SOME books are lies frae end to end, And some great lies were never pennâ€™d: Evâ€™n ministers they hae been kennâ€™d, In holy rapture, A rousing whid at times to vend, And nailâ€™t wiâ€™ Scripture.
But this that I am gaun to tell, Which lately on a night befell, Is just as trueâ€™s the Deilâ€™s in hell Or Dublin city: That eâ€™er he nearer comes ourselâ€™ â€™S a muckle pity.
The clachan yill had made me canty, I was na fou, but just had plenty; I stacherâ€™d whiles, but yet too tent aye To free the ditches; Anâ€™ hillocks, stanes, anâ€™ bushes, kennâ€™d eye Frae ghaists anâ€™ witches.
The rising moon began to glowre The distant Cumnock hills out-owre: To count her horns, wiâ€™ a my powâ€™r, I set myselâ€™; But whether she had three or four, I couâ€™d na tell.
I was come round about the hill, Anâ€™ todlin down on Willieâ€™s mill, Setting my staff wiâ€™ aâ€™ my skill, To keep me sicker; Thoâ€™ leeward whiles, against my will, I took a bicker.
I there wiâ€™ Something did forgather, That pat me in an eerie swither; Anâ€™ awfuâ€™ scythe, out-owre ae shouther, Clear-dangling, hang; A three-taeâ€™d leister on the ither Lay, large anâ€™ lang.
Its stature seemâ€™d lang Scotch ells twa, The queerest shape that eâ€™er I saw, For fient a wame it had ava; And then its shanks, They were as thin, as sharp anâ€™ smaâ€™ As cheeks oâ€™ branks.
â€œGuid-een,â€ quoâ€™ I; â€œFriend! hae ye been mawin, When ither folk are busy sawin!â€ 1 I seemâ€™d to make a kind oâ€™ stanâ€™ But naething spak; At length, says I, â€œFriend! whare ye gaun? Will ye go back?â€
It spak right howe,â€”â€œMy name is Death, But be na fleyâ€™d.â€â€”Quoth I, â€œGuid faith, Yeâ€™re maybe come to stap my breath; But tent me, billie; I red ye weel, tak care oâ€™ skaith See, thereâ€™s a gully!â€
â€œGudeman,â€ quoâ€™ he, â€œput up your whittle, Iâ€™m no designed to try its mettle; But if I did, I wad be kittle To be mislearâ€™d; I wad na mind it, no that spittle Out-owre my beard.â€
â€œWeel, weel!â€ says I, â€œa bargain beâ€™t; Come, gieâ€™s your hand, anâ€™ sae weâ€™re greeâ€™t; Weâ€™ll ease our shanks an tak a seatâ€” Come, gieâ€™s your news; This while ye hae been mony a gate, At mony a house.â€ 2
â€œAy, ay!â€ quoâ€™ he, anâ€™ shook his head, â€œItâ€™s eâ€™en a lang, lang time indeed Sinâ€™ I began to nick the thread, Anâ€™ choke the breath: Folk maun do something for their bread, Anâ€™ sae maun Death.
â€œSax thousand years are near-hand fled Sinâ€™ I was to the butching bred, Anâ€™ mony a scheme in vainâ€™s been laid, To stap or scar me; Till ane Hornbookâ€™s 3 taâ€™en up the trade, And faith! heâ€™ll waur me.
â€œYe ken Hornbook iâ€™ the clachan, Deil mak his kingâ€™s-hood in spleuchan! Heâ€™s grown sae weel acquaint wiâ€™ Buchan 4 And ither chaps, The weans haud out their fingers laughin, Anâ€™ pouk my hips.
â€œSee, hereâ€™s a scythe, anâ€™ thereâ€™s dart, They hae piercâ€™d mony a gallant heart; But Doctor Hornbook, wiâ€™ his art Anâ€™ cursed skill, Has made them baith no worth a fâ€”t, Dâ€”nâ€™d haet theyâ€™ll kill!
â€œâ€™Twas but yestreen, nae farther gane, I threw a noble throw at ane; Wiâ€™ less, Iâ€™m sure, Iâ€™ve hundreds slain; But deil-ma-care, It just playâ€™d dirl on the bane, But did nae mair.
