Underwoods, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Book II. — In Scots

Table Of Common Scottish Vowel Sounds

open A as in rare.
Aw as in law
ea open E as in mere, but this with exceptions, as heather = heather, wean=wain, lear=lair.
open E as in mere.
oa open O as in more.
ou doubled O as in poor.
ow Ow as in bower.
u doubled O as in poor.
ui or u-umlaut before R (say roughly) open A as in rare.
ui or u-umlaut before any other consonant (say roughly) close I as in grin.
y open I as in kite.
i pretty nearly what you please, much as in English, Heaven guide the reader through that labyrinth! But in Scots it dodges usually from the short I, as in grin, to the open E, as in mere. Find the blind, I may remark, are pronounced to rhyme with the preterite of grin.

I— The Maker To Posterity

Far ‘yont amang the years to be

When a’ we think, an’ a’ we see,

An’ a’ we luve, ‘s been dung ajee

By time’s rouch shouther,

An’ what was richt and wrang for me

Lies mangled throu’ther,

It’s possible — it’s hardly mair —

That some ane, ripin’ after lear —

Some auld professor or young heir,

If still there’s either —

May find an’ read me, an’ be sair

Perplexed, puir brither!

“What tongue does your auld bookie speak?”

He’ll spier; an’ I, his mou to steik:

“No bein’ fit to write in Greek,

I write in Lallan,

Dear to my heart as the peat reek,

Auld as Tantallon.

“Few spak it then, an’ noo there’s nane.

My puir auld sangs lie a’ their lane,

Their sense, that aince was braw an’ plain,

Tint a’thegether,

Like runes upon a standin’ stane

Amang the heather.

“But think not you the brae to speel;

You, tae, maun chow the bitter peel;

For a’ your lear, for a’ your skeel,

Ye’re nane sae lucky;

An’ things are mebbe waur than weel

For you, my buckie.

“The hale concern (baith hens an’ eggs,

Baith books an’ writers, stars an’ clegs)

Noo stachers upon lowsent legs

An’ wears awa’;

The tack o’ mankind, near the dregs,

Rins unco law.

“Your book, that in some braw new tongue,

Ye wrote or prentit, preached or sung,

Will still be just a bairn, an’ young

In fame an’ years,

Whan the hale planet’s guts are dung

About your ears;

“An’ you, sair gruppin’ to a spar

Or whammled wi’ some bleezin’ star,

Cryin’ to ken whaur deil ye are,

Hame, France, or Flanders —

Whang sindry like a railway car

An’ flie in danders.”

II— Ille Terrarum

Frae nirly, nippin’, Eas’lan’ breeze,

Frae Norlan’ snaw, an’ haar o’ seas,

Weel happit in your gairden trees,

A bonny bit,

Atween the muckle Pentland’s knees,

Secure ye sit.

Beeches an’ aiks entwine their theek,

An’ firs, a stench, auld-farrant clique.

A’ simmer day, your chimleys reek,

Couthy and bien;

An’ here an’ there your windies keek

Amang the green.

A pickle plats an’ paths an’ posies,

A wheen auld gillyflowers an’ roses:

A ring o’ wa’s the hale encloses

Frae sheep or men;

An’ there the auld housie beeks an’ dozes,

A’ by her lane.

The gairdner crooks his weary back

A’ day in the pitaty-track,

Or mebbe stops awhile to crack

Wi’ Jane the cook,

Or at some buss, worm-eaten-black,

To gie a look.

Frae the high hills the curlew ca’s;

The sheep gang baaing by the wa’s;

Or whiles a clan o’ roosty craws

Cangle thegether;

The wild bees seek the gairden raws,

Weariet wi’ heather.

Or in the gloamin’ douce an’ gray

The sweet-throat mavis tunes her lay;

The herd comes linkin’ doun the brae;

An’ by degrees

The muckle siller mune maks way

Amang the trees.

Here aft hae I, wi’ sober heart,

For meditation sat apairt,

When orra loves or kittle art

Perplexed my mind;

Here socht a balm for ilka smart

O’ humankind.

Here aft, weel neukit by my lane,

Wi’ Horace, or perhaps Montaigne,

The mornin’ hours hae come an’ gane

Abune my heid —

I wadnae gi’en a chucky-stane

For a’ I’d read.

