Upon ony pretence
Is heretic, damnable error —
Dr Mac ! 'tis heretic, damnable error.*
* Rev. William M'Gill, D.D., the hero of this Socinian heresy ; but who in the
end was constrained to recant, and disappoint his supporters.
He died in 1807,
( 210 )
Town of Ayr ! town of Ayr !
It was rasb, I declare,
To meddle wi' mischief a-brewin' ;
Provost John is still deaf
To the church's relief,
And Orator Bob is its ruin —
Town of Ayr ! yes, Orator Bob is its ruin.*
D'rymple mild! D'rymple mild !
Though your heart's hke a child,
An' your life like the new-driven snaw ;
Yet that winna save ye,
Auld Satan must have ye.
For preaching that three's aue and twa —
D'rymple mild ! for preaching that three's ane and twa.j
Rumble John ! Rumble John !
Mount the steps wi' a groan.
Cry, the book is wi' heresy cramm'd ;
Then lug out your ladle.
Deal brimstone like adle,
And roar every note of the damn'd —
Rumble John! and roar every note of the damn'd. ^
Simper James ! Simper James !
Leave the fair KilHe dames.
There's a holier chase in your view ;
I'll lay on your head,
That the pack ye'U soon lead.
For puppies like you there's but few —
Simper James ! for puppies like you there's but few. §
Singet Sawney I Singet Sawney !
Are ye huirdin' the penny,
* Provost John Ballantyne, and Eobert Aiken, writer, the latter of whom was
M'GriU's agent before the Presbytery, prevailed on the magistrates of Ayr to
publish a certiflcato highly favourable to M'Qill, at the commencement of the
t Rov. William Dalrymple, D.D., senior colleague of Dr. M'Gill in the parish
church of Ayr. One of his favourite tenets was the divisibility of the Trinity.
t Rov. John Russell — the "Black Russell" and "Black Jock" of the poet's
other religious satires.
§ Rev. James Macklnlay of Eilmamock, hero of the Ordination. He died in
1841, aged 85.
( 211 )
Unconscious what evils await ?
Wi' a jump, yell, and howl,
Alarm every soul.
For the foul thief is just at your gate —
Siuget Sawney ! the foul thief is just at your gate.*
Daddie Auld ! Dadche Auld !
There's a tod in the fauld,
A tod raeikle waur than the clerk ;
Tho' ye can do httle skaith,
Ye'll be in at the death.
And gif ye canna bite, ye may bark —
Daddie Auld ! for gif ye canna bite ye may bark.f
Davie Bluster ! Davie Bluster !
If for a saunt ye do muster.
The corps is no' nice of recruits ;
Yet to worth let's be just.
Royal blood ye might boast.
If the ass were the king of the brutes —
Davie Bluster ! if the ass were the king o' the brutes. \
Jamie Goose ! Jamie Goose !
Ye hae made but toom roose,
O' hunting the wicked lieutenant ;
But the Doctor's your mark.
For the L — 's haly ark,
He has cooper'd and ca'd a wrang pin in't —
Jamie Goose ! he has cooper'd and ca'd a wrang pin in't. §
Poet Willie ! Poet Willie !
Gie the Doctor a volley.
* Eev. Alexander Moody, one of the Twa Herds, and first preacher in the
Holy Fair: parsimony and lack of charity were his besetting sins.
t Eev. William Auld of Mauchline, before whom the poet had to make "fair
confession " on more than one occasion. The allusion to the tod in this verse
has hitherto been unnoticed by commentators. The Eev. John Tod of Mauch-
line, was son-in-law of Gavin Hamilton, Esq., here referred to as "the clerk"
who had teased Mr. Auld so much. — (See notes to Epistle to M'Math, and Holy
t Mr. David Grant, of the parish of Ochiltree.
§ Mr. James Young of Cumnock.
( 212 )
Wi' your ' Liberty's Chaiu ' and your wit ;
O'er Pegasus' side
Ye ne'er laid a stride,
Ye but smelt, man, the place where he
Poet Willie ! ye smelt but the place where he
Andro Gouk ! Andro Gouk !
Ye may slander the book.
