The Jolly Beggars. - A Cantata.

A poem by Robert Burns


When lyart leaves bestrow the yird,
Or wavering like the bauckie-bird,
Bedim cauld Boreas' blast;
When hailstanes drive wi' bitter skyte
And infant frosts begin to bite,
In hoary cranreuch drest;
Ae night at e'en a merry core
O' randie, gangrel bodies,
In Poosie-Nansie's held the splore,
To drink their orra duddies:
Wi' quaffing and laughing,
They ranted an' they sang;
Wi' jumping and thumping,
The vera girdle rang.

First, neist the fire, in auld red rags,
Ane sat, weel brac'd wi' mealy bags,
And knapsack a' in order;
His doxy lay within his arm,
Wi' usquebae an' blankets warm,
She blinket on her sodger:
An' ay he gies the tozie drab
The tither skelpin' kiss,
While she held up her greedy gab
Just like an aumous dish.
Ilk smack still, did crack still,
Just like a cadger's whip,
Then staggering and swaggering
He roar'd this ditty up.


Tune - "Soldiers' Joy."

I am a son of Mars,
Who have been in many wars,
And show my cuts and scars
Wherever I come;
This here was for a wench,
And that other in a trench,
When welcoming the French
At the sound of the drum.
Lal de daudle, &c.

My 'prenticeship I past
Where my leader breath'd his last,
When the bloody die was cast
On the heights of Abram;
I served out my trade
When the gallant game was play'd,
And the Moro low was laid
At the sound of the drum.
Lal de daudle, &c.

I lastly was with Curtis,
Among the floating batt'ries,
And there I left for witness
An arm and a limb;
Yet let my country need me,
With Elliot to head me,
I'd clatter on my stumps
At the sound of a drum.
Lal de dandle, &c.

And now tho' I must beg,
With a wooden arm and leg,
And many a tatter'd rag
Hanging over my bum
I'm as happy with my wallet,
My bottle and my callet,
As when I used in scarlet
To follow a drum.
Lal de daudle, &c.

What tho' with hoary locks
I must stand the winter shocks,
Beneath the woods and rocks
Oftentimes for a home,
When the tother bag I sell,
And the tother bottle tell,
I could meet a troop of hell,
At the sound of a drum.
Lal de daudle, &c.


He ended; and kebars sheuk
Aboon the chorus roar;
While frighted rattons backward leuk,
And seek the benmost bore;
A fairy fiddler frae the neuk,
He skirl'd out, encore!
But up arose the martial Chuck,
And laid the loud uproar.


Tune - "Soldier laddie."

I once was a maid, tho' I cannot tell when,
And still my delight is in proper young men;
Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie,
No wonder I'm fond of a sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

The first of my loves was a swaggering blade,
To rattle the thundering drum was his trade;
His leg was so tight, and his cheek was so ruddy,
Transported I was with my sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

But the godly old chaplain left him in the lurch,
The sword I forsook for the sake of the church;
He ventur'd the soul, and I risk'd the body,
'Twas then I prov'd false to my sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot,
The regiment at large for a husband I got;
From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready,
I asked no more but a sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

But the peace it reduc'd me to beg in despair,
Till I met my old boy in a Cunningham fair;
His rags regimental they flutter'd so gaudy,
My heart is rejoic'd at my sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.

And now I have liv'd, I know not how long,
And still I can join in a cup or a song;
But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady,
Here's to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.
Sing, Lal de dal, &c.


Poor Merry Andrew in the neuk,
Sat guzzling wi' a tinkler hizzie;
They mind't na wha the chorus teuk,
Between themselves they were sae busy:
At length wi' drink and courting dizzy
He stoitered up an' made a face;
Then turn'd, an' laid a smack on Grizzie,
Syne tun'd his pipes wi' grave grimace.


Tune - "Auld Sir Symon."

Sir Wisdom's a fool when he's fou,
Sir Knave is a fool in a session;
He's there but a 'prentice I trow,
But I am a fool by profession.

My grannie she bought me a beuk,
And I held awa to the school;
I fear I my talent misteuk,
But what will ye hae of a fool?