But noo the auld city, street by street,

An’ winter fu’ o’ snaw an’ sleet,

Awhile shut in my gangrel feet

An’ goavin’ mettle;

Noo is the soopit ingle sweet,

An’ liltin’ kettle.

An’ noo the winter winds complain;

Cauld lies the glaur in ilka lane;

On draigled hizzie, tautit wean

An’ drucken lads,

In the mirk nicht, the winter rain

Dribbles an’ blads.

Whan bugles frae the Castle rock,

An’ beaten drums wi’ dowie shock,

Wauken, at cauld-rife sax o’clock,

My chitterin’ frame,

I mind me on the kintry cock,

The kintry hame.

I mind me on yon bonny bield;

An’ Fancy traivels far afield

To gaither a’ that gairdens yield

O’ sun an’ Simmer:

To hearten up a dowie chield,

Fancy’s the limmer!


When aince Aprile has fairly come,

An’ birds may bigg in winter’s lum,

An’ pleisure’s spreid for a’ and some

O’ whatna state,

Love, wi’ her auld recruitin’ drum,

Than taks the gate.

The heart plays dunt wi’ main an’ micht;

The lasses’ een are a’ sae bricht,

Their dresses are sae braw an’ ticht,

The bonny birdies!-

Puir winter virtue at the sicht

Gangs heels ower hurdies.

An’ aye as love frae land to land

Tirls the drum wi’ eident hand,

A’ men collect at her command,

Toun-bred or land’art,

An’ follow in a denty band

Her gaucy standart.

An’ I, wha sang o’ rain an’ snaw,

An’ weary winter weel awa’,

Noo busk me in a jacket braw,

An’ tak my place

I’ the ram-stam, harum-scarum raw,

Wi’ smilin’ face.

IV— A Mile An’ A Bittock

A mile an’ a bittock, a mile or twa,

Abune the burn, ayont the law,

Davie an’ Donal’ an’ Cherlie an’ a’,

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

Ane went hame wi’ the ither, an’ then

The ither went hame wi’ the ither twa men,

An’ baith wad return him the service again,

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

The clocks were chappin’ in house an’ ha’,

Eleeven, twal an’ ane an’ twa;

An’ the guidman’s face was turnt to the wa’,

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

A wind got up frae affa the sea,

It blew the stars as clear’s could be,

It blew in the een of a’ o’ the three,

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

Noo, Davie was first to get sleep in his head,

“The best o’ frien’s maun twine,” he said;

“I’m weariet, an’ here I’m awa’ to my bed.”

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

Twa o’ them walkin’ an’ crackin’ their lane,

The mornin’ licht cam gray an’ plain,

An’ the birds they yammert on stick an’ stane,

An’ the mune was shinin’ clearly!

O years ayont, O years awa’,

My lads, ye’ll mind whate’er befa’-

My lads, ye’ll mind on the bield o’ the law,

When the mune was shinin’ clearly.

V— A Lowden Sabbath Morn

The clinkum-clank o’ Sabbath bells

Noo to the hoastin’ rookery swells,

Noo faintin’ laigh in shady dells,

Sounds far an’ near,

An’ through the simmer kintry tells

Its tale o’ cheer.

An’ noo, to that melodious play,

A’ deidly awn the quiet sway —

A’ ken their solemn holiday,

Bestial an’ human,

The singin’ lintie on the brae,

The restin’ plou’man,

He, mair than a’ the lave o’ men,

His week completit joys to ken;

Half-dressed, he daunders out an’ in,

Perplext wi’ leisure;

An’ his raxt limbs he’ll rax again

Wi’ painfu’ pleesure.

The steerin’ mither strang afit

Noo shoos the bairnies but a bit;

Noo cries them ben, their Sinday shuit

To scart upon them,

Or sweeties in their pouch to pit,

Wi’ blessin’s on them.

The lasses, clean frae tap to taes,

Are busked in crunklin’ underclaes;

The gartened hose, the weel-filled stays,

The nakit shift,

A’ bleached on bonny greens for days,

An’ white’s the drift.

An’ noo to face the kirkward mile:

The guidman’s hat o’ dacent style,

The blackit shoon, we noo maun fyle

As white’s the miller:

A waefu’ peety tae, to spile

The warth o’ siller.

Our Marg’et, aye sae keen to crack,

Douce-stappin’ in the stoury track,

Her emeralt goun a’ kiltit back

Frae snawy coats,

White-ankled, leads the kirkward pack

Wi’ Dauvit Groats.

