88. The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer by Robert Burns
YE Irish lords, ye knights an’ squires, Wha represent our brughs an’ shires, An’ doucely manage our affairs In parliament, To you a simple poet’s pray’rs Are humbly sent.
Alas! my roupit Muse is hearse! Your Honours’ hearts wi’ grief ’twad pierce, To see her sittin on her arse Low i’ the dust, And scriechinh out prosaic verse, An like to brust!
Tell them wha hae the chief direction, Scotland an’ me’s in great affliction, E’er sin’ they laid that curst restriction On aqua-vit&æ; An’ rouse them up to strong conviction, An’ move their pity.
Stand forth an’ tell yon Premier youth The honest, open, naked truth: Tell him o’ mine an’ Scotland’s drouth, His servants humble: The muckle deevil blaw you south If ye dissemble!
Does ony great man glunch an’ gloom? Speak out, an’ never fash your thumb! Let posts an’ pensions sink or soom Wi’ them wha grant them; If honestly they canna come, Far better want them.
In gath’rin votes you were na slack; Now stand as tightly by your tack: Ne’er claw your lug, an’ fidge your back, An’ hum an’ haw; But raise your arm, an’ tell your crack Before them a’.
Paint Scotland greetin owre her thrissle; Her mutchkin stowp as toom’s a whissle; An’ d—mn’d excisemen in a bussle, Seizin a stell, Triumphant crushin’t like a mussel, Or limpet shell!
Then, on the tither hand present her— A blackguard smuggler right behint her, An’ cheek-for-chow, a chuffie vintner Colleaguing join, Picking her pouch as bare as winter Of a’ kind coin.
Is there, that bears the name o’ Scot, But feels his heart’s bluid rising hot, To see his poor auld mither’s pot Thus dung in staves, An’ plunder’d o’ her hindmost groat By gallows knaves?
Alas! I’m but a nameless wight, Trode i’ the mire out o’ sight? But could I like Montgomeries fight, Or gab like Boswell, 2 There’s some sark-necks I wad draw tight, An’ tie some hose well.
God bless your Honours! can ye see’t— The kind, auld cantie carlin greet, An’ no get warmly to your feet, An’ gar them hear it, An’ tell them wi’a patriot-heat Ye winna bear it?
Some o’ you nicely ken the laws, To round the period an’ pause, An’ with rhetoric clause on clause To mak harangues; Then echo thro’ Saint Stephen’s wa’s Auld Scotland’s wrangs.
Dempster, 3 a true blue Scot I’se warran’; Thee, aith-detesting, chaste Kilkerran; 4 An’ that glib-gabbit Highland baron, The Laird o’ Graham; 5 An’ ane, a chap that’s damn’d aulfarran’, Dundas his name: 6
Erskine, a spunkie Norland billie; 7 True Campbells, Frederick and Ilay; 8 An’ Livistone, the bauld Sir Willie; 9 An’ mony ithers, Whom auld Demosthenes or Tully Might own for brithers.
See sodger Hugh, 10 my watchman stented, If poets e’er are represented; I ken if that your sword were wanted, Ye’d lend a hand; But when there’s ought to say anent it, Ye’re at a stand.
Arouse, my boys! exert your mettle, To get auld Scotland back her kettle; Or faith! I