William Ernest Henley Robert Burns.

The complete poetical works of Robert Burns online

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Currie, from a MS. in Burns's hand ; but
Gilbert Burns strongly doubted its authenti-
city, and internal evidence shows that it may
have been written by some contemporary of
Allan Ramsay. Thus in stanza vi. that maker -
is referred to as alive ; while no mention is
made of either Hamilton of Gilbertfield or
Fergnsson, one or other of whom may well
have been the author. Burns, again, knew

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nothing of Theocritus and nothW of Mam-

Hail, PoesieJ thou Nymph reserr'd !

Fra^l thee ' What crowds h »« -'erv'd
*rae common sense, op sunk enerv'd

And och, o'er ^r/iSsTj's^ 1
'Mid a' thy favours !


WMlPf 8 ^.^ th - V train """ft

And * I ^ ^P' 8 heroic <Ar,
And sock op buskin skelp alaiig

Scarce ane has tried the she'pSs^ng
But wi' miscarriage ?

In Homer's craft Jock Milton thrives-
EschyW pen Will Shakespeare S;
Wee Pope, the knnrlin, till him rives
T ., Horatiau fame;

In thy sweet sang, Barbauld, survives
Even Sappho's flame I



But thee, Theocritus, wha matehes ?
They re DO herd's ballats, Maro's catches !
Squire Pope but busks his skinklm^Ttches
TnoB . , ° heathen tatters !
1 pass by hunders^ nameless wretches,
That ape their betters.

In this braw age o' wit and lear,
Will nane the Shepherd's whistle mair
iilaw sweetly m its native air

a~a -»^ * And rural grace,
And wi' the far-fam'd Grecian share
A rival place ?


Yea I there is ane — a Scottish callan f
There 's ane ! Come f orrit, honest Allan I
Thou need na jouk behint the hallan,

Tk- * *v t ™. A chiel 8ac clever !
The teeth o' Time may gnaw Tantallan,
But thou 's for ever.

Thou paints auld Nature to the nines
In thy sweet Caledonian Hues I
Nae gowden stream thro' myrtles twines,
Wki • Li , , Whepe ^ilomel,
While nightly breezes sweep the vines,
Her griefs will tell:


S SL^'t ^T b i each their &».

Or trote by hazellv sbaws and braes

Where blackbirds jokthe shepn^s lays
At close o' day.


Thy rural loves are nature's sel\-
Nae bombast spates o* nonsense swell,
Nae snap conceits, but that sweet spell
Tiw* u ^ ° Wlt °hin love,
That charm that can the strongest quell,
The sternest move.


jljltm^lf ^ ■ 2 * Sco " M °9°*»* ^


firm the asonpbon; though one could credit

As on the banks of winding Nith
Ae smiling simmer morn I straj'd,

I sat me down upon a craie, V J '

And drank my fill o' fancy's dream.

Up rose the Genius of the Stream.

And troubled like his wintry wave,

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And deep as sughs the boding wind
Amang bis caves tbe sigh be gave.

" And come ye here, my son," he cried,
" To wander in my birken shade ?

To muse some favourite Scottish theme,
Or sing some favourite Scottish maid ?


" There was a time, it 's nae lang syne,

Ye might hae seen me in my pride,
When a* my banks sae bravely saw

Their woody pictures in my tide;
When hanging beech and spreading el in

Shaded ray stream sae clear and cool ;
And stately oaks their twisted arms

Threw broad and dark across the pool;


u When, glinting thro' the trees, appear'd

The wee white cot aboon the mill,
And peaceful rose its ingle reek,

That, slowly curling, clamb the hill.
But now the cot is bare and cauld,

Its leafy bield for ever £ane,
And scarce a stinted birk is left

To shiver in the blast its lane."

" Alas ! " quoth I, " what ruef u* chance

Has twin'd ye o* your stately trees ?
Has laid your rocky bosom bare ?

Has stripped the deeding aff your braes ?
Was it the bitter eastern blast,

That scatters blight in early spring ?
Or was *t the wil'fire scorch'd their boughs ?