A thocht ahint, in runkled breeks,

A’ spiled wi’ lyin’ by for weeks,

The guidman follows closs, an’ cleiks

The sonsie missis;

His sarious face at aince bespeaks

The day that this is.

And aye an’ while we nearer draw

To whaur the kirkton lies alaw,

Mair neebours, comin’ saft an’ slaw

Frae here an’ there,

The thicker thrang the gate an’ caw

The stour in air.

But hark! the bells frae nearer clang;

To rowst the slaw, their sides they bang;

An’ see! black coats a’ready thrang

The green kirkyaird;

And at the yett, the chestnuts spang

That brocht the laird.

The solemn elders at the plate

Stand drinkin’ deep the pride o’ state:

The practised hands as gash an’ great

As Lords o’ Session;

The later named, a wee thing blate

In their expression.

The prentit stanes that mark the deid,

Wi’ lengthened lip, the sarious read;

Syne wag a moraleesin’ heid,

An’ then an’ there

Their hirplin’ practice an’ their creed

Try hard to square.

It’s here our Merren lang has lain,

A wee bewast the table-stane;

An’ yon’s the grave o’ Sandy Blane;

An’ further ower,

The mither’s brithers, dacent men!

Lie a’ the fower.

Here the guidman sall bide awee

To dwall amang the deid; to see

Auld faces clear in fancy’s e’e;

Belike to hear

Auld voices fa’in saft an’ slee

On fancy’s ear.

Thus, on the day o’ solemn things,

The bell that in the steeple swings

To fauld a scaittered faim’ly rings

Its walcome screed;

An’ just a wee thing nearer brings

The quick an’ deid.

But noo the bell is ringin’ in;

To tak their places, folk begin;

The minister himsel’ will shune

Be up the gate,

Filled fu’ wi’ clavers about sin

An’ man’s estate.

The tunes are up — French, to be shure,

The faithfu’ French, an’ twa-three mair;

The auld prezentor, hoastin’ sair,

Wales out the portions,

An’ yirks the tune into the air

Wi’ queer contortions.

Follows the prayer, the readin’ next,

An’ than the fisslin’ for the text —

The twa-three last to find it, vext

But kind o’ proud;

An’ than the peppermints are raxed,

An’ southernwood.

For noo’s the time whan pews are seen

Nid-noddin’ like a mandareen;

When tenty mithers stap a preen

In sleepin’ weans;

An’ nearly half the parochine

Forget their pains.

There’s just a waukrif’ twa or three:

Thrawn commentautors sweer to ‘gree,

Weans glowrin’ at the bumlin’ bee

On windie-glasses,

Or lads that tak a keek a-glee

At sonsie lasses.

Himsel’, meanwhile, frae whaur he cocks

An’ bobs belaw the soundin’-box,

The treesures of his words unlocks

Wi’ prodigality,

An’ deals some unco dingin’ knocks

To infidality.

Wi’ sappy unction, hoo he burkes

The hopes o’ men that trust in works,

Expounds the fau’ts o’ ither kirks,

An’ shaws the best o’ them

No muckle better than mere Turks,

When a’s confessed o’ them.

Bethankit! what a bonny creed!

What mair would ony Christian need?-

The braw words rumm’le ower his heid,

Nor steer the sleeper;

And in their restin’ graves, the deid

Sleep aye the deeper.

Note. — It may be guessed by some that I had a certain parish in my eye, and this makes it proper I should add a word of disclamation. In my time there have been two ministers in that parish. Of the first I have a special reason to speak well, even had there been any to think ill. The second I have often met in private and long (in the due phrase) “sat under” in his church, and neither here nor there have I heard an unkind or ugly word upon his lips. The preacher of the text had thus no original in that particular parish; but when I was a boy, he might have been observed in many others; he was then (like the schoolmaster) abroad; and by recent advices, it would seem he has not yet entirely disappeared.

VI— The Spaewife

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Why chops are guid to brander and nane sae guid to fry.

An’ siller, that’s sae braw to keep, is brawer still to


It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Hoo a’ things come to be whaur we find them when we try,

The lasses in their claes an’ the fishes in the sea.