And the book not the waur, let me tell ye ;
Ye are rich, and look big,
But lay by hat and wig.
And ye'll hae a calf's head o' sma' value —
Andro Gouk ! ye'll hae a calf's head o' sma' value. f
Barr Steenie 1 Barr Steenie !
What mean ye — what mean ye?
If ye'll meddle uae mair wi' the matter,
Ye may hae some pretence
To havins and sense,
Wi' people wha ken ye nae better —
Barr Steenie ! wi' people wha ken ye nae better. |
Irvine-side ! Irvine-side !
Wi' your turkey-cock pride,
Of manhood but sma' is your share ;
Ye've the figure, 'tis true.
Even your faes will allow.
And your friends they dare grant you uae mair —
Irvine-side ! your friends they dare grant you nae mair. §
Muirland Jock ! Muirland Jock !
When the L — makes a rock
• Rev. William Peebles, D.D., of Newton-upon-Ayr, who figures in the Ilohj
Fair to the diBgust of " common-seiiBe." He sometimes tried to be a wit, and
on one occasion ventured to come out as a poet in a centenary Odo on tho
Eevolution of 1688, which excited much ridicule by one of its lines—
" Bonnd in Liberty's endearing chains!"
t Dr. Andrew Mitchell, minister of Monkton parish.
X Rev. Stephen Young of Barr.
§ Rev. Oeiirgo Smith of Galston, whom the poet wshod to compliment in
two excellent verses of tho Ilohj Fair: but the reverend gentleman saw more of
the banter than tho compliment in them. For this reason, therefore, the poet
now has a slap at him iu good earnest.
( 213 )
To crush Common Sense for her sins ;
If ill manners were wit,
There's no mortal so fit
To confound the poor Doctor at ance —
Muirland Jock! confound the poor Doctor at ance.*
Holy Will ! Holy Will !
There was wit i' your skull.
When ye pilfered the ahns o' the poor ;
The timmer is scant,
When ye're taen for a saunt,
Wha should swing in a rape for an hour —
Holy Will! ye should swmg in a rape for an hour.f
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 —
Calvin's sons ! your skulls are storehouses o' lead.
Poet Burns ! Poet Burns !
Wi' your priest-skelping turns.
Why desert ye your auld native shire ?
Though your muse is a gipsy,
E'en tho' she were tipsy,
She could ca' us nae waur than we are —
Poet Burns ! ye could ca' us nae waur than we are.
Af ton's Laird ! Af ton's Laird !
When your pen can be spared,
A copy o' this I bequeath.
On the same sicker score
As I mentioned before.
To that trusty auld worthy Clackleith —
Afton's Laird ! to that trusty auld worthy Clackleith. |
* Rev. John Shepherd of Muirkirk — who was in the habit of saying rude
things, mistaking these for wit.
t The poor wretch whom Bums had before chastised so severely under that
name. — (See note to Holy Willies Prayer.)
X This last verse, first published by Cunningham in 1834, is explained in the
( 214 )
EPIGRAM ON CAPTAIN FRANCIS GROSE.
[The story goes that one evening nt Glenriddel's table, when wine and wit
were flowing, Urose, delighted with Bome of the sallies of Burns, requested the
honour of a couplet on himself, and the following was the result. The grotesque
figure of Grose, with his unusual corpulency, was occasionally the theme of his
own wit and humour, and like Falstaff he might have said: "lam not only
witty in myself, but am the cause of wit in others."]
The devil got notice that Grose was a-dying,
So whip ! at the summons, old Satan came flying ;
But when he approach'd where poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bedpost with its burden a-groaning,
Astonished, confounded, cri'd Satan : ' by G —
I'll want him, ere take such a damnable load.'
WRITTEN EXTEMPORE IN A LADY's POCKET-BOOK.
[This would, no doubt, be inscribed during the horrors of the French Revolu-
Grant me, indulgent Heav'n, that I may live
To see the miscreants feel the pains they give ;
Deal Freedom's sacred treasures free as air,
Till slave and despot be but things which were.
WRITTEN AND PRESENTED TO MRS. KEMBLE, ON SEEING
HER IN THE CHARACTER OF TARICO.