For drink I would venture my neck,
A hizzie's the half o' my craft,
But what could ye other expect,
Of ane that's avowedly daft?

I ance was ty'd up like a stirk,
For civilly swearing and quaffing;
I ance was abused in the kirk,
Fer touzling a lass i' my daffin.

Poor Andrew that tumbles for sport,
Let naebody name wi' a jeer;
There's ev'n I'm tauld i' the court
A tumbler ca'd the premier.

Observ'd ye, yon reverend lad
Maks faces to tickle the mob;
He rails at our mountebank squad,
Its rivalship just i' the job.

And now my conclusion I'll tell,
For faith I'm confoundedly dry;
The chiel that's a fool for himsel',
Gude L--d! he's far dafter than I.


Then neist outspak a raucle carlin,
Wha kent fu' weel to cleek the sterling,
For monie a pursie she had hooked,
And had in mony a well been ducked.
Her dove had been a Highland laddie,
But weary fa' the waefu' woodie!
Wi' sighs and sobs she thus began
To wail her braw John Highlandman.


Tune - "O an ye were dead, guidman."

A Highland lad my love was born,
The Lalland laws he held in scorn;
But he still was faithfu' to his clan,
My gallant braw John Highlandman.


Sing, hey my braw John Highlandman!
Sing, ho my braw John Highlandman!
There's not a lad in a' the lan'
Was match for my John Highlandman.

With his philibeg an' tartan plaid,
An' gude claymore down by his side,
The ladies' hearts he did trepan,
My gallant braw John Highlandman.
Sing, hey, &c.

We ranged a' from Tweed to Spey,
An' liv'd like lords and ladies gay;
For a Lalland face he feared none,
My gallant braw John Highlandman.
Sing, hey, &c.

They banished him beyond the sea,
But ere the bud was on the tree,
Adown my cheeks the pearls ran,
Embracing my John Highlandman.
Sing, hey, &c.

But, och! they catch'd him at the last,
And bound him in a dungeon fast;
My curse upon them every one,
They've hang'd my braw John Highlandman.
Sing, hey, &c.

And now a widow, I must mourn,
The pleasures that will ne'er return:
No comfort but a hearty can,
When I think on John Highlandman.
Sing, hey, &c.


A pigmy scraper, wi' his fiddle,
Wha us'd at trysts and fairs to driddle,
Her strappan limb and gausy middle
He reach'd na higher,
Had hol'd his heartie like a riddle,
An' blawn't on fire.

Wi' hand on hainch, an' upward e'e,
He croon'd his gamut, one, two, three,
Then in an Arioso key,
The wee Apollo
Set off wi' Allegretto glee
His giga solo.


Tune - "Whistle o'er the lave o't."

Let me ryke up to dight that tear,
And go wi' me and be my dear,
And then your every care and fear
May whistle owre the lave o't.


I am a fiddler to my trade,
An' a' the tunes that e'er I play'd,
The sweetest still to wife or maid,
Was whistle owre the lave o't.

At kirns and weddings we'se be there,
And O! sae nicely's we will fare;
We'll house about till Daddie Care
Sings whistle owre the lave o't
I am, &c.

Sae merrily the banes we'll byke,
And sun oursells about the dyke,
And at our leisure, when ye like,
We'll whistle owre the lave o't.
I am, &c.

But bless me wi' your heav'n o' charms,
And while I kittle hair on thairms,
Hunger, cauld, and a' sic harms,
May whistle owre the lave o't.
I am, &c.


Her charms had struck a sturdy caird,
As weel as poor gut-scraper;
He taks the fiddler by the beard,
And draws a roosty rapier,
He swoor by a' was swearing worth,
To speet him like a pliver,
Unless he wad from that time forth
Relinquish her for ever.

Wi' ghastly e'e, poor tweedle-dee
Upon his hunkers bended,
And pray'd for grace wi' ruefu' face,
And sae the quarrel ended.
But tho' his little heart did grieve
When round the tinkler prest her,
He feign'd to snirtle in his sleeve,
When thus the caird address'd her:


Tune - "Clout the Caudron."

