      And bring to me my sword,
    And there's no a man in all Scotland,
      But I'll brave him at a word.

    I've lived a life of sturt and strife;                  [trouble]
      I die by treacherie:
    It burns my heart I must depart
      And not avengèd be.

    Now farewell light, thou sunshine bright,
      And all beneath the sky!
    May coward shame distain his name,
      The wretch that dares not die!


    Hee balou! my sweet wee Donald,                         [Lullaby]
    Picture o' the great Clanronald;
    Brawlie kens our wanton chief                      [Finely knows]
    Wha got my young Highland thief.

    Leeze me on thy bonnie craigie!            [Blessings on, throat]
    An thou live, thou'll steal a naigie:            [If, little nag]
    Travel the country thro' and thro',
    And bring hame a Carlisle cow.

    Thro' the Lawlands, o'er the border,
    Weel, my babie, may thou furder:                        [succeed]
    Herry the louns o' the laigh countree,      [Harry, rascals, low]
    Syne to the Highlands hame to me.                          [Then]

Distinct from either of the foregoing groups are several songs in
narrative form, told as a rule from the point of view of an onlooker,
but hardly inferior to the others in vitality. In them the personal or
dramatic emotion is replaced by a keen sense of the humor of the


    Duncan Gray came here to woo,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    On blythe Yule night when we were fou,                    [drunk]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.
    Maggie coost her head fu' heigh,                     [cast, high]
    Look'd asklent and unco skeigh,          [askance, very skittish]
    Gart poor Duncan stand abeigh;                      [Made, aloof]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.

    Duncan fleech'd, and Duncan pray'd;                    [wheedled]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    Meg was deaf as Ailsa Craig,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    Duncan sigh'd baith out and in,
    Grat his een baith bleer't and blin',           [Wept, eyes both]
    Spak o' lowpin o'er a linn;                  [leaping, waterfall]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.

    Time and chance are but a tide,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    Slighted love is sair to bide,                     [sore, endure]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.
   'Shall I, like a fool,' quoth he,
   'For a naughty hizzie die?                                 [hussy]
    She may gae to--France for me!'
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't

    How it comes let doctors tell,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    Meg grew sick as he grew haill,                           [whole]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.
    Something in her bosom wrings,
    For relief a sigh she brings;
    And O, her een they spak sic things!                       [such]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.

    Duncan was a lad o' grace,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
    Maggie's was a piteous case,
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.
    Duncan could na be her death,
    Swelling pity smoor'd his wrath;                      [smothered]
    Now they're crouse and cantie baith!           [lively, cheerful]
              Ha, ha, the wooing o't.


    There was a lass, they ca'd her Meg,                     [called]
      And she held o'er the moors to spin;
    There was a lad that follow'd her,
      They ca'd him Duncan Davison.
    The moor was driegh, and Meg was skiegh,         [dull, skittish]
      Her favour Duncan could na win;
    For wi' the rock she wad him knock,                     [distaff]
      And ay she shook the temper-pin.            [regulating pin of
                                                  the spinning-wheel]
    As o'er the moor they lightly foor,                        [went]
      A burn was clear, a glen was green,
    Upon the banks they eased their shanks,
      And aye she set the wheel between:
    But Duncan swore a haly aith,                         [holy oath]
      That Meg should be a bride the morn;
    Then Meg took up her spinnin' graith,                [implements]
      And flung them a' out o'er the burn.                   [across]

    We will big a wee, wee house,                             [build]
      And we will live like King and Queen,
    Sae blythe and merry's we will be
      When ye set by the wheel at e'en,                       [aside]
    A man may drink and no be drunk;
      A man may fight and no be slain;
    A man may kiss a bonnie lass,
      And aye be welcome back again.


    The De'il cam fiddling thro' the town.
      And danced awa wi' th' Exciseman;
    And ilka wife cried 'Auld Mahoun,             [every, Mahomet (Devil)]
      I wish you luck o' your prize, man.'

    We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink,                   [malt]
      We'll laugh, and sing, and rejoice, man;
    And mony braw thanks to the muckle black De'il                   [big]
      That danced awa wi' th' Exciseman.

    There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels,
      There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man;                [dance tunes]
    But the ae best dance e'er cam to the lan'.                      [one]
      Was--_The De'il's awa wi' th' Exciseman_.


    Comin' thro' the rye, poor body,
      Comin' thro' the rye,
    She draigl't a' her petticoatie,             [draggled]
      Comin' thro' the rye.

    Gin a body meet a body                             [If]
      Comin' thro' the rye;
    Gin a body kiss a body,
      Need a body cry?

    Gin a body meet a body
      Comin' thro' the glen;
    Gin a body kiss a body,
      Need the warld ken?

    O, Jenny's a' weet, poor body;                [all wet]
      Jenny's seldom dry;
    She draigl't a' her petticoatie,
      Comin' thro' the rye.


    The bairns gat out wi' an unco shout,           [children, surprising]
      The deuk's dang o'er my daddie, O!                [duck has knocked]
    The fient ma care, quo' the feirie auld wife,       [devil may, lusty]
      He was but a paidlin body, O!                   [tottering creature]
    He paidles out, and he paidles in,
      An' he paidles late and early, O;
    This seven lang years I hae lien by his side,
      An' he is but a fusionless carlie, O.          [pithless old fellow]

    O, haud your tongue, my feirie auld wife,                       [hold]
      O, haud your tongue now, Nansie, O:
    I've seen the day, and sae hae ye,
      Ye wad na been sae donsie, O;                [would not have, testy]
    I've seen the day ye butter'd my brose,        [oatmeal and hot water]
      And cuddl'd me late and earlie, O;
    But downa-do's come o'er me now,                        [cannot-do is]
      And, oh, I find it sairly, O!                       [feel it sorely]


   'Wha is that at my bower door?'
     'O wha is it but Findlay?'
   'Then gae your gate, ye'se nae be here!'      [go, way, shall not]
     'Indeed maun I,' quo' Findlay.                            [must]
   'What mak ye, sae like a thief?'                              [do]
     'O, come and see,' quo' Findlay;
   'Before the morn ye'll work mischief;'
     'Indeed will I,' quo' Findlay.

   'Gif I rise and let you in--'                                 [If]
     'Let me in,' quo' Findlay--
   'Ye'll keep me waukin wi' your din;'                       [awake]
     'Indeed will I,' quo' Findlay.
   'In my bower if ye should stay--'
     'Let me stay,' quo' Findlay--,
   'I fear ye'll bide till break o' day;'
     'Indeed will I,' quo' Findlay.

   'Here this night if ye remain--'
     'I'll remain,' quo' Findlay--,
   'I dread ye'll learn the gate again;'                        [way]
     'Indeed will I,' quo' Findlay,
   'What may pass within this bower--'
     'Let it pass,' quo' Findlay--
   'Ye maun conceal till your last hour;'                      [must]
     'Indeed will I,' quo' Findlay.


    Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed,
      The spot they ca'd it Linkumdoddie;
    Willie was a wabster guid,                               [weaver good]
      Cou'd stown a clue wi' ony body.                       [have stolen]
    He had a wife was dour and din,                     [stubborn, sallow]
      O, Tinkler Madgie was her mither;                           [Tinker]
    Sic a wife as Willie had,                                       [Such]
      I wad na gie a button for her!

    She has an e'e, she has but ane,                                 [eye]
      The cat has twa the very colour;
    Five rusty teeth, forbye a stump,                            [besides]
      A clapper tongue wad deave a miller;                        [deafen]
    A whiskin beard about her mou,                                 [mouth]
      Her nose and chin they threaten ither;
    Sic a wife as Willie had,
      I wad na gie a button for her!

    She's bow-hough'd, she's hem-shinn'd,                 [bandy, crooked]
      Ae limpin leg a hand-breed shorter;              [One, hand-breadth]
    She's twisted right, she's twisted left,
      To balance fair in ilka quarter:                            [either]
    She has a hump upon her breast,
      The twin o' that upon her shouther;
    Sic a wife as Willie had,
      I wad na gie a button for her!

    Auld baudrons by the ingle sits,                 [Old pussy, fireside]
      An' wi' her loof her face a-washin;                           [palm]
    But Willie's wife is nae sae trig,                              [trim]
      She dights her grunzie wi' a hushion;   [wipes, snout, stocking-leg]
    Her walie nieves like midden-creels,       [ample fists, dung baskets]
      Her face wad fyle the Logan-water;                           [dirty]
    Sic a wife as Willie had,
      I wad na gie a button for her!

The songs written by Burns in connection with politics are often
lively and pointed, but they have little imagination, and the passing
of the issues they dealt with has deprived them of general interest.
Two classes of exceptions may be noted. He was, as we have seen,
sympathetically interested in the French Revolution, and the
fundamental doctrine of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality was cast by him
into a poem which, he himself said, is "not really poetry," but is
admirably vigorous rhetoric in verse, and has become the classic
utterance of the democratic faith.


    Is there for honest poverty
      That hings his head, an' a' that?                       [hangs]
    The coward slave, we pass him by,
      We dare be poor for a' that!
        For a' that, an' a' that,
          Our toils obscure, an' a' that;
        The rank is but the guinea's stamp;
          The man's the gowd for a' that.                      [gold]

    What tho' on hamely fare we dine,
      Wear hodden-gray, and a' that;                    [coarse gray]
    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,              [Give]
      A man's a man for a' that.
        For a' that, an' a' that,
          Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
        The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
          Is king o' men for a' that.

    Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,                          [fellow]
      Wha struts, and stares, an' a' that;
    Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
      He's but a coof for a' that:                             [dolt]
        For a' that, an' a' that,
          His riband, star, and a' that,
        The man of independent mind,
          He looks and laughs at a' that.

    A prince can mak a belted knight,
      A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
    But an honest man's aboon his might,                      [above]
      Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!                 [must not claim]
        For a' that, an' a' that,
          Their dignities, an' a' that,
        The pith o' sense an' pride o' worth
          Are higher rank than a' that.

    But let us pray that come it may,
      As come it will for a' that;
    That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
      May bear the gree, an' a' that.                   [first place]
        For a' that, an' a' that,
          It's coming yet for a' that,
        That man to man the warld o'er
          Shall brithers be for a' that.

Another, equally famous, sprang from his patriotic enthusiasm for the
heroes of the Scottish war of independence, but was written with more
than a slight consciousness of what seemed to him the similarity of
the spirit then abroad in France.



    Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
    Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
    Welcome to your gory bed
        Or to victorie.

    Now's the day, and now's the hour;
    See the front o' battle lour!
    See approach proud Edward's power--
        Chains and slaverie!

    Wha will be a traitor knave?
    Wha can fill a coward's grave?
    Wha sae base as be a slave?
        Let him turn and flee!

    Wha for Scotland's King and law
    Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
    Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
        Let him follow me!

    By Oppression's woes and pains!
    By your sons in servile chains!
    We will drain our dearest veins,
        But they shall be free!

    Lay the proud usurpers low!
    Tyrants fall in every foe!
    Liberty's in every blow!
        Let us do or die!

The other class of exceptions is the group of songs on Jacobite
themes. The rebellion led by Prince Charles Edward in 1745 had
produced a considerable quantity of campaign verse, almost all without
poetic value; but after the turmoil had died down and the Stuart cause
was regarded as finally lost, there appeared in Scotland a peculiar
sentimental tenderness for the picturesque and unfortunate family that
had sunk from the splendors of a throne that had been theirs for
centuries into the sordid misery of royal pauperism. Burns, whose
ancestors had been "out" in the '45, shared this sentiment, as Walter
Scott later shared it, both realizing that it had nothing to do with
practical politics. Out of this feeling there grew a considerable body
of poetry, a poetry full of idealism, touched with melancholy, and
atoning for its lack of reality by a richness of imaginative emotion.
Burns led the way in this unique movement, and was worthily followed
by such writers as Lady Nairne, James Hogg, and Sir Walter himself. He
followed his usual custom of availing himself of fragments of the
older lyrics, but as usual he polished the pebbles into jewels and set
them in gold. Here are a few specimens of this poetry of a lost cause.


    It was a' for our rightfu' King,
      We left fair Scotland's strand;
    It was a' for our rightfu' King,
      We e'er saw Irish land,
                    My dear,
      We e'er saw Irish land.

    Now a' is done that men can do,
      And a' is done in vain;
    My love and native land farewell,
      For I maun cross the main,                     [must]
                    My dear,
      For I maun cross the main.

    He turn'd him right and round about
      Upon the Irish shore;
    And gae his bridle-reins a shake,                [gave]
      With adieu for evermore,
                    My dear,
      Adieu for evermore.

    The sodger from the wars returns,             [soldier]
      The sailor frae the main;
    But I hae parted frae my love,
      Never to meet again,
                    My dear,
      Never to meet again.

    When day is gane, and night is come,
      And a' folk bound to sleep,
    I think on him that's far awa',
      The lee-lang night, and weep,             [live-long]
                    My dear,
      The lee-lang night, and weep.


    Come boat me o'er, come row me o'er,
      Come boat me o'er to Charlie;
    I'll gie John Ross another bawbee,                   [half-penny]
      To boat me o'er to Charlie.

        We'll o'er the water, we'll o'er the sea,
          We'll o'er the water to Charlie;
        Come weal, come woe, we'll gather and go,
          And live or die wi' Charlie.

    I lo'e weel my Charlie's name,                             [love]
      Tho' some there be abhor him:
    But O, to see auld Nick gaun hame,                        [going]
      And Charlie's faes before him!                           [foes]

    I swear and vow by moon and stars,
      And sun that shines so clearly,
    If I had twenty thousand lives,
      I'd die as aft for Charlie.


    The bonniest lad that e'er I saw,
      Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie,
    Wore a plaid and was fu' braw,          [gaily dressed]
      Bonnie Highland laddie.
    On his head a bonnet blue,
      Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie,
    His royal heart was firm and true,
      Bonnie Highland laddie.

    Trumpets sound and cannons roar,
      Bonnie lassie, Lawland lassie,
    And a' the hills wi' echoes roar,
      Bonnie Lawland lassie.
    Glory, Honour, now invite,
      Bonnie lassie, Lawland lassie,
    For Freedom and my King to fight,
      Bonnie Lawland lassie.

    The sun a backward course shall take,
      Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie,
    Ere aught thy manly courage shake,
      Bonnie Highland laddie.
    Go, for yoursel procure renown,
      Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie,
    And for your lawful King his crown,
      Bonnie Highland laddie!


    Bannocks o' bear meal,                  [Cakes, barley]
      Bannocks o' barley;
    Here's to the Highlandman's
      Bannocks o' barley.
    Wha in a brulzie                                [broil]
      Will first cry a parley?
    Never the lads wi'
      The bannocks o' barley.

    Bannocks o' bear meal,
      Bannocks o' barley;
    Here's to the lads wi'
      The bannocks o' barley;
    Wha in his wae-days                            [woful-]
      Were loyal to Charlie?
    Wha but the lads wi'
      The bannocks o' barley.


    O, Kenmure's on and awa, Willie!
      O, Kenmure's on and awa!
    And Kenmure's lord's the bravest lord
      That ever Galloway saw.

    Success to Kenmure's band, Willie!
      Success to Kenmure's band;
    There's no a heart that fears a Whig
      That rides by Kenmure's hand.

    Here's Kenmure's health in wine, Willie!
      Here's Kenmure's health in wine;
    There ne'er was a coward o' Kenmure's blude,    [blood]
      Nor yet o' Gordon's line.

    O, Kenmure's lads are men, Willie!
      O, Kenmure's lads are men;
    Their hearts and swords are metal true,
      And that their faes shall ken.

    They'll live or die wi' fame, Willie!
      They'll live or die wi' fame;
    But soon, wi' sounding victorie,
      May Kenmure's lord come hame!

    Here's him that's far awa, Willie!
      Here's him that's far awa;
    And here's the flower that I lo'e best--
      The rose that's like the snaw!


    By yon castle wa', at the close of the day,
    I heard a man sing, tho' his head it was grey:
    And as he was singing, the tears down came--
   'There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

   'The church is in ruins, the state is in jars,
    Delusions, oppressions, and murderous wars;
    We dare na weel say't, but we ken wha's to blame--
    There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

   'My seven braw sons for Jamie drew sword,                         [handsome]
    And now I greet round their green beds in the yerd;      [weep, churchyard]
    It brak the sweet heart o' my faithfu' auld dame--
    There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

   'Now life is a burden that bows me down,
    Sin' I tint my bairns, and he tint his crown;              [lost, children]
    But till my last moment my words are the same--
    There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.'


    I hae been at Crookieden--                                 [Hell]
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    Viewing Willie and his men--                 [Duke of Cumberland]
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    There our foes that burnt and slew--
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    There at last they gat their due--
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!

    Satan sits in his black neuk--                           [corner]
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    Breaking sticks to roast the Duke--
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    The bloody monster gae a yell--                            [gave]
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!
    And loud the laugh gaed round a' Hell--                    [went]
      My bonie laddie, Highland laddie!


    'Twas on a Monday morning
      Right early in the year,
    That Charlie came to our town--
      The Young Chevalier!


        An' Charlie he's my darling,
          My darling, my darling,
        Charlie he's my darling--
          The Young Chevalier!

    As he was walking up the street
      The city for to view,
    O, there he spied a bonie lass
      The window looking thro!

    Sae light's he jumped up the stair,
      And tirl'd at the pin;                      [rattled]
    And wha sae ready as hersel'
      To let the laddie in!

    He set his Jenny on his knee,
      All in his Highland dress;
    And brawlie weel he kend the way
      To please a bonie lass.

    It's up yon heathery mountain
      And down yon scraggy glen,
    We daurna gang a-milking
      For Charlie and his men!

Such in nature and origin are the songs of Burns. Of some three
hundred written or rewritten by him, a large number are negligible in
estimating his poetical capacity. One cause lay in his unfortunate
ambition to write in the style of his eighteenth-century predecessors
in English, with the accompanying mythological allusions,
personifications, and scraps of artificial diction. Another was his
pathetic eagerness to supply Thomson with material in his undertaking
to preserve the old melodies--an eagerness which often led him to send
in verses of which he himself felt that their only defense was that
they were better than none. Thus his collected works are burdened with
a considerable mass of very indifferent stuff. But when this has all
been removed, we have left a body of song such as probably no writer
in any language has bequeathed to his country. It is marked, first of
all, by its peculiar harmony of expression with the utterance of the
common people. Direct and simple, its diction was still capable of
carrying intense feeling, a humor incomparable in its archness and sly
mirth, and a power of idealizing ordinary experience without effort or
affectation. The union of these words with the traditional melodies,
on which we have so strongly insisted, gave them a superb singing
quality, which has had as much to do with their popularity as their
thought or their feeling. This union, however, has its drawbacks when
we come to consider the songs as literature; for to present them as
here in bare print without the living tune is to perpetuate a divorce
which their author never contemplated. No editor of Burns can fail to
feel a pang when he thinks that these words may be heard by ears that
carry no echo of the airs to which they were born. Here lies the
fundamental reason for what seems to outsiders the exaggerated
estimate of Burns in the judgment of his countrymen. What they extol
is not mere literature, but song, the combination of poetry and music;
and it is only when Burns is judged as an artist in this double sense
that he is judged fairly.



Fame first came to Burns through his satires. Before he had been
recognized by the Edinburgh litterateurs, before he had written more
than a handful of songs, he was known and feared on his own countryside
as a formidable critic of ecclesiastical tyranny. It was this reputation
that made possible the success of the subscription to the Kilmarnock
volume, and so saved Burns to Scotland.

Two characteristics of the Kirk of Scotland had tended to prepare the
people to welcome an attack on its authority: the severity with which
the clergy administered discipline, and the extremes to which they had
pushed their Calvinism.

In spite of the existence of dissenting bodies, the great mass of the
population belonged to the established church, and both their
spiritual privileges and their social standing were at the mercy of
the Kirk session and the presiding minister. It is difficult for a
Protestant community to-day to realize the extent to which the
conduct of the individual and the family were controlled by the
ecclesiastical authorities. Offenses which now would at most be the
subject of private remonstrance were treated as public crimes and
expiated in church before the whole parish. Gavin Hamilton, Burns's
friend and landlord at Mossgiel, a liberal gentleman of means and
standing, was prosecuted in the church courts for lax attendance at
divine service, for traveling on Sabbath, for neglecting family
worship, and for having had one of his servants dig new potatoes on
the Lord's day. Burns's irregular relations with Jean Armour led to
successive appearances by both him and Jean before the congregation,
to receive open rebuke and to profess repentance. Further expiation
was demanded in the form of a contribution for the poor.

Against the discipline which he himself had to suffer Burns seems to
have made no protest, and probably thought it just enough; but what he
considered the persecution of his friend roused his indignation. This
was all the fiercer as he regarded some of the members of the session
as hypocrites, whose own private morals would not stand examination.
Chief among these was a certain William Fisher, immortalized in a
satire the application of which was meant to extend to the whole class
which he represented.


    Thou, that in the Heavens does dwell,
    Wha, as it pleases best Thysel',
    Sends ane to heaven and ten to hell,
                A' for thy glory,
    And no for ony guid or ill
                They've done before thee!

    I bless and praise thy matchless might,
    Whan thousands thou hast left in night,
    That I am here before thy sight,
                For gifts an' grace
    A burning and a shining light,
                To a' this place.

    What was I, or my generation,
    That I should get sic exaltation?                          [such]
    I, wha deserv'd most just damnation,
                For broken laws,
    Sax thousand years ere my creation,                         [Six]
                Thro' Adam's cause.

    When from my mither's womb I fell,
    Thou might have plung'd me deep in hell,
    To gnash my gooms, and weep and wail,                      [gums]
                In burning lakes,
    Where damned devils roar and yell,
                Chain'd to their stakes;

    Yet I am here a chosen sample,
    To show Thy grace is great and ample;
    I'm here a pillar o' Thy temple,
                Strong as a rock,
    A guide, a buckler, an example
                To a' Thy flock.

    But yet, O Lord! confess I must
    At times I'm fash'd wi' fleshly lust;                  [troubled]
    An' sometimes too, in warldly trust,
                Vile self gets in;
    But Thou remembers we are dust,
                Defil'd wi' sin.

    O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi' Meg--
    Thy pardon I sincerely beg--
    O! may't ne'er be a living plague
                To my dishonour,
    An' I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg
                Again upon her.

    Besides I farther maun avow--                              [must]
    Wi' Leezie's lass, three times, I trow--
    But, Lord, that Friday I was fou,                         [drunk]
                When I cam near her,
    Or else, Thou kens, thy servant true
                Wad never steer her.                    [meddle with]

    May be Thou lets this fleshly thorn
    Beset Thy servant e'en and morn
    Lest he owre high and proud should turn,                    [too]
                That he's sae gifted;
    If sae, Thy hand maun e'en be borne,
                Until thou lift it.

    Lord, bless Thy chosen in this place,
    For here thou hast a chosen race;
    But God confound their stubborn face,
                And blast their name,
    Wha' bring Thy elders to disgrace
                An' public shame.

    Lord, mind Gau'n Hamilton's deserts,
    He drinks, an' swears, an' plays at cartes,               [cards]
    Yet has sae mony takin' arts
                Wi' great an' sma',
    Frae God's ain priest the people's hearts
                He steals awa'.

    An' when we chasten'd him therefor,
    Thou kens how he bred sic a splore            [raised such a row]
    As set the warld in a roar
                O' laughin' at us;
    Curse thou his basket and his store,
                Kail and potatoes!

    Lord hear my earnest cry an' pray'r,
    Against that presbyt'ry o' Ayr;
    Thy strong right hand, Lord, make it bare
                Upo' their heads;
    Lord, visit them, and dinna spare,                       [do not]
                For their misdeeds.

    O Lord my God, that glib-tongu'd Aiken,
    My very heart and soul are quakin',
    To think how we stood sweatin', shakin',
                An' pish'd wi' dread,
    While he, wi' hingin' lips and snakin',                [sneering]
                Held up his head.

    Lord, in Thy day of vengeance try him;
    Lord, visit him wha did employ him,
    And pass not in Thy mercy by them,
                Nor hear their pray'r:
    But, for Thy people's sake, destroy them,
                And dinna spare.

    But, Lord, remember me and mine
    Wi' mercies temporal and divine,
    That I for grace and gear may shine                      [wealth]
                Excell'd by nane,
    And a' the glory shall be thine,
                Amen, Amen!

Still more highly generalized is his _Address to the Unco Guid_, a
plea for charity in judgment, kept from sentimentalism by its gleam of
humor. It has perhaps the widest appeal of any of his poems of this
class. One may note that as Burns passes from the satirical and
humorous tone to the directly didactic, the dialect disappears, and
the last two stanzas are practically pure English.