[On 21st October, 1794, Mrs. Stephen Kemblo made her first appearance in
Dumf ricB as Yarico, in the then favourite opera of Inkle and Varko. Mr. Stephen
Kemblo was the senior of three famous brothers of that name, and was so very
Btout that ho could play the part of Falstaff without stuffing. lie composed a
dirge or song on the death of Burns, which has some merit. Allan Cunningham,
in his random way, says that the poet wrote this epigram while sitting in Mrs.
Riddle's box at the Theatre ; but his quarrel with that lady before this date,
renders that highly improbable.]
Kemble, thou cur'st my unbelief
Of Moses and his rod ;
At Yarico's sweet notes of grief,
The rock witli tears had flow'd.
(. 215 )
EPIGRAM ON MISS DAVIES.
ON BEING ASKED "WHY GOD MADE MISS DAVIES SO LITTLE
AND MRS. * * * SO LARGE.
WRITTEN ON A PANE OF GLASS IN THE INN AT MOFFAT.
["No one," says Cunningham, "has apologised so ha-ndsoTaely for scrimpet
stature." — (For some account of this beautiful young ladj'. see pp. 292 and 296,
"Vol. I.) Besides having been written on glass at Moffat, this epigram was
inscribed in pencil by the poet in a lady's note-book, along -with other versioles,
the originals of which we have seen, and take the present opportunity of
correcting these lines thus: —
" Ask — why God made the gem so small,
While huge he fonu'd the granite? —
Because God meant mankind should set
That higher value on it."
This reads much better than it does in the text, where two questions are
asked, and only one of these replied to ; and, besides, the answer is uncertain,
for it may apply to either the granite or the gem. In the proper version the
question is about the gem, in contrast with the granite, and the answer is quite
Ask why God made the gem so small,
And why so huge the granite ? —
Because God meant mankind should set
That higher value on it.
LINES ON RODNEY'S VICTORY.
AT A MEETING OF THE DTOIFRIES VOLUNTEERS, HELD TO
COMMEMORATE THE ANNIVERSARY OF RODNEY's
VICTORY, BURNS WAS CALLED UPON FOR A SONG, INSTEAD
OF WHICH HE DELIVERED THE FOLLOW-
ING LINES EXTEMPORE.
[This meeting must have been held on 12th April, 1795, at which time Burns
produced his patriotic ballad, "Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?" which
see, page 123. The language and sentiment of Song and Toast are identical.]
Instead of a song, boys, I'll give you a toast —
Here's the memory of those on the 12th that we lost ! —
That we lost, did I say ? nay, by Heav'u, that we found ;
For their fame it shall last while the world goes round.
The next in succession, I'll give you — the King !
Whoe'er would betray htm. on high may he swing ;
( ^1« )
And here's the grand fabric, our free Constitution,
As built on the base of the great Revolution ;
And longer with poUtics not to be crammed,
Be Anarchy cursed, and be Tyranny damned ;
And who would to Liberty e'er prove disloyal,
May his son be a hangman, and he his first trial !
[This un-Burns-like proiluction was first claimed as his in Stewart's collected
edition (1802), after which it disappeared, but was revived by Cunningham in
1834, who was at no loss for an anecdote to accompany it, and even gave the
words of a short note said to have been addressed by Burns to the editor of the
London Star, dated Ellisland, 18th May, 1789, enclosing the verses, and promising
farther communications should these be accepted.
In a very excellent edition of the poet, published by William Clark, London
(1831,) to which the public is indebted for the preservation of several pieces by
IBurns which had escaped other collectors, there is a note pointing out some
productions that had been claimed for Burns which are not his, and among these
" Delia" is named, and pronounced to bo " a translation of ananonjinous Latin
Fair the face of orient day,
Fair the tints of op'ning rose :
But fairer still my Deha dawns.
More lovely far her beauty blows.
Sweet the lark's wild-warbled lay,
Sweet the tinkling rill to hear ;
But, Delia, more dehghtful still.
Steal thine accents on mine ear.
The flower-enamour'd busy bee
The rosy banquet loves to sip ;
Sweet the streamlet's limpid lapse
To the sun-brown'd Arab's lip ;
But, Delia, on thy balmy lii)s
Let me, no vagrant insect, rove !