Or canker-worm wi' secret sting ? "


" Nae eastlin blast," the Sprite replied —

44 It blaws na here sae fierce and fell,
And on my dry and halesome banks

Nae canker-worms get leave to dwell:
Man \ cruel man ! " the Genius sigh'd,

As through the cliffs he sank him down:
" The worm that gnaw'd my bonie trees,

That reptile wears a Ducal crown."


This very squalid performance is attributed
by Stenhouse to Burns ; but he never acknow-
ledged it.

I married with a scolding wife

The fourteenth of November:
She made me weary of my life

By one unruly member.
Long did I bear the heavy yoke,

And many griefs attended,
But to my comfort be it spoke,

Now, now her life is ended I

We liv'd full one-and-twenty years

A man and wife together.
At length from me her course she steer'd

And gone I know not whither.
Would I could guess, I do profess:

I speak, and do not flatter,
Of all the women in the world,

I never would come at her !


Her body is bestowed well —

A handsome grave does hide her.
But sure her soul is not in Hell —

The Deil would ne'er abide her !
I rather think she is aloft

And imitating thunder,
For whv ? — Methinks I hear her voice

Tearing tbe clouds asunder !


Why should we idly waste our prime

Repeating our oppressions ?
Come rouse to arms I 'Tis now the time

To punish past transgressions.
T is said that Kings can do no wrong —

Their murderous deeds deny it,
And, since from us their power is sprung,

We have a right to try it.
Now each true patriot's song shall be: —
" Welcome Death or Libertie 1 "

Proud Priests and Bishops we 11 translate

And canonize as Martyrs;
The guillotine on Peers shall wait;

And Knights shall hang in garters.
Those Despots long have trode us down,

And Judges are their engines:

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Such wretched minions of a Crown
Demand the people's vengeance I
To-day 'tis theirs. To-morrow we
Shall don the Cap of Libertie !


The Golden Age we'V then revive:

Each man will be a brother;
In harmony we all shall live,

And share the earth together;
In Virtue train'd, enlighten'd Youth

Will love each fellow-creature;
And future years shall prove the truth

That Man is good by nature:
Then let us toast with three times three
The reign of Peace and Libertie !


Chambers gave as his authority a MS. then
in the possession of Mr. James Duncan, More-
field, Glasgow. The Tree of Liberty reads like
a bad blend of Scots Wha Hae and 1$ There
For Honest Poverty; and as the MS. has not
been heard of since 1838, we may charitably
conclude that Burns neither made the trash
nor copied it

Heard ye o' the Tree o' France,

And wat ye what 's the name o't ?
Around it a the patriots dance —

Weel Europe kens the fame o't !
It stands where ance the Bastile stood —

A prison built by kings, man,
When Superstition's heUish brood

Kept France in leading-strings, man.

Upo' this tree there grows sic fruit.

Its virtues a* can tell, man:
It raises man aboon the brute,

It mak's him ken himseP, man !
Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,

He 's greater than a lord, man,
And wi' the beggar shares a mite

O' a' be can afford, man.


This fruit is worth a' Afric's wealth:
To comfort us 't was sent, man,

To gie the sweetest blush o' health,
And mak' us a' content, man !

It clears the een, it cheers the heart,
Mak's high and low guid friends, man,

And he wha acts the traitor's part,
It to perdition sends, man.


My blessings ay attend the chiel,

Wha pitied Gallia's slaves, man,
And staw a branch, spite o' the Deil,

Frae 'yont the western waves, man !
Fair Virtue water'd it wi' care,

And now she sees wi' pride, man,
How weel it buds and blossoms there,

Its branches spreading wide, man.

But vicious folk ay hate to see

The works o' Virtue thrive, man:
The courtly vermin 's bann'd the tree,

And grat to see it thrive, man !
King Louis thought to cut it down,

When it was unco sma', man ;
For this the watchman crack'd his crown,

Cut aff his head and a', man.