        _My son, these maxims make a rule,
          And lump them aye thegither;                     [together]
        The rigid righteous is a fool,
          The rigid wise anither;
        The cleanest corn that e'er was dight,               [sifted]
          May hae some pyles o' caff in               [grains, chaff]
        So ne'er a fellow-creature slight
          For random fits o' daffin._                       [larking]
                     SOLOMON (_Eccles._ vii. 16).

    O ye wha are sae guid yoursel,                          [so good]
      Sae pious and sae holy,
    Ye've nought to do but mark and tell
      Your neibour's fauts and folly!                        [faults]
    Whase life is like a weel-gaun mill,                 [well-going]
      Supplied wi' store o' water:
    The heapet happer's ebbing still,                        [hopper]
      An' still the clap plays clatter!                     [clapper]

    Hear me, ye venerable core,                             [company]
      As counsel for poor mortals
    That frequent pass douce Wisdom's door,                  [sedate]
      For glaikit Folly's portals;                            [giddy]
    I, for their thoughtless, careless sakes,
      Would here propone defences,--                      [put forth]
    Their donsie tricks, their black mistakes,              [restive]
      Their failings and mischances.

    Ye see your state wi' theirs compar'd,
      And shudder at the niffer;                           [exchange]
    But cast a moment's fair regard--
      What makes the mighty differ?                      [difference]
    Discount what scant occasion gave,
      That purity ye pride in,
    And (what's aft mair than a' the lave)                     [rest]
      Your better art o' hidin'.

    Think, when your castigated pulse
      Gies now and then a wallop,                             [Gives]
    What ragings must his veins convulse,
      That still eternal gallop!
    Wi' wind and tide fair i' your tail,
      Right on ye scud your sea-way;
    But in the teeth o' baith to sail,
      It makes an unco leeway.                             [uncommon]

    See Social life and Glee sit down,
      All joyous and unthinking,
    Till, quite transmogrified, they're grown
      Debauchery and Drinking:
    O would they stay to calculate
      Th' eternal consequences;
    Or--your more dreaded hell to state--
      Damnation of expenses!

    Ye high, exalted virtuous Dames,
      Tied up in godly laces,
    Before ye gie poor Frailty names,
      Suppose a change o' cases;
    A dear lov'd lad, convenience snug,
      A treacherous inclination--
    But, let me whisper i' your lug,                            [ear]
      Ye're aiblins nae temptation.                         [perhaps]

    Then gently scan your brother man,
      Still gentler sister woman;
    Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,                       [trifle]
      To step aside is human.
    One point must still be greatly dark,
      The moving why they do it;
    And just as lamely can ye mark
      How far perhaps they rue it.

    Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
      Decidedly can try us;
    He knows each chord, its various tone,
      Each spring, its various bias.
    Then at the balance let's be mute,
      We never can adjust it;
    What's done we partly may compute,
      But know not what's resisted.

As regards the questions of doctrine there were in the church two main
parties, known as the Auld Lichts and the New Lichts. The former were
high Calvinists, emphasizing the doctrines of election,
predestination, original sin, and eternal punishment. The latter
comprised many of the younger clergy who had been touched by the
rationalistic tendencies of the century, and who were blamed for
various heresies--notably Arminianism and Socinianism. Whatever their
precise beliefs, they laid less stress than their opponents on dogma
and more on benevolent conduct, and Burns had strong sympathy with
their liberalism. He first appeared in their support in an _Epistle to
John Goldie_, a Kilmarnock wine-merchant who had published _Essays on
Various Important Subjects, Moral and Divine_. Though he does not
explicitly accept the author's Arminianism, he makes it clear that he
relished his attacks on orthodoxy. A quarrel between two prominent
Auld Licht ministers gave him his next opportunity, and the
circulation in manuscript of _The Twa Herds: or, The Holy Tulyie_ made
him a personage in the district. With an irony more vigorous than
delicate he affects to lament that

    The twa best herds in a' the wast,                [pastors, west]
    That e'er ga'e gospel horn a blast                         [gave]
    These five an' twenty simmers past--
              Oh, dool to tell!                              [sorrow]
    Hae had a bitter black out-cast                         [quarrel]
              Atween themsel,                               [Between]

and he ends with the hope that if patronage could be abolished and the
lairds forced to give

    the brutes the power themsels
        To chuse their herds,

    Then Orthodoxy yet may prance,
    An' Learning in a woody dance,                          [gallows]
    An' that fell cur ca'd 'common-sense,'
        That bites sae sair,                                 [sorely]
    Be banish'd o'er the sea to France;
        Let him bark there.

More light is thrown on Burns's positive attitude in religious
matters by his _Epistle to McMath_, a young New Licht minister in
Tarbolton. From the evidences of the letters, we are justified in
accepting at its face value the profession of reverence for true
religion made by Burns in this epistle; his hatred of the sham needs
no corroboration.


Enclosing a Copy of _Holy Willie's Prayer_, which he had requested,
September 17, 1785

    While at the stook the shearers cow'r            [shock, reapers]
    To shun the bitter blaudin' show'r,                     [driving]
    Or, in gulravage rinnin', scour;              [horseplay running]
                    To pass the time,
    To you I dedicate the hour
                    In idle rhyme.

    My Musie, tir'd wi' mony a sonnet
    On gown, an' ban', an' douce black-bonnet,               [sedate]
    Is grown right eerie now she's done it,                  [scared]
                    Lest they should blame her,
    An' rouse their holy thunder on it,
                    And anathém her.                          [curse]

    I own 'twas rash, an' rather hardy,
    That I, a simple country bardie,
    Shou'd meddle wi' a pack sae sturdy,
                    Wha, if they ken me,
    Can easy, wi' a single wordie,
                    Lowse hell upon me.                       [Loose]

    But I gae mad at their grimaces,
    Their sighin', cantin', grace-proud faces,
    Their three-mile prayers, and half-mile graces,
                    Their raxin' conscience,                [elastic]
    Whase greed, revenge, an' pride disgraces
                    Waur nor their nonsense.             [Worse than]

    There's Gau'n, misca't waur than a beast,
    Wha has mair honour in his breast
    Than mony scores as guid's the priest                   [good as]
                    Wha sae abus'd him:
    An' may a bard no crack his jest
                    What way they've used him?       [On the fashion]

    See him the poor man's friend in need,
    The gentleman in word an' deed,
    An' shall his fame an' honour bleed
                    By worthless skellums,                  [railers]
    An' not a Muse erect her head
                    To cowe the blellums?         [daunt, blusterers]

    O Pope, had I thy satire's darts
    To gie the rascals their deserts,                          [give]
    I'd rip their rotten, hollow hearts,
                    An' tell aloud
    Their jugglin', hocus-pocus arts
                    To cheat the crowd.

    God knows I'm no the thing I should be,
    Nor am I even the thing I could be,
    But, twenty times, I rather would be
                    An atheist clean,
    Than under gospel colours hid be,
                    Just for a screen.

    An honest man may like a glass,
    An honest man may like a lass;
    But mean revenge, an' malice fause,                       [false]
                    He'll still disdain,
    An' then cry zeal for gospel laws,
                    Like some we ken.

    They tak religion in their mouth;
    They talk o' mercy, grace, an' truth,
    For what? To gie their malice skouth                      [scope]
                    On some puir wight,
    An' hunt him down, o'er right an' ruth,                 [against]
                    To ruin straight.

    All hail, Religion, maid divine!
    Pardon a muse sae mean as mine,
    Who in her rough imperfect line
                    Thus daurs to name thee;
    To stigmatize false friends of thine
                    Can ne'er defame thee.

    Tho' blotcht an' foul wi' mony a stain,
    An' far unworthy of thy train,
    Wi' trembling voice I tune my strain
                    To join wi' those
    Who boldly daur thy cause maintain
                    In spite o' foes:

    In spite o' crowds, in spite o' mobs,
    In spite of undermining jobs.
    In spite o' dark banditti stabs
                    At worth an' merit,
    By scoundrels, even wi' holy robes,
                    But hellish spirit.

    O Ayr, my dear, my native ground!
    Within thy presbyterial bound,
    A candid lib'ral band is found
                    Of public teachers,
    As men, as Christians too, renown'd,
                    An' manly preachers.

    Sir, in that circle you are nam'd,
    Sir, in that circle you are fam'd;
    An' some, by whom your doctrine's blam'd,
                    (Which gies you honour)--
    Even, sir, by them your heart's esteem'd,
                    An' winning manner.

    Pardon this freedom I have ta'en,
    An' if impertinent I've been,
    Impute it not, good sir, in ane
                    Whase heart ne'er wrang'd ye,
    But to his utmost would befriend
                    Ought that belang'd ye.               [was yours]

A further fling at orthodoxy appeared in _The Ordination_, a piece
written to comfort the Kilmarnock liberals when an Auld Licht minister
was selected for the second charge there. The tone is again one of
ironical congratulation, and Burns describes the rejoicings of the
elect with infinite zest. Two stanzas on the church music will
illustrate his method.

    Mak haste an' turn King David owre,             [open the Psalms]
      An' lilt wi' holy clangor;                               [sing]
    O' double verse come gie us four                           [give]
      An' skirl up the _Bangor_:               [shriek, a Psalm-tune]
    This day the Kirk kicks up a stoure,                       [dust]
      Nae mair the knaves shall wrang her,                  [No more]
    For Heresy is in her pow'r,
      And gloriously she'll whang her                        [thrash]
                    Wi' pith this day.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Nae mair by Babel streams we'll weep,
      To think upon our Zion;
    And hing our fiddles up to sleep,                          [hang]
      Like baby-clouts a-dryin';
    Come, screw the pegs wi' tunefu' cheep,                   [chirp]
      And o'er the thairms be tryin';                       [strings]
    O, rare! to see our elbucks wheep,                  [elbows jerk]
      And a' like lamb-tails flyin'
                    Fu' fast this day!

In the same ironical fashion he digresses in his _Dedication to Gavin
Hamilton_ to satirize the "high-fliers'" contempt for "cold morality"
and for their faith in the power of orthodox belief to cover lapses in

          Morality, thou deadly bane,
    Thy tens o' thousands thou hast slain!
    Vain is his hope, whose stay and trust is
    In moral mercy, truth and justice!

          No--stretch a point to catch a plack;               [small coin]
    Abuse a brother to his back;
    Steal thro' the winnock frae a whore,                    [window from]
    But point the rake that takes the door:

           *       *       *       *       *

          Be to the poor like ony whunstane,               [any whinstone]
    And haud their noses to the grunstane;              [hold, grindstone]
    Ply ev'ry art o' legal thieving;
    No matter--stick to sound believing.

          Learn three-mile pray'rs, an' half-mile graces,
    Wi' weel-spread looves, an' lang, wry faces;                   [palms]
    Grunt up a solemn, lengthen'd groan,
    And damn a' parties but your own;
    I'll warrant them ye're nae deceiver,
    A steady, sturdy, staunch believer.

The period within which these satires were written was short--1785 and
1786; but some three years later, on the prosecution of a liberal
minister, Doctor McGill of Ayr, for the publication of _A Practical
Essay on the Death of Jesus Christ_, which was charged with teaching
Unitarianism, Burns took up the theme again. _The Kirk's Alarm_ is a
rattling "ballad," full of energy and scurrilous wit, but, like many
of its kind, it has lost much of its interest through the great amount
of personal detail. A few stanzas will show that, even after his
absence from local politics during his Edinburgh sojourn, he had lost
none of his gusto in belaboring the Ayrshire Calvinists.

    Orthodox, Orthodox, wha believe in John Knox,
      Let me sound an alarm to your conscience:
    There's a heretic blast has been blawn i' the wast,
      That what is not sense must be nonsense.

    Dr. Mac, Dr. Mac, you should stretch on a rack,
      To strike evil-doers wi' terror;
    To join faith and sense upon any pretence,
      Is heretic, damnable error.

           *       *       *       *       *

    D'rymple mild, D'rymple mild, tho' your heart's like a child,
      And your life like the new driven snaw,
    Yet that winna save ye, auld Satan must have ye,
      For preaching that three's ane and twa.

    Calvin's sons, Calvin's sons, seize your sp'ritual guns,
      Ammunition you never can need;
    Your hearts are the stuff will be powther enough,
      And your skulls are storehouses o' lead.

It was inevitable from the nature and purpose of these satirical
poems that, however keen an interest they might raise in their time
and place, a large part of that interest should evaporate in the
course of time. Yet it would be a mistake to regard their importance
as limited to raising a laugh against a few obscure bigots. The evils
that Burns attacked, however his verses may be tinged with personal
animus and occasional injustice, were real evils that existed far
beyond the county of Ayr; and in the movement for enlightenment and
liberation from these evils and their like that was then sweeping over
Scotland, the wit and invective of the poet played no small part. The
development that followed did, indeed, take a direction that he was
far from foreseeing. The moderate party, which he supported, gradually
gained the upper hand in the Kirk, and, upholding as it did the system
of patronage, became more and more associated with the aristocracy who
bestowed the livings. The result was that the moderate clergy
degenerated under prosperity and lost their spiritual zeal; while
their opponents, chastened by adversity, became the champions of the
autonomy of the church, and, in the "ten years' conflict" that broke
out little more than a generation after the death of Burns, showed
themselves of the stuff of the martyrs. It would be impossible to
trace the extent of the influence of the poet on the purging of
orthodoxy or on the limitation of ecclesiastical despotism, since his
work was in accord with the drift of the times; but it is fair to
infer that, especially among the common people who were less likely to
be reached by more philosophical discussion, his share was far from

The poetical value of the satires is another matter. It may be
questioned whether satire is ever essentially poetry, as poetry has
been understood for the last hundred years. The dominant mood of
satire is too antagonistic to imagination. But if we restrict our
attention to the characteristic qualities of verse satire--vividness
in depicting its object, blazing indignation or bitter scorn in its
attitude, and wit in its expression, we shall be forced to grant that
Burns achieved here notable success. Of the rarer power of satire to
rise above the local, temporal, and personal to the exhibiting of
universal elements in human life, there are comparatively few
instances in Burns. The _Address to the Unco Guid_ is perhaps the
finest example; and here, as usually in his work, the approach to the
general leads him to drop the scourge for the sermon.

In his tendency to preach, Burns was as much the inheritor of a
national tradition as in any of his other characteristics. A strain of
moralizing is well marked in the Scottish poets even before the
Reformation, and, since the time of Burns, the preaching Scot has been
notably exemplified not only in a professed prophet like Carlyle, but
in so artistic a temperament as Stevenson. Nor did consciousness of
his failures in practise embarrass Burns in the indulgence of the
luxury of precept. Side by side with frank confessions of weakness we
find earnest if not stern exhortations to do, not as he did, but as he
taught. And as Scots have an appetite for hearing as well as for
making sermons, his didactic pieces are among those most quoted and
relished by his countrymen. The morally elevated but poetically
inferior closing stanzas of _The Cotter's Saturday Night_ are an
instance in point; others are the morals appended to _To a Mouse_ and
_To a Daisy_, and to a number of his rhyming epistles.

These epistles are among the most significant of his writings for the
reader in search of personal revelations. The _Epistle to James Smith_
contains the much-quoted stanza on the poet's motives:

    Some rhyme a neebor's name to lash;
    Some rhyme (vain thought!) for needful cash;
    Some rhyme to court the countra clash,                   [gossip]
                    An' raise a din;
    For me, an aim I never fash;                      [trouble about]
                    I rhyme for fun.

Another gives his view of his equipment:

    The star that rules my luckless lot,
    Has fated me the russet coat,
    An' damned my fortune to the groat;
                    But, in requit,
    Has blest me with a random-shot
                    O' countra wit.                         [country]

Then he passes from literary considerations to his general philosophy
of life:

    But why o' death begin a tale?
    Just now we're living sound an' hale;
    Then top and maintop crowd the sail;
                    Heave Care o'er-side!
    And large, before Enjoyment's gale,
                    Let's tak the tide.

           *       *       *       *       *

    When ance life's day draws near the gloamin,
    Then fareweel vacant, careless roamin;
    An' fareweel cheerfu' tankards foamin,
                    An' social noise:
    An' fareweel dear, deluding Woman,
                    The joy of joys!

Here, as often, he contrasts his own reckless impulsive temper with
that of prudent calculation:

    With steady aim, some Fortune chase;
    Keen Hope does ev'ry sinew brace;
    Thro' fair, thro' foul, they urge the race,
                    And seize the prey:
    Then cannie, in some cozie place,                       [quietly]
                    They close the day.

    And others, like your humble servan',
    Poor wights! nae rules nor roads observin',
    To right or left eternal swervin',
                    They zig-zag on;
    Till, curst with age, obscure an' starvin',
                    They aften groan.

           *       *       *       *       *

    O ye douce folk that live by rule,
    Grave, tideless-blooded, calm an' cool,
    Compar'd wi' you--O fool! fool! fool!
                    How much unlike!
    Your hearts are just a standing pool,
                    Your lives a dyke!                   [stone wall]

Nothing is more characteristic of the poet than this attitude toward
prudence--this mixture of Intellectual respect with emotional
contempt. He admits freely that restraint and calculation pay, but
impulse makes life so much more interesting!

The _Epistle to Davie, a Brother Poet_, deserves to be quoted in
full. It contains the final phrasing of the central point of Burns's
ethics, the Scottish rustic's version of that philosophy of
benevolence with which Shaftesbury sought to warm the chill of
eighteenth-century thought:

    The heart aye's the part aye
    That makes us right or wrang.

The mood of this poem is Burns's middle mood, lying between the black
melancholy of his poems of despair and remorse and the exhilaration of
his more exalted bacchanalian and love songs--the mood, we may infer,
of his normal working life. We may again observe the correspondence
between the change of dialect and change of tone in stanzas nine and
ten, the increase of artificiality coming with his literary English
and culminating in the unspeakable "tenebrific scene." His humor
returns with his Scots in the last verse.


    While winds frae aff Ben Lomond blaw,
    And bar the doors wi' driving snaw,
      And hing us owre the ingle,                        [hang, fire]
    I set me down to pass the time,
    And spin a verse or twa o' rhyme,
      In hamely westlin jingle.                        [west-country]
    While frosty winds blaw in the drift,
      Ben to the chimla lug,                     [In, chimney-corner]
    I grudge a wee the great-folk's gift,
      That live sae bien an' snug;                      [comfortable]
        I tent less, and want less                            [value]
          Their roomy fire-side;
        But hanker and canker
          To see their cursèd pride.

    It's hardly in a body's pow'r,
    To keep, at times, frae being sour,
      To see how things are shar'd;
    How best o' chiels are whyles in want        [fellows, sometimes]
    While coofs on countless thousands rant          [dolts, roister]
      And ken na how to wair't:                            [spend it]
    But, Davie, lad, ne'er fash your head,                  [trouble]
      Tho' we hae little gear,                               [wealth]
    We're fit to win our daily bread,
      As lang's we're hale and fier:                          [lusty]
       'Mair spier na, nor fear na,'                   [More ask not]
          Auld age ne'er mind a feg;                            [fig]
        The last o't, the warst o't,
          Is only but to beg.

    To lie in kilns and barns at e'en,
    When banes are craz'd, and bluid is thin,                 [bones]
      Is, doubtless, great distress!
    Yet then content could mak us blest;
    Ev'n then, sometimes, we'd snatch a taste
      Of truest happiness.
    The honest heart that's free frae a'
      Intended fraud or guile,
    However Fortune kick the ba',                              [ball]
      Has aye some cause to smile:
        And mind still, you'll find still,
          A comfort this nae sma';                        [not small]
        Nae mair then, we'll care then,
          Nae farther can we fa'.

    What tho' like commoners of air,
    We wander out, we know not where,
      But either house or hal'?                             [Without]
    Yet nature's charms, the hills and woods,
    The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
      Are free alike to all.
    In days when daisies deck the ground,
      And blackbirds whistle clear,
    With honest joy our hearts will bound,
      To see the coming year:
        On braes when we please, then,                   [hill-sides]
          We'll sit and sowth a tune                            [hum]
        Syne rhyme till't, we'll time till't,                  [Then]
          And sing't when we hae done.

    It's no in titles nor in rank;
    It's no in wealth like Lon'on bank,
      To purchase peace and rest;
    It's no in making muckle, mair:                      [much, more]
    It's no in books, it's no in lear,                     [learning]
      To make us truly blest:
    If happiness hae not her seat
      And centre in the breast,
    We may be wise, or rich, or great,
      But never can be blest:
        Nae treasures, nor pleasures,
          Could make us happy lang;
        The heart aye's the part aye
          That makes us right or wrang.

    Think ye, that sic as you and I,                           [such]
    Wha drudge and drive thro' wet an' dry,
      Wi' never-ceasing toil;
    Think ye, are we less blest than they,
    Wha scarcely tent us in their way,                         [note]
      As hardly worth their while?
    Alas! how oft in haughty mood,
      God's creatures they oppress!
    Or else, neglecting a' that's guid,
      They riot in excess!
        Baith careless, and fearless,
          Of either heav'n or hell!
        Esteeming, and deeming
          It's a' an idle tale!

    Then let us cheerfu' acquiesce;
    Nor make our scanty pleasures less,
      By pining at our state;
    And, even should misfortunes come,
    I, here wha sit, hae met wi' some,
      An's thankfu' for them yet.                            [And am]
    They gie the wit of age to youth;
      They let us ken oursel;
    They mak us see the naked truth,
      The real guid and ill.
        Tho' losses, and crosses,
          Be lessons right severe,
        There's wit there, ye'll get there,
          Ye'll find nae other where.

    But tent me, Davie, ace o' hearts!                         [note]
    (To say aught less wad wrang the cartes,                  [cards]
      And flatt'ry I detest)
    This life has joys for you and I;
    And joys that riches ne'er could buy;
      And joys the very best.
    There's a' the pleasures o' the heart,
      The lover an' the frien';
    Ye hae your Meg, your dearest part,
      And I my darling Jean!
        It warms me, it charms me,
          To mention but her name:
        It heats me, it beets me,                           [kindles]
          And sets me a' on flame!

    O all ye pow'rs who rule above!
    O Thou, whose very self art love!
      Thou know'st my words sincere!
    The life-blood streaming thro' my heart,
    Or my more dear immortal part,
      Is not more fondly dear!
    When heart-corroding care and grief
      Deprive my soul of rest,
    Her dear idea brings relief
      And solace to my breast.
        Thou Being, All-seeing,
          O hear my fervent pray'r;
        Still take her, and make her
          Thy most peculiar care!

    All hail, ye tender feelings dear!
    The smile of love, the friendly tear,
      The sympathetic glow!
    Long since this world's thorny ways
    Had number'd out my weary days,
      Had it not been for you!
    Fate still has blest me with a friend,
      In every care and ill;
    And oft a more endearing band,
      A tie more tender still,
        It lightens, it brightens
          The tenebrific scene,
        To meet with, and greet with
          My Davie or my Jean.

    O, how that name inspires my style!
    The words come skelpin', rank and file,                [spanking]
      Amaist before I ken!                                   [Almost]
    The ready measure ring as fine
    As Phoebus and the famous Nine
      Were glowrin' owre my pen.                       [staring over]
    My spavied Pegasus will limp,                          [spavined]
      Till ance he's fairly het;                          [once, hot]
    And then he'll hilch, and stilt, and jump,   [hobble, limp, jump]
      An' rin an unco fit:                         [surprising spurt]
        But lest then the beast then
          Should rue this hasty ride,
        I'll light now, and dight now                          [wipe]
          His sweaty, wizen'd hide.

The didactic tendency reaches its height in the _Epistle to a
Young Friend_. Here there is no personal confession, but a conscious
and professed sermon, unrelated, as the last line shows, to the
practise of the preacher. It is, of course, only poetry in the
eighteenth-century sense--

    What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed--

and as such it should be judged. The critics who have reacted most
violently against the attempted canonization of Burns have been
inclined to sneer at this admirable homily, and to insinuate
insincerity. But human nature affords every-day examples of just such
perfectly sincere inconsistency as we find between the sixth stanza
and Burns's own conduct; while not inconsistency but a very genuine
rhetoric inspires the characteristic quatrain which closes the


    I lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
      A something to have sent you,
    Tho' it should serve nae ither end
      Than just a kind memento;                             [sort of]
    But how the subject-theme may gang,
      Let time and chance determine;
    Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
      Perhaps turn out a sermon.

    Ye'll try the world soon, my lad,
      And, Andrew dear, believe me,
    Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,                         [queer]
      And muckle they may grieve ye:                           [much]
    For care and trouble set your thought,
      Ev'n when your end's attainéd:
    And a' your views may come to nought,
      Where ev'ry nerve is strainéd.

    I'll no say men are villains a';
      The real harden'd wicked,
    Wha hae nae check but human law,
      Are to a few restricked;
    But och! mankind are unco weak,                       [extremely]
      An' little to be trusted;
    If Self the wavering balance shake,
      It's rarely right adjusted!

