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FROM EPISTLE TO J. LAPRAIK

I am nae poet, in a sense,
But just a rhymer like by chance,
An' hae to learning nae pretence;

Yet what the matter?
Whene'er my Muse does on me glance,

I jingle at her.

Your critic-folk may cock their nose,
And say, 'How can you e'er propose,
You wha ken hardly verse frae prose,

To mak a sang ??
But, by your leaves, my learned foes,

Ye're maybe wrang.

What's a' your jargon o’ your schools, Your Latin names for horns an' stools? If honest Nature made you fools,

What sairs your grammers ? Ye'd better taen up spades and shools

Or knappin-hammers.

A set o dull, conceited hashes
Confuse their brains in college classes;
They gang in stirks, and come out asses,

Plain truth to speak;
An' syne they think to climb Parnassus

By dint o' Greek!

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature's fire,
That's a' the learning I desire;
Then, tho' I drudge thro’ dub an' mire

At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, tho' hamely in attire,

May touch the heart.

THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT

My loved, my honoured, 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 sequestered scene;

The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah, though his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween!
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh;

The shortening winter-day is near a close; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;

The blackening trains o' craws to their repose :

The toil-worn cotter frae his labour goesThis 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

To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,

The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.

Belyve the elder bairns come drapping in,

At service out amang the farmers roun’; Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin

A cannie errand to a neebor town.

Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e’e,

Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown, Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee, To help her parents dear if they in hardship be.

With joy unfeigned, brothers and sisters meet,

And each for other's weelfare kindly spiers; The social hours, swift-winged, unnoticed fleet;

Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.

The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years;
Anticipation forward points the view.

The mother, wi' her needle and her sheers,
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new;
The father mixes a' wi' admonition due:
Their master's and their mistress's command

The younkers a' are warned to obey,
And mind their labours wi' an eydent hand,

And ne'er, tho’ out o' sight, to jauk or play:

‘And O be sure to fear the Lord alway, And mind your duty duly, morn and night;

Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
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,
Tells how a neebor lad came 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;

With heart-struck anxious care enquires his name,
While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel-pleased the mother hears it's nae wild, worthless rake.
With kindly welcome Jenny brings him ben:

A strappin' youth, he takes the mother's eye;
Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill-taen;
The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.

The youngster's artless heart o’erflows wi' joy,
But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave;

The mother, wi’ a woman's wiles, can spy
What makes the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave,
Weel-pleased to think her bairn’s respected like the lave.
Oh happy love, where love like this is found !

Oh heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
I've pacèd much this weary, m round,

And sage experience bids me this declare:

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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 perjured arts! dissembling smooth! Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exiled ?

Is there no pity, no relenting ruth, Points to the parents fondling o'er their child ? Then paints the ruined maid, and their distraction wild?

But now the supper crowns their simple board:

The healsome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food : The soupe their only hawkie does afford,

That 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood.

The dame brings forth, in complimental mood,
To grace the lad, her weel-hained kebbuck, fell;

And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid;
The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell
How 't was a towmond auld sin' lint was i' the bell.

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;

His bonnet reverently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;

Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care,
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 heavenward flame, The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays.

Compared with these, Italian trills are tame; The tickled ears no heart-felt raptures raise; Nae unison hae they with our Creator's praise.

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 banished,
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.

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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 ev'ry grace except the heart!

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