A wicked crew syne, on a time,

Did tak' a solemn aitb, man,
It ne'er should flourish to its prime —

I wat they pledg'd their faith, man !
Awa they gaed wi mock parade,

Like beagles hunting game, man,
But soon grew weary o' the trade,

And wish'd they 'd been at hame, man.


Fair Freedom, standing by the tree,

Her sons did loudly ca', man.
She sang a sang o' Liberty,

Which pleasM tliem ane and a', man.
By her inspir'd, the new-born race

Soon drew the avenging steel, man.
The hirelings ran — her foes gied chase,

And bang d the despot weel, man.


Let Britain boast her hardy oak,

Her poplar, and her pine, man !
Auld Britain ance could crack her joke,

And o'er her neighbours shine, man !
But seek the forest round and round,

And soon 't will be agreed, man,
That sic a tree can not oe found

'Twixt London and the Tweed, man.

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3 2 *


Without this tree alake this life

Is but a vale o' woe, mau,
A scene o' sorrow mix'd wi' strife,

Nae real joys we know, man;
We labour soon, we labour late,

To feed the titled knave, man,
And a* the comfort we 're to get,

Is that ayont the grave, man.

Wi* plenty o' sic trees, I trow,

The warld wonld live in peace, roan.
The sword would help to mak' a plough,

The din o' war wad cease, man.
Like brethren in a common cause,

We 'd on each other smile, man;
And equal rights and equal laws

Wad gladden every isle, man.

Wae worth the loon wha wadna eat

Sic halesome, dainty cheer, man !
I M gie the shoon frae aff my feet,

To taste the fruit o't here, man !
Syne let us pray, Auld England may

Sure plant this far-famed tree, man ;
And blythe we '11 sing, and herald the day

That gives us liberty, man.


Published in a Liverpool paper called The
Kaleidoscope, and there attributed to Burns.
It, however, appeared originally (and anony-
mously) in The Oracle, January 29, 1796, long
the favoured organ of the wretched Delia
Cm scan shoal ; and it has the right Anna
Matilda smack throughout. After all, too,
that a thine is bad enough to have been written
by Burns for Thomson is no proof that it is
Burns's work.

Humid seal of soft affections,
Tend' rest pledge of future bliss,

Dearest tie of young connections,
Love's first snow-drop, virgin kiss !


Speaking silence, dumb confession,
Passion's birth and infant's play,

Dove-like fondness, chaste confession,
Glowing dawn of brighter day I


Sorrowing joy, adieu's last action,
Ling'ring lips — no more must join !

Words can never speak affection,
Thrilling and sincere as thine 1



Fair the face of orient day,
Fair the tints of op'uing rose:

But fairer still my Delia dawns,
More lovely far her beauty blows.

Sweet the lark's wild-warbled lay,
Sweet the tinkling rill to hear:

But, Delia, more delightful still
Steal thine accents on mine ear.


The flower-enamoured 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 lips
Let me, no vagrant insect, rove !

O, let me steal one liquid kiss !
For O ! my soul is parch'd with love !


" Found among the Poet's mss. in his own
handwriting, with occasional interlineations
such as occur in all his primitive effusions;"
but attributed by him to John M'Creddie, of
whom nothing is known. To our mind, those
who give the verses to Burns would give him


Sad bird of night, what sorrow calls thee
To vent thy plaints thus in the midnight

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Is it some blast that gathers in the north,
Threatening to nip the verdure of thy

Is it, sad owl, that Autumn strips the shade,
And leaves thee here, unshelter'd and
forlorn ?
Or fear that Winter will thy nest invade ?
Or friendless Melancholy bids thee


Shut out, lone bird, from all the feather'd
To tell thy sorrows to th' unheeding
No friend to pity when thou dost complain,
Grief all thy thought, and solitude thy


Sing on, sad mourner ! I will bless thy


And pleas'd in sorrow listen to thy song.

Sing on, sad mourner I To the night


While the lone echo wafts thy notes along.

Is Beauty less, when down the glowing
Sad, piteous tears in native sorrows fall ?
Less kind the heart when anguish bids it
Less happy he who lists to Pity's call ?