O let me steal one Uquid kiss !
For oh ! my soul is parch'd with love !
PIECES FIRST PUBLISHED BY STEWART IN 1802.
LETTER TO JAMES TENNANT, GLENCONNER.
[This rhj'ming epistle, written from Ellisland in 1789, is addressed to an old
friend of the poet and his family, whose father's advice he had taken before
fixing on the farm of Ellisland. Cunningham, who alwaj-s went rant-stam
into blanks, and filled them up without enquiry, sets the surname down as
"Tait." His remarks on the composition are. however, worth quoting: —
"Though not at all equal to some of the poet's earlier epistles, it is well worth
preserving as a proof of the ease with which he could wind verse round any
topic, and conduct the duties and courtesies of life in song. His account of
having ' grown sae cursed douse,' and scorching himself at the fire ' perusing
Bunyan, Brown, and Boston,' is archly introduced."
The referenre to " gude auld Glen ' is verj' fine. It was he who accompanied
the poet to Nithsdale at the end of February, 1788, to inspect and judge of Mr.
Miller's farms. On 3rd March following, the poet thus wrote on that matter to
Ainslie: — "The friend whom I told you I would take with me was highlj- pleased
with the farm; and he is, %vithout exception, the most intelligent farmer in the
country ; he has staggered me a good deal. "]
Auld comrade dear, and brither sinner,
How's a' the folk about Glenconner?
How do ye this blae easthn win',
That's like to blaw a body bhn' ?
For me, my faculties are frozen,
My dearest member nearly dozen'd.
I've sent you here, by Johnie Simson,
Twa sage philosophers to glimpse on :
Reid, wi' his sympathetic feehng,
An' Smith, to common-sense appeahng.
Philosophers have fought an' wrangled,
An' meikle Greek an' Latin mangled,
Till, with their logic-jargon tir'd,
An' in the depth of science mir'd,
To common-sense they now appeal,
What wives an' wabsters see an' feel.
But, hark ye, friend ! I charge you strictly,
Peruse them, an' return them quickly.
For now I'm grown sae cursed douse,
I pray an' ponder butt the house ;
My shins, my lane, I there sit roastin',
Perusing Bunyan, Brown, and Boston ;
( 218 )
Till by an' by, if I baud on,
I'll grunt a real gospel groan :
Already I begin to try it,
To cast my een up like a pyet,
When by the gun she tumbles o'er,
Flutt'ring an' gasping in her gore :
Sae shortly you shall see me bright,
A burning an' a shining hght.
My heart-warm love to gude auld Glen,
The ace an' wale of honest men :
When bending down wi' auld gray hairs.
Beneath the load of years and cares.
May He who made him still support him,
An' views beyond the grave comfort him ;
His worthy fam'ly far and near,
God bless them a' wi' grace and gear !
My auld schoolfellow. Preacher Willie,
The manly tar, my mason Billie,
An' Auchenbay, I wish him joy ;
If he's a parent, lass or boy,
May he be dad, and Meg the mither.
Just five-and-forty years thegither !
An' no' forgetting wabster Charhe,
I'm tauld he offers very fairly.
An', L — , remember singing Sannock,
Wi' hale breeks, saxpence, an' a bannock ;
An' next my auld acquaintance, Nancy,
Since she is fitted to her fancy ;
An' her kind stars hae airted till her,
A gude chiel wi' a pickle siller.
My kindest, best respects I sen' it,
To cousin Kate an' sister Janet ;
Tell them, frae me, wi' chiels be cautious,
For, faith, they'll aiblius fin' them fashions.
To grant a heart is fairly civil.
But to grant a maidenhead's the devil!
An' lastly, Jamie, for yoursel'.
May guardian angels tak' a spell.
An' steer you seven miles south o' hell :
But first, before you see heav'n's glory.
( 21i) )
May ye get mony a merry story ;
Mony a laugh, and mony a drink,
An' ay eneugli o' needfu' clink.