    Yet they wha fa' in Fortune's strife.
      Their fate we shouldna censure;
    For still th' important end of life
      They equally may answer.
    A man may hae an honest heart,
      Tho' poortith hourly stare him;                       [poverty]
    A man may tak a neibor's part,
    Yet hae nae cash to spare him.

    Aye free, aff han', your story tell,
      When wi' a bosom crony;
    But still keep something to yoursel
      Ye scarcely tell to ony.
    Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
      Frae critical dissection;
    But keek thro' ev'ry other man                              [pry]
      Wi' sharpen'd sly inspection.

    The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,                      [flame]
      Luxuriantly indulge it;
    But never tempt th' illicit rove,               [attempt, roving]
      Tho' naething should divulge it:
    I waive the quantum o' the sin,
      The hazard of concealing;
    But och! it hardens a' within,
      And petrifies the feeling!

    To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
      Assiduous wait upon her;
    And gather gear by ev'ry wile
      That's justified by honour;
    Not for to hide it in a hedge,
      Nor for a train-attendant;
    But for the glorious privilege
      Of being independent.

    The fear o' hell's a hangman's whip
      To haud the wretch in order;                             [hold]
    But where ye feel your honour grip,
      Let that aye be your border:
    Its slightest touches, instant pause--
      Debar a' side pretences;
    And resolutely keep its laws,
      Uncaring consequences.

    The great Creator to revere
      Must sure become the creature;
    But still the preaching cant forbear,
      And ev'n the rigid feature:
    Yet ne'er with wits profane to range
      Be complaisance extended;
    An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
      For Deity offended.

    When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,               [frolicking]
      Religion may be blinded;
    Or, if she gie a random sting,
      It may be little minded;
    But when on life we're tempest-driv'n--
      A conscience but a canker--
    A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n
      Is sure a noble anchor.

    Adieu, dear amiable youth!
      Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
    May prudence, fortitude, and truth
      Erect your brow undaunting.
    In ploughman phrase, God send you speed
      Still daily to grow wiser;
    And may ye better reck the rede                 [heed the advice]
      Than ever did th' adviser!

The general level of the rhyming letters of Burns is astonishingly
high. They bear, as such compositions should, the impression of free
spontaneity, and indeed often read like sheer improvisations. Yet they
are sprinkled with admirable stanzas of natural description, shrewd
criticism, delightful humor, and are pervaded by a delicate
tactfulness possible only to a man with a genius for friendship. They
are usually written in the favorite six-line stanza, the meter that
flowed most easily from his pen, and in language are the richest
vernacular. His ambition to be "literary" seldom brings in its jarring
notes here, and indeed at times he seems to avenge himself on this
besetting sin by a very individual jocoseness toward the mythological
figures that intrude into his more serious efforts. His Muse is the
special victim. Instead of the conventional draped figure she becomes
a "tapetless, ramfeezl'd hizzie," "saft at best an' something lazy;"
she is a "thowless jad;" or she is dethroned altogether:

   "We'll cry nae jads frae heathen hills
                    To help or roose us,                    [inspire]
    But browster wives an' whisky stills--                   [brewer]
                    They are the Muses!"

Again the tone is one of affectionate familiarity:

    Leeze me on rhyme! It's aye a treasure,            [Blessings on]
    My chief, amaist my only pleasure;                       [almost]
    At hame, a-fiel', at wark or leisure,
                    The Muse, poor hizzie,
    Tho' rough an' raploch be her measure,                 [homespun]
                    She's seldom lazy.

    Haud to the Muse, my dainty Davie:
    The warl' may play you monie a shavie,                 [ill turn]
    But for the Muse, she'll never leave ye,
                    Tho' e'er sae puir;                     [so poor]
    Na, even tho' limpin wi' the spavie                      [spavin]
                    Frae door to door!

Once more, half scolding, half flattering:

    Ye glaikit, gleesome, dainty damies,                      [giddy]
    Wha by Castalia's wimplin streamies                     [winding]
    Lowp, sing, and lave your pretty limbies,                 [Dance]
                    Ye ken, ye ken,
    That strang necessity supreme is
                    'Mang sons o' men.

The epigrams, epitaphs, elegies, and other occasional verses thrown
off by Burns and diligently collected by his editors need little
discussion. They not infrequently exhibit the less generous sides of
his character, and but seldom demand rereading on account of their
neatness or felicity or energy. One may be given as an example:


    Here lies Johnie Pigeon:
    What was his religion
          Whae'er desires to ken
    In some other warl'                                       [world]
    Maun follow the carl                           [Must, old fellow]
          For here Johnie Pigeon had none!

    Strong ale was ablution;
    Small beer, persecution;
          A dram was _memento mori_;
    But a full flowing bowl
    Was the saving his soul,
          And port was celestial glory!



The "world of Scotch drink, Scotch manners, and Scotch religion" was
not, Matthew Arnold insisted, a beautiful world, and it was, he held,
a disadvantage to Burns that he had not a beautiful world to deal
with. This famous dictum is a standing challenge to any critic who
regards Burns as a creator of beauty. It is true that when Burns took
this world at its apparent worst, when Scotch drink meant bestial
drunkenness, when Scotch manners meant shameless indecency, when
Scotch religion meant blasphemous defiance, he created _The Jolly
Beggars_, which the same critic found a "splendid and puissant
production." We must conclude, then, that sufficient genius can
sublimate even a hideously sordid world into a superb work of art,
which is presumably beautiful.

But the verdict passed on the Scottish world of Burns is not to be
taken without scrutiny. A review of those poems of Burns that are
primarily descriptive will recall to us the chief features of that

Let us begin with _The Cotter's Saturday Night_, Burns's tribute to
his father's house. Let us discard the introductory stanza of
dedication, as not organically a part of the poem. The scene is set in
a gray November landscape. The tired laborer is shown returning to his
cottage, no touch of idealization being added to the picture of
physical weariness save what comes from the feeling for home and wife
and children. Then follow the gathering of the older sons and
daughter, the telling of the experiences of the week, and the advice
of the father. The daughter's suitor arrives, and the girl's
consciousness as well as the lover's shyness are delicately rendered.
Two stanzas in English moralize the situation, and for our present
purpose may be ignored. The supper of porridge and milk and a bit of
cheese is followed by a reverent account of family prayers, the father
leading, the family joining in the singing of the psalm. And as they
part for the night, the poet is carried away into an elevated
apostrophe to the country whose foundations rest upon such a
peasantry, and closes with a patriotic prayer for its preservation.

The truth of the picture is indubitable. The poet could, of course,
have chosen another phase of the same life. The cotter could have come
home rheumatic and found the children squalling and the wife cross.
The daughter might have been seduced, and the sons absent in the
ale-house. But what he does describe is just as typical, and it is
beautiful, though the manners and religion are Scottish.

Another social occasion is the subject of _Halloween_. The poem, with
Burns's notes, is a mine of folk-lore, but we are concerned with it as
literature. Here the tone is humorous instead of reverent, the
characters are mixed, the selection is more widely representative.
With complete frankness, the poet exhibits human nature under the
influence of the mating instinct, directed by harmless, age-old
superstitions. The superstitions are not attacked, but gently
ridiculed. The fundamental veracity of the whole is seen when we
realize that, in spite of the strong local color, it is
psychologically true for similar festivities among the peasantry of
all countries.


    Upon that night, when fairies light
      On Cassilis Downans[5] dance,
    Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,                       [over, pastures]
      On sprightly coursers prance;
    Or for Colean the rout is ta'en,                                     [road]
      Beneath the moon's pale beams;
    There, up the Cove,[6] to stray an' rove
      Amang the rocks and streams
                    To sport that night;

    Amang the bonnie winding banks
      Where Doon rins wimplin' clear,                                 [winding]
    Where Bruce[7] ance ruled the martial ranks                          [once]
      An' shook his Carrick spear,
    Some merry friendly country-folks
      Together did convene
    To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,              [nuts, pull, stalks]
      An' haud their Halloween                                           [keep]
                    Fu' blythe that night:

    The lasses feat, an cleanly neat,                                    [trim]
      Mair braw than when they're fine;                         [more handsome]
    Their faces blythe fu' sweetly kythe                                 [show]
      Hearts leal, an' warm, an' kin':                            [loyal, kind]
    The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs                              [love-knots]
      Weel knotted on their garten,                                    [garter]
    Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs                      [very shy, chatter]
      Gar lasses' hearts gang startin'                                   [Make]
                    Whyles fast at night.                           [Sometimes]

    Then, first and foremost, thro' the kail,
      Their stocks[8] maun a' be sought ance:                      [must, once]
    They steek their een, an' grape an' wale        [shut, eyes, grope, choose]
      For muckle anes an' straught anes.                   [big ones, straight]
    Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,               [foolish, lost the way]
      An' wander'd thro' the bow-kail,                                [cabbage]
    An' pou'd, for want o' better shift,                       [pulled, choice]
      A runt was like a sow-tail,                                       [stalk]
                    Sae bow'd, that night.                               [bent]

    Then, straught or crooked, yird or nane,                            [earth]
      They roar an' cry a' throu'ther;                              [pell-mell]
    The very wee things toddlin' rin--                                    [run]
      Wi' stocks out-owre their shouther;                      [over, shoulder]
    An' gif the custock's sweet or sour,                             [if, pith]
      Wi' joctelegs they taste them;                            [pocket-knives]
    Syne coziely, aboon the door,                                 [Then, above]
      Wi' cannie care they've plac'd them                            [cautious]
                    To lie that night.

    The lasses staw frae 'mang them a'                                  [stole]
      To pou their stalks o' corn;[9]
    But Rab slips out, an' jinks about,                                [dodges]
      Behint the muckle thorn:
    He grippit Nelly hard an' fast;
      Loud skirled a' the lasses;                                    [squealed]
    But her tap-pickle maist was lost,                                 [almost]
      When kiutlin' i' the fause-house[10]                           [cuddling]
                    Wi' him that night.

    The auld guidwife's well-hoordit nits[11]               [well-hoarded nuts]
      Are round an' round divided,
    An' mony lads' an' lasses' fates
      Are there that night decided:
    Some kindle, couthie, side by side,                           [comfortably]
      An' burn thegither trimly;
    Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
      An' jump out-owre the chimlie                        [out of the chimney]
                    Fu' high that night.

    Jean slips in twa, wi' tentie e'e;                               [watchful]
      Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
    But this is _Jock_, an' this is _me_,
      She says in to hersel:                                         [whispers]
    He bleez'd owre her, an' she owre him,                             [blazed]
      As they wad never mair part;
    Till fuff! he started up the lum,                                 [chimney]
      An' Jean had e'en a sair heart
                    To see't that night.

    Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,                         [cabbage stump]
      Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie,                             [precise Molly]
    An' Mary, nae doubt, took the drunt,                                 [huff]
      To be compar'd to Willie:
    Mall's nit lap out, wi' pridefu' fling,                      [leapt, start]
      An' her ain fit it brunt it;                                       [foot]
    While Willie lap, an' swoor by jing,                              [by Jove]
      'Twas just the way he wanted
                    To be that night.

    Nell had the fause-house in her min',                                [mind]
      She pits hersel an' Rob in;
    In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
      Till white in ase they're sobbin:                                 [ashes]
    Nell's heart was dancin' at the view:
      She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
    Rob, stownlins, prie'd her bonnie mou',         [by stealth, tasted, mouth]
      Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,                                     [corner]
                    Unseen that night.

    But Merran sat behint their backs,                                 [Marian]
      Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
    She lea'es them gashin' at their cracks,            [leaves, gabbing, chat]
      An' slips out by hersel:
    She thro' the yard the nearest taks,                          [nearest way]
      An' to the kiln she goes then,
    An' darklins grapit for the bauks,             [in the dark, groped, beams]
      And in the blue-clue[12] throws then,
                    Right fear'd that night.                       [frightened]

    An' aye she win't, an' aye she swat,                     [wounded, sweated]
      I wat she made nae jaukin';                              [know, trifling]
    Till something held within the pat,                              [kiln-pot]
      Guid Lord! but she was quaukin'!
    But whether 'twas the Deil himsel,
      Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',                                   [beam-end]
    Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
      She did na wait on talkin
                    To spier that night.                                  [ask]

    Wee Jenny to her grannie says,
     'Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
    I'll eat the apple[13] at the glass,
      I gat frae uncle Johnie:'
    She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,                         [puffed, smoke]
      In wrath she was sae vap'rin,
    She noticed na an aizle brunt                                [cinder burnt]
    Her braw new worset apron                                         [worsted]
                    Out-thro' that night.

   'Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!                            [young hussy's]
      I daur you try sic sportin',                                       [dare]
    As seek the foul Thief ony place,                                   [Devil]
      For him to spae your fortune!                                      [tell]
    Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
      Great cause ye hae to fear it;
    For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
      An' lived an' died deleerit,                                  [delirious]
                    On sic a night.

   'Ae hairst afore the Sherra-moor,--              [One harvest, Sherriffmuir]
      I mind't as weel's yestreen,                       [remember, last night]
    I was a gilpey then, I'm sure                                  [young girl]
      I was na past fyfteen:
    The simmer had been cauld an' wat,
      An' stuff was unco green;                              [grain, extremely]
    An' aye a rantin' kirn we gat,                    [rollicking harvest-home]
      An' just on Halloween
                    It fell that night.

   'Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,                          [chief harvester]
      A clever, sturdy fallow;
    His sin gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,                                [son, child]
      That liv'd in Achmacalla;
    He gat hemp-seed,[14] I mind it weel,
      An' he made unco light o't:                                        [very]
    But mony a day was by himsel,                              [beside himself]
      He was sae sairly frighted                                       [sorely]
                    That vera night.'

    Then up gat fechtin' Jamie Fleck,                                [fighting]
      An' he swoor by his conscience
    That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;                                   [sow]
      For it was a' but nonsense:                                      [merely]
    The auld guidman raught down the pock,                       [reached, bag]
      An' out a handfu' gied him;                                        [gave]
    Syne bad him slip frae 'mang the folk,                               [Then]
      Sometime when nae ane see'd him,                                    [saw]
                    An' try't that night.

    He marches thro' amang the stacks,
      Tho' he was something sturtin';                              [staggering]
    The graip he for a harrow taks,                                 [dung-fork]
      An' haurls at his curpin:                                  [trails, back]
    An' ev'ry now an' then, he says,
     'Hemp-seed! I saw thee,
    An' her that is to be my lass
      Come after me an' draw thee
                    As fast this night.'

    He whistled up Lord Lennox' march,
      To keep his courage cheery;
    Altho' his hair began to arch,
      He was sae fley'd an' eerie:                         [scared, awe-struck]
    Till presently he hears a squeak,
      An' then a grane an' gruntle;                                     [groan]
    He by his shouther gae a keek,                        [shoulder gave, peep]
      An' tumbl'd wi' a wintle                                    [summersault]
                    Out-owre that night.

    He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
      In dreadfu' desperation!
    An' young an' auld come rinnin' out,
      An' hear the sad narration:
    He swoor 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,                               [halting]
      Or crouchie Merran Humphie,                          [hunchbacked Marian]
    Till stop! she trotted thro' them a';
      An' wha was it but grumphie                                     [the sow]
                    Asteer that night!                                  [Astir]

    Meg fain wad to the barn gane                                   [have gone]
      To winn three wechts o' naething;[15]
    But for to meet the Deil her lane,                                  [alone]
      She pat but little faith in:                                        [put]
    She gies the herd a pickle nits,                            [herd-boy, few]
      And twa red-cheekit apples,
    To watch, while for the barn she sets,                           [sets out]
      In hopes to see Tam Kipples
                    That very night.

    She turns the key wi' cannie thraw,                        [cautious twist]
      An' owre the threshold ventures;
    But first on Sawnie gies a ca',                                      [call]
      Syne bauldly in she enters;                                        [Then]
    A ratton rattl'd up the wa',                                          [rat]
      An' she cried 'Lord preserve her!'
    An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a',                           [dunghill pool]
      An' pray'd wi' zeal an' fervour
                    Fu' fast that night

    They hoy't out Will, wi' sair advice;                               [urged]
      They hecht him some fine braw ane;              [promised][measured with
    It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice[16]              outstretched arms]
      Was timmer-propt for thrawin':                     [against leaning over]
    He taks a swirlie auld moss-oak                                   [gnarled]
      For some black gruesome carlin;                                  [beldam]
    An' loot a winze, an' drew a stroke,                      [uttered a curse]
      Till skin in blypes cam haurlin'                        [shreds, peeling]
                    Aff's nieves that night.                    [Off his fists]

    A wanton widow Leezie was,
      As cantie as a kittlin;                                          [lively]
    But och! that night, amang the shaws,                               [woods]
      She gat a fearfu' settlin'!
    She thro' the whins, an' by the cairn,                  [gorse, stone heap]
      An' owre the hill gaed scrievin';                             [careering]
    Where three laird's lands met at a burn,[17]
      To dip her left sark-sleeve in,                                  [shirt-]
                    Was bent that night.

    Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,                            [Waterfall]
      As thro' the glen it wimpled;                                     [wound]
    Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;                               [ledge]
      Whyles in a wiel it dimpled;                                       [eddy]
    Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
      Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
    Whyles cookit underneath the braes,                                [peeped]
      Below the spreading hazel,
                    Unseen that night.

    Amang the brackens on the brae,                           [ferns, hillside]
      Between her an' the moon,
    The Deil, or else an outler quey,                         [unhoused heifer]
      Gat up an' gae a croon:                                      [gave a low]
    Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool;              [almost leapt, sheath]
      Near lav'rock height she jumpit,                              [lark high]
    But miss'd a fit, an' in the pool                                    [foot]
      Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
                    Wi' a plunge that night.

    In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
      The luggies[18] three are ranged;
    And every time great care is ta'en,
      To see them duly changed:
    Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
      Sin' Mar's year did desire,                              [1715 Rebellion]
    Because he gat the toom dish thrice,                                [empty]
      He heav'd them on the fire
                    In wrath that night.

    Wi' merry sangs, an' friendly cracks,
    I wat they did na weary;                                              [wot]
    And unco tales, an' funny jokes,--                                [strange]
      Their sports were cheap and cheery;
    Till butter'd sow'ns,[19] wi' fragrant lunt,                        [smoke]
      Set a' their gabs a-steerin';                           [tongues wagging]
    Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,                          [Then, liquor]
      They parted aff careerin'
                    Fu' blythe that night.


[The foot-notes to this poem are those supplied by Burns himself in
the Kilmarnock edition.]

 [4] Is thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other
mischief-making beings, are all abroad on their baneful, midnight
errands: particularly, those aerial people, the fairies, are said, on
that night to hold a grand anniversary.

 [5] Certain little, romantic, rocky, green hills, in the neighbourhood
of the ancient seat of the Earls of Cassilis.

 [6] A noted cavern near Colean-house, called the Cove of Colean;
which, as well as Cassilis Downans, is famed in country story for
being a favourite haunt of fairies.

 [7] The famous family of that name, the ancestors of Robert, the great
Deliverer of his country, were Earls of Carrick.

 [8] The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a _stock_, or
plant of kail. They must go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and
pull the first they meet with: its being big or little, straight or
crooked, is prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all
their spells--the husband or wife. If any _yird_, or earth, stick to
the root, that is _tocher_, or fortune; and the taste of the _custoc_,
that is, the heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper
and disposition. Lastly the stems, or to give them their ordinary
appellation, the _runts_, are placed somewhere above the head of the
door; and the Christian names of the people whom chance brings into
the house, are, according to the priority of placing the runts, the
names in question.

 [9] They go to the barn-yard, and pull each, at three several times, a
stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the _top pickle_, that is, the
grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will want the

 [10] When the corn is in a doubtful state, by being too green, or wet,
the stack-builder, by means of old timber, etc., makes a large
apartment in his stack, with an opening in the side which is fairest
exposed to the wind: this he calls a _fause-house_.

 [11] Burning the nuts is a favourite charm. They name the lad and lass
to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as
they burn quickly together, or start from beside one another, the
course and issue of the courtship will be.

 [12] Whoever would with success try this spell must strictly observe
these directions. Steal out all alone to the kiln, and darkling,
throw into the pot, a clue of blue yarn: wind it in a new clue off the
old one; and towards the latter end, something will hold the thread:
demand, _wha hauds_? i.e., who holds? and answer will be returned from
the kiln-pot, by naming the Christian and surname of your future

 [13] Take a candle and go alone to a looking glass: eat an apple
before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the
time; the face of your conjugal companion to be will be seen in the
glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.

 [14] Steal out; unperceived, and sow a handful of hemp seed; harrowing
it with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat, now and
then, "Hemp seed, I saw [sow] thee, Hemp seed, I saw thee; and him (or
her) that is to be my true-love, come after me and pou thee." Look
over your left shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person
invoked, in the attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, "come
after me and shaw thee," that is, show thyself; in which case it
simply appears. Others omit the harrowing, and say, "come after me and
harrow thee."

 [15] This charm must likewise be performed, unperceived and alone. You
go to the barn, and open both doors; taking them off the hinges, if
possible; for there is danger that the Being about to appear may shut
the doors, and do you some mischief. Then take that instrument used in
winnowing the corn, which, in our country-dialect, we call a wecht;
and go thro' all the attitudes of letting down corn against the wind.
Repeat it three times; and the third time, an apparition will pass
thro' the barn, in at the windy door, and out at the other, having
both the figure in question and the appearance or retinue, marking the
employment or station in life.

 [16] Take an opportunity of going, unnoticed, to a bear-stack, and
fathom it three times round. The last fathom of the last time, you
will catch in your arms the appearance of your conjugal yoke-fellow.

 [17] You go out, one or more, for this is a social spell, to a
south-running spring or rivulet, where "three lairds' lands meet," and
dip your left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang
your wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and sometime near
midnight, an apparition having the exact figure of the grand object in
question, will come and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side
of it.

 [18] Take three dishes; put clean water in one, foul water in another;
and leave the third empty: blindfold a person, and lead him to the
hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand: if
by chance in the clean water, the future husband or wife will come to
the bar of matrimony, a maid: if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty
dish, it foretells, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. It is
repeated three times; and every time the arrangement of the dishes is

 [19] Sowens, with butter instead of milk to them, is always the
Halloween supper.

In _The Twa Dogs_ we have an entirely different method. Burns here
gives expression to his social philosophy in a contrast between rich
and poor, and adds a quaint humor to his criticism by placing it in
the mouths of the laird's Newfoundland and the cotter's collie. The
dogs themselves are delightfully and vividly characterized, and their
comments have a detachment that frees the satire from acerbity without
rendering it tame. The account of the life of the idle rich may be
that of a somewhat remote observer; it has still value as a record of
how the peasant views the proprietor. But that of the hard-working
farmer lacks no touch of actuality, and is part of the reverse side of
the shield shown in _The Cotter's Saturday Night_. Yet the tone is not
querulous, but echoes rather the quiet conviction that if toil is hard
it has its own sweetness, and that honest fatigue is better than


      'Twas in that place o' Scotland's Isle,
    That bears the name o' auld King Coil,
    Upon a bonnie day in June,
    When wearin' through the afternoon,
    Twa dogs, that werena thrang at hame,                           [busy]
    Forgather'd ance upon a time.                                    [Met]

      The first I'll name, they ca'd him Caesar,
    Was keepit for his Honour's pleasure;
    His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,                        [ears]
    Show'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs,
    But whalpit some place far abroad,                           [whelped]
    Where sailors gang to fish for cod.
    His locked, letter'd, braw brass collar,
    Shew'd him the gentleman and scholar;

    But though he was o' high degree,
    The fient a pride, nae pride had he;                           [devil]
    But wad hae spent are hour caressin'
    E'en wi' a tinkler-gipsy's messan:                           [mongrel]
    At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,                           [smithy]
    Nae tawted tyke, though e'er sae duddie,          [matted cur, ragged]
    But he wad stand as glad to see him,
    An' stroan'd on stanes an' hillocks wi' him.                  [lanted]

      The tither was a ploughman's collie,                         [other]
    A rhyming, ranting, raving billie;                            [fellow]
    Wha for his friend and comrade had him,
    And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him,
    After some dog in Highland sang,
    Was made lang syne--Lord knows how lang.

      He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke,                         [wise, dog]
    As ever lap a sheugh or dyke;                     [leapt, ditch, wall]
    His honest sonsie, bawsent face               [pleasant, white-marked]
    Aye gat him friends in ilka place,                             [every]
    His breast was white, his tousie back                         [shaggy]
    Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black:
    His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl,                             [joyous]
    Hung o'er his hurdles wi' a swirl.                          [buttocks]

      Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither,                        [glad]
    And unco pack and thick thegither;                          [intimate]
    Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd and snowkit;
    Whyles mice and moudieworts they howkit;                  [moles, dug]
    Whyles scour'd awa in lang excursion,
    And worried ither in diversion;
    Until wi' daffin' weary grown,                             [merriment]
    Upon a knowe they sat them down,                               [knoll]
    And there began a lang digression
    About the lords of the creation.