Ah no, sad owl ! nor is thy voice less
That Sadness tunes it, and that Grief is
That Spring's gay notes, unskilled, thou
can't repeat,
That Sorrow bids thee to the gloom re-
pair !


Nor that the treble songsters of the day,
Are quite estranged, sad bird of night,
from thee !
Nor that the thrush deserts the evening
When darkness calls thee from thy rev-


From some old tower, thy melancholy
While the gray walls and desert soli-
Return each note, responsive to the gloom
Of ivied coverts and surrounding woods:


There hooting, I will list more pleased to

Than ever lover to the nightingale,
Or drooping wretch, oppress'd with misery,

Lending his ear to some condoling tale !


Found among the Poet's papers.

T was where the birch and sounding thong

are ply'd,
The noisy domicile of pedant pride;
Where Ignorance her darkening vapour

And Cruelty directs the thickening blows I
Upon a time, Sir ABC the great,
In all his pedagogic powers elate,
His awful chair of state resolves to mount,
And call the trembling Vowels to account.

First enter'd A, a grave, broad, solemn

But, ah ! deform'd, dishonest to the sight I
His twisted head look'd backward ou his

And flagrant from the scourge he grunted,


Reluctant, E stalk'd in ; a piteous case,
The justling tears ran down his honest

face !
That name, that well-worn name, and all

his own,
Pale, he surrenders at the tyrant's throne !
The Pedant stifles keen the Roman sound
Not all his mongrel diphthongs can com-
pound ;
And next the title following close behind,
He to the nameless, ghastly wretch as*

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The cobwebb'd gothic dome resounded, Y !
In sullen vengeance, I disdain'd reply:
The Pedant swung his felon cudgel round,
And knock'd the groaning vowel to the
ground !

In rueful apprehension enter'd O,
The wailing minstrel of despairing woe:
Th' Inquisitor of Spain the most expert
Might there have learnt new mysteries of

his art.
So grim, deform'd, with horrors entering, U
His dearest friend and brother scarcely

knew !

As trembling U stood staring all aghast,
The Pedant in his left hand clutch'd him

In helpless iufants' tears he dipp'd his

Baptiz'd him eu, and kick'd him from his



It is hard to believe that Burns, though his
taste in English was none of the finest, could
even transcribe such immitigable rubbish.

Now health forsakes that angel face,
Nae mair my dearie smiles.

Pale sickness withers ilka grace,
And a' my hopes beguiles.

The cruel Powers reject the prayer

I hourly mak* for thee:
Ye Heavens ! how great is my despair !

How can I see him die I


Burns'8 daughter, Elizabeth Riddell, died in
the antumn of 1795. But this fact can scarce
be regarded as proof of the authenticity of
verses altogether in the manner of Mrs. He-

O, sweet be thy sleep in the land of the
My dear little angel, for ever !
For ever ? — O no 1 let not man be a
His hopes from existence to sever 1

Though cold be the clay, where thou pil-
low'st thy head
In the dark, silent mansions of sorrow,
The spring shall return to thy low, narrow

Like the beam of the day-star to-mor-


The flower-stem shall bloom like thy sweet
seraph form
Ere the spoiler had nipt thee in blos-
When thou shrank frae the scowl of the
loud winter storm,
And nestled thee close to that bosom.


O, still I behold thee, all lovely in death,
Reclined on the lap of thy mother,

When the tear-trickle bright, when the
short, stifled breath
Told how dear ye were ay to each other.

My child, thou art gone to the home of thy
Where suffering no longer can harm
Where the songs of the Good, where the
hymns of the Blest
Through an endless existence shall charm


While he, thy fond parent, must sighing
Through the dire desert regions of sor-
O'er the hope and misfortune of being to
And sigh for this life's latest morrow.

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Page 2. The Twa Dogs.

That bears the name ofauld King Coil.

The "auld King Coil," from whom Kyle,
the middle district of Ayrshire, is supposed to
derive its name, is pure myth, though the cas-
tle is of unknown antiquity. The district itself
is divided hy the river Ayr into King's Kyle
and Stewart Kyle. See pott, p. 328, Notes to
The Vision.