It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Why lads are a’ to sell an’ lasses a’ to buy;

An’ naebody for dacency but barely twa or three

It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Gin death’s as shure to men as killin’ is to kye,

Why God has filled the yearth sae fu’ o’ tasty things to


It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar wife says I—

The reason o’ the cause an’ the wherefore o’ the why,

Wi’ mony anither riddle brings the tear into my e’e.

It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

VII— The Blast — 1875

It’s rainin’. Weet’s the gairden sod,

Weet the lang roads whaur gangrels plod —

A maist unceevil thing o’ God

In mid July —

If ye’ll just curse the sneckdraw, dod!

An’ sae wull I!

He’s a braw place in Heev’n, ye ken,

An’ lea’s us puir, forjaskit men

Clamjamfried in the but and ben

He ca’s the earth —

A wee bit inconvenient den

No muckle worth;

An’ whiles, at orra times, keeks out,

Sees what puir mankind are about;

An’ if He can, I’ve little doubt,

Upsets their plans;

He hates a’ mankind, brainch and root,

An’ a’ that’s man’s.

An’ whiles, whan they tak heart again,

An’ life i’ the sun looks braw an’ plain,

Doun comes a jaw o’ droukin’ rain

Upon their honours —

God sends a spate outower the plain,

Or mebbe thun’ers.

Lord safe us, life’s an unco thing!

Simmer an’ Winter, Yule an’ Spring,

The damned, dour-heartit seasons bring

A feck o’ trouble.

I wadnae try’t to be a king —

No, nor for double.

But since we’re in it, willy-nilly,

We maun be watchfu’, wise an’ skilly,

An’ no mind ony ither billy,

Lassie nor God.

But drink — that’s my best counsel till ‘e:

Sae tak the nod.

VIII— The Counterblast — 1886

My bonny man, the warld, it’s true,

Was made for neither me nor you;

It’s just a place to warstle through,

As job confessed o’t;

And aye the best that we’ll can do

Is mak the best o’t.

There’s rowth o’ wrang, I’m free to say:

The simmer brunt, the winter blae,

The face of earth a’ fyled wi’ clay

An’ dour wi’ chuckies,

An’ life a rough an’ land’art play

For country buckies.

An’ food’s anither name for clart;

An’ beasts an’ brambles bite an’ scart;

An’ what would We be like, my heart!

If bared o’ claethin’?

— Aweel, I cannae mend your cart:

It’s that or naethin’.

A feek o’ folk frae first to last

Have through this queer experience passed;

Twa-three, I ken, just damn an’ blast

The hale transaction;

But twa-three ithers, east an’ wast,

Fand satisfaction,

Whaur braid the briery muirs expand,

A waefu’an’ a weary land,

The bumblebees, a gowden band,

Are blithely hingin’;

An’ there the canty wanderer fand

The laverock singin’.

Trout in the burn grow great as herr’n,

The simple sheep can find their fair’n’;

The wind blaws clean about the cairn

Wi’ caller air;

The muircock an’ the barefit bairn

Are happy there.

Sic-like the howes o’ life to some:

Green loans whaur they ne’er fash their thumb.

But mark the muckle winds that come

Soopin’ an’ cool,

Or hear the powrin’ burnie drum

In the shilfa’s pool.

The evil wi’ the guid they tak;

They ca’ a gray thing gray, no black;

To a steigh brae, a stubborn back

Addressin’ daily;

An’ up the rude, unbieldy track

O’ life, gang gaily.

What you would like’s a palace ha’,

Or Sinday parlour dink an’ braw

Wi’ a’ things ordered in a raw

By denty leddies.

Weel, than, ye cannae hae’t: that’s a’

That to be said is.

An’ since at life ye’ve taen the grue,

An’ winnae blithely hirsle through,

Ye’ve fund the very thing to do —

That’s to drink speerit;

An’ shune we’ll hear the last o’ you —

An’ blithe to hear it!

The shoon ye coft, the life ye lead,

Ithers will heir when aince ye’re deid;

They’ll heir your tasteless bite o’ breid,

An’ find it sappy;

They’ll to your dulefu’ house succeed,

An’ there be happy.

As whan a glum an’ fractious wean

Has sat an’ sullened by his lane

Till, wi’ a rowstin’ skelp, he’s taen

An’ shoo’d to bed —

The ither bairns a’ fa’ to play’n’,

As gleg’s a gled.

IX— The Counterblast Ironical

It’s strange that God should fash to frame

The yearth and lift sae hie,

An’ clean forget to explain the same

To a gentleman like me.