    I've aften wonder'd, honest Luath,
    What sort o' life poor dogs like you have;
    An' when the gentry's life I saw,
    What way poor bodies liv'd ava.                               [at all]
      Our Laird gets in his racked rents,
    His coals, his kain, and a' his stents;           [rent in kind, dues]
    He rises when he likes himsel';
    His flunkies answer at the bell:
    He ca's his coach; he ca's his horse;                          [calls]
    He draws a bonny silken purse
    As lang's my tail, where, through the steeks,               [stitches]
    The yellow-letter'd Geordie keeks.                      [guinea peeps]
      Frae morn to e'en it's nought but toiling
    At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;
    And though the gentry first are stechin',                   [cramming]
    Yet e'en the ha' folk fill their pechan              [servants, belly]
    Wi' sauce, ragouts, and sic like trashtrie,                  [rubbish]
    That's little short o' downright wastrie.                      [waste]
    Our whipper-in, wee blastit wonner!                           [wonder]
    Poor worthless elf! it eats a dinner
    Better than ony tenant man
    His Honour has in a' the lan';
    An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in,              [put, paunch]
    I own it's past my comprehension.


    Trowth, Caesar, whyles they're fash'd eneugh;               [troubled]
    A cottar howkin' in a sheugh,                         [digging, ditch]
    Wi' dirty stanes biggin' a dyke,                      [building, wall]
    Baring a quarry, and sic like;                              [clearing]
    Himsel', a wife, he thus sustains,
    A smytrie o' wee duddy weans,                 [brood, ragged children]
    And nought but his han'-darg to keep                      [hand-labor]
    Them right and tight in thack and rape.                 [thatch, rope]
      And when they meet wi' sair disasters,                        [sore]
    Like loss o' health, or want o' masters,
    Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer                        [almost]
    And they maun starve o' cauld and hunger;                       [must]
    But how it comes I never kent yet.                              [knew]
    They're maistly wonderfu' contented;
    An' buirdly chiels and clever hizzies              [stout lads, girls]
    Are bred in sic a way as this is.


    But then, to see how ye're negleckit,
    How huff'd, and cuff'd, and disrespeckit,
    Lord, man! our gentry care sae little
    For delvers, ditchers and sic cattle;
    They gang as saucy by poor folk
    As I wad by a stinking brock.                                 [badger]
      I've noticed, on our Laird's court-day,
    An' mony a time my heart's been wae.
    Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash,
    How they maun thole a factor's snash;                  [endure, abuse]
    He'll stamp and threaten, curse and swear,
    He'll apprehend them; poind their gear:              [seize, property]
    While they maun stan', wi' aspect humble,                       [must]
    An' hear it a', an' fear an' tremble!
    I see how folk live that hae riches;
    But surely poor folk maun be wretches!


    They're no' sae wretched's ane wad think,
    Though constantly on poortith's brink:                     [poverty's]
    They're sae accustom'd wi' the sight,
    The view o't gi'es them little fright.
      Then chance and fortune are sae guided,
    They're aye in less or mair provided;
    An' though fatigued wi' close employment,
    A blink o' rest's a sweet enjoyment.
      The dearest comfort o' their lives,
    Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives;                      [growing]
    The prattling things are just their pride,
    That sweetens a' their fireside.
      And whyles twalpenny-worth o' nappy                   [quart of ale]
    Can mak the bodies unco happy;                           [wonderfully]
    They lay aside their private cares
    To mind the Kirk and State affairs:
    They'll talk o' patronage and priests,
    Wi' kindling fury in their breasts;
    Or tell what new taxation's comin',
    And ferlie at the folk in Lon'on.                             [wonder]
      As bleak-faced Hallowmas returns
    They get the jovial rantin' kirns,                     [harvest-homes]
    When rural life o' every station.
    Unite in common recreation;
    Love blinks, Wit slaps, and social Mirth
    Forgets there's Care upo' the earth.
      That merry day the year begins
    They bar the door on frosty win's;
    The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream                          [ale, foam]
    And sheds a heart-inspiring steam;
    The luntin' pipe and sneeshin'-mill               [smoking, snuff-box]
    Are handed round wi' right gude-will;
    The canty auld folk crackin' crouse,      [cheerful, talking brightly]
    The young anes ranting through the house--
    My heart has been sae fain to see them
    That I for joy hae barkit wi' them.
      Still it's owre true that ye hae said,
    Sic game is now owre aften play'd.                         [too often]
    There's mony a creditable stock
    O' decent, honest, fawsont folk,                          [well-doing]
    Are riven out baith root and branch
    Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench,
    Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster
    In favour wi' some gentle master,
    Wha, aiblins, thrang a-parliamentin',                  [perhaps, busy]
    For Britain's gude his soul indentin--                   [indenturing]


    Haith, lad, ye little ken about it;
    For Britain's gude!--guid faith! I doubt it!
    Say rather, gaun as Premiers lead him,                         [going]
    And saying ay or no's they bid him!
    At operas and plays parading,
    Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading.
    Or maybe, in a frolic daft,
    To Hague or Calais taks a waft,
    To make a tour, an' tak a whirl,
    To learn _bon ton_ an' see the worl'.
      There, at Vienna, or Versailles,
    He rives his father's auld entails;                           [splits]
    Or by Madrid he takes the rout,
    To thrum guitars and fecht wi' nowt;                [fight with bulls]
    Or down Italian vista startles,                              [courses]
    Whore-hunting amang groves o' myrtles;
    Then bouses drumly German water,                               [muddy]
    To make himsel' look fair and fatter,
    And clear the consequential sorrows,
    Love-gifts of Carnival signoras.
    For Britain's gude!--for her destruction!
    Wi' dissipation, feud, and faction!


      Hech man! dear sirs! is that the gate                          [way]
    They waste sae mony a braw estate?
    Are we sae foughten and harass'd                            [troubled]
    For gear to gang that gate at last?                   [money, go, way]
      O would they stay aback frae courts,
    An' please themselves wi' country sports,
    It wad for every ane be better,
    The laird, the tenant, an' the cotter!
    For thae frank, rantin', ramblin' billies,                     [those]
    Fient haet o' them's ill-hearted fellows:                [Devil a bit]
    Except for breakin' o' their timmer,                 [wasting, timber]
    Or speaking lightly o' their limmer,                        [mistress]
    Or shootin' o' a hare or moor-cock,
    The ne'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk.
      But will ye tell me, Master Caesar?
    Sure great folk's life's a life o' pleasure;
    Nae cauld nor hunger o'er can steer them.                      [touch]
    The very thought o't needna fear them.


    Lord, man, were ye but whyles where I am,                  [sometimes]
    The gentles ye wad ne'er envy 'em,
      It's true, they needna starve or sweat,
    Thro' winter's cauld or simmer's heat;
    They've nae sair wark to craze their banes.                     [hard]
    An' fill auld age wi' grips an' granes:               [gripes, groans]
    But human bodies are sic fools.
    For a' their colleges and schools,
    That when nae real ills perplex them,
    They make enow themselves to vex them,
    An' aye the less they hae to sturt them,                        [fret]
    In like proportion less will hurt them.
    A country fellow at the pleugh,
    His acres till'd, he's right eneugh;
    A country lassie at her wheel,
    Her dizzens done, she's unco weel;                            [dozens]
    But gentlemen, an' ladies warst,
    Wi' ev'ndown want o' wark are curst,                        [positive]
    They loiter, lounging, lank, and lazy;
    Though de'il haet ails them, yet uneasy;                 [devil a bit]
    Their days insipid, dull, and tasteless;
    Their nights unquiet, lang, and restless.
    And e'en their sports, their balls, and races,
    Their galloping through public places;
    There's sic parade, sic pomp and art,
    The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
    The men cast out in party matches,                           [quarrel]
    Then sowther a' in deep debauches:                            [solder]
    Ae night they're mad wi' drink and whoring,                      [One]
    Neist day their life is past enduring.                          [Next]
    The ladies arm-in-arm, in clusters,
    As great and gracious a' as sisters;
    But hear their absent thoughts o' ither,
    They're a' run de'ils and jades thegither.                 [downright]
    Whyles, owre the wee bit cup and platie,
    They sip the scandal-potion pretty;
    Or lee-lang nights, wi' crabbit leuks,      [live-long, crabbed looks]
    Pore owre the devil's picture beuks;                   [playing-cards]
    Stake on a chance a farmer's stack-yard,
    And cheat like ony unhang'd blackguard.
      There's some exception, man and woman;
    But this is gentry's life in common.

      By this the sun was out o' sight,
    And darker gloamin' brought the night;                      [twilight]
    The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone,                      [cockchafer]
    The kye stood rowtin' i' the loan;              [cattle, lowing, lane]
    When up they gat and shook their lugs,                          [ears]
    Rejoiced they werena men but dogs;
    And each took aff his several way,
    Resolved to meet some ither day.

The satirical tendency becomes more evident in _The Holy Fair_. The
personifications whom the poet meets on the way to the religious orgy
are Superstition, Hypocrisy, and Fun, and symbolize exactly the
elements in his treatment--two-thirds satire and one-third humorous
sympathy. The handling of the preachers is in the manner we have
already observed in the other ecclesiastical satires, but there is
less animus and more vividness. Nothing could be more admirable in its
way than the realism of the picture of the congregation, whether at
the sermons or at their refreshments; and, as in _Halloween_, the
union of the particular and the universal appears in the essential
applicability of the psychology to an American camp-meeting as well as
to a Scottish sacrament--

    There's some are fou o' love divine,
    There's some are fou o' brandy.

--not to finish the stanza!


    _A robe of seeming truth and trust
      Hid crafty Observation;
    And secret hung, with poison'd crust,
      The dirk of Defamation:
    A mask that like the gorget show'd,
      Dye-varying on the pigeon;
    And for a mantle large and broad,
      He wrapt him in religion._
                    HYPOCRISY A LA MODE.

    Upon a simmer Sunday morn,
      When Nature's face is fair,
    I walked forth to view the corn,
      An' snuff the caller air.                                    [fresh]
    The risin' sun, owre Galston muirs,
      Wi' glorious light was glintin';
    The hares were hirplin' down the furrs,             [limping, furrows]
      The lav'rocks they were chantin'                             [larks]
                    Fu' sweet that day.

    As lightsomely I glowr'd abroad,                              [stared]
      To see a scene sae gay,
    Three hizzies, early at the road,                              [girls]
      Cam skelpin' up the way.                                  [scudding]
    Twa had manteeles o' dolefu' black,
      But ane wi' lyart lining;                                     [gray]
    The third, that gaed a wee a-back,                     [went a little]
      Was in the fashion shining
                    Fu' gay that day.

    The twa appeared like sisters twin,
      In feature, form, an' claes;
    Their visage wither'd, lang an' thin,
      An' sour as ony slaes:                                       [sloes]
    The third cam up, hap-stap-an'-lowp,               [hop-step-and-jump]
      As light as ony lambie,
    An' wi' a curchie low did stoop,                             [curtsey]
      As soon as e'er she saw me,
                    Fu' kind that day.

    Wi' bonnet aff, quoth I, 'Sweet lass,
      I think ye seem to ken me;
    I'm sure I've seen that bonnie face,
      But yet I canna name ye.'
    Quo' she, an' laughin' as she spak,
      An' taks me by the hands,
   'Ye, for my sake, hae gi'en the feck                             [most]
      Of a' the ten commands
                    A screed some day.                              [rent]

   'My name is Fun--your crony dear,
      The nearest friend ye hae;
    An' this is Superstition here,
      An' that's Hypocrisy.
    I'm gaun to Mauchline Holy Fair,
      To spend an hour in daffin';                                 [mirth]
    Gin ye'll go there, yon runkled pair,
      We will get famous laughin'
                    At them this day.'

    Quoth I, 'Wi' a' my heart, I'll do't;
      I'll get my Sunday's sark on,                                [shirt]
    An' meet you on the holy spot;
      Faith, we'se hae fine remarkin'!'
    Then I gaed hame at crowdie-time,                           [porridge]
      An' soon I made me ready;
    For roads were clad, frae side to side,
      Wi' mony a wearie bodie
                    In droves that day.

    Here farmers gash in ridin' graith                [complacent, attire]
      Gaed hoddin' by their cotters;                             [jogging]
    There swankies young in braw braid-claith       [strapping youngsters]
      Are springin' owre the gutters.                               [over]
    The lasses, skelpin' barefit, thrang,             [padding, in crowds]
      In silks an' scarlets glitter,
    Wi' sweet-milk cheese, in mony a whang,                        [slice]
      An' farls bak'd wi' butter,                                  [cakes]
                    Fu' crump that day.                            [crisp]

    When by the plate we set our nose,
      Weel heaped up wi' ha'pence,
    A greedy glow'r Black Bonnet throws,                       [the elder]
      An' we maun draw our tippence.
    Then in we go to see the show:
      On ev'ry side they're gath'rin';
    Some carryin' deals, some chairs an' stools,                  [planks]
      An' some are busy bleth'rin'                              [gabbling]
                    Right loud that day.

    Here stands a shed to fend the show'rs,                     [keep off]
      An' screen our country gentry;
    There racer Jess an' twa-three whores
      Are blinkin' at the entry.
    Here sits a raw o' tittlin' jades,                        [whispering]
      Wi' heavin' breasts an' bare neck,
    An' there a batch o' wabster lads,                            [weaver]
      Blackguardin' frae Kilmarnock
                    For fun this day.

    Here some are thinkin' on their sins,
      An' some upo' their claes;                                 [clothes]
    Ane curses feet that fyl'd his shins,                         [soiled]
      Anither sighs an' prays:
    On this hand sits a chosen swatch,                            [sample]
      Wi' screw'd up, grace-proud faces;
    On that a set o' chaps, at watch,
      Thrang winkin' on the lasses                                  [Busy]
                    To chairs that day.

    O happy is that man an' blest!
      Nae wonder that it pride him!
    Whase ain dear lass, that he likes best,
      Comes clinkin' down beside him!                        [Sits snugly]
    Wi' arm repos'd on the chair-back
      He sweetly does compose him;
    Which, by degrees, slips round her neck,
      An's loof upon her bosom,                             [And his palm]
                    Unkenn'd that day.                    [Unacknowledged]

    Now a' the congregation o'er
      Is silent expectation;
    For Moodie speels the holy door,                           [climbs to]
      Wi' tidings o' damnation,
    Should Hornie, as in ancient days,                             [Satan]
      'Mang sons o' God present him,
    The very sight o' Moodie's face
      To's ain het hame had sent him                         [his own hot]
                    Wi' fright that day.

    Hear how he clears the points o' faith
      Wi' rattlin' an' wi' thumpin'!
    Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath,
      He's stampin' an' he's jumpin'!
    His lengthen'd chin, his turned-up snout,
      His eldritch squeal an' gestures,                            [weird]
    O how they fire the heart devout,
      Like cantharidian plaisters,
                    On sic a day!                                   [such]

    But, hark! the tent has chang'd its voice;
      There's peace an' rest nae langer;
    For a' the real judges rise,
      They canna sit for anger.
    Smith opens out his cauld harangues,                     [A New Light]
      On practice and on morals;
    An' aff the godly pour in thrangs
      To gie the jars an' barrels                                   [give]
                    A lift that day.

    What signifies his barren shine
      Of moral pow'rs an' reason?
    His English style an' gesture fine
      Are a' clean out o' season.
    Like Socrates or Antonine,
      Or some auld pagan Heathen,
    The moral man he does define,
      But ne'er a word o' faith in
                    That's right that day.

    In guid time comes an antidote
      Against sic poison'd nostrum;
    For Peebles, frae the water-fit,                         [river-mouth]
      Ascends the holy rostrum:
    See, up he's got the word o' God,
      An' meek an' mim has view'd it,                               [prim]
    While Common Sense[20] has ta'en the road,
      An' aff, an' up the Cowgate
                    Fast, fast, that day.

    Wee Miller, neist, the Guard relieves,                          [next]
      An' Orthodoxy raibles,                             [rattles by rote]
    Tho' in his heart he weel believes
      An' thinks it auld wives' fables:
    But, faith! the birkie wants a Manse,                         [fellow]
      So cannilie he hums them;                       [prudently, humbugs]
    Altho' his carnal wit an' sense
      Like hafflins-wise o'ercomes him                       [nearly half]
                    At times that day.

    Now, butt an' ben, the Change-house fills,     [outer and inner rooms]
      Wi' yill-caup Commentators;                                [ale-cup]
    Here's crying out for bakes an' gills,                         [rolls]
      An' there the pint-stowp clatters;
    While thick an' thrang, an' loud an' lang,                      [busy]
      Wi' logic, an' wi' Scripture,
    They raise a din, that in the end
      Is like to breed a rupture
                    O' wrath that day.

    Leeze me on drink! it gi'es us mair                     [blessings on]
      Than either school or college;
    It kindles wit, it waukens lair,                            [learning]
      It pangs us fou o' knowledge.                           [crams full]
    Be't whisky gill, or penny wheep,                         [small beer]
      Or ony stronger potion,
    It never fails, on drinkin' deep,
      To kittle up our notion                                     [tickle]
                    By night or day.

    The lads an' lasses, blythely bent
      To mind baith saul an' body,
    Sit round the table, weel content,
      An' steer about the toddy.                                    [stir]
    On this ane's dress, an' that ane's leuk,                       [look]
      They're makin observations;
    While some are cosy i' the neuk,                              [corner]
      An' formin' assignations
                    To meet some day.

    But now the Lord's ain trumpet touts,                         [sounds]
      Till a' the hills are rairin',                             [roaring]
    An' echoes back return the shouts;
      Black Russel is na sparin';
    His piercing words, like Highlan' swords,
      Divide the joints an' marrow;
    His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell,
      Our very 'sauls does harrow'
                    Wi' fright that day!

    A vast, unbottom'd, boundless pit,
      Fill'd fou o' lowin' brunstane,            [full, flaming brimstone]
    Whase ragin' flame, an' scorchin' heat,
      Wad melt the hardest whun-stane!
    The half-asleep start up wi' fear
      An' think they hear it roarin'
    When presently it does appear
      'Twas but some neebor snorin'
                    Asleep that day.

    'Twad be owre lang a tale to tell
      How mony stories past,
    An' how they crowded to the yill,                                [ale]
      When they were a' dismist;
    How drink gaed round, in cogs an' caups,     [wooden drinking vessels]
      Amang the furms and benches;
    An' cheese an' bread, frae women's laps,
      Was dealt about in lunches,                          [full portions]
                    An' dawds that day.                            [lumps]

    In comes a gawsie, gash guidwife,                    [jolly, sensible]
      An' sits down by the fire,
    Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife;                   [Then, cheese]
      The lasses they are shyer.
    The auld guidmen, about the grace,
      Frae side to side they bother,
    Till some are by his bonnet lays,
      An' gi'es them't like a tether,                               [rope]
                    Fu' lang that day.

    Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass,                          [Alas!]
      Or lasses that hae naething!
    Sma' need has he to say a grace,
      Or melvie his braw claithing!                           [make dusty]
    O wives, be mindful, ance yoursel
      How bonnie lads ye wanted,
    An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel
      Let lasses be affronted
                    On sic a day!                                   [such]

    Now Clinkumbell, wi' rattlin' tow,                 [Bell-ringer, rope]
      Begins to jow an' croon;                               [swing, toll]
    Some swagger hame the best they dow,                             [can]
      Some wait the afternoon.
    At slaps the billies halt a blink,                        [gaps, kids]
      Till lasses strip their shoon;
    Wi' faith an' hope, an' love an' drink,                        [shoes]
      They're a' in famous tune
                    For crack that day.                             [chat]

    How mony hearts this day converts
      O' sinners and o' lasses!
    Their hearts o' static, gin night, are gane                   [before]
      As saft as ony flesh is.
    There's some are fou o' love divine,
      There's some are fou o' brandy;
    An' mony jobs that day begin,
      May end in houghmagandie                               [fornication]
                    Some ither day.

 [20] The rationalism of the New Lights.

It must be admitted that, as we pass from poem to poem, Scottish
manners are becoming freer, Scottish drink is more potent, Scottish
religion is no longer pure and undefiled. Yet the poet hardly seems
to be at a disadvantage. He certainly is no less interesting; he
impresses our imaginations and rouses our sympathetic understanding as
keenly as ever; there is no abatement of our esthetic relish.

We have seen the Ayrshire peasant alone with his family, at social
gatherings, and at church. We have to see him with his cronies and at
the tavern. Scotch manners and Scotch religion we know now; it is the
turn of Scotch drink. The spirit of that conviviality which was one of
Burns's ruling passions, and which in his class helped to color the
grayness of daily hardship, was rendered by him in verse again and
again: never more triumphantly than in the greatest of his
bacchanalian songs, _Willie Brew'd a Peck o' Maut_. Indeed it would be
hard to find anywhere in our literature a more revealing utterance of
those effects of alcohol that are not discussed in scientific
literature--the joyous exhilaration, the conviction of (comparative)
sobriety, the temporary intensification of the feeling of good
fellowship. The challenge to the moon is unsurpassable in its
unconscious humor. Yet Arnold thought the world of Scotch drink


    O, Willie brew'd a peck o' maut,                                [malt]
      And Rob and Allan cam to see;
    Three blyther hearts, that lee-lang night,                 [live-long]
      Ye wad na found in Christendie.        [would not have, Christendom]

        We are na fou', we're nae that fou,                        [drunk]
          But just a drappie in our e'e;                         [droplet]
        The cock may craw, the day may daw,                   [crow, dawn]
          And aye we'll taste the barley-bree.                      [brew]

    Here are we met, three merry boys,
      Three merry boys, I trow, are we;
    And mony a night we've merry been,
      And mony mae we hope to be!                                   [more]

    It is the moon, I ken her horn,
      That's blinkin' in the lift sae hie;            [shining, sky, high]
    She shines sae bright to wyle us hame,                        [entice]
      But, by my sooth! she'll wait a wee.

    Wha first shall rise to gang awa,                                 [go]
      A cuckold, coward loun is he!                               [rascal]
    Wha first beside his chair shall fa',
      He is the King amang us three!

With greater daring and on a broader canvas Burns has dealt with the
same subject in _The Jolly Beggars_. For the literary treatment of the
theme he had hints from Ramsay, in whose _Merry Beggars_ and _Happy
Beggars_ groups of half a dozen male and female characters proclaim
their views and join in a chorus in praise of drink. More direct
suggestion for the setting of his "cantata" came from a night visit
made by the poet and two of his friends to the low alehouse kept by
Nancy Gibson ("Poosie Nansie") in Mauchline. The poem was written in
1785, but Burns never published it and seems almost to have forgotten
its existence.

It is impossible to exaggerate the unpromising nature of the theme.
The place is a den of corruption, the characters are the dregs of
society. A group of tramps and criminals have gathered at the end of
their day's wanderings to drink the very rags from their backs and
wallow in shameless incontinence. An old soldier and a quondam
"daughter of the regiment," a mountebank and his tinker sweetheart, a
female pickpocket whose Highland bandit lover has been hanged, a
fiddler at fairs who aspires to comfort her but is outdone by a
tinker, a lame ballad-singer and his three wives, one of whom consoles
the fiddler in the face of her husband--such is the choice company.
The action is mere by-play, drunken love making; the main point is the
songs. They are mostly frank autobiography, all pervaded with the
gaiety that comes from the conviction that being at the bottom, they
need not be anxious about falling. Wine, women, and song are their
enthusiasms, and only the song is above the lowest possible level.

Such is the sordid material out of which Burns wrought his greatest
imaginative triumph. To take the reader into such a haunt and have him
pass the evening in such company, not with disgust and nausea but with
relish and joy, is an achievement that stands beside the creation of
the scenes in the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap. It is accomplished
by virtue of the intensity of the poet's imaginative sympathy with
human nature even in its most degraded forms, and by his power of
finding utterance for the moods of the characters he conceives. The
dramatic power which we have noted in a certain group of the songs
here reaches its height, and in making the reader respond to it he
avails himself of all his literary faculties. Pungent phrasing, a
sense of the squalid picturesque, a humorous appreciation of human
weakness, and a superb command of rollicking rhythms--these elements
of his equipment are particularly notable. But the whole thing is
fused and unified by a wonderful vitality that makes the reading of
it an actual experience. And, though several of the songs are in
English, there is no moralizing, no alien note of any kind to jar the
perfection of its harmony. Scottish literature had seen nothing like
it since Dunbar made the Seven Deadly Sins dance in hell.