My bonny lass, I work in brass,
A tinkler is my station:
I've travell'd round all Christian ground
In this my occupation:
I've taen the gold, an' been enrolled
In many a noble sqadron:
But vain they search'd, when off I march'd
To go and clout the caudron.
I've taen the gold, &c.

Despise that shrimp, that wither'd imp,
Wi' a' his noise and caprin,
And tak a share wi' those that bear
The budget and the apron.
And by that stoup, my faith and houp,
An' by that dear Kilbaigie,[1]
If e'er ye want, or meet wi' scant,
May I ne'er weet my craigie.
An' by that stoup, &c.


The caird prevail'd--th' unblushing fair
In his embraces sunk,
Partly wi' love o'ercome sae sair,
An' partly she was drunk.
Sir Violino, with an air
That show'd a man of spunk,
Wish'd unison between the pair,
An' made the bottle clunk
To their health that night.

But urchin Cupid shot a shaft,
That play'd a dame a shavie,
A sailor rak'd her fore and aft,
Behint the chicken cavie.
Her lord, a wight o' Homer's craft,
Tho' limping wi' the spavie,
He hirpl'd up and lap like daft,
And shor'd them Dainty Davie
O boot that night.

He was a care-defying blade
As ever Bacchus listed,
Tho' Fortune sair upon him laid,
His heart she ever miss'd it.
He had nae wish but, to be glad,
Nor want but, when he thirsted;
He hated nought but, to be sad,
And thus the Muse suggested
His sang that night.


Tune - "For a' that, an' a' that."

I am a bard of no regard
Wi' gentle folks, an' a' that:
But Homer-like, the glowran byke,
Frae town to town I draw that.


For a' that, an' a' that,
An' twice as muckle's a' that;
I've lost but ane, I've twa behin',
I've wife enough for a' that.

I never drank the Muses' stank,
Castalia's burn, an' a' that;
But there it streams, and richly reams,
My Helicon I ca' that.
For a' that, &c.

Great love I bear to a' the fair,
Their humble slave, an' a' that;
But lordly will, I hold it still
A mortal sin to thraw that.
For a' that, &c.

In raptures sweet, this hour we meet,
Wi' mutual love, an a' that:
But for how lang the flie may stang,
Let inclination law that.
For a' that, &c.

Their tricks and craft have put me daft.
They've ta'en me in, and a' that;
But clear your decks, and here's the sex!
I like the jads for a' that


For a' that, an' a' that,
An' twice as muckle's a' that;
My dearest bluid, to do them guid,
They're welcome till't for a' that


So sung the bard - and Nansie's wa's
Shook with a thunder of applause,
Re-echo'd from each mouth:
They toom'd their pocks, an' pawn'd their duds,
They scarcely left to co'er their fuds,
To quench their lowan drouth.
Then owre again, the jovial thrang,
The poet did request,
To loose his pack an' wale a sang,
A ballad o' the best;
He rising, rejoicing,
Between his twa Deborahs
Looks round him, an' found them
Impatient for the chorus.


Tune - "Jolly Mortals, fill your Glasses."

See! the smoking bowl before us,
Mark our jovial ragged ring!
Round and round take up the chorus,
And in raptures let us sing.


A fig for those by law protected!
Liberty's a glorious feast!
Courts for cowards were erected,
Churches built to please the priest.

What is title? what is treasure?
What is reputation's care?
If we lead a life of pleasure,
'Tis no matter how or where!
A fig, &c.

With the ready trick and fable,
Round we wander all the day;
And at night, in barn or stable,
Hug our doxies on the hay.
A fig, &c.

Does the train-attended carriage
Through the country lighter rove?
Does the sober bed of marriage
Witness brighter scenes of love?
A fig, &c.

Life is all a variorum,
We regard not how it goes;
Let them cant about decorum
Who have characters to lose.
A fig, &c.

Here's to budgets, bags, and wallets!
Here's to all the wandering train!
Here's our ragged brats and wallets!
One and all cry out, Amen!

A fig for those by law protected!
Liberty's a glorious feast!
Courts for cowards were erected,
Churches built to please the priest.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Jolly Beggars. - A Cantata.' by Robert Burns

comments powered by Disqus