They gutsy, donnered ither folk,

Their weird they weel may dree;

But why present a pig in a poke

To a gentleman like me?

They ither folk their parritch eat

An’ sup their sugared tea;

But the mind is no to be wyled wi’ meat

Wi’ a gentleman like me.

They ither folk, they court their joes

At gloamin’ on the lea;

But they’re made of a commoner clay, I suppose,

Than a gentleman like me.

They ither folk, for richt or wrang,

They suffer, bleed, or dee;

But a’ thir things are an emp’y sang

To a gentleman like me.

It’s a different thing that I demand,

Tho’ humble as can be —

A statement fair in my Maker’s hand

To a gentleman like me:

A clear account writ fair an’ broad,

An’ a plain apologie;

Or the deevil a ceevil word to God

From a gentleman like me.

X— Their Laureate To An Academy Class Dinner Club

Dear Thamson class, whaure’er I gang

It aye comes ower me wi’ a spang:

Lordsake! they Thamson lads — (Deil hang

Or Else Lord Mend Them!) —

An’ that Wanchancy Annual Sang

I ne’er can send them!”

Straucht, at the name, a trusty tyke,

My conscience girrs ahint the dyke;

Straucht on my hinderlands I fyke

To find a rhyme t’ ye;

Pleased — although mebbe no pleased-like —

To gie my time t’ye.

Weel,” an’ says you, wi’ heavin’ breist,

Sae Far, Sae Guid, but What’s The Neist?

Yearly We Gaither To The Feast,

A’ Hopefu’ Men —

Yearly We Skelloch ’Hang The Beast —

Nae Sang Again!’ ”

My lads, an’ what am I to say?

Ye shurely ken the Muse’s way:

Yestreen, as gleg’s a tyke — the day,

Thrawn like a cuddy:

Her conduc’, that to her’s a play,

Deith to a body.

Aft whan I sat an’ made my mane,

Aft whan I laboured burd-alane

Fishin’ for rhymes an’ findin’ nane,

Or nane were fit for ye —

Ye judged me cauld’s a chucky stane —

No car’n’ a bit for ye!

But saw ye ne’er some pingein’ bairn

As weak as a pitaty-par’n’ —

Less used wi’ guidin’ horse-shoe airn

Than steerin’ crowdie —

Packed aff his lane, by moss an’ cairn,

To ca’ the howdie.

Wae’s me, for the puir callant than!

He wambles like a poke o’ bran,

An’ the lowse rein, as hard’s he can,

Pu’s, trem’lin’ handit;

Till, blaff! upon his hinderlan’

Behauld him landit.

Sic-like — I awn the weary fac’ —

Whan on my muse the gate I tak,

An’ see her gleed e’e raxin’ back

To keek ahint her; —

To me, the brig o’ Heev’n gangs black

As blackest winter.

Lordsake! We’re Aff,” thinks I, “But Whaur?

On What Abhorred An’ Whinny Scaur,

Or Whammled In What Sea O’ Glaur,

Will She Desert Me?

An’ Will She Just Disgrace? Or Waur —

Will She No Hurt Me?”

Kittle the quaere! But at least

The day I’ve backed the fashious beast,

While she, wi’ mony a spang an’ reist,

Flang heels ower bonnet;

An’ a’ triumphant — for your feast,

Hae! there’s your sonnet!

XI— Embro Hie Kirk

The Lord Himsel’ in former days

Waled out the proper tunes for praise

An’ named the proper kind o’ claes

For folk to preach in:

Preceese and in the chief o’ ways

Important teachin’.

He ordered a’ things late and air’;

He ordered folk to stand at prayer,

(Although I cannae just mind where

He gave the warnin’,)

An’ pit pomatum on their hair

On Sabbath mornin’.

The hale o’ life by His commands

Was ordered to a body’s hands;

But see! this Corpus Juris stands

By a’ forgotten;

An’ God’s religion in a’ lands

Is deid an’ rotten.

While thus the lave o’ mankind’s lost,

O’ Scotland still God maks His boast —

Puir Scotland, on whase barren coast

A score or twa

Auld wives wi’ mutches an’ a hoast

Still keep His law.

In Scotland, a wheen canty, plain,

Douce, kintry-leevin’ folk retain

The Truth — or did so aince — alane

Of a’ men leevin’;

An’ noo just twa o’ them remain —

Just Begg an’ Niven.