â€œHornbook was by, wiâ€™ ready art, Anâ€™ had sae fortifyâ€™d the part, That when I looked to my dart, It was sae blunt, Fient haet oâ€™t wad hae piercâ€™d the heart Of a kail-runt.
â€œI drew my scythe in sic a fury, I near-hand cowpit wiâ€™ my hurry, But yet the bauld Apothecary Withstood the shock; I might as weel hae tried a quarry Oâ€™ hard whin rock.
â€œEvâ€™n them he canna get attended, Althoâ€™ their face he neâ€™er had kend it, Just â€”â€” in a kail-blade, anâ€™ sent it, As soonâ€™s he smells â€™t, Baith their disease, and what will mend it, At once he tells â€™t.
â€œAnd then, aâ€™ doctorâ€™s saws anâ€™ whittles, Of aâ€™ dimensions, shapes, anâ€™ mettles, Aâ€™ kind oâ€™ boxes, mugs, anâ€™ bottles, Heâ€™s sure to hae; Their Latin names as fast he rattles As A B C.
â€œCalces oâ€™ fossils, earths, and trees; True sal-marinum oâ€™ the seas; The farina of beans anâ€™ pease, He hasâ€™t in plenty; Aqua-fontis, what you please, He can content ye.
â€œForbye some new, uncommon weapons, Urinus spiritus of capons; Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings, Distillâ€™d per se; Sal-alkali oâ€™ midge-tail clippings, And mony mae.â€
â€œWaes me for Johnie Gedâ€™s-Hole 5 now,â€ Quoth I, â€œif that thae news be true! His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew, Sae white and bonie, Nae doubt theyâ€™ll rive it wiâ€™ the plew; Theyâ€™ll ruin Johnie!â€
The creature grainâ€™d an eldritch laugh, And says â€œYe needna yoke the pleugh, Kirkyards will soon be tillâ€™d eneugh, Tak ye nae fear: Theyâ€™ll be trenchâ€™d wiâ€™ mony a sheugh, In twa-three year.
â€œWhare I killâ€™d ane, a fair strae-death, By loss oâ€™ blood or want of breath This night Iâ€™m free to tak my aith, That Hornbookâ€™s skill Has clad a score iâ€™ their last claith, By drap anâ€™ pill.
â€œAn honest wabster to his trade, Whase wifeâ€™s twa nieves were scarce weel-bred Gat tippence-worth to mend her head, When it was sair; The wife slade cannie to her bed, But neâ€™er spak mair.
â€œA country laird had taâ€™en the batts, Or some curmurring in his guts, His only son for Hornbook sets, Anâ€™ pays him well: The lad, for twa guid gimmer-pets, Was laird himselâ€™.
â€œA bonie lassâ€”ye kend her nameâ€” Some ill-brewn drink had hovâ€™d her wame; She trusts herselâ€™, to hide the shame, In Hornbookâ€™s care; Horn sent her aff to her lang hame, To hide it there.
â€œThatâ€™s just a swatch oâ€™ Hornbookâ€™s way; Thus goes he on from day to day, Thus does he poison, kill, anâ€™ slay, Anâ€™s weel paid forâ€™t; Yet stops me oâ€™ my lawfuâ€™ prey, Wiâ€™ his dâ€”nâ€™d dirt:
â€œBut, hark! Iâ€™ll tell you of a plot, Thoâ€™ dinna ye be speakin oâ€™t; Iâ€™ll nail the self-conceited sot, As deadâ€™s a herrin; Neist time we meet, Iâ€™ll wad a groat, He gets his fairin!â€
But just as he began to tell, The auld kirk-hammer strak the bell Some wee short hour ayont the twalâ€™, Which raisâ€™d us baith: I took the way that pleasâ€™d myselâ€™, And sae did Death.
Note 1. This recontre happened in seed-time, 1785.â€”R. B. [back] Note 2. An epidemical fever was then raging in that country.â€”R. B. [back] Note 3. This gentleman, Dr. Hornbook, is professionally a brother of the sovereign Order of the Ferula; but, by intuition and inspiration, is at once an apothecary, surgeon, and physician.â€”R. B. [back] Note 4. Burchanâ€™s Domestic Medicine.â€”R. B. [back] Note 5. The grave-digger.â€”R. B. [back]