Page 3. How they maun thole the factor**
snask, etc.

" My father's generous master died ; the farm
proved a ruinous bargain ; and. to clench the
curse, we fell into the hands oi a factor^ who
sat for the picture I have drawn of one m my
Tale of Two Dogs." (R. B. in Autobiographical

Page 5. Scotch Drink.

St. iv. 1. 2. Souple scones.

The " souple scones " were very thin, pliable
cakes of barley meal, long a favourite bread of
the Scottish peasantry.

St. iv. 1.4. Kail.

The cole wort or " green kale " was the chief
vegetable of old Scotland. Hence the " kale-
yard " was the common name for the cotter's
garden, and ** kale " the synonym for Scotch
broth, of which barley also was an important

St. IX. 1. 4. Cog or bicker.

Both wooden vessels. From the larger ** cog,"
the ale would probably be poured into the
smaller " bicker for drinking. A cog is prop-
erly a large wooden vessel from which the
Scottish peasants sup porridge, or kale, in com-
mon. In the case of porridge — which is made
very thick — each spoons in nis own pit till the
dividing walls are broken down. A " coggie "
(t. e. a little cog) is a wooden porringer for one.

Page 6. St. xix. 1. 1. Thee, Ferintosh! O
sadly lost !

By an Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1690.
Duncan Forbes of Culloden, in recognition of
his services during Dundee's rebellion and in
compensation for the damage done his lands by
the rebels, obtained, on payment of a small
sum in lieu of excise, a perpetual liberty to
distil grain at his "ancient brewery of aoua
vitce of Ferintosh." The privilege was with-
drawn in 1785, over £20,000 being paid in com-
pensation, when, of course, the price of whisky
went up.

Page 6. Thr Author's Earnest Cry and

In the 1787 Edition Burns added a footnote : —
" This was wrote before the Act anent the

Scotch Distilleries, of session 1786; for which
Scotland and the author return their most
grateful thanks." The Act superseded the
duties on spirits by an annual tax on stills ac-
cording to their capacity.

The passage in Milton parodied in the motto
is: —

"O fairest of creation ! last and beat . . .
How art thou lost »• . . .

— Paradise Lost, ix. 896, 900.

St. i. 1. 1. Ye Irish lords, ye knights an'
squires. .

Certain Irish lords had Scottish seats in the
House of Commons, while eldest aons of Scot-
tish peers were ineligible.

St. n. 1. 1. Boupet.

Said of a vocal state which suggests the utter-
ance of a chicken with a cold.

Page 7. St. x. 1. 3. But could I like Mont-
gomeries fight.

From the time of Sir John Montgomerie,
ancestor of the Earls of Eglinton, —who in 1388
vanquished Hotspur at Otterburne and took
hini' prisoner, — many of the main branch had
won distinction in arms; and, when Burns
wrote, their tradition was worthily maintained
by Archibald, eleventh Earl of Eglinton, who
held the rank of General in the army, and by
his cousin, Colonel Montgomerie of Coilsfiela,
the " sodger Hugh " of a snbsequent stanza.

St. x. 1. 4. Or gab like Boswell.

James Boswell, biographer of Samuel John-
son, who, succeeding to the Auchinleck estate
on the death of his father in 1782, for some
time thereafter took an active part in politics
at county meetings, and even aspired to repre-
sent Ayrshire in Parliament.

St. xin. 1. 1. Dempster, a true blue Scot Vse

George Dempster of Dunnichen, born at
Dundee in February, 1732 ; educated at St. An-
drews and Edinburgh ; called to the Scottish
bar in 1755 ; a friend of Hume and other Scot-
tish literati ; sat as member for the Forfar and
Fife Burghs from 1762 to 1790 ; devoted much
attention to agriculture, concerning which he
published several works ; died 13th February,

St. xui. 1. 2. Thee, aith-detesting, chaste Kil-

Sir Adam Fergtisson, third baronet of Kil-
kerran ; entered Parliament in 1774 as member
for Ayrshire, but in 1780 was defeated by Colo-
nel Hugh Montgomerie, and at this time repre-
sented Edinburgh ; in 1796 laid claim to the

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earldom of Glencairn, but failed to establish
his right to it ; died 23d September, 1813.