For noo, unfaithfu’, to the Lord

Auld Scotland joins the rebel horde;

Her human hymn-books on the board

She noo displays:

An’ Embro Hie Kirk’s been restored

In popish ways.

O Punctum Temporis for action

To a’ o’ the reformin’ faction,

If yet, by ony act or paction,

Thocht, word, or sermon,

This dark an’ damnable transaction

Micht yet determine!

For see — as Doctor Begg explains —

Hoo easy ‘t’s dune! a pickle weans,

Wha in the Hie Street gaither stanes

By his instruction,

The uncovenantit, pentit panes

Ding to destruction.

Up, Niven, or ower late — an’ dash

Laigh in the glaur that carnal hash;

Let spires and pews wi’ gran’ stramash

Thegether fa’;

The rumlin’ kist o’ whustles smash

In pieces sma’.

Noo choose ye out a walie hammer;

About the knottit buttress clam’er;

Alang the steep roof stoyt an’ stammer,

A gate mis-chancy;

On the aul’ spire, the bells’ hie cha’mer,

Dance your bit dancie.

Ding, devel, dunt, destroy, an’ ruin,

Wi’ carnal stanes the square bestrewin’,

Till your loud chaps frae Kyle to Fruin,

Frae Hell to Heeven,

Tell the guid wark that baith are doin’ —

Baith Begg an’ Niven.

XII— The Scotsman’s Return From Abroad

In a letter from Mr. Thomson to Mr. Johnstone.

In mony a foreign pairt I’ve been,

An’ mony an unco ferlie seen,

Since, Mr. Johnstone, you and I

Last walkit upon Cocklerye.

Wi’ gleg, observant een, I pass’t

By sea an’ land, through East an’ Wast,

And still in ilka age an’ station

Saw naething but abomination.

In thir uncovenantit lands

The gangrel Scot uplifts his hands

At lack of a’ sectarian fush’n,

An’ cauld religious destitution.

He rins, puir man, frae place to place,

Tries a’ their graceless means o’ grace,

Preacher on preacher, kirk on kirk —

This yin a stot an’ thon a stirk —

A bletherin’ clan, no warth a preen,

As bad as Smith of Aiberdeen!

At last, across the weary faem,

Frae far, outlandish pairts I came.

On ilka side o’ me I fand

Fresh tokens o’ my native land.

Wi’ whatna joy I hailed them a’ —

The hilltaps standin’ raw by raw,

The public house, the Hielan’ birks,

And a’ the bonny U.P. kirks!

But maistly thee, the bluid o’ Scots,

Frae Maidenkirk to John o’ Grots,

The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it,

Talisker, Isla, or Glenlivet!

For after years wi’ a pockmantie

Frae Zanzibar to Alicante,

In mony a fash and sair affliction

I gie’t as my sincere conviction —

Of a’ their foreign tricks an’ pliskies,

I maist abominate their whiskies.

Nae doot, themsel’s, they ken it weel,

An’ wi’ a hash o’ leemon peel,

And ice an’ siccan filth, they ettle

The stawsome kind o’ goo to settle;

Sic wersh apothecary’s broos wi’

As Scotsmen scorn to fyle their moo’s wi’.

An’, man, I was a blithe hame-comer

Whan first I syndit out my rummer.

Ye should hae seen me then, wi’ care

The less important pairts prepare;

Syne, weel contentit wi’ it a’,

Pour in the sperrits wi’ a jaw!

I didnae drink, I didnae speak, —

I only snowkit up the reek.

I was sae pleased therein to paidle,

I sat an’ plowtered wi’ my ladle.

An’ blithe was I, the morrow’s morn,

To daunder through the stookit corn,

And after a’ my strange mishanters,

Sit doun amang my ain dissenters.

An’, man, it was a joy to me

The pu’pit an’ the pews to see,

The pennies dirlin’ in the plate,

The elders lookin’ on in state;

An’ ‘mang the first, as it befell,

Wha should I see, sir, but yoursel’

I was, and I will no deny it,

At the first gliff a hantle tryit

To see yoursel’ in sic a station —

It seemed a doubtfu’ dispensation.

The feelin’ was a mere digression;

For shune I understood the session,

An’ mindin’ Aiken an’ M’neil,

I wondered they had dune sae weel.

