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Ye worthy Proveses, an' mony a Bailie,
Wha in the paths o' righteousness did toil aye;
Ye dainty Deacons, and ye douce Conveners,
To whom our moderns are but causey-cleaners;
Ye godly Councils, wha hae blest this town;
Ye godly Brethren o' the sacred gown,
Wha meekly gie your hurdies to the smiters;
And (what would now be strange), ye godly Writers;
A' ye douce folk I've borne aboon the broo,d
Were ye but here, what would ye say or do?
How would your spirits groan in deep vexation,
To see each melancholy alteration;
And, agonising, curse the time and place
When ye begat the base degenerate race !1
Nae langer rev'rend men, their country's glory,
In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid story;
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an' douce,
Meet owre a pint, or in the Council-house;
But staumrel, corky-headed, graceless Gentry,
The herryment' and ruin of the country;
Men, three-parts made by tailors and by barbers,
Wha waste your weel-hain'd gears on d-'d new brigs and harbours!'
'Now haud you there! for faith ye've said enough,
And muckle mair than ye can mak to through.h2
As for your Priesthood, I shall say but little,
Corbies and Clergy are a shot right kittle1 :
But, under favour o' your langer beard,
Abuse o' Magistrates might weel be spar'd;
To liken them to your auld-warld squad,
I must needs say, comparisons are odd.
In Ayr, wag-wits nae mair can hae a handle
To mouth a Citizen,' a term o' scandal;
1 These two lines are not in the MS. The MS. adds:
h succeed in proving.
• half-witted. 1 difficult.
Nae mair the Council waddles down the street,
In all the pomp of ignorant conceit;
Men who grew wise priggin owre hops and raisins,
Or gather'd lib'ral views in Bonds and Seisins:
If haply Knowledge, on a random tramp,
Had shor'd them with a glimmer of his lamp,
And would to Common-sense for once betray'd them,
Plain, dull Stupidity stept kindly in to aid them.'
What farther clish-ma-claver might been said,
What bloody wars, if Sprites had blood to shed,
No man can tell; but, all before their sight,
A fairy train appear'd in order bright;
Adown the glittering stream they featly danc'd;
Bright to the moon their various dresses glanc'd:
They footed o'er the wat'ry glass so neat,
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet:
While arts of Minstrelsy among them rung,
And soul-ennobling Bards heroic ditties sung.
O had M'Lauchlan, thairmd-inspiring sage,
Been there to hear this heavenly band engage,
When thro' his dear strathspeys they bore with Highland
Or when they struck old Scotia's melting airs,
The lover's raptured joys or bleeding cares;
How would his Highland luge been nobler fir'd,
And ev❜n his matchless hand with finer touch inspir'd!
No guess could tell what instrument appear'd,
But all the soul of Music's self was heard;
Harmonious concert rung in every part,
While simple melody pour'd moving on the heart.
The Genius of the Stream in front appears,
A venerable Chief advanc'd in years;
His hoary head with water-lilies crown'd,
His manly leg with garter-tangle bound.
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring,
Sweet female Beauty hand in hand with Spring;
Then, crown'd with flow'ry hay, came Rural Joy,
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye;
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow Autumn wreath'd with nodding corn;
Then Winter's time-bleach'd locks did hoary show,
By Hospitality with cloudless brow:
Next followed Courage with his martial stride,
From where the Feal wild-woody coverts hide;1
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,
A female form, came from the tow'rs of Stair; 2
Learning and Worth in equal measures trode,
From simple Catrine, their long-lov'd abode :3
Last, white-rob'd Peace, crown'd with a hazel wreath,
To rustic Agriculture did bequeath
The broken, iron instruments of death:
At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their kindling wrath.
Fragment of Song.*
THE night was still, and o'er the hill
The moon shone on the castle wa';
The mavis sang, while dew-drops hang
Around her on the castle wa';
Sae merrily they danced the ring
Frae eenin' till the cock did craw;
And aye the o'erword o' the spring
Was 'Irvine's bairns are bonie a'.
1 A compliment to the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, which is situated on the Feal or Faile, a tributary of the Ayr.
A compliment to Mrs Stewart of Stair, an early patroness of the poet.
A compliment to Professor Dugald
Stewart of Catrine House, where a little later Burns first 'dinner'd wi' a lord.'
4 Irvine, here, is the River. The lines were probably written at the Rev. Dr Lawrie's in Newmilns.
Epigram on Rough Roads.1
I'm now arrived-thanks to the gods!—
Thro' pathways rough and muddy,
A certain sign that makin roads
Is no this people's study:
Altho' I'm not wi' Scripture cram'd,
I'm sure the Bible says
That heedless sinners shall be damn'd,
Unless they mend their ways.
Prayer. O thou Dread Power.2
Lying at a reverend friend's house one night, the author left the following verses in the room where he slept:
O THOU dread Power, who reign'st above,
I know thou wilt me hear,
When for this scene of peace and love,
I make this prayer sincere.
The hoary Sire-the mortal stroke,
Long, long be pleas'd to spare;
To bless his little filial flock,
And show what good men are.
She, who her lovely offspring eyes
With tender hopes and fears,
O bless her with a mother's joys,
But spare a mother's tears!
Their hope, their stay, their darling youth.
In manhood's dawning blush,
Bless him, Thou God of love and truth,
Up to a parent's wish.
Cross-country roads in Ayrshire.
2 The reverend friend is the Rev. Dr Lawrie.
The beauteous, seraph sister-band-
With earnest tears I pray-
Thou know'st the snares on ev'ry hand,
Guide Thou their steps alway.
When, soon or late, they reach that coast,
O'er Life's rough ocean driven,
May they rejoice, no wand'rer lost,
A family in Heaven!
Farewell Song to the Banks of Ayr.1
"I composed this song as I conveyed my chest so far on my road to Greenock, where I was to embark in a few days for Jamaica. I meant it as my farewell dirge to my native land."-R.B.
THE gloomy night is gath'ring 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 scatt'red coveys meet secure ;
While here I wander, prest with care,
Along the lonely banks of Ayr.
The Autumn mourns her rip'ning 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,2
Where many a danger I must dare,
Far from the bonie banks of Ayr.
1 Burns himself indicates the occasion.
2 The copy in the Stair MS. has:— "The whistling wind affrightens me, I think upon the raging sea."