April 21st, 1785.
While new-ca'd ky, rowte 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.
Forjesket sair, wi' 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,
She's saft at best, and something lazy,
Quo' she, "Ye ken, we've been sae busy,
This month' an' mair,
That trouth, my head is grown right dizzie,
An' something sair."
Her dowff excuses pat me mad:
"Conscience," says I, "ye thowless jad!
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 show 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!"
Sae I've begun to scrawl, but whether
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 blether
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 an' warp;
She's but a b--tch.
She's gien me monie a jirt an' fleg,
Sin' I could striddle owre a rig;
But, by the L--d, tho' I should beg
Wi' lyart pow,
I'll laugh, an' sing, an' shake my leg,
As lang's I dow!
Now comes the sax an' twentieth simmer,
I've seen the bud upo' the timmer,
Still persecuted by the limmer
Frae year to year;
But yet despite the kittle kimmer,
I, Rob, am here.
Do ye envy the city gent,
Behint a kist to lie and sklent,
Or purse-proud, big wi' cent. per cent.
And muckle wame,
In some bit brugh to represent
A bailie's name?
Or is't the paughty, feudal Thane,
Wi' ruffl'd sark an' glancing cane,
Wha thinks himsel nae sheep-shank bane,
But lordly stalks,
While caps and bonnets aff are taen,
As by he walks!
"O Thou wha gies us each guid gift!
Gie me o' wit an' sense a lift,
Then turn me, if Thou please, adrift,
Thro' Scotland wide;
Wi' cits nor lairds I wadna shift,
In a' their pride!"
Were this the charter of our state,
"On pain' o' hell be rich an' great,"
Damnation then would be our fate,
But, thanks to Heav'n, that's no the gate
We learn our creed.
For thus the royal mandate ran,
When first the human race began,
"The social, friendly, honest man,
Whate'er he be,
'Tis he fulfils great Nature's plan,
An' none but he!"
O mandate, glorious and divine!
The followers o' the ragged Nine,
Poor thoughtless devils! yet may shine
In glorious light,
While sordid sons o' Mammon's line
Are dark as night.
Tho' here they scrape, an' squeeze, an' growl,
Their worthless nievfu' of a soul
May in some future carcase howl
The forest's fright;
Or in some day-detesting owl
May shun the light.
Then may Lapraik and Burns arise,
To reach their native kindred skies,
And sing their pleasures, hopes, an' joys,
In some mild sphere,
Still closer knit in friendship's ties
Each passing year!