I saw I had mysel’ to blame;

For had I but remained at hame,

Aiblins — though no ava’ deservin’ ‘t —

They micht hae named your humble servant.

The kirk was filled, the door was steeked;

Up to the pu’pit ance I keeked;

I was mair pleased than I can tell —

It was the minister himsel’!

Proud, proud was I to see his face,

After sae lang awa’ frae grace.

Pleased as I was, I’m no denyin’

Some maitters were not edifyin’;

For first I fand — an’ here was news! —

Mere hymn-books cockin’ in the pews —

A humanised abomination,

Unfit for ony congregation.

Syne, while I still was on the tenter,

I scunnered at the new prezentor;

I thocht him gesterin’ an’ cauld —

A sair declension frae the auld.

Syne, as though a’ the faith was wreckit,

The prayer was not what I’d exspeckit.

Himsel’, as it appeared to me,

Was no the man he used to be.

But just as I was growin’ vext

He waled a maist judeecious text,

An’, launchin’ into his prelections,

Swoopt, wi’ a skirl, on a’ defections.

O what a gale was on my speerit

To hear the p’ints o’ doctrine clearit,

And a’ the horrors o’ damnation

Set furth wi’ faithfu’ ministration!

Nae shauchlin’ testimony here —

We were a’ damned, an’ that was clear,

I owned, wi’ gratitude an’ wonder,

He was a pleisure to sit under.


Late in the nicht in bed I lay,

The winds were at their weary play,

An’ tirlin’ wa’s an’ skirlin’ wae

Through Heev’n they battered; —

On-ding o’ hail, on-blaff o’ spray,

The tempest blattered.

The masoned house it dinled through;

It dung the ship, it cowped the coo’.

The rankit aiks it overthrew,

Had braved a’ weathers;

The strang sea-gleds it took an’ blew

Awa’ like feathers.

The thrawes o’ fear on a’ were shed,

An’ the hair rose, an’ slumber fled,

An’ lichts were lit an’ prayers were said

Through a’ the kintry;

An’ the cauld terror clum in bed

Wi’ a’ an’ sindry.

To hear in the pit-mirk on hie

The brangled collieshangie flie,

The warl’, they thocht, wi’ land an’ sea,

Itsel’ wad cowpit;

An’ for auld airn, the smashed debris

By God be rowpit.

Meanwhile frae far Aldeboran,

To folks wi’ talescopes in han’,

O’ ships that cowpit, winds that ran,

Nae sign was seen,

But the wee warl’ in sunshine span

As bricht’s a preen.

I, tae, by God’s especial grace,

Dwall denty in a bieldy place,

Wi’ hosened feet, wi’ shaven face,

Wi’ dacent mainners:

A grand example to the race

O’ tautit sinners!

The wind may blaw, the heathen rage,

The deil may start on the rampage; —

The sick in bed, the thief in cage —

What’s a’ to me?

Cosh in my house, a sober sage,

I sit an’ see.

An’ whiles the bluid spangs to my bree,

To lie sae saft, to live sae free,

While better men maun do an’ die

In unco places.

Whaur’s God?” I cry, an’ “Whae Is Me

To Hae Sic Graces?”

I mind the fecht the sailors keep,

But fire or can’le, rest or sleep,

In darkness an’ the muckle deep;

An’ mind beside

The herd that on the hills o’ sheep

Has wandered wide.

I mind me on the hoastin’ weans —

The penny joes on causey stanes —

The auld folk wi’ the crazy banes,

Baith auld an’ puir,

That aye maun thole the winds an’ rains

An’ labour sair.

An’ whiles I’m kind o’ pleased a blink,

An’ kind o’ fleyed forby, to think,

For a’ my rowth o’ meat an’ drink

An’ waste o’ crumb,

I’ll mebbe have to thole wi’ skink

In Kingdom Come.

For God whan jowes the Judgment bell,

Wi’ His ain Hand, His Leevin’ Sel’,

Sall ryve the guid (as Prophets tell)

Frae them that had it;

And in the reamin’ pat o’ Hell,

The rich be scaddit.

O Lord, if this indeed be sae,

Let daw that sair an’ happy day!

Again’ the warl’, grawn auld an’ gray,

Up wi’ your aixe!

An’ let the puir enjoy their play —

I’ll thole my paiks.

XIV— My Conscience!