St. xm, 1. 4. The Laird o 1 Graham.

James Graham, then Marauis of Graham ;
born 8th September, 1755: elected M. P. for
Richmond, Yorkshire, lltn September, 1780;
member for Great Bedwin, Wilts, from 1784
until, on the death of his father in 1790, he be-
came third Duke of Montrose ; was at this time
a Lord of the Treasury under Pitt ; subse-
quently held various important Ministerial and
other offices ; obtained the repeal of the Act of
1747 prohibiting the Highland costume ; is de-
scribed in Wraxall's Memoirs as possessing ** a
ready elocution, sustained by all the confidence
in himself necessary for addressing the House ; "
died 30th December, 183(5.

St. xm. 1. 6. Dundas his name.

Henry Dundas, the most distinguished Scotr
tish statesman of his time ; fourth son of Rob-
ert Dundas of Arniston, Lord President of the
Court of Session ; born 28th April, 1742 ; at this
time member for Midlothian, and Treasurer of
the Navy under Pitt, one of whose best trusted
colleagues he was ; was created Viscount Mel-
ville 24th December, 1802 ; and died 28th May,

St. xiv. 1. 1. Erskine, a spunkie Norland

Either Thomas Erskine, afterwards Lord
Erskine (who, however, was not then in Parlia-
ment), or his elder brother, Henry Erskine, for
a short time Lord Advocate under the Coalition
Ministry ; the chief rival of Dundas at the Scot-
tish bar, whom he superseded as Lord Ad-
vocate, notwithstanding Dundas's boast: "No
one shall venture to take my place.' 1

St. xiv. 1. 2. True Campbells, Frederick and

Lord Frederick Campbell, third son of John,
fourth Duke of Argyll, was born in 1729 ; sat
for the Glasgow Burghs from 1761 to 1780, and
for Argyllshire from 1780 to 1799; appointed
Lord Clerk Register for Scotland in 1768; died
8th August, 1816. Sir Islay Campbell of Suc-
coth was born 23d August, 1734; succeeded
Henry Erskine as Lord Advocate in 1784 : re-
presented the Glasgow District of Burghs from
1784 to 1789, when as Lord Succoth he was ap-
pointed Lord President of the Court of Session :
author of several works on Scots Law ; died
28th March. 1823.

St. xiv. 1. 3. An' Livistone, the bauld Sir

Sir William Augustus Cunynghame, fourth
Baronet, of Milncraig, Ayrshire, and Living-
stone, Linlithgowshire, sat for Linlithgowshire ;
died 17th March, 1828.

St. xy. This stanza was omitted by Burns
from his press copy, and in an earlier MS. is
marked to be expunged." The "sodger
Hugh " to whom it refers was Hugh Montgom-
erie of Coilsfield, who had seen service in the
American War, and in 1778 became major of
the Argyll Fencibles, of which Lord Frederick
Campbell was colonel. He represented Ayr-
shire from 1780 to 1789 ; in 1793 became Major

of the West Lowland Fencibles. and in 1795
Lieutenant-Governor of Edinburgh Castle ; suc-
ceeded to the earldom of Eglinton on the death
of his cousin Archibald, eleventh earl, in 1796 ;
in 18C6 was raised to the British Peerage as
Baron of Ardrossan ; rebuilt Eglinton Castle
and displayed great energy in the improvement
and development of his property ; was an ac-
complished musician, and a composer of popu-
lar tunes, among them Lady Montgomerie 1 s Reel
and Ayrshire Lasses; died 15th December,- 1819.

St. xvn. 1. 2. Her lost Militia.

The Militia Bill for Scotland was lost in 1782
*by reason of the attempted insertion of a clause

Online LibraryWilliam Ernest Henley Robert BurnsThe complete poetical works of Robert Burns → online text (page 50 of 64)