Now fare-ye-weel, and joy be wi' you ;
For my sake this I beg it o' you,
Assist poor Simson a' ye can,
Ye'U iin' him just an honest man :
Sae I conclude, and quat my chanter,
Your's, saint or sinner,
Rob the Ranter.
THE FIVE CARLINES.
AN ELECTION BALLAD.
Tune — Chevey Chase.
[This is the principal Ballad of a set of three, in connection with the election
canvass and contest of 1789^90, for the representation of the five boroughs of
Dumfries and Kirkcudbright, which then united in sending a member to
Parliament The other two occasional productions referring to that contest,
are " The Laddies by the banks o' Nith," and the lyric addressed to Mr.
Graham of Fintry, beginning, "Fintry, my stay in wordly strife, which will
be given in their proper place. , , ,-. • . „ _^ a
This ballad has been much admired as a triumph of the mjnstrel s art, ana
the personifications are considered very happy by all who are acquainted with
the localities indicated. Sir Walter Scott was particularly struck with the
picture of Lochmaben, as "Marjory o' the Monylochs, and he very often
recited the third last verse of the ballad, for its picturesque expressiveness.
The two candidates were Patrick Miller, younger of Dalswinton (son and heir
of the poet's landlord,) and Sir James Johnston of Westerhall ; the former
bein" on the Whig side, backed by the power of the Duke of Queensberry, and
the latter being the Tory candidate, whose cause was, in this instance, keenly
espoused by Burns. ^-u ,, jx v
On 9th December 1789, the poet enclosed a copy of the present ballad to his
patron Mr. Graham of Fintry, in which he says : " I am too little a man to have
any political attachments : I am deeply indebted to, and have the warmest
veneration for, individuals of both parties ; but a man who has it m his power
to be the father of a country, and who [passage regarding Queensberry suppressed
by Currie.] is a character that one cannot speak of with patience, bir James
Johnston does ' what man can do,' but yet I doubt his fate."
The election at length took place in July, and was settled in favour of Oapt.
Miller so that the poet's pains were in one sense thrown away; but in truth,
the poet was a Whig at heart, he merely hated Queensberry, and therefore
wishedthat the Johnstons might "have the guidin' o't."
It is proper to note that the present copyot the ballad— taken from the Afton
MS., kindly lent us by its worthy owner— differs from that given by Stewart, m
There was five carlines in the south,
They fell upon a scheme,
To send a lad to London town
To bring them tidings hame,
( 220 )
Not only bring them tidings hame,
But do their errands there.
And aiblins gowd and honour baith
Might be that laddie's share.
There was Maggy by the banks o* Nith,
A dame wi' pride eneugh ;
And Marjory o' the Mony lochs,
A carline auld and teugh.
And Blinkin' Bess of Annandale,
That dwelt on Solwayside,
And Brandy Jean that took her gill,
In Galloway sae wide.
And Black Joan frae Chrichton Peel,
0' gipsy kith and kin, —
Five wighter car lines werena found
The south countrie within.
To send a lad to London town.
They met upon a day.
And mony a knight, and mony a laird,
That errand fain would gae.
O mony a knight, and mony a laird.
That errand fain wad gae.
But nae ane could their fancy please,
ne'er a ane but twae.
The first ane was a belted knight,*
Bred of a Border band.
An' he wad gae to London town.
Might nae man him withstand.
And he wad do their errands weel.
And nieikle he wad say,
And ilka ane at Loudon court
Would bid to him gude-day.
* Sir James Johnston.
( 221 )
The niest came in a sodger boy,
And spak' wi' modest grace,
And he wad gang to London town,
If sae their pleasure was.
He wadna hecht them courtly gifts.
Nor meikle speech pretend ;
But he wad hecht an honest heart
Wad ne'er desert his friend.
Now wham to choose and wham refuse ;
At strife thir carlines fell ;
For some had gentle folks to please,
And some wad please themsel'.
Then up spak' mim-mou'd Meg o' Nith,
An' she spak' up wi' pride,
An' she wad send the sodger lad,
Whatever might betide.
For the auld gudeman o' London court
She didna care a pin.
But she wad send the sodger youth
To greet his eldest son.*
Then started Bess of Annandale ;
And a deadly aith she's ta'en.