    When lyart leaves bestrow the yird,             [withered, earth]
    Or, wavering like the baukie bird,                          [bat]
      Bedim cauld Boreas' blast;
    When hailstanes drive wi' bitter skyte,         [glancing stroke]
    And infant frosts begin to bite,
      In hoary cranreuch drest;                          [hoar-frost]
    Ae night at e'en a merry core                         [one, gang]
      O' randie, gangrel bodies                      [rowdy, vagrant]
    In Poosie Nansie's held the splore,                    [carousal]
      To drink their orra duddies.                       [spare rags]
        Wi' quaffing and laughing,
          They ranted an' they sang;
        Wi' jumping an' thumping
          The very girdle rang.                            [cake-pan]

    First, niest the fire, in auld red rags,                   [next]
    Ane sat, weel brac'd wi' mealy bags,
      An' knapsack a' in order;
    His doxy lay within his arm;                           [mistress]
    Wi' usquebae an blankets warm                            [whisky]
      She blinket on her sodger;                             [leered]
    An' aye he gies the tozie drab               [flushed with drink]
      The tither skelpin' kiss,                            [smacking]
    While she held up her greedy gab,                         [mouth]
      Just like an aumous dish;                                [alms]
        Ilk smack still did crack still
          Just like a cadger's whip;                       [hawker's]
        Then, swaggering an' staggering,
          He roar'd this ditty up--


TUNE: Soldier's Joy

    I am a son of Mars, who have been in many wars,
      And show my cuts and scars wherever I come:
    This here was for a wench, and that other in a trench,
      When welcoming the French at the sound of the drum,
                                        Lal de daudle, &c.

    My 'prenticeship I past where my leader breath'd his last,
      When the bloody die was cast on the heights of Abrám;
    And I serv'd out my trade when the gallant game was play'd,
      And the Moro low was laid at the sound of the drum.

    I lastly was with Curtis, among the floating batt'ries,
      And there I left for witness an arm and a limb:
    Yet let my country need me, with Elliot to head me,
      I'd clatter on my stamps at the sound of a drum.

    And now, tho' I must beg, with a wooden arm and leg,
      And many a tattered rag hanging over my bum,
    I'm as happy with my wallet, my bottle, and my callet,    [trull]
      As when I used in scarlet to follow a drum.

    What tho' with hoary locks I must stand the winter shocks,
      Beneath the woods and rocks oftentimes for a home?
    When the t'other bag I sell, and the t'other bottle tell,
      I could meet a troop of hell at the sound of the drum.


    He ended; and the kebars sheuk                    [rafters shook]
      Aboon the chorus roar;                                  [Above]
    While frighted rattons backward leuk,                [rats, look]
      An' seek the benmost bore.                        [inmost hole]
    A fairy fiddler frae the neuk,                             [nook]
      He skirled out _Encore!_                             [shrieked]
    But up arose the martial chuck,                         [darling]
      And laid the loud uproar.


TUNE: Sodger Laddie

    I once was a maid, tho' I cannot tell when,
    And still my delight is in proper young men;
    Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie,
    No wonder I'm fond of a sodger laddie.
                                        Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

    The first of my loves was a swaggering blade,
    To rattle the thundering drum was his trade;
    His leg was so tight, and his cheek was so ruddy,
    Transported I was with my sodger laddie.                [soldier]

    But the godly old chaplain left him in a lurch;
    The sword I forsook for the sake of the church;
    He risked the soul, and I ventur'd the body,--
    then I prov'd false to my sodger laddie.

    Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot,
    The regiment at large for a husband I got;
    From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready,
    I asked no more but a sodger laddie.

    But the peace it reduced me to beg in despair,
    Till I met my old boy at a Cunningham fair;
    His rags regimental they flutter'd so gaudy,
    My heart it rejoiced at a sodger laddie.

    And now I have liv'd--I know not how long,
    And still I can join in a cup or a song;
    But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady,
    Here's to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie!


    Poor Merry Andrew in the neuk                            [corner]
      Sat guzzling wi' a tinkler hizzie;               [tinker wench]
    They mind't na wha the chorus teuk,                        [took]
      Between themselves they were sae busy,
      At length, wi' drink and courting dizzy,
    He stoitered up an' made a face;                      [staggered]
      Then turn'd, an' laid a smack on Grizzy,
    Syne tun'd his pipes wi' grave grimace.                    [Then]


TUNE: Auld Sir Symon

    Sir Wisdom's a fool when he's fou,              [drunk]
      Sir Knave is a fool in a session;             [court]
    He's there but a 'prentice I trow,
      But I am a fool by profession.

    My grannie she bought me a beuk,                 [book]
      And I held awa to the school;              [went off]
    I fear I my talent misteuk,
      But what will ye hae of a fool?                [have]

    For drink I would venture my neck;
      A hizzie's the half o' my craft;              [wench]
    But what could ye other expect,
      Of ane that's avowedly daft?                  [crazy]

    I ance was tied up like a stirk,              [bullock]
      For civilly swearing and quaffing;
    I ance was abused i' the kirk,                [rebuked]
      For touzling a lass i' my daffin.     [rumpling, fun]

    Poor Andrew that tumbles for sport,
      Let naebody name wi' a jeer;
    There's even, I'm tauld, i' the Court,
      A tumbler ca'd the Premier.

    Observ'd ye yon reverend lad
      Maks faces to tickle the mob?
    He rails at our mountebank squad--
      It's rivalship just i' the job!

    And now my conclusion I'll tell,
      For faith! I'm confoundedly dry;
    The chiel that's a fool for himsel',           [fellow]
      Gude Lord! he's far dafter than I.


    Then niest outspak a raucle carlin,          [next, rough beldam]
    Wha kent fu' weel to cleek the sterling.            [steal, cash]
    For mony a pursie she had hookit,
    An' had in mony a well been dookit;                      [ducked]
    Her love had been a Highland laddie,
    But weary fa' the waefu' Woodie!            [woe betide, gallows]
    Wi' sighs and sobs, she thus began
    To wail her braw John Highlandman:--


TUNE: O An' Ye Were Dead, Guidman

    A Highland lad my love was born,
    The Lalland laws he held in scorn;                      [Lowland]
    But he still was faithfu' to his clan,
    My gallant braw John Highlandman.


        Sing hey, my braw John Highlandman!
        Sing ho, my braw John Highlandman!
        There's no a lad in a' the lan'
        Was match for my John Highlandman.

    With his philibeg an' tartan plaid,                        [kilt]
    And gude claymore down by his side,            [two-handed sword]
    The ladies' hearts he did trepan,
    My gallant braw John Highlandman.

    We ranged a' from Tweed to Spey,
    And lived like lords and ladies gay;
    For a Lalland face he feared none,
    My gallant braw John Highlandman.

    They banish'd him beyond the sea;
    But ere the bud was on the tree,
    Adown my cheeks the pearls ran,
    Embracing my John Highlandman.

    But och! they catch'd him at the last,
    And bound him in a dungeon fast;
    My curse upon them every one!
    They've hang'd my braw John Highlandman.

    And now a widow I must mourn
    The pleasures that will ne'er return;
    No comfort but a hearty can,
    When I think on John Highlandman.


    A pigmy scraper wi' his fiddle,
    Wha used to trysts an' fairs to driddle,        [markets, toddle]
    Her strappin' limb an' gawsie middle                      [buxom]
                    (He reach'd nae higher)
    Had holed his heartie like a riddle,
                    And blawn't on fire.                   [blown it]

    Wi' hand on hainch, and upward e'e,                         [hip]
    He crooned his gamut, one, two, three,
    Then, in an _Ario's_ key,
                    The wee Apollo
    Set aff, wi' _allegretto_ glee,
                    His _gig_ solo.


TUNE: Whistle Owre the Lave O't

    Let me tyke up to dight that tear,                  [reach, wipe]
    And go wi' me an' be my dear,
    And then your every care an' fear
      May whistle owre the lave o't.                           [rest]


        I am a fiddler to my trade,
        An' a' the tunes that e'er I play'd,
        The sweetest still to wife or maid,
          Was _Whistle Owre the Lave o't_.

    At kirns and weddings we'se be there,   [harvest-homes, we shall]
    And oh! sae nicely's we will fare;
    We'll house about, till Daddie Care
      Sing _Whistle Owre the Lave o't_.

    Sae merrily the banes we'll pyke,                          [pick]
    An' sun oursels about the dyke,                            [wall]
    An' at our leisure, when ye like,
      We'll--whistle owre the lave o't.

    But bless me wi' your heav'n o' charms,
    An' while I kittle hair on thairms,              [tickle, catgut]
    Hunger, cauld, and a' sic harms,                           [such]
      May whistle owre the lave o't.


    Her charms had struck a sturdy caird,          [tinker]
      As well as poor gut-scraper;
    He taks the fiddler by the beard,
      An' draws a roosty rapier--                   [rusty]
    He swoor, by a' was swearing worth,
      To spit him like a pliver,                   [plover]
    Unless he would from that time forth
      Relinquish her for ever.

    Wi' ghastly e'e, poor tweedle-dee
      Upon his hunkers bended,                       [hams]
    An' pray'd for grace wi' ruefu' face,
      An' sae the quarrel ended.
    But tho' his little heart did grieve
      When round the tinkler prest her,
    He feign'd to snirtle in his sleeve,          [snigger]
      When thus the caird address'd her:--


TUNE: Clout the Cauldron

    My bonnie lass, I work in brass,
      A tinkler is my station;
    I've travell'd round all Christian ground
      In this my occupation;
    I've ta'en the gold, I've been enroll'd
      In many a noble squadron;
    But vain they search'd when off I march'd
      To go an' clout the cauldron.                           [patch]

    Despise that shrimp, that wither'd imp,
      Wi' a' his noise an' caperin';
    An' tak a share wi' those that bear
      The budget and the apron;                            [tool-bag]
    And, by that stoup, my faith an' houp!                     [hope]
      And by that dear Kilbaigie,                  [a kind of whisky]
    If e'er ye want, or meet wi' scant,                      [dearth]
      May I ne'er weet my craigie.                      [wet, throat]


    The caird prevail'd--th' unblushing fair
      In his embraces sunk,
    Partly wi' love o'ercome sae sair,                    [so sorely]
      An' partly she was drunk.
    Sir Violino, with an air
      That show'd a man o' spunk,                            [spirit]
    Wish'd unison between the pair,
      An' made the bottle clunk
                To their health that night.

    But hurchin Cupid shot a shaft                           [urchin]
      That play'd a dame a shavie;                            [trick]
    The fiddler rak'd her fore and aft,
      Behint the chicken cavie.                             [hencoop]
    Her lord, a wight of Homer's craft,
      Tho' limpin' wi' the spavie,                           [spavin]
    He hirpl'd up, an' lap like daft,                [hobbled, leapt]
      And shor'd them _Dainty Davie_         [yielded them as lovers]
                O' boot that night.                          [gratis]

    He was a care-defying blade
      As ever Bacchus listed;                              [enlisted]
    Tho' Fortune sair upon him laid,
      His heart she ever miss'd it.
    He had nae wish, but--to be glad,
      Nor want but--when he thirsted;
    He hated nought but--to be sad,
      And thus the Muse suggested
                His sang that night.


TUNE: For A' That, An' A' That

    I am a bard of no regard
      Wi' gentlefolks, and a' that;
    But Homer-like, the glowrin' byke,                [staring crowd]
      Frae town to town I draw that.


        For a' that, an' a' that,
          And twice as muckle's a' that;                       [much]
        I've lost but ane, I've twa behin',
          I've wife eneugh for a' that.

    I never drank the Muses' stank,                            [pond]
      Castalia's burn, an' a' that;
    But there it streams, an' richly reams!                   [foams]
      My Helicon I ca' that.

    Great love I bear to a' the fair,
      Their humble slave, an' a' that;
    But lordly will, I hold it still
      A mortal sin to thraw that.                            [thwart]

    In raptures sweet this hour we meet
      Wi' mutual love, an' a' that;
    But for how lang the flee may stang,                 [fly, sting]
      Let inclination law that.                            [regulate]

    Their tricks and craft hae put me daft,                   [crazy]
      They've ta'en me in, an' a' that;
    But clear your decks, an' _Here's the sex!_
      I like the jads for a' that.                            [jades]

        For a' that, and a' that,
          And twice as muckle's a' that,
        My dearest bluid, to do them guid,
          They're welcome till't, for a' that.                [to it]


    So sung the bard--and Nansie's wa's                                 [walls]
    Shook with a thunder of applause,
      Re-echo'd from each mouth;
    They toom'd their pocks, an' pawn'd their duds.      [emptied, pokes, rags]
    They scarcely left to co'er their fads,                      [cover, tails]
      To quench their lowin' drouth.                                  [flaming]
    Then owre again the jovial thrang                             [over, crowd]
      The poet did request
    To lowse his pack, an' wale a sang,                         [untie, choose]
      A ballad o' the best;
        He rising, rejoicing,
          Between his twa Deborahs,
        Looks round him, an' found them
          Impatient for the chorus.


TUNE: Jolly Mortals, Fill Your Glasses

    See the smoking bowl before us,
      Mark our jovial ragged ring;
    Round and round take up the chorus,
      And in raptures let us sing:


        A fig for those by law protected!
          Liberty's a glorious feast!
        Courts for cowards were erected,
          Churches built to please the priest.

    What is title? what is treasure?
      What is reputation's care?
    If we lead a life of pleasure,
      'Tis no matter how or where!

    With the ready trick and fable,
      Round we wander all the day;
    And at night, in barn or stable,
      Hug our doxies on the hay.               [mistresses]

    Does the train-attended carriage
      Thro' the country lighter rove?
    Does the sober bed of marriage
      Witness brighter scenes of love?

    Life is all a variorum,
      We regard not how it goes;
    Let them cant about decorum
      Who have characters to lose.

    Here's to budgets, bags, and wallets!
      Here's to all the wandering train!
    Here's our ragged brats and callets!          [wenches]
      One and all cry out _Amen!_

The materials for rebuilding Burns's world are not confined to his
explicitly descriptive poems. Much can be gathered from the songs and
satires, and there are important contributions in his too scanty
essays in narrative. Of these last by far the most valuable is _Tam o'
Shanter_. The poem originated accidentally in the request of a certain
Captain Grose for local legends to enrich a descriptive work which he
was compiling. In Burns's correspondence will be found a prose
account of the tradition on which the poem is founded, and he is
supposed to have derived hints for the relations of Tam and his spouse
from a couple he knew at Kirkoswald.

It was a happy inspiration that led him to turn the story into verse,
for it revealed a capacity which otherwise we could hardly have
guessed him to possess. The vigor and rapidity of the action, the
vivid sketching of the background, the pregnant characterization, the
drollery of the humor give this piece a high place among stories in
verse, and lead us to conjecture that, had he followed this vein
instead of devoting his later years to the service of Johnson and
Thomson, he might have won a place beside the author of the
_Canterbury Tales_. He lacked, to be sure, Chaucer's breadth of
experience and richness of culture: being far less a man of the world
he would never have attained the air of breeding that distinguishes
the English poet: but with most of the essential qualities that charm
us in Chaucer's stories he was well equipped. He had the observant
eye, the power of selection, command of the telling phrase and happy
epithet, the sense of the comic and the pathetic. Beyond Chaucer he
had passion and the power of rendering it, so that he might have
reached greater tragic depth, as he surpassed him in lyric intensity.

As it is, however, Chaucer stands alone as a story-teller, for _Tam o'
Shanter_ is with Burns an isolated achievement. There are three
distinct elements in the work--narrative, descriptive, and reflective.
The first can hardly be overpraised. We are made to feel the
reluctance of the hero to abandon the genial inn fireside, with its
warmth and uncritical companionship, for the bitter ride with a sulky
sullen dame at the end of it; the rage of the thunderstorm, as with
lowered head and fast-held bonnet the horseman plunges through it; the
growing sense of terror as, past scene after scene of ancient horror,
he approaches the ill-famed ruin. Then suddenly the mood changes.
Emboldened by his potations, Tam faces the astounding infernal revelry
with unabashed curiosity, which rises and rises till, in a pitch of
enthusiastic admiration for Cutty-Sark, he loses all discretion and
brings the "hellish legion" after him pell-mell. We reach the
serio-comic catastrophe breathless but exhilarated.

The descriptive background of this galloping adventure is skilfully
indicated. Each scene--the ale-house, the storm, the lighted church,
the witches' dance--is sketched in a dozen lines, every stroke
distinct and telling. Even the three lines indicating what waits the
hero at home is an adequate picture. Though incidental, these
vignettes add substantially to what the descriptive poems have told us
of the environment, real and imaginative, in which the poet had been

The value of the reflective element is more mixed. The most quoted
passage, that beginning

   "But pleasures are like poppies spread,"

can only be regretted. With its literacy similes, its English, its
artificial diction, it is a patch of cheap silk upon honest homespun.
But the other pieces of interspersed comment are all admirable. The
ironic apostrophes--to Tam for neglecting his wife's warnings; to
shrewish wives, consoling them for their husband's deafness to advice;
to John Barleycorn, on the transient courage he inspires; to Tam
again, when tragedy seems imminent--are all in perfect tone, and do
much to add the element of drollery that mixes so delightfully with
the weirdness of the scene. And like the other elements in the poem
they are commendably short, for Burns nearly always fulfills
Bagehot's requirement that poetry should be "memorable and emphatic,
intense, and _soon over_."



Of Brownyis and of Bogillis full is this Buke.
                        GARVIN DOUGLAS.

      When chapman billies leave the street,              [pedlar fellows]
    And drouthy neibors neibors meet,                            [thirsty]
    As market-days are wearing late,
    An' folk begin to tak the gate;                                 [road]
    While we sit bousing at the nappy,                               [ale]
    An' getting fou and unco happy,                         [full, mighty]
    We think na on the lang Scots miles,
    The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,                    [bogs, gaps]
    That lie between us and our hame,
    Where sits our sulky sullen dame,
    Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
    Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

      This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,                       [found]
    As he frae Ayr ae night did canter--                             [one]
    (Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
    For honest men and bonnie lasses).

      O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise
    As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
    She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,       [told, good-for-nothing]
    A bletherin', blusterin', drunken blellum;       [chattering, babbler]
    That frae November till October,
    Ae market-day thou was na sober;                                 [One]
    That ilka melder wi' the miller                  [every meal-grinding]
    Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;                           [money]
    That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,                              [nag]
    The smith and thee gat roarin' fou on;
    That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
    Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
    She prophesied that, late or soon,
    Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
    Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk                    [wizards, dark]
    By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

      Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet                     [makes, weep]
    To think how many counsels sweet,
    How mony lengthen'd sage advices,
    The husband frae the wife despises!

      But to our tale: Ae market night,
    Tam had got planted unco right,                           [uncommonly]
    Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,                 [fireside, blazing]
    Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely;                  [foaming ale]
    And at his elbow, Souter Johnny,                             [Cobbler]
    His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
    Tam lo'ed him like a very brither;                             [loved]
    They had been fou for weeks thegither.
    The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter,
    And aye the ale was growing better;
    The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
    Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious;
    The souter tauld his queerest stories;
    The landlord's laugh was ready chorus;
    The storm without might rair and rustle,                        [roar]
    Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

      Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
    E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.
    As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,                       [loads]
    The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure;
    Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
    O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

      But pleasures are like poppies spread--
    You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
    Or like the snow falls in the river--
    A moment white, then melts for ever;
    Or like the borealis race,
    That flit ere you can point their place;
    Or like the rainbow's lovely form
    Evanishing amid the storm.
    Nae man can tether time nor tide;
    The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
    That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
    That dreary hour, he mounts his beast in;
    And sic a night he taks the road in;                            [such]
    As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

      The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
    The rattling show'rs rose on the blast;
    The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
    Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
    That night, a child might understand,
    The Deil had business on his hand.

      Weel mounted on his gray mare, Meg,
    A better never lifted leg,
    Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,                   [spanked, puddle]
    Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
    Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet;
    Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet;                    [song]
    Whiles glow'ring round wi' prudent cares,                    [staring]
    Lest bogles catch him unawares,                              [goblins]
    Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
    Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.                  [ghosts, owls]

      By this time he was cross the ford,
    Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;                     [smothered]
    And past the birks and meikle stane,                    [birches, big]
    Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;
    And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,         [gorse, pile of stones]
    Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn;                         [found]
    And near the thorn, aboon the well,
    Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel,
    Before him Doon pours all his floods;
    The doubling storm roars thro' the woods;
    The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
    Near and more near the thunders roll;
    When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
    Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze;                               [blaze]
    Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing;                       [chink]
    And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

      Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
    What dangers thou canst make us scorn?
    Wi tippenny, we fear nae evil;                                   [ale]
    Wi' usquebae, we'll face the devil!                           [whisky]
    The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,                         [ale]
    Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle!                      [farthing]
    But Maggie stood right sair astonish'd,
    Till by the heel and hand admonish'd,
    She ventur'd forward on the light;
    And, vow! Tam saw an unco sight!                             [strange]
    Warlocks and witches in a dance!
    Nae cotillon brent new frae France,                            [brand]
    But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
    Put life and mettle in their heels.
    A winnock-bunker in the east,                            [window-seat]
    There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast--
    A touzie tyke, black, grim, and large!                    [shaggy dog]
    To gie them music was his charge:
    He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl.                     [squeal]
    Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.                              [ring]
    Coffins stood round like open presses,
    That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
    And by some devilish cantraip sleight                    [magic trick]
    Each in its cauld hand held a light,
    By which heroic Tam was able
    To note upon the haly table                                     [holy]
    A murderer's banes in gibbet-airns;                           [-irons]
    Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen'd bairns;
    A thief new-cutted frae the rape--
    Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
    Five tomahawks, wi' blude red rusted;
    Five scymitars, wi' murder crusted;
    A garter, which a babe had strangled;
    A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
    Whom his ain son o' life bereft--
    The gray hairs yet stack to the heft;
    Wi' mair of horrible and awfu',
    Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.

      As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
    The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
    The piper loud and louder blew;
    The dancers quick and quicker flew;
    They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,            [linked]
    Till ilka, carlin swat and reekit,                   [beldam, steamed]
    And coost her duddies to the wark,                  [cast, rags, work]
    And linkit at it in her sark!                [tripped deftly, chemise]

      Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,                 [those, girls]
    A' plump and strapping in their teens;
    Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,             [greasy flannel]
    Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen![21]
    Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,                    [These trousers]
    That ance were plush, o' gude blue hair,
    I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,                        [buttocks]
    For ae blink o' the bonnie burdies!                          [maidens]

      But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
    Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,                  [Withered (?), wean]
    Louping and flinging on a crummock,                  [Leaping, cudgel]
    I wonder didna turn thy stomach.

      But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie:                  [full well]
    There was ae winsome wench and walie                          [choice]
    That night enlisted in the core,
    Lang after kent on Carrick shore!
    (For mony a beast to dead she shot,                            [death]
    And perish'd mony a bonnie boat,
    And shook baith meikle corn and bear,                         [barley]
    And kept the country-side in fear.)
    Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,           [short-shift, coarse linen]
    That while a lassie she had worn,
    In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
    It was her best, and she was vauntie.                          [proud]
    Ah! little kent thy reverend grannie
    That sark she coft for her wee Nannie                         [bought]
    Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches)                      [pounds]
    Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

      But here my muse her wing maun cour;                         [stoop]
    Sic flights are far beyond her pow'r--
    To sing how Nannie lap and flang,                      [leapt, kicked]
    (A souple jade she was, and strang);
    And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
    And thought his very een enrich'd;
    Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,      [fidgeted with fondness]
    And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main:                      [jerked]
    Till first ae caper, syne anither,                              [then]
    Tam tint his reason a' thegither,                               [lost]
    And roars out 'Weel done, Cutty-sark!'                   [Short-shift]
    And in an instant all was dark!
    And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
    When out the hellish legion sallied.

      As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke                               [fret]
    When plundering herds assail their byke,             [herd-boys, nest]
    As open pussie's mortal foes                              [the hare's]
    When pop! she starts before their nose,
    As eager runs the market-crowd,
    When 'Catch the thief!' resounds aloud;
    So Maggie runs; the witches follow,
    Wi' mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.                [weird screech]

      Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'![22]
    In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
    In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin'!
    Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
    Now do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
    And win the key-stane o' the brig;
    There at them thou thy tail may toss,
    A running stream they darena cross.
    But ere the key-stane she could make,
    The fient a tail she had to shake!                             [devil]
    For Nannie, far before the rest,
    Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
    And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;                          [endeavor]
    But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
    Ae spring brought off her master hale,                         [whole]
    But left behind her ain gray tail:
    The carlin caught her by the rump,                          [clutched]
    And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

      Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
    Ilk man and mother's son, take heed;
    Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd,
    Or cutty-sarks rin in your mind,
    Think! ye may buy the joys o'er dear;
    Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.