Of a’ the ills that flesh can fear,

The loss o’ frien’s, the lack o’ gear,

A yowlin’ tyke, a glandered mear,

A lassie’s nonsense —

There’s just ae thing I cannae bear,

An’ that’s my conscience.

Whan day (an’ a’ excuse) has gane,

An’ wark is dune, and duty’s plain,

An’ to my charmer a’ my lane

I creep apairt,

My conscience! hoo the yammerin’ pain

Stends to my heart!

A’ day wi’ various ends in view

The hairsts o’ time I had to pu’,

An’ made a hash wad staw a soo,

Let be a man! —

My conscience! whan my han’s were fu’,

Whaur were ye than?

An’ there were a’ the lures o’ life,

There pleesure skirlin’ on the fife,

There anger, wi’ the hotchin’ knife

Ground shairp in Hell —

My conscience! — you that’s like a wife! —

Whaur was yoursel’?

I ken it fine: just waitin’ here,

To gar the evil waur appear,

To clart the guid, confuse the clear,

Mis-ca’ the great,

My conscience! an’ to raise a steer

Whan a’s ower late.

Sic-like, some tyke grawn auld and blind,

Whan thieves brok’ through the gear to p’ind,

Has lain his dozened length an’ grinned

At the disaster;

An’ the morn’s mornin’, wud’s the wind,

Yokes on his master.

XV— To Doctor John Brown

(Whan the dear doctor, dear to a’,

Was still amang us here belaw,

I set my pipes his praise to blaw

Wi’ a’ my speerit;

But noo, Dear Doctor! he’s awa’,

An’ ne’er can hear it.)

By Lyne and Tyne, by Thames and Tees,

By a’ the various river-Dee’s,

In Mars and Manors ‘yont the seas

Or here at hame,

Whaure’er there’s kindly folk to please,

They ken your name.

They ken your name, they ken your tyke,

They ken the honey from your byke;

But mebbe after a’ your fyke,

(The truth to tell)

It’s just your honest Rab they like,

An’ no yoursel’.

As at the gowff, some canny play’r

Should tee a common ba’ wi’ care —

Should flourish and deleever fair

His souple shintie —

An’ the ba’ rise into the air,

A leevin’ lintie:

Sae in the game we writers play,

There comes to some a bonny day,

When a dear ferlie shall repay

Their years o’ strife,

An’ like your Rab, their things o’ clay,

Spreid wings o’ life.

Ye scarce deserved it, I’m afraid —

You that had never learned the trade,

But just some idle mornin’ strayed

Into the schule,

An’ picked the fiddle up an’ played

Like Neil himsel’.

Your e’e was gleg, your fingers dink;

Ye didnae fash yoursel’ to think,

But wove, as fast as puss can link,

Your denty wab:-

Ye stapped your pen into the ink,

An’ there was Rab!

Sinsyne, whaure’er your fortune lay

By dowie den, by canty brae,

Simmer an’ winter, nicht an’ day,

Rab was aye wi’ ye;

An’ a’ the folk on a’ the way

Were blithe to see ye.

O sir, the gods are kind indeed,

An’ hauld ye for an honoured heid,

That for a wee bit clarkit screed

Sae weel reward ye,

An’ lend — puir Rabbie bein’ deid —

His ghaist to guard ye.

For though, whaure’er yoursel’ may be,

We’ve just to turn an’ glisk a wee,

An’ Rab at heel we’re shure to see

Wi’ gladsome caper:—

The bogle of a bogle, he —

A ghaist o’ paper!

And as the auld-farrand hero sees

In Hell a bogle Hercules,

Pit there the lesser deid to please,

While he himsel’

Dwalls wi’ the muckle gods at ease

Far raised frae hell:

Sae the true Rabbie far has gane

On kindlier business o’ his ain

Wi’ aulder frien’s; an’ his breist-bane

An’ stumpie tailie,

He birstles at a new hearth stane

By James and Ailie.


It’s an owercome sooth for age an’ youth

And it brooks wi’ nae denial,

That the dearest friends are the auldest friends

And the young are just on trial.

There’s a rival bauld wi’ young an’ auld

And it’s him that has bereft me;

For the surest friends are the auldest friends

And the maist o’ mines hae left me.

There are kind hearts still, for friends to fill

And fools to take and break them;

But the nearest friends are the auldest friends

And the grave’s the place to seek them.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00