That she wad vote the Border knight,
Tho' she should vote her lane.
For far-aff fowls hae feathers fair,
And fools o' change are fain ;
But I hae tried this Border knight,
I'll try him yet again.
Says Black Joan frae Chrichton Peel,
A carhne stoor and grim.
The auld gudeman or the young gudeman.
For me may sink or swim.
* The reference here is to King George III. and the proposed Regent. — (See
Elegy on the Year 1788, page 207.)
( 222 ;
For fools will prate o' right and wrang,
While knaves laugh them to scorn ;
But the sodger's friends hae blawn the best,
So he shall bear the horn.
Then Brandy Jean spak' owre her drink :
Ye weel ken kimmers a',
The auld gudeman o' Loudon court,
His back's been at the wa' ;
And mony a friend that kiss't his caup,
Is now a fremit wight ;
But it's ne'er be sae wi' Brandy Jean, —
We'll send the Border knight.
Then slow raise Marjory o' the Lochs,
And wrinkled was her brow ;
Her ancient weed was russet gray.
Her auld Scots heart was true :
There's some great folks set light by me —
I set as light by them ;
But I will send to London town
Whom I like best at hame.
So how this weighty plea may end,
Nae mortal wight can tell ;
God grant the King and ilka man
May look weel to themsel'.
FOR MR Sutherland's benefit night.
[On the nth of February, 1790. the poet, in a letter to Nicol, tells him that he
has given Mr. Sutherland two Prologues, " one of which was delivered last week
a worthier or cleverer fellow I have rarely met with." The reader will find
at page 151 ante, the other prologue referred to. Six lines in the i)resent toxt^
marked off by brackets— appeared first in Oromek's Eeliques, 1808.]
What needs this din about the town o' Lon'on,
How this new play and that new sang is comin' ?
Why is outlandish stuff sae meikle courted ?
Does nonsense mend like brandy, when imported?
( 223 )
Is there uae poet, burning keeu for fame,
Will bauldly try to gie us plays at hame?
For comedy, abroad he needna toil,
A knave an' fool are plants of every soil ;
Nor need he hunt as far as Rome or Greece
To gather matter for a serious piece ;
There's themes enow in Caledonian story.
Wad shew the tragic Muse in a' her glory.
Is there no daring bard will rise, and tell
How glorious Wallace stood, how hapless fell"?
Where are the Muses fled that should produce
A drama worthy of the name of Bruce ;
How on this spot he first unsheath'd the sword
'Gainst mighty England and her guilty lord ;
And after many a bloody, deathless doing,
Wrench'd his dear country from the jaws of ruin ?
O for a Shakespeare or an Otway scene.
To paint the lovely, hapless Scottish Queen !
Vain ev'n the omnipotence of female charms
'Gainst headlong, ruthless, mad rebellion's arms.
She fell, but fell with spirit truly Roman,
To glut that direst foe — a vengful woman :
A woman — tho' the phrase may seem uncivil —
As able and as wicked as the devil !
[One Douglas lives in Home's immortal page,
But Douglases were heroes every age :
And tho' your fathers, prodigal of hfe,
A Douglas followed to the martial strife,
Perhaps if bowls row right, and Right succeeds,
Ye yet may follow where a Douglas leads !]
As ye have generous done, if a' the land
Would take the Muses' servants by the hand ;
Not only hear, but patronise, defend them,
And where ye justly can commend, commend them ;
And aibUns when they winna stand the test,
Wink hard, and say, ' the folks hae done their best !
Would a' the land do this, then I'll be caition
Ye'll soon hae poets o' the Scottish nation.
Will gar fame blaw until her trumpet crack,
And warsle Time, and lay him on his back !
( 224 )
For us and for our stage should ony spier,
' Wha's aught thae chiels mak's a' this bustle here ? '
My best leg foremost, I'll set up my brow.
We have the honour to belong to you !
We're your ain bairns, e'en guide us as ye like,
But like gude mothers, shore before ye strike.
And grateful still I trust ye'll ever find us,
For gen'rous patronage and meikle kindness
We've got frae a' professions, sorts, an' ranks :
God help us ! we're but poor — ye'se get but thanks.