 [21] Woven in a reed of 1,700 divisions.

 [22] Lit., a present from a fair; deserts and something more.

Description in Burns is not confined to man and society: he has much
to say of nature, animate and inanimate.

Though within a few miles of the ocean, the scenery among which the
poet grew up was inland scenery. He lived more than once by the sea
for short periods, yet it appears but little in his verse, and then
usually as the great severing element.

    And seas between us braid hae roar'd
      Sin auld lang syne

is the characteristic line. Scottish poetry had no tradition of the
sea. To England the sea had been the great boundary and defense
against the continental powers, and her naval achievements had long
produced a patriotic sentiment with regard to it which is reflected in
her literature. But Scotland's frontier had been the line of the
Cheviots and the Tweed, and save for a brief space under James IV she
had never been a sea-power. Thus the cruelty and danger of the sea are
almost the only phases prominent in her poetry, and Burns here once
more follows tradition.

Again, the scenery of Ayrshire was Lowland scenery, with pastoral
hills and valleys. On his Highland tours Burns saw and admired
mountains, but they too appear little in his verse. Though not an
unimportant figure in the development of natural description in
literature, he had not reached the modern deliberateness in the
seeking out of nature's beauties for worship or imitation, so that the
phases of natural beauty which we find in his poetry are merely those
which had unconsciously become fixed in a memory naturally retentive
of visual images.

Not only do his natural descriptions deal with the aspects familiar
to him in his ordinary surroundings, but they are for the most part
treated in relation to life. The thunderstorm in _Tam o' Shanter_ is a
characteristic example. It is detailed and vivid and is for the moment
the center of interest; but it is introduced solely on Tam's account.
Oftener the wilder moods of the weather are used as settings for lyric
emotion. In _Winter, a Dirge_, the harmony of the poet's spirit with
the tempest is the whole theme, and in _My Nannie's Awa_ the same idea
is treated with more mature art:

    Come autumn sae pensive, in yellow and gray,
    And soothe me wi' tidings o' nature's decay;
    The dark, dreary winter, and wild-driving snaw
    Alane can delight me--now Nannie's awa.

Many poems are introduced with a note of the season, even when it has
no marked relation to the tone of the poem. _The Cotter's Saturday
Night_ opens with

    November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh;

_The Jolly Beggars_ with

    When lyart leaves bestrew the yird;

_The Epistle to Davie_ with

    While winds frae off Ben-Lomond blaw,
    An' bar the doors wi' drivin' snaw,

though in this last case it is skilfully used to introduce the theme.
These introductions are probably less imitations of the traditional
opening landscape which had been a convention since the early Middle
Ages, than the natural result of a plowman's daily consciousness of
the weather.

For whether related organically to his subject or not, Burns's
descriptions of external nature are to a high degree marked by actual
experience and observation. Even remembering Thomson in the previous
generation and Cowper and Crabbe in his own, we may safely say that
English poetry had hardly seen such realism. Its quality will be
conceived from a few passages. Take the well-known description of the
flood from _The Brigs of Ayr_.

    When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains,                   [all-day]
    Wi' deepening deluges o'erflow the plains;
    When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil,
    Or stately Lugar's mossy fountains boil,
    Or where the Greenock winds his moorland course,
    Or haunted Garpal draws his feeble source,
    Arous'd by blust'ring winds an' spotting thowes,               [thaws]
    In mony a torrent down the snaw-broo rowes;        [melted snow rolls]
    While crashing ice, borne on the roaring spate,                [flood]
    Sweeps dams, an' mills, an' brigs, a' to the gate;  [way (to the sea)]
    And from Glenbuck, down to the Ralton-key,
    Auld Ayr is just one lengthen'd, tumbling sea;
    Then down ye'll hurl, deil nor ye never rise!               [devil if]
    And dash the gumlie jaup up to the pouring skies!     [muddy splashes]

Any reader familiar with Gavin Douglas's description of a Scottish
winter in his Prologue to the twelfth book of the _Æneid_ will be
struck by the resemblance to this passage both in subject and manner.
It is doubtful whether Burns knew more of Douglas than the motto to
_Tam o' Shanter_, but from the days of the turbulent bishop in the
early sixteenth century down to Burns's own time Scottish poetry had
never lost touch with nature, and had rendered it with peculiar
faithfulness. It is interesting to note that while _The Brigs of Ayr_
is Burns's most successful attempt at the heroic couplet, and though
it contains verses that must have encouraged his ambition to be a
Scottish Pope, yet it is sprinkled with touches of natural observation
quite remote from the manner of that master. Compare, on the one hand,
such couplets as these:

    Will your poor narrow foot-path of a street,
    Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they meet,--


    And tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn        [old age, sorely worn-out]
    I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!               [heap of stones]


    Forms like some bedlam statuary's dream,
    The craz'd creations of misguided whim;


    As for your priesthood, I shall say but little,
    Corbies and clergy are a shot right kittle;        [Ravens, sort, ticklish]

couplets of which Pope need hardly have been ashamed, with such
touches of nature as these:

    Except perhaps the robin's whistling glee,
    Proud o' the height o some bit half-lang tree:


    The silent moon shone high o'er tow'r and tree:
    The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
    Crept, gently crusting, owre the glittering stream.

These examples of his power of exact, vigorous, or delicate rendering
of familiar sights and sounds may be supplemented with a few from
other poems.

    O sweet are Coila's haughs an' woods,                [intervales]
    When lintwhites chant amang the buds,                   [linnets]
    And jinkin' hares, in amorous whids,           [dodging, gambols]
          Their loves enjoy,
    While thro' the braes the cushat croods                    [coos]
          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!
                      _Epistle to William Simpson._

    Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
      As thro' the glen it wimpled;
    Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
      Whyles in a wiel it dimpled;
    Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
      Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
    Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
      Below the spreading hazel,
          Unseen that night.

Closely interwoven with Burns's feelings for natural beauty is his
sympathy with animals. The frequency of passages of pathos on the
sufferings of beasts and birds may be in part due to the influence of
Sterne, but in the main its origin is not literary but is an
expression of a tender heart and a lifelong friendly intercourse. In
this relation Burns most often allows his sentiment to come to the
edge of sentimentality, yet in fairness it must be said that he seldom
crosses the line. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he had no need
to force the note; it was his instinct both as a farmer and as a lover
of animals to think, when he heard the storm rise, how it would affect
the lower creation.

    List'ning the doors and winnocks rattle,                     [windows]
    I thought me on the ourie cattle,                          [shivering]
    Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle                          [onset]
            O' winter war,
    And thro' the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle       [-sinking, scramble]
            Beneath a scar.

    Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing!                  [Each hopping]
    That, in the merry months o' spring,
    Delighted me to hear thee sing,
            What comes o' thee?
    Where wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing,
            An' close thy e'e?                                       [eye]
                                  _A Winter Night._

A number of his most popular pieces are the expression of this
warm-hearted sympathy, a sympathy not confined to suffering but
extending to enjoyment of life and sunshine, and at times leading him
to the half-humorous, half-tender ascription to horses and sheep of a
quasi-human intelligence. Were we to indulge further our conjectures
as to what Burns might have done under more favorable circumstances,
it would be easy to argue that he could have ranked with Henryson and
La Fontaine as a writer of fables.


    Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,                 [sleek]
    O what a panic's in thy breastie!
    Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
                Wi' bickering brattle!                [hurrying rush]
    I wad na be laith to rin an' chase thee                   [loath]
                Wi' murd'ring pattle!                  [plough-staff]

    I'm truly sorry man's dominion
    Has broken Nature's social union,
    An' justifies that ill opinion
                Which makes thee startle
    At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
                An' fellow-mortal!

    I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
    What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
    A daimen icker in a thrave                  [odd ear, 24 sheaves]
                'S a sma' request;                               [Is]
    I'll get a blessin' wi' the lave,                          [rest]
                And never miss't!

    Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
    Its silly wa's the win's are strewin'!                    [frail]
    An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
                O' foggage green!
    An' bleak December's winds ensuin',
                Baith snell an' keen!                        [bitter]

    Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
    An' weary winter comin' fast,
    An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
                Thou thought to dwell,
    Till crash! the cruel coulter past
                Out thro' thy cell.

    That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble                 [stubble]
    Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
    Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
                But house or hald,                 [Without, holding]
    To thole the winter's sleety dribble,                    [endure]
                An' cranreuch cauld!                     [hoar-frost]

    But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,                        [alone]
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
                Gang aft a-gley,                       [Go oft askew]
    An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain                    [leave]
                For promis'd joy.

    Still thou art blest compar'd wi' me!
    The present only toucheth thee:
    But och! I backward cast my e'e
                On prospects drear!
    An' forward tho' I canna see,
                I guess an' fear!



    Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin' ferlie!      [where are, going, wonder]
    Your impudence protects you sairly:
    I canna say but ye strunt rarely,                            [swagger]
                    Owre gauze and lace;
    Tho' faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
                    On sic a place.                                 [such]

    Ye ugly, creepin', blastit wonner,                            [wonder]
    Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner!                         [saint]
    How dare ye set your fit upon her,                              [foot]
                    Sae fine a lady!
    Gae somewhere else, and seek your dinner                          [Go]
                    On some poor body.

    Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle;       [Quick, temples settle]
    There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle
    Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
                    In shoals and nations;
    Whare horn nor bane ne'er dare unsettle                    [i.e. comb]
                    Your thick plantations.

    Now haud ye there! ye're out o' sight,                          [keep]
    Below the fatt'rils, snug an' tight;                     [fal-de-rals]
    Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right
                    Till ye've got on it,
    The very tapmost tow'ring height
                    O' Miss's bonnet.

    My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
    As plump and gray as onie grozet;                         [gooseberry]
    O for some rank mercurial rozet,                               [rosin]
                    Or fell red smeddum!                    [deadly, dust]
    I'd gie you sic a hearty doze o't,
                    Wad dress your droddum!                       [breech]

    I wad na been surpris'd to spy
    You on an auld wife's flannen toy;                       [flannel cap]
    Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,                      [perhaps, ragged]
                    On's wyliecoat;                            [undervest]
    But Miss's fine Lunardi! fie,                         [balloon bonnet]
                    How daur ye do't?                               [dare]

    O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
    An' set your beauties a' abread!                              [abroad]
    Ye little ken what cursed speed
                    The blastie's makin'!                  [little wretch]
    Thae winks and finger-ends, I dread,                           [Those]
                    Are notice takin'!

    O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
                    And foolish notion:
    What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
                    And ev'n devotion!



    Wee modest crimson-tippèd flow'r,
    Thou's met me in an evil hour;
    For I maun crush amang the stoure                [must]
                Thy slender stem:
    To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
                Thou bonnie gem.

    Alas! it's no thy neibor sweet,
    The bonnie lark, companion meet,
    Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet
                Wi' spreckl'd breast,
    When upward springing, blythe to greet
                The purpling east.

    Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
    Upon thy early humble birth;
    Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
                Amid the storm,
    Scarce rear'd above the parent-earth
                Thy tender form.

    The flaunting flow'rs our gardens yield
    High shelt'ring woods and wa's maun shield,     [walls]
    But thou, beneath the random bield            [shelter]
                O' clod or stane,
    Adorns the histie stibble-field,               [barren]
                Unseen, alane.

    There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
    Thy snawy bosom sun-ward spread,
    Thou lifts thy unassuming head
                In humble guise;
    But now the share uptears thy bed,
                And low thou lies!

    Such is the fate of artless maid,
    Sweet flow'ret of the rural shade,
    By love's simplicity betray'd,
                And guileless trust,
    Till she like thee, all soil'd, is laid
                Low i' the dust.

    Such is the fate of simple bard,
    On life's rough ocean luckless starr'd:
    Unskilful he to note the card
                Of prudent lore,
    Till billows rage, and gales blow hard,
                And whelm him o'er!

    Such fate to suffering worth is giv'n,
    Who long with wants and woes has striv'n,
    By human pride or cunning driv'n
                To mis'ry's brink,
    Till wrench'd of ev'ry stay but Heav'n,
                He, ruin'd, sink!

    Ev'n thou who mourn'st the Daisy's fate,
    That fate is thine--no distant date;
    Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives elate
                Full on thy bloom,
    Till crush'd beneath the furrow's weight
                Shall be thy doom!


YEAR  [welcome with a present]

    A guid New-Year I wish thee, Maggie!
    Hae, there's a ripp to thy auld baggie:                    [handful, belly]
    Tho' thou's howe-backit now, an' knaggie,           [hollow-backed, knobby]
                    I've seen the day,
    Thou could hae gane like ony staggie                                 [colt]
                    Out-owre the lay.                             [Across, lea]

    Tho' now thou's dowie, stiff, an' crazy,                         [drooping]
    An' thy auld hide's as white's a daisie,
    I've seen thee dappled, sleek, an' glaizie,                        [glossy]
                    A bonnie gray:
    He should been tight that daur't to raize thee,                    [excite]
                    Ance in a day.                                       [Once]

    Thou ance was i' the foremost rank,
    A filly buirdly, steeve, an' swank,              [stately, compact, limber]
    An' set weel down a shapely shank,
                    As e'er tread yird;                                 [earth]
    An' could hae flown out-owre a stank,                                [pool]
                    Like ony bird.

    It's now some nine-an-twenty year,
    Sin' thou was my guid-father's meere;
    He gied me thee, o' tocher dear,                                 [as dowry]
                    An' fifty mark;
    Tho' it was sma', 'twas weel-won gear,                             [wealth]
                    An' thou was stark.                                [strong]

    When first I gaed to woo my Jenny,
    Ye then was trottin' wi' your minnie:                              [mother]
    Tho' ye was trickie, slee, an' funnie,                                [sly]
                    Ye ne'er was donsie;                         [unmanageable]
    But hamely, tawie, quiet, an' cannie,            [tractable, good tempered]
                    An' unco sonsie.                          [very attractive]

    That day ye pranc'd wi' muckle pride                                 [much]
    When ye bure hame my bonnie bride;                                   [bore]
    An' sweet an' gracefu' she did ride,
                    Wi' maiden air!
    Kyle-Stewart I could braggèd wide                         [have challenged]
                    For sic a pair.

    Tho' now ye dow but hoyte and hobble,                       [can only halt]
    An' wintle like a saumont-coble,                     [stagger, salmon-boat]
    That day ye was a jinker noble                                       [goer]
                    For heels an' win'!                                  [wind]
    An' ran them till they a' did wobble
                    Far, far behin'.

    When thou an' I were young and skeigh,                           [skittish]
    An' stable-meals at fairs were driegh,                               [dull]
    How thou wad prance, an' snore, an' skriegh                  [snort, neigh]
                    An' tak the road!
    Town's-bodies ran, and stood abeigh,                                [aloof]
                    An' ca't thee mad.

    When thou was corn't, an' I was mellow,                      [full of corn]
    We took the road aye like a swallow:
    At brooses thou had ne'er a fellow                          [wedding-races]
                    For pith an' speed;
    But ev'ry tail thou pay't them hollow,
                    Where'er thou gaed.                                  [went]

    The sma', drooped-rumpled hunter cattle,                     [short-rumped]
    Might aiblins waur'd thee for a brattle;         [perhaps have beat, spurt]
    But sax Scotch miles, thou tried their mettle,
                    An' gart them whaizle;                             [wheeze]
    Nae whip nor spur, but just a wattle
                    O' saugh or hazel.                                 [willow]

    Thou was a noble fittie-lan',                 [near horse of hindmost pair]
    As e'er in tug or tow was drawn!                       [hide or tow traces]
    Aft thee an' I, in aucht hours gaun,                         [eight, going]
                    On guid March-weather,
    Hae turn'd sax rood beside our han',
                    For days thegither.

    Thou never braindg't, an' fetch't, an' fliskit,         [plunged, stopped,
    But thy auld tail thou wad hae whiskit,                            capered]
    An' spread abreed thy weel-fill'd brisket,                          [chest]
                    Wi' pith an' pow'r,                       [rooty hillocks,
    Till spritty knowes wad rair't and riskit,                 roared, cracked]
                    An' slypet owre.                       [fallen gently over]

    When frosts lay lang, an' snaws were deep,
    An' threaten'd labour back to keep,
    I gied thy cog a wee bit heap                                        [dish]
                    Aboon the timmer;                                   [edges]
    I kenn'd my Maggie wad na sleep
                    For that, or simmer.                                  [ere]

    In cart or car thou never reestit;                           [were restive]
    The steyest brae thou wad hae faced it;                          [steepest]
    Thou never lap, an' stenned, an' breastit,                  [leapt, jumped]
                    Then stood to blaw;
    But, just thy step a wee thing hastit,
                    Thou snoov't awa.                            [jogged along]

    My pleugh is now thy bairn-time a',                    [plough-team, issue]
    Four gallant brutes as e'er did draw;
    Forbye sax mae I've sell't awa                        [Besides, more, away]
                    That thou hast nurst:
    They drew me thretteen pund an' twa,
                    The very warst.                                     [worst]

    Mony a sair darg we twa hae wrought,                           [day's work]
    An' wi' the weary warl' fought!
    An' mony an anxious day I thought
                    We wad be beat!
    Yet here to crazy age we're brought,
                    Wi' something yet.

    And think na, my auld trusty servan',
    That now perhaps thou's less deservin',
    An' thy auld days may end in starvin';
                    For my last fou,                                   [bushel]
    A heapit stimpart I'll reserve ane                           [quarter-peck]
                    Laid by for you.

    We've worn to crazy years thegither;
    We'll toyte about wi' ane anither;                                 [totter]
    Wi' tentie care I'll flit thy tether                    [attentive, change]
                    To some hain'd rig,                         [reserved plot]
    Where ye may nobly rax your leather,                       [stretch, sides]
                    Wi' sma' fatigue.

To the evidence of Burns's warm-heartedness supplied by these kindly
verses may appropriately be added the _Address to the Deil_. Burns's
attitude to the supernatural we have already slightly touched on.
Apart from the somewhat vague Deism which seems to have formed his
personal creed, the poet's attitude toward most of the beliefs in the
other world which were held around him was one of amused skepticism.
_Halloween_ and _Tam o' Shanter_ show how he regarded the grosser
rural superstitions; but the Devil was another matter. Scottish
Calvinism had, as has been said, made him almost the fourth person in
the Godhead; and Burns's thrusts at this belief are among the most
effective things in his satire. In the present piece, however, the
satirical spirit is almost overcome by kindliness and benevolent
humor, and few of his poems are more characteristic of this side of
his nature.


    O thou! whatever title suit thee,
    Auld Hornie, Satan, Mick, or Clootie,                    [Hoofie]
    Wha in yon cavern grim an' sootie,
                Clos'd under hatches,
    Spairges about the brunstane cootie,             [Splashes, dish]
                To scaud poor wretches!                       [scald]

    Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee,                        [Hangman]
    An' let poor damnèd bodies be;
    I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie,
                Ev'n to a deil,
    To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,              [spank, scald]
                An' hear us squeal!

    Great is thy pow'r, an' great thy fame;
    Far kenn'd an' noted is thy name;
    An', tho' yon lowin' heugh's thy hame,              [flaming pit]
                Thou travels far;
    An' faith! thou's neither lag nor lame,                [backward]
                Nor blate nor scaur.                    [shy, afraid]

    Whyles rangin' like a roarin' lion
    For prey, a' holes an' corners tryin';
    Whyles on the strong-wing'd tempest flyin',
                Tirlin' the kirks;                        [Stripping]
    Whyles, in the human bosom pryin',
                Unseen thou lurks.

    I've heard my reverend grannie say,
    In lanely glens ye like to stray;
    Or, where auld ruin'd castles gray
                Nod to the moon,
    Ye fright the nightly wand'rer's way,
                Wi' eldritch croon.                           [weird]

    When twilight did my grannie summon
    To say her pray'rs, douce, honest woman!                 [sedate]
    Aft yont the dyke she's heard you bummin',               [beyond]
                Wi' eerie drone;
    Or, rustlin', thro' the boortrees comin',                [elders]
                Wi' heavy groan.

    Ae dreary windy winter night
    The stars shot down wi' sklentin' light,              [squinting]
    Wi' you mysel I gat a fright
                Ayont the lough;                               [pond]
    Ye like a rash-buss stood in sight              [clump of rushes]
                Wi' waving sough.                              [moan]

    The cudgel in my nieve did shake,                          [fist]
    Each bristled hair stood like a stake,
    When wi' an eldritch stoor 'quaick, quaick,'       [weird, harsh]
                Amang the springs,
    Awa ye squatter'd like a drake
                On whistlin' wings.

    Let warlocks grim an' wither'd hags
    Tell how wi' you on ragweed nags                        [ragwort]
    They skim the muirs an' dizzy crags
                Wi' wicked speed;
    And in kirk-yards renew their leagues
                Owre howkit dead.                         [disturbed]

    Thence country wives, wi' toil an' pain,
    May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain;                   [churn]
    For oh! the yellow treasure's taen             [i.e., the butter]
                By witchin' skill;
    An' dawtit, twal-pint Hawkie's gane     [petted, twelve-pint cow]
                As yell's the bill.                       [dry, bull]

    Thence mystic knots mak great abuse
    On young guidmen, fond, keen, an' crouse;    [husbands, cocksure]
    When the best wark-lume i' the house,                      [tool]
                By cantrip wit,                               [magic]
    Is instant made no worth a louse,
                Just at the bit.                             [crisis]

    When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,              [thaws, hoard]
    An' float the jinglin' icy boord,
    Then water-kelpies haunt the foord,                    [-spirits]
                By your direction,
    An' 'nighted travelers are allur'd
                To their destruction.

    An' aft your moss-traversing spunkies             [bog-, goblins]
    Decoy the wight that late an' drunk is:
    The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkies
                Delude his eyes,
    Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
                Ne'er mair to rise.

    When masons' mystic word an' grip
    In storms an' tempests raise you up,
    Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,                      [must]
                Or, strange to tell!
    The youngest brither ye wad whip
                Aff straught to hell.                      [straight]

    Lang syne, in Eden's bonnie yard,                   [ago, garden]
    When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd,
    And all the soul of love they shar'd,
                The raptur'd hour,
    Sweet on the fragrant flow'ry swaird,                     [sward]
                In shady bow'r;

    Then you, ye auld snick-drawing dog!                   [scheming]
    Ye cam to Paradise incog,
    An' play'd on man a cursed brogue,                        [trick]
                (Black be your fa!)
    An' gied the infant warld a shog,                         [shake]
                'Maist ruin'd a'.

    D'ye mind that day, when in a bizz,                      [flurry]
    Wi' reekit duds, an' reestit gizz,     [smoky rags, scorched wig]
    Ye did present your smoutie phiz                         [smutty]
                'Mang better folk,
    An' sklented on the man of Uz                          [squinted]
                Your spitefu' joke?

    An' how ye gat him i' your thrall,
    An' brak him out o' house an' hal',                     [holding]
    While scabs an' blotches did him gall
                Wi' bitter claw,
    An' lows'd his ill-tongu'd wicked scaul,          [loosed, scold]
                Was warst ava?                               [of all]

    But a' your doings to rehearse,
    Your wily snares an' fechtin' fierce,                  [fighting]
    Sin' that day Michael did you pierce,
                Down to this time,
    Wad ding a' Lallan tongue, or Erse,               [heat, Lowland]
                In prose or rhyme.

    An' now, auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin',               [Hoofs]
    A certain Bardie's rantin', drinkin',                [roistering]
    Some luckless hour will send him linkin',              [hurrying]
                To your black pit;
    But faith! he'll turn a corner jinkin',                 [dodging]
                An' cheat you yet.

    But fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben!
    O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!                           [mend]
    Ye aiblins might--I dinna ken--                         [perhaps]
                Still hae a stake:
    I'm wae to think upo' yon den,
                Ev'n for your sake!

Somewhat akin in nature is _Death and Doctor Hornbook_. The purpose
is personal satire, Doctor Hornbook being a real person, John Wilson,
a schoolmaster in Tarbolton, who had turned quack and apothecary. The
figure of Death is an amazingly graphic creation, with its mixture of
weirdness and familiar humor; while the attack on Hornbook is managed
with consummate skill. Death is made to complain that the doctor is
balking him of his legitimate prey, and the drift seems to be
complimentary; when in the last few verses it appears that in
compensation Hornbook kills far more than he cures.


    Some books are lies frae end to end,
    And some great lies were never penn'd:
    Ev'n ministers, they hae been kenn'd,                               [known]
                    In holy rapture,
    A rousing whid at times to vend,                                      [fib]
                    And nail't wi' Scripture.

    But this that I am gaun to tell,                                    [going]
    Which lately on a night befell,
    Is just as true's the Deil's in hell
                    Or Dublin city:
    That e'er he nearer comes oursel
                    'S a muckle pity.                                   [great]

    The clachan yill had made me canty,                 [village age, cheerful]
    I wasna fou, but just had plenty;                                    [full]
    I stacher'd whyles, but yet took tent aye                 [staggered, heed]
                    To free the ditches;                                [clear]
    An' hillocks, stanes, an' bushes kent aye
                    Frae ghaists an' witches.

    The rising moon began to glowre                                     [stare]
    The distant Cumnock hills out-owre;                                 [above]
    To count her horns, wi' a' my pow'r,
                    I set mysel;
    But whether she had three or four
                    I cou'd na tell.

    I was come round about the hill,
    And todlin' down on Willie's mill,
    Setting my staff, wi' a' my skill,
                    To keep me sicker;                                 [secure]
    Tho' leeward whyles, against my will,
                    I took a bicker.                                      [run]

    I there wi' _Something_ does forgather,                              [meet]
    That pat me in an eerie swither;                       [put, ghostly dread]
    An awfu' scythe, out-owre ae shouther,                [across one shoulder]
                    Gear-dangling, hang;                                 [hung]
    A three-tae'd leister on the ither                       [-toed fish-spear]
                    Lay large an' lang.

    Its stature seem'd lang Scotch ells twa,
    The queerest shape that e'er I saw,
    For fient a wame it had ava:                        [devil a belly, at all]
                    And then its shanks,
    They were as thin, as sharp an' sma'
                    As cheeks o' branks.              [sides of an ox's bridle]

   'Guid-een,' quo' I; 'Friend! hae ye been mawin,       [Good-evening, mowing]
    When ither folk are busy sawin?'                                   [sowing]
    It seem'd to mak a kind o' stan',
                    But naething spak;
    At length says I, 'Friend, wh'are ye gaun?                          [going]
                    Will ye go back?'

    It spak right howe: 'My name is Death,                             [hollow]
    But be na fley'd.'--Quoth I, 'Guid faith,                      [frightened]
    Ye're maybe come to stap my breath;
                    But tent me, billie:                         [heed, fellow]
    I red ye weel, tak care o' skaith,                           [advise, harm]
                    See, there's a gully!'                          [big knife]

   'Gudeman,' quo' he, 'put up your whittle,                            [knife]
    I'm no design'd to try its mettle;
    But if I did--I wad be kittle                                    [ticklish]
                    To be mislear'd--                          [if mischievous]
    I wad na mind it, no that spittle
                    Out-owre my beard.'                                  [Over]

   'Weel, weel!' says I, 'a bargain be't;
    Come, gies your hand, an' sae we're gree't;               [give us, agreed]
    We'll ease our shanks an' tak a seat--
                    Come, gies your news;
    This while ye hae been mony a gate,                                  [road]
                    At mony a house.'

   'Ay, ay!' quo' he, an' shook his head,
   'It's e'en a lang, lang time indeed
    Sin' I began to nick the thread,
                    An' choke the breath:
    Folk maun do something for their bread,                              [must]
                    An' sae maun Death.

   'Sax thousand years are near-hand fled,                          [well-nigh]
    Sin' I was to the hutching bred;                               [butchering]
    An' mony a scheme in vain's been laid
                    To stap or scaur me;                          [stop, scare]
    Till ane Hornbook's ta'en up the trade,
                    An' faith! he'll waur me.                           [worst]

   'Ye ken Jock Hornbook i' the clachan--                             [village]
    Deil mak his king's-hood in a spleuchan!    [second stomach, tobacco pouch]
    He's grown sae well acquaint wi' Buchan   [(Author of _Domestic Medicine_)]
                    An' ither chaps,
    The weans haud out their fingers laughin',                       [children]
                    And pouk my hips.                                    [poke]

   'See, here's a scythe, and there's a dart--
    They hae pierc'd mony a gallant heart;
    But Doctor Hornbook, wi' his art
                    And cursed skill,
    Has made them baith no worth a fart;
                    Damn'd haet they'll kill.                   [Devil a thing]

   ''Twas but yestreen, nae farther gane,                          [last night]
    I threw a noble throw at ane--
    Wi' less, I'm sure, I've hundreds slain--
                    But deil-ma-care!
    It just play'd dirl on the bane,                               [rang, bone]
                    But did nae mair.

   'Hornbook was by wi' ready art,
    And had sae fortified the part
    That, when I lookèd to my dart,
                    It was sae blunt,
    Fient haet o't wad hae pierc'd the heart                      [Devil a bit]
                    O' a kail-runt.                             [cabbage stalk]

   'I drew my scythe in sic a fury
    I near-hand cowpit wi' my hurry,                                    [upset]
    But yet the bauld Apothecary
                    Withstood the shock;
    I might as weel hae tried a quarry
                    O' hard whin rock.

   'E'en them he canna get attended,
    Altho' their face he ne'er had kenn'd it,
    Just sh-- in a kail-blade, and send it,                      [cabbage-leaf]
                    As soon's he smells't,
    Baith their disease, and what will mend it,
                    At once he tells't.

   'And then a' doctor's saws and whittles,
    Of a' dimensions, shapes, an' mettles,
    A' kinds o' boxes, mugs, an' bottles,
                    He's sure to hae;
    Their Latin names as fast he rattles
                    As A B C.

   '_Calces_ o' fossils, earths, and trees;
    True _sal-marinum_ o' the seas;
    The _farina_ of beans and pease,
                    He has't in plenty;
    _Aqua-fortis_, what you please,
                    He can content ye.

   'Forbye some new uncommon weapons,--                               [Besides]
    _Urinus spiritus_ of capons;
    Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings,
                    Distill'd _per se_;
    _Sal-alkali_ o' midge-tail clippings,
                    And mony mae.'                                       [more]

   'Wae's me for Johnny Ged's Hole now,'                   [the grave-digger's]
    Quoth I, 'if that thae news be true!                                [those]
    His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew                [grazing-plot, daisies]
                    Sae white and bonnie,
    Nae doubt they'll rive it wi' the plew;                             [split]
                    They'll ruin Johnie!'

    The creature grain'd an eldritch laugh,                    [groaned, weird]
    And says: 'Ye needna yoke the pleugh,
    Kirk-yards will soon be till'd eneugh,
                    Tak ye nae fear;
    They'll a' be trench'd wi' mony a sheugh                            [ditch]
                    In twa-three year.

   'Where I kill'd ane, a fair strae-death,                 [straw (i.e., bed)]
    By loss o' blood or want o' breath,
    This night I'm free to tak my aith                                   [oath]
                    That Hornbook's skill
    Has clad a score i' their last claith,                              [cloth]
                    By drap and pill.

   'An honest wabster to his trade,                                 [weaver by]
    Whase wife's twa nieves were scarce weel-bred,                      [fists]
    Gat tippence-worth to mend her head
                    When it was sair;                                  [aching]
    The wife slade cannie to her bed,                            [slid quietly]
                    But ne'er spak mair.

   'A country laird had ta'en the batts,                                [botts]
    Or some curmurring in his guts,                                 [commotion]
    His only son for Hornbook sets,
                    An' pays him well:
    The lad, for twa guid gimmer-pets,                               [pet-ewes]
                    Was laird himsel.

   'A bonnie lass, ye kenn'd her name,
    Some ill-brewn drink had hov'd her wame;                    [raised, belly]
    She trusts hersel, to hide the shame,
                    In Hornbook's care;
    Horn sent her aff to her lang hame,
                    To hide it there.

   'That's just a swatch o' Hornbook's way;                            [sample]
    Thus goes he on from day to day,
    Thus does he poison, kill an' slay,
                    An's weel pay'd for't;
    Yet stops me o' my lawfu' prey
                    Wi' his damn'd dirt.

   'But, hark! I'll tell you of a plot,
    Tho' dinna ye be speaking o't;
    I'll nail the self-conceited sot
                    As dead's a herrin':
    Niest time we meet, I'll wad a groat,                         [Next, wager]
                    He gets his fairin'!'

    But, just as he began to tell,
    The auld kirk-hammer strak the bell                                [struck]
    Some wee short hour ayont the twal,                        [beyond, twelve]
                    Which rais'd us baith:                 [got us to our feet]
    I took the way that pleas'd mysel,
                    And sae did Death.

A few miscellaneous poems remain to be quoted. These do not naturally
fall into any of the major glasses of Burns's work, yet are too
important either for their intrinsic worth or the light they throw on
his character and genius to be omitted. The Elegies, of which he wrote
many, following, as has been seen, the tradition founded by Sempill of
Beltrees, may be exemplified by _Tam Samson's Elegy_ and that on
Captain Matthew Henderson. Special phases of Scottish patriotism are
expressed in _Scotch Drink_, and the address _To a Haggis_; while more
personal is _A Bard's Epitaph_. In this last we have Burns's summing
up of his own character, and it closes with his recommendation of the
virtue he strove after but could never attain.


    Has auld Kilmarnock seen the deil?
    Or great Mackinlay thrawn his heel?                          [twisted]
    Or Robertson again grown weel,
                    To preach an' read?
   'Na, waur than a'!' cries ilka chiel,                [worse, everybody]
                   'Tam Samson's dead!'

    Kilmarnock lang may grunt an' grane,                           [groan]
    An' sigh, an' sab, an' greet her lane,                    [weep alone]
    An' cleed her bairns, man, wife, an' wean,             [clothe, child]
                    In mourning weed;
    To death, she's dearly paid the kane,--                 [rent in kind]
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    The Brethren o' the mystic level
    May hing their head in woefu' bevel,                           [slope]
    While by their nose the tears will revel,
                    Like ony bead;
    Death's gien the Lodge an unco devel,--                [stunning blow]
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    When Winter muffles up his cloak,
    And binds the mire like a rock;
    When to the loughs the curler's flock                          [ponds]
                    Wi' gleesome speed,
    Wha will they station at the cock?                              [mark]
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    He was the king o' a' the core                                  [gang]
    To guard, or draw, or wick a bore,[23]
    Or up the rink like Jehu roar
                    In time o' need;
    But now he lags on Death's hogscore,[24]--
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    Now safe the stately sawmont sail,                            [salmon]
    And trouts bedropp'd wi' crimson hail,
    And eels weel kent for souple tail,
                    And geds for greed,                            [pikes]
    Since dark in Death's fish-creel we wail
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    Rejoice, ye birring paitricks a';                [whirring partridges]
    Ye cootie moorcocks, crousely craw;          [leg-plumed, confidently]
    Ye maukins, cock your fud fu' braw,                      [hares, tail]
                    Withouten dread;
    Your mortal fae is now awa',--
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    That woefu' morn be ever mourn'd
    Saw him in shootin graith adorn'd,                            [attire]
    While pointers round impatient burn'd,
                    Frae couples freed;
    But oh! he gaed and ne'er return'd!
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    In vain auld age his body batters;
    In vain the gout his ancles fetters;
    In vain the burns cam down like waters,                [brooks, lakes]
                    An acre braid!
    Now ev'ry auld wife, greeting clatters                       [weeping]
                   'Tam Samson's dead!'

    Owre mony a weary hag he limpit,                                [moss]
    An' aye the tither shot he thumpit,
    Till coward Death behin' him jumpit
                    Wi' deadly feide;                               [feud]
    Now he proclaims, wi' tout o' trumpet,                         [blast]
                   'Tam Samson's dead!'

    When at his heart he felt the dagger,
    He reel'd his wonted bottle-swagger,
    But yet he drew the mortal trigger
                    Wi' weel-aim'd heed;
   'Lord, five!' he cried, an' owre did stagger;
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    Ilk hoary hunter mourn'd a brither;
    Ilk sportsman youth bemoan'd a father;
    Yon auld grey stane, amang the heather,
                    Marks out his head,
    Where Burns has wrote, in rhyming blether,                  [nonsense]
                   'Tam Samson's dead!'

    There low he lies in lasting rest;
    Perhaps upon his mould'ring breast
    Some spitfu' muirfowl bigs her nest,                          [builds]
                    To hatch and breed;
    Alas! nae mair he'll them molest!
                    Tam Samson's dead!

    When August winds the heather wave,
    And sportsmen wander by yon grave,
    Three volleys let his memory crave
                    O' pouther an' lead,                          [powder]
    Till Echo answer frae her cave
                   'Tam Samson's dead!'

   'Heav'n rest his saul, where'er he be!'
    Is th' wish o' mony mae than me:                                [more]
    He had twa fauts, or maybe three,
                    Yet what remead?                              [remedy]
    Ae social honest man want we:                                    [One]
                    Tam Samson's dead!


    Tam Samson's weel-worn clay here lies:
      Ye canting zealots, spare him!
    If honest worth in heaven rise,
      Ye'll mend ere ye win near him.

    _Per Contra_

    Go, Fame, an' canter like a filly
    Thro' a' the streets an' neuks o' Killie,                      [nooks]
    Tell ev'ry social honest billie                               [fellow]
                    To cease his grievin',
    For yet, unskaith'd by Death's gleg gullie,   [unharmed, nimble knife]
                    Tam Samson's livin'!

 [23] In curling, to _guard_ is to protect one stone by another in
front; to _draw_ is to drive a stone into a good position by striking
it with another; to _wick a bore_ is to hit a stone obliquely and send
it through between two others.

 [24] The line a curling stone must cross to stay in the game.



    O Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
    The meikle devil wi' a woodie                 [big, gallows-rope]
    Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie               [Drag, smithy]
                    O'er hurcheon hides,                   [hedgehog]
    And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie                 [anvil]
                    Wi' thy auld sides!

    He's gane, he's gane! he's frae us torn,                   [gone]
    The ae best fellow e'er was born!                           [one]
    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,                     [stars]
    That proudly cock your cresting cairns!                  [mounds]
    Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing earns,                  [eagles]
                    Where echo slumbers!
    Come join, ye Nature's sturdiest bairns,               [children]
                    My wailing numbers!

    Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!                   [each, dove]
    Ye haz'lly shaws and briery dens!                         [woods]
    Ye burnies, wimplin' down your glens,                   [winding]
                    Wi' toddlin din,
    Or foaming strang wi' hasty stens                         [heaps]
                    Frae lin to lin.                           [fall]

    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,           [hares, scudding]
                    Come join my wail.

    Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;
    Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;                       [crop]
    Ye curlews calling thro' a clud;                          [cloud]
                    Ye whistling plover;
    And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood--               [partridge]
                    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.                         [Boom]

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

    Ye houlets, frae your ivy bow'r                            [owls]
    In some auld tree, or eldritch tow'r,                   [haunted]
    What time the moon wi' silent glow'r                      [stare]
                    Sets up her horn,
    Wail thro' the dreary midnight hour
                    Till waukrife morn!                     [wakeful]

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

    Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year!
    Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:                         [catch]
    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 warld, 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,                 [starlets]
                    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.


    _Gie him strong drink, until he wink,
      That's sinking in despair;
    An' liquor guid to fire his bluid,
      That's prest wi' grief an' care;

    There let him bouse, an' deep carouse,
      Wi' bumpers flowing o'er,
    Till he forgets his loves or debts,
      An' minds his griefs no more._
                  SOLOMON (Proverbs xxxi. 6, 7).

    Let other Poets raise a fracas
    'Bout vines, an' wines, an' drunken Bacchus,
    An' crabbed names an' stories wrack us,
                    An' grate our lug;                               [ear]
    I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,                      [barley]
                    In glass or jug.

    O thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch Drink,
    Whether thro' wimplin worms thou jink,                [winding, dodge]
    Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,                         [cream]
                    In glorious faem,                               [foam]
    Inspire me, till I lisp an' wink,
                    To sing thy name!

    Let husky wheat the haughs adorn,                   [flat river-lands]
    An' aits set up their awnie horn,                      [oats, bearded]
    An' pease an' beans at een or morn,
                    Perfume the plain;
    Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn,                     [Commend me to]
                    Thou King o' grain!

    On thee aft Scotland chows her cood,                      [chews, cud]
    In souple scones, the wale o' food!               [soft cakes, choice]
    Or tumblin' in the boiling flood
                    Wi' kail an' beef;
    But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood,
                    There thou shines chief.

    Food fills the wame, an' keeps us livin';                      [belly]
    Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin',
                    But, oil'd by thee,
    The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin'                [careering]
                    Wi' rattlin' glee.

    Thou clears the head o' doited Lear:                [muddled Learning]
    Thou cheers the heart o' drooping Care;
    Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair,
                    At's weary toil:
    Thou even brightens dark Despair
                    Wi' gloomy smile.

    Aft, clad in massy siller weed,
    Wi' gentles thou erects thy head;
    Yet humbly kind, in time o' need,
                    The poor man's wine,
    His wee drap parritch, or his bread,
                    Thou kitchens fine.                 [makest palatable]

    Thou art the life o' public haunts;
    But thee, what were our fairs and rants?            [Without, frolics]
    Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts,                            [saints]
                    By thee inspir'd,
    When gaping they besiege the tents,
                    Are doubly fir'd.

    That merry night we get the corn in!
    O sweetly then thou reams the horn in!                       [foamest]
    Or reekin' on a New-Year mornin'                             [smoking]
                    In cog or bicker,                          [bowl, cup]
    An' just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in,                        [whisky]
                    An' gusty sucker!                        [tasty sugar]

    When Vulcan gies his bellows breath,
    An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith,                    [implements]
    O rare to see thee fizz an' freath                             [froth]
                    I' th' lugged caup!                    [two-eared cup]
    Then Burnewin comes on like death                     [The Blacksmith]
                    At ev'ry chaup.                                 [blow]

    Nae mercy, then, for airn or steel;                             [iron]
    The brawnie, banie, ploughman chiel,                    [bony, fellow]
    Brings hard owre-hip, wi' sturdy wheel,
                    The strong forehammer,
    Till block an' studdie ring an' reel                           [anvil]
                    Wi' dinsome clamour.

    When skirlin' weanies see the light,                [squalling babies]
    Thou maks the gossips clatter bright
    How fumblin' cuifs their dearies slight--                      [dolts]
                    Wae worth the name!
    Nae Howdie gets a social night,                              [Midwife]
                    Or plack frae them.                       [small coin]

    When neibors anger at a plea,                                [lawsuit]
    An' just as wud as wud can be,                                   [mad]
    How easy can the barley-bree                                   [-brew]
                    Cement the quarrel!
    It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee
                    To taste the barrel.

    Alake! that e'er my Muse has reason
    To wyte her countrymen wi' treason;                            [blame]
    But mony daily weet their weasan'                             [throat]
                    Wi' liquors nice,
    An' hardly, in a winter's season,
                    E'er spier her price.                            [ask]

    Wae worth that brandy, burning trash!
    Fell source o' mony a pain an' brash?                        [illness]
    Twins mony a poor, doylt, drucken hash,    [Robs, stupid, drunken oaf]
                    O' half his days;
    An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash
                    To her warst faes.

    Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well,
    Ye chief, to you my tale I tell,
    Poor plackless devils like mysel'                          [penniless]
                    It sets you ill,                             [becomes]
    Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell,                          [meddle]
                    Or foreign gill.

    May gravels round his blather wrench,                         [ladder]
    An' gouts torment him, inch by inch,
    Wha twists his gruntle wi' a glunch                      [face, growl]
                    O' sour disdain,
    Out owre a glass o' whisky punch
                    Wi' honest men!

    O Whisky! soul o' plays an' pranks!
    Accept a bardie's gratefu' thanks!
    When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks                    [creakings]
                    Are my poor verses!
    Thou comes--they rattle i' their ranks
                    At ither's arses!

    Thee, Ferintosh![25] O sadly lost!
    Scotland, lament frae coast to coast!
    Now colic-grips an' barkin' hoast                              [cough]
                    May kill us a';
    For loyal Forbes' charter'd boast
                    Is ta'en awa!

    Thae curst horse-leeches o' th' Excise,                        [These]
    Wha mak the whisky stells their prize--                       [stills]
    Haud up thy hand, deil! Ance--twice--thrice!
                    There, seize the blinkers!                     [spies]
    An' bake them up in brunstane pies                         [brimstone]
                    For poor damn'd drinkers.

    Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still
    Hale breeks, a bannock, and a gill,     [Whole breeches, oatmeal cake]
    An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will,                           [plenty]
                    Tak' a' the rest,
    An' deal'd about as thy blind skill
                    Directs thee best.

 [25] Forbes of Culloden was given in 1690 liberty to distil grain at
Ferintosh without excise. When this privilege was withdrawn in 1785,
the price of whisky rose--hence Burns's lament.


    Fair fa' your honest sonsie face,                              [jolly]
    Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
    Aboon them a' ye tak your place,                               [Above]
                    Painch, tripe, or thairm:               [Paunch, guts]
    Weel are ye wordy o' a grace                                  [worthy]
                    As lang's my arm.

    The groaning trencher there ye fill,
    Your hurdies like a distant hill;                           [buttocks]
    Your pin wad help to mend a mill                              [skewer]
                    In time o' need;
    While thro' your pores the dews distil
                    Like amber bead.

    His knife see rustic Labour dight,                              [wipe]
    An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,                              [skill]
    Trenching your gushing entrails bright
                    Like ony ditch;
    And then, O what a glorious sight,
                    Warm-reekin', rich!                         [-smoking]

    Then, horn for horn they stretch an' strive,                   [spoon]
    Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
    Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve    [well-swelled bellies soon]
                    Are bent like drums;
    Then auld guidman, maist like to rive,                         [burst]
                   'Be-thankit!' hums.

    Is there that o'er his French _ragout_,
    Or _olio_ that wad staw a sow,                                [sicken]
    Or _fricassee_ wad mak her spew
                    Wi' perfect sconner,
    Looks down wi' sneering scornfu' view                        [disgust]
                    On sic a dinner?

    Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
    As feckless as a wither'd rash,                         [feeble, rush]
    His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
                    His nieve a nit:                           [fist, nut]
    Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
                    O how unfit!

    But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed--
    The trembling earth resounds his tread!
    Clap in his walie nieve a blade,                          [ample fist]
                    He'll mak it whissle;
    An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,                        [crop]
                    Like taps o' thrissle.                       [thistle]

    Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
    And dish them out their bill o' fare
    Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware                   [watery stuff]
                    That jaups in luggies;          [splashes, porringers]
    But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
                    Gie her a Haggis!


    Is there a whim-inspired fool,
    Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule,                   [Too]
    Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool,        [bashful, cringe]
                    Let him draw near;
    And owre this grassy heap sing dool,                        [woe]
                    And drap a tear.

    Is there a bard of rustic song,
    Who, noteless, steals the crowds among,
    That weekly this area throng,
                    O, pass not by!
    But, with a frater-feeling strong,
                    Here heave a sigh.

    Is there a man whose judgment clear,
    Can others teach the course to steer.
    Yet runs, himself, life's mad career,
                    Wild as the wave;
    Here pause--and, thro' the starting tear,
                    Survey this grave.

    The poor inhabitant below
    Was quick to learn and wise to know,
    And keenly felt the friendly glow,
                    And softer flame;
    But thoughtless follies laid him low,
                    And stain'd his name!

    Reader, attend! whether thy soul
    Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,
    Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,
                    In low pursuit;
    Know prudent, cautious self-control
                    Is wisdom's root.



We have now examined in some detail the main facts of Burns's personal
life and literary production: it is time to sum these up in order to
realize the character of the man and the value of the work.

Certain fundamental qualities are easily traced to his parentage. The
Burnses were honest, hard-working people, stubborn fighters for
independence, with intellectual tastes above the average of their
class. These characteristics the poet inherited. With all his failures
in worldly affairs, he contrived to pay his debts; however obliged to
friends and patrons for occasional aid, he never abated his
self-respect or became the hanger-on of any man; and he showed
throughout his life an eager, receptive, and ever-expanding mind. The
seed sown by his father with so much pains and care in his early
training fell on fruitful soil, and in the range of his information,
as well as in his critical and reasoning powers, Burns became the
equal of educated men. The love of independence, indeed, was less a
family than a national passion. The salient fact in the history of
Scotland is the intensity of the prolonged struggle against the
political domination of England; and there developed in the individual
life of the Scot a corresponding tendency to value personal freedom as
the greatest of treasures. The thrift and economy for which the
Scottish people are everywhere notable, and which has its vicious
excess in parsimony and nearness, is in its more honorable aspects no
end in itself but merely a means to independence. If they are keen to
"gather gear,"

    It's no to hide it in a hedge,
      Nor for a train-attendant,
    But for the glorious privilege
      Of being independent.

Along with these substantial and admirable qualities of integrity and
independence Burns inherited certain limitations. In the peasant class
in which he was born and reared, the fierceness of the struggle for
existence has crowded out some of the more beautiful qualities that
need ease and leisure for their development. The virtues of chivalry
do indeed at times appear among the very poor, but they are the
characteristic product of a class in which conditions are more
generous, the necessaries of life are taken for granted, and the
elemental demands of human nature are satisfied without competitive
striving. When a peasant is chivalrous he is so by virtue of some
individual quality, and in spite of rather than because of the spirit
of his class. Burns was too acute and too observant not to gather much
from the social ideals of the ladies and gentlemen with whom he came
in contact, and what he gathered affected his conduct profoundly; but
at times under stress of frustrated passion or mortified vanity he
reverted to the ruder manners of the peasantry from which he sprang.
So have to be accounted for certain brutalities in his treatment of
the women who loved him or who had been unwise enough to yield to his

Other characteristics belong to him individually rather than to his
family or class or nation. He was to an extraordinary degree proud and
sensitive. He reacted warmly to kindness, and showed his gratitude
without stint; but he allowed no man to presume upon the obligations
he had conferred. He was very conscious of difference of rank, and
never sought to ignore it, however little he thought it mattered in
comparison with intrinsic merit. But the very degree to which he was
aware of the social gap between him and many of his acquaintances put
him ever on the alert for slights; and when he perceived or imagined
that he had received them, his indignation was sometimes less than
dignified and often excessive. Though he knew that he possessed
uncommon gifts, he was essentially modest in fact as well as in
appearance, and on the whole underestimated his genius.

He had a warm heart, and in his relations with his equals he was
genial and friendly. His love of his kind manifested itself especially
in his delight in company, a delight naturally heightened by the
enjoyment of the sense of leadership which his superior wit and
brilliance gave him in almost any society. The customs of the time
associated to an unfortunate degree hard drinking with social
intercourse. But more than the whisky he enjoyed the loosening of
self-consciousness and the warmth of conviviality that it brought.

    It's no I like to sit an' swallow,           [not that]
    Then like a swine to puke an' wallow;
    But gie me just a true guid fellow               [give]
                Wi' right ingine,                     [wit]
    And spunkie ance to mak us mellow,      [liquor enough]
                An' then we'll shine!

Burns was not a drunkard. He seems to have taken little alone, and in
the houses of some of his more fashionable friends he resented the
pressure to drink more than he wanted. Nor did he allow dissipation to
interfere with his work on the farm, or his duties in the excise. Yet,
even when contemporary manners have received their share of
responsibility, it must be allowed that on the poet's own confession
he drank frequently to excess, and that this abuse had a serious share
in the breakdown of his constitution, weakened as it was by the
excessive toil of his youth.

He was fond of women, and this passion more than any other has been
the center of the disputes that have raged round his life and
character. Again, contemporary and class customs have to be taken into
account. In spite of the formal disapproval of public opinion and the
censure of the church, the attitude of his class in the end of the
eighteenth century toward such irregularities as brought Burns and
Jean Armour to the stool of repentance was much less severe than it
would be in this country to-day. Burns himself knew he was culpable,
but the comparative laxity of the standards of the time made it easier
for him to forgive himself, and prompted him to defiance when he
believed himself criticized by puritan hypocrites. Thus in his
utterances we have a curious inconsistency, his feeling ranging from
black remorse and melancholy, through half-hearted excuse and
justification, to swaggering bravado. And none of them makes pleasant

But his relations with the other sex were not all of the nature of
sheer passion. He was capable of serious friendship, warm respect,
abject adoration, and a hundred other variations of feeling; and in
several cases he maintained for years, by correspondence and
occasional visits, an intercourse with ladies on which no shadow of a
stain has ever been cast. Such were his relations with Margaret
Chalmers and Mrs. Dunlop. These facts have no controversial bearing,
but they are necessary to be considered if we are to have a complete
view of Burns's relations to society.

In estimating him as a poet, nothing is lost in keeping in mind the
historical relations which have been so strongly emphasized in recent
years. He himself would have been the last to resent being placed in a
national tradition, but, on the contrary, would have been proud to be
regarded as the last and greatest of Scottish vernacular poets.
Patriotic feeling is frequent in his verse; we have seen how
consciously he performed his work for Johnson and Thomson as a service
to his country; and to the "Guidwife of Wauchope House" he professed,
speaking of his youth,

    E'en then, a wish (I mind its pow'r),
    A wish that from my latest hour
        Shall strongly heave my breast,
    That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
    Some usefu' plan or book could make,
        Or sing a sang at least.

So in the line of the Scottish "makers" we place him, the inheritor of
the speech of Henryson and Dunbar, of the meters and modes of
Montgomery and the Sempills, Ramsay and Fergusson, the re-creator of
the perishing relics of the lost masters of popular song.

His relation to his English predecessors need not again be detailed,
so little of value did they contribute to the vital part of his work.
But some account should be taken of his connection with the English
literature of his own and the next generation.

The humanitarian movement was well under way before the appearance of
Burns, and the particular manifestations of it in, for example, the
poems of Cowper on animals, owed nothing to the influence of Burns.
But Cowper's hares never appealed to the popular heart with the force
of Burns's sheep and mice and dogs, and the tender familiarity and
wistful jocoseness of his poems to beasts have never been surpassed.
In writing these he was probably, consciously or unconsciously,
affected by the tendency of the time, as he was also in the democratic
brotherhood of _A Man's a Man for a' That_, but, in both cases, as we
have seen, part of the impulse, that part that made his utterance
reach his audience, was derived from his personal intercourse with his
farm stock and from his inborn conviction of the dignity of the
individual. His relations to these elements in the thought and feeling
of his day were, then, reciprocal: they strengthened certain traits in
his personality, and he passed them on to posterity, strengthened in
turn by his moving expression.

The situation is similar with regard to his connection with the
so-called "return to nature" in English poetry. Historians have
discerned a new era begun in descriptive poetry with Thomson's
_Seasons_; and in Cowper again, to ignore many intermediates, there is
abundance of faithful portraiture of landscape. But Burns was not
given to set description of their kind, and what he has in common with
them lies in the nature of his detail--the frank actuality of the
images of wind and weather, burn and brae, which form the background
of his human comedy and tragedy. He observed for himself, and he
called things by their own names. In so doing he was once more
following a national tradition, so that he was not "returning" to
nature, since the tradition had never left it; but, on the other hand,
it is reasonable to suppose that Wordsworth, arriving at a somewhat
similar method by a totally different route, found corroboration for
his theories of the simplification needed in the matter and diction of
poetry in the success of the Scottish rustic who showed his youth

    How Verse may build a princely throne
        On humble truth.

Wordsworth, of course, like the most distinguished of his romantic
contemporaries, found much in nature that Burns never dreamed of; and
even the faithfulness in detail which Burns shared with these poets
reached a point of subtlety and sensuousness far beyond the reach of
his simple and direct epithets. Nature was to be given in the next
generation a vast and novel variety of spiritual significance. With
all that Burns had nothing to do. He was realist, not romanticist,
though his example operated beneficently and sanely on some of the
romantic leaders.

Yet in Burns's treatment of nature there is imaginative beauty as well
as humble truth. His language in description, though not mystical or
highly idealized, is often rich in feeling, and his personality was
potent enough to pervade his most objective writing. Thus he ranks
among those who have put lovers of poetry under obligation for a fresh
glimpse of the beauty and meaning of the world around them. This
glimpse is so strongly suggestive of the poet that our delight in it
will largely depend on our sympathy with his temperament; yet now and
again he flashes out a phrase whose imaginative value is absolute,
and which makes its appeal without respect to the author:

    The wan moon is setting behind the white wave,
        And time is setting with me, oh!

Apart from the respects in which Burns is the inheritor and perfecter
of the vernacular traditions, and apart from his contact, active or
passive, with the English poets of his time, there is much in his
poetry which is thoroughly his own. It does not lie mainly in his
thinking, robust and shrewd though that is. We perceive in his work no
great individual attitude toward life and society such as we are
impelled to perceive in the work of Goethe; we find no message in it
like the message of Browning. What he does is to bring before us
characters, situations, moods, images, that belong to the permanent
and elemental in our nature. These are presented with a sympathy so
living, a tenderness so poignant, a humor so arch and so sly, that
they become a part of our experience in the most delightful and
exhilarating fashion. Part of the function of poetry is to prevent us
from becoming sluggish In our contemplation of life by making us feel
it fresh, vivid, pulsing; and this Burns notably accomplishes.
Coleridge's image of wetting the pebble to bring out its color and
brilliance is peculiarly apt in the case of Burns; for it was the
common if not the commonplace that he dealt with, and his workmanship
made it sparkle like a jewel.

In the long run the value of an author depends on two factors, the
nature of his insight and his power of expression. Burns's insight
into his own nature was deep and on the whole just, and that nature
was itself rich enough to teach him much. He found there the great
struggle between impulse and will--fiery, surging impulse and a
stubborn will. This experience, illuminated by a lively imagination,
gave him a sympathetic understanding of extraordinary range, extending
from the domestic troubles of the royal family and the perplexities of
the prime minister to the precarious adventures of a louse. His
insight into external nature blended the weather wisdom of the
ploughman with the poet's sensitiveness to the harmony or discord of
wind and sky with the moods of humanity.

For the expression of all this he had an instrument that did not
reach, it is true, to the great tragic tones of Shakespeare nor to the
delicate and filmy subtleties of Shelley. But he could utter pathos
almost intolerably piercing, and overwhelming remorse; gaiety as fresh
and inspiriting as the song of a lark; roistering mirth; keen irony;
and a thousand phases of passion. This he did in a verse of amazing
variety--sometimes tender and caressing; sometimes rushing like a

Finally, it must be insisted again, in that aspect in which he is most
nearly supreme, the writing of songs, he is musician as well as poet.
Though he made no tunes, he saved hundreds; saved them not merely for
the antiquary and the connoisseur but for the great mass of lovers of
sweet and simple melody; saved them by marrying them to fit and
immortal words. It is for this most of all that Scotland and the world
love Burns.



_A Man's a Man for a' That_, quoted 158, 317.

_A Red, Red Rose_, 101, quoted 102.

_Address to the Deil_, 38, 86, 281, quoted 282.

_Address to the Unco Guid_, 38, quoted 176, 189.

_Adventures of Telemachus_, 17.

_Ae Fond Kiss_, quoted 56-57, 75, 103.

_Æneid_ (Douglas's), 268.

_Afton Water_, quoted 116.

Ainslie, Robert, 50.

Alloway, 4 ff.

Animals, Burns's feeling for, 270, 271.

Armour, James, 35, 37-39.

Armour, Jean, 35-39, 50, 55, 93, 110, 122, 172.

Arnold, Matthew, 206, 237.

_Auld Lang Syne_, 98, quoted 100.

Auld Lichts, 179, 180, 184, 188.

_Auld Rob Morris_, 115, quoted 121.

Bachelor's Club, 22.

_Bannocks o' Barley_, quoted 165.

_Bard's Epitaph, A_, 294, quoted 308.

Beattie, 86.

Beethoven, 95.

Begbie, Ellison, 22-23, 27, 110.

_Bessy and Her Spinnin'-Wheel_, quoted 145.

Biography, Official, 68.

Blacklock, Doctor, 39.

Blair, Doctor, 45, 86.

Blair Athole, 51.

Boar's Head Tavern, 240.

_Bonnie Lesley_, 115, quoted 118.

_Braw Braw Lads_, quoted 140.

Brow-on-Solway, 67.

Browning, 320.

Burnes, William, 3-8.

Burns, Agnes (Brown), 4, 8.

Burns, Gilbert, 5-6, 15, 31, 59, 90.

Burns, Robert, his career: autobiographical letter, 1-2; parentage
  and early life, 3-23; schooling, 5-8, 15, 17; reading, 6-8, 18-19;
  study of French, 16; folk-lore, 18; overwork, 19; first song, 20;
  flax-dressing, 23; early love-affairs, 22, 27; Mossgiel, 31-44;
  Elizabeth Paton, 32-35; Jean Armour, 35-36; Mary Campbell (Highland
  Mary), 36-37; West Indian project, 37-39; Elizabeth Miller, 37;
  Kilmarnock edition, 37-38; disciplined by the church, 38-39;
  Edinburgh, 44-56; early reviews, 46; Edinburgh edition, 46-50;
  southern tour, 50; Highland tours, 50-51; Mrs. McLehose, 52-58;
  marriage, 55; Ellisland, 53-62; Excise, 61-65; Dumfries, 62-68;
  politics, 63-65; work for Johnson and Thomson, 65-66, 91-98;
  whisky, 66-67, 313; illness and death, 66-67.

Burns and music, 9 ff.

Burns's method of composition, 87, 92, 111-112.

Burns's stanza, 80.

_Ca' the Yowes_, quoted 115.

Campbell, Mary, 36-37, 76, 112. See Highland Mary.

_Canterbury Tales_, 254.

Chalmers, Margaret, 110.

_Charlie He's My Darling_, quoted 168.

Chaucer, 254.

Chloris (Jean Lorimer), 110, 112.

_Choice Collection_ (Watson's), 81.

Clarinda (Mrs. McLehose), 52-58.

_Clarinda_, quoted 58, 75, 109.

Cockburn, Mrs., 82.

Coleridge, 321.

_Come Boat Me O'er to Charlie_, quoted 163.

_Comin' through the Rye_, quoted 154.

_Complete Letter-Writer_, 6.

_Contented wi' Little_, quoted 126.

Conviviality, 66, 313.

_Corn Rigs_, 75.

Cowper, 267, 317.

Crabbe, 267.

_Craigieburn-wood_, 111.

Creech, 45, 50, 52.

Currie, Doctor, 68.

Dalrymple, James, 44.

Dalrymple School, 15.

Davidson, Betty, 18.

_Death and Doctor Hornbook_, quoted 287.

_Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie_, 80, 82.

_Dedication to Gavin Hamilton_, 185-186.

Descriptive poetry, 206 ff., 264 ff.

Dick, J.C., 91-92, note.

Dodsley, Robert, 103.

Douglas, Gavin, 268.

Dramatic lyrics, 128 ff.

Drummond of Hawthornden, 72.

Dumfries, 50, 62-68.

Dunbar, William, 81, 241, 316.

_Duncan Davison_, quoted 153.

_Duncan Gray_, quoted 152.

Dunlop, Mrs. 110.

Edinburgh, Burns in, 44-56.

_Edinburgh Magazine_, 46.

Elegies, 294 ff.

_Elegy on Capt. Matthew Henderson_, quoted 298.

Ellisland, 58-62.

English poems of Burns, 73 ff.

Epigrams, 204, 205.

_Epistle to a Young Friend_, 199, quoted 200.

_Epistle to Davie_, 79, quoted 193, 267.

_Epistle to James Smith_, 190, 191.

_Epistle to John Goldie_, 179.

_Epistle to John Rankine_, 33.

_Epistle to McMath_, 181.

_Epistle to William Simpson_, 270.

Epistles, 38, 190 ff.

Epitaphs, 204, 205.

Erskine, Hon. Henry, 45.

Excise service, 59, 61-65.

_Farmer's Ingle_, 84.

Ferguson, Dr. Adam, 46.

Fergusson, Robert, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 316.

Fisher, William, 173.

Flax-dressing experiment, 23.

Flint, Christina, 93.

_For the Sake o' Somebody_, quoted 136.

Freemasons, 46.

French Revolution, 63-64.

_From thee, Eliza, I must go_, 37.

Gaelic, 69.

Gibson, Nancy, 239.

Glencairn, Lord, 45, 49.

Glenriddel Manuscript, 60.

_Go Fetch to me a Pint o' Wine_, quoted 88.

Goethe, 320.

Goldsmith, 86.

Gordon, Duchess of, 45, 48.

Graham of Fintry, 64.

Gray, 86.

_Green Grow the Rashes_, quoted 123.

Grose, Captain, 253.

_Had I the Wyte?_, quoted 148.

_Halloween_, 38, 208, quoted 209, 217, 218, 223, 270, 282.

Hamilton, Gavin, 38, 172, 185.

Hamilton of Gilbertfield, 81, 82.

_Handsome Nell_: quoted 20; criticized by Burns, 21-22, 103.

_Happy Beggars_, 238.

Haydn, 95.

Henderson, Captain Matthew, 294.

Henryson, Robert, 78, 81, 272, 316.

Heroic couplet in Burns, 268, 269.

_Highland Mary_, quoted 113-116.

Highland Mary, 36-37, 76, 110.

_History of the Bible_, 6.

Hogg, James, 162.

_Holy Willie's Prayer_, 38, quoted 173.

_How Lang and Dreary_, quoted 138.

_Humble Petition of Bruar Water_, 51.

Hume, David, 44.

_I Gaed a Waefu' Gate_, quoted 117.

_I Hae a Wife_, quoted 59, 103.

_I Hae Been at Crookieden_, quoted 167.

_I'm Owre Young to Marry Yet_, quoted 143.

Independence, Scottish love of, 311.

Irvine, 23.

_It Was a' for our Rightfu' King_, quoted 162.

Jacobite Songs, 161 ff.

Jacobitism, 63.

_John Anderson, my Jo_, 145, quoted 146.

Johnson, James, 65, 91, 94, 97, 98, 316.

_Kenmure's On and Awa_, quoted 165.

Kilmarnock Edition. 37-39.

Kilpatrick, Nelly, 20, 22, 110.

Kirk of Scotland, Opposition to, 171.

Kirkoswald, 17, 254.

_Kirkyard Eclogues_, 84.

Knox, John, 71.

Kozeluch, 95.

La Fontaine, 272.

_Laddie Lie Near Me_, 92.

_Lament for the Earl of Glencairn_, 49.

Language of Burns, 69 ff.

_Lassie wi' the Lint-white Locks_, quoted 119.

_Last Dying Words of Bonny Heck_, 82.

_Last May a Braw Wooer_, quoted 135.

_Last Speech of a Wretched Miser_, 83.

_Leith Races_, 84.

Lewars, Jessie, 110, 122.

Lindesay, Sir David, 71.

Lindsay, Lady Anne, 82.

Lochlea, 5 ff.

_London Monthly Review_, 46.

Lorimer, Jean (Chloris), 110, 111.

_Lounger, The_, 46.

Lowland Scots, 69 ff.

_Lucky Spence's Last Advice_, 82.

Mackenzie, Henry, 19, 45, 46, 86.

_Macpherson's Farewell_, quoted 150.

McGill, Doctor, 186.

McLehose, Mrs., 52-58.

_Mary Morison_, quoted 28.

Mauchline, 31, 50.

_Merry Beggars_, 238.

Miller, Elizabeth, 37.

Milton, 85.

_Montgomerie's Peggy_, quoted 120.

Montgomery, Alexander, 79, 316.

Moore, Dr. John: 5; letter to, 1-2, 18, 83.

Mossgiel, 31-44.

Mount Oliphant, 4-5.

Murdoch, John, 5, 15-17, 90-91.

Murray, Sir William, 51.

Muse, jocular treatment of his, 203 ff.

Music, Burns's knowledge of, 90 ff.

Music and song, 169-170, 322.

_My Father was a Farmer_, quoted 126.

_My Heart's in the Highlands_, quoted 140.

_My Love She's but a Lassie Yet_, 141, quoted 144.

_My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose_, 101, quoted 102.

_My Nannie's Awa_, quoted 57-58, 75, 103, 266.

_My Nannie O_, quoted 29-30, 103.

_My Wife's a Winsome Wee Thing_, quoted 108.

Nairne, Lady, 162.

Nature in Burns, 318.

New Lichts, 179, 188.

Nicol, William, 50, 52.

_O, For Ane an' Twenty, Tam!_, quoted 129.

_O Merry Hae I Been_, quoted 148.

_O This is No my Ain Lassie_, quoted 107.

_O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast_, 122, quoted 123.

_Of a' the Airts_, quoted 106.

_On a Scotch Bard, Gone to the West Indies_, quoted, 42-44.

_On Seeing a Wounded Hare_, 86.

_Open the Door to me, O!_ quoted 137.

Park, Anne, 110.

Paton, Elizabeth, 32.

Peasant characteristics of Burns, 311, 312.

Percy, Bishop, 81.

_Planestanes and Causey_, 84.

Pleyel, 95.

Politics, 63-65.

_Poor Mailie's Elegy_, quoted 26-27.

_Poortith Cauld_, 106, quoted 107.

Poosie Nansie, 239.

Pope, 86, 269.

_Practical Essay on the Death of Jesus Christ_, 186.

_Prayer in the Prospect of Death_, quoted 32.

Ramsay, Allan, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 99, 103, 238, 316.

Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 51.

Realism, 267.

Reformation, influence of, 95 ff.

_Reliques of Ancient English Poetry_, 81.

Richmond, 44.

Riddel, Col. Robert, 60.

Satires and Epistles, 171 ff.

Scenery in Burns, 265 ff.

_Scotch Drink_, 38, 84, 294, quoted 301.

_Scots Musical Museum_, 65, 95, 97.

_Scots, Wha Hae_, quoted 160.

Scott, Alexander, 79.

Scott, Sir Walter, 44, 46-48, 161-162.

Scottish Dialect, 69 ff.

Scottish Folk-song, 96 ff.

Scottish Literature, 78 ff.

Scottish Song, 90 ff.

Sea in Scottish poetry, 264-265.

Seasons, 318.

_Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs_, 95.

Sempills, 79, 80, 294, 316.

Shaftesbury, 193.

Shakespeare, 85, 321.

Shelley, 322.

Shenstone, 86.

Sibbald, James, 46.

_Simmer's a Pleasant Time_, quoted 131.

Smith, Adam, 44.

Sterne, 86, 270.

Stewart, Dugald, 45.

Stirling, Alexander, Earl of, 72.

Stuart-Menteath, Sir James, 93.

_Tam Glen_, quoted 133.

_Tam o' Shanter_, 253-257, quoted 257, 266, 268, 282.

_Tam Samson's Elegy_, quoted 294.

_Tea Table Miscellany_, 81, 99.

_The Auld Farmer's New-Year Morning Salutation_, quoted 278.

_The Banks of Helicon_, 79.

_The Blue-eyed Lassie_, quoted 117.

_The Bonnie Lad that's Far Awa_, quoted 139.

_The Brigs of Ayr_, 267.

_The Cherry and the Slae_, 79.

_The Cotter's Saturday Night_, quoted 8-15, 38, 74, 84, 190,
  criticized 207 ff., 219, 266.

_The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie_, quoted 23-25.

_The Deil's Awa wi' th' Exciseman_, quoted 154.

_The Deuk's Dang o'er my Daddie_, quoted 155.

_The Gazetteer_, 64.

_The Gentle Shepherd_, 82.

_The Gloomy Night_, quoted 40-41, 103.

_The Highland Balou_, 150, quoted 151.

_The Highland Laddie_, quoted 164.

_The Holy Fair_, 38, 84, 227, quoted 228.

_The Jolly Beggars_, 38, 77, 238-241, quoted 241, 266.

_The Kirk's Alarm_, 186, 187.

_The Lass of Cessnock Banks_, 23.

_The Lea-Rig_, quoted 120.

_The Man of Feeling_, 86.

_The Ordination_, 184, 185.

_The Piper of Kilbarchan_, 79.

_The Poet's Welcome to his Love-begotten Daughter_, quoted 33-35.

_The Rantin' Dog the Daddie o't_, quoted 134.

_The Rigs o' Barley_, quoted 30, 103.

_The Twa Dogs_, 4, 38, 84, quoted 219.

_The Twa Herds_, 180.

_The Vision_, 38.

_The Weary Pund o' Tow_, quoted 147.

_There'll Never be Peace_, quoted 166.

_There was a Lad_, quoted 125.

Thomson, George, 65, 88, 91, 92, 95, 98, 169, 316.

Thomson, James, 86, 318.

_To a Haggis_, 294, quoted 306.

_To a Louse_, 38, quoted 274.

_To a Mountain Daisy_, 38, 86, 190, quoted 276.

_To a Mouse_, 38, 86, 190, quoted 272.

_To Daunton Me_, quoted 142.

_To Mary in Heaven_, 76, quoted 114.

_To the Deil_, 38, 86, 281, quoted 282.

_To the Guidwife of Wauchope House_, 316.

_To the Rev. John McMath_, quoted 181.

_To the Unco Guid_, 38, quoted 176, 189.

_Wallace, History of Sir William_, 19.

_Wandering Willie_, quoted 138.

Watson, James, 81.

West Indies, 37-39.

_Wha is that at my Bower Door?_, quoted 156.

_What Can a Young Lassie_, quoted 142.

_Whistle and I'll Come to Thee, my Lad_, 75, quoted 132.

_Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary_, 37, quoted 40, 103.

_Willie Brew'd a Peck o' Maut_, 237, quoted 238.

_Willie's Wife_, quoted 156.

Wilson, John (Dr. Hornbook), 287.

_Winter, a Dirge_, 266.

_Winter Night, A_, 271.

Women, Burns and, 314, 315.

Wordsworth, 318, 319.

_Ye Banks and Braes_, quoted 130, 131.

_Yestreen I had a Pint o' Wine_, quoted 104-105, 110.

Young, Dr., 86.

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