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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,

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What sairs your grammars?

Ye'd better taen up spades and shools,
Or knappin-hammers.b

A set o' dull, conceited hashes cl
Confuse their brains in college-classes!
They gang in stirks,d 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.

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Now, sir, if ye hae friends enow,
Tho' real friends I b'lieve are few;
Yet, if your catalogue be fu',

I'se no insist:

But, gif ye want ae friend that's true,
I'm on your list.

I winna blawb about mysel,

As ill I like my fauts to tell;

But friends, an' folk that wish me well,

They sometime roose® me;

Tho' I maun own, as mony still

As far abuse me.

There's ae wee faut they whiles lay to me,
I like the lasses-Gude forgie me!
For mony a plackd they wheedle frae me
At dance or fair;

Maybe some ither thing they gie me,
They weel can spare.

But Mauchline Race or Mauchline Fair,
I should be proud to meet you there:
We'se gie ae night's discharge to care,
If we forgather;

An' hae a swap o' rhymin-ware
Wi' ane anither.

The four-gill chap, we'se gar' him clatter,
An' kirsen him wi' reekin water;
Syne we'll sit down an' tak our whitter,
To cheer our heart;

An' faith, we'se be acquainted better

Before we part.

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Awa ye selfish, war'ly race,

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Wha think that havins, sense, an' grace,
Ev'n love an' friendship should give place
To catch-the-plack"!

I dinna like to see your face,

Nor hear your crack.

But ye whom social pleasure charms
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
"Each aid the others,"

Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
My friends, my brothers!

But, to conclude my lang epistle,
As my auld pen's worn to the gristle,
Twa lines frae you wad gar me fissle,"
Who am most fervent,
While I can either sing or whistle,
Your friend and servant.

Second Epistle to J. Lapraik.1

APRIL 21, 1785.


WHILE new-ca'd kye rowtd at the stake
An' pownies reek in pleugh or braik,
This hour on e'enin's edge I take,


To own I'm debtor

To honest-hearted, auld Lapraik,
For his kind letter.

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d newly-calved (or driven) kine roar.

1 The date is given, April 21, 1785. Burns harps, as usual, on his lack of envy of the rich,

• fidget with joy.
• harrow.

Text also from Kilmarnock edition; the more important variations of the Common-place Book are noticed below.


Forjesket sair, with weary legs,
Rattlin the corn out-owre the rigs,
Or dealing thro' amang the naigs

Their ten-hours' bite,

My awkart Muse sair pleads and begs
I would na write.

The tapetless, ramfeezl'd hizzie,b
She's saft at best an' something lazy:
Quo' she, "ye ken we've been sae busy
This month an' mair,

That trowth, my head is grown right dizzie,
An' something sair."


Her dowff excuses pat me mad;

"Conscience," says I, "ye thowless jade!
I'll write, an' that a hearty blaud,

This vera night;

So dinna ye affront your trade,

But rhyme it right.

"Shall bauld Lapraik, the king o' hearts,
Tho' mankind were a pack o' cartes,
Roose you sae weel for your deserts,
In terms sae friendly;

Yet ye'll neglect to shaw your parts
An' thank him kindly?"

Sae I gat paper in a blink,

An' down gaed stumpie in the ink :

Quoth I, "before I sleep a wink,
I vow I'll close it;

An' if ye winna mak it clink,

By Jove, I'll prose it!"

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Sae I've begun to scrawl, but whether 1
In rhyme, or prose, or baith thegither;
Or some hotch-potch that's rightly neither,
Let time mak proof;

But I shall scribble down some blethera
Just clean aff-loof.

My worthy friend, ne'er grudge an' carp,
Tho' fortune use you hard an' sharp;
Come, kittle up your moorland harp
Wi' gleesome touch!

Ne'er mind how Fortune waft and warp;
She's but a bitch.

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Now comes the sax-an-twentieth simmer
I've seen the bud upon the timmer,

Still persecuted by the limmerg

Frae year to year;

But yet, despite the kittle kimmer,b

I, Rob, am here.2

Do ye envy the city gent,

Behint a kist to lie an' sklent';

Or purse-proud, big wi' cent. per cent.

An' muckle wame,1

In some bit brugh to represent

A bailie's name?

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