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FROM EPISTLE TO J. LAPRAIK
I am nae poet, in a sense,
Yet what the matter?
I jingle at her.
Your critic-folk may cock their nose,
To mak a sang ??
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
A set o dull, conceited hashes
Plain truth to speak;
By dint o' Greek!
Gie me ae spark o’ Nature's fire,
At pleugh or cart,
May touch the heart.
THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT
My loved, my honoured, much respected friend!
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
My dearest meed a friend's esteem and praise:
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,
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;
To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise and glee.
The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
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;
The mother, wi' her needle and her sheers,
The younkers a' are warned to obey,
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,
Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same,
To do some errands and convoy her hame.
With heart-struck anxious care enquires his name,
A strappin' youth, he takes the mother's eye;
The youngster's artless heart o’erflows wi' joy,
The mother, wi’ a woman's wiles, can spy
Oh heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
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 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,
And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid;
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,
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
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
Or Job's pathetic plaint and wailing cry;
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;
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
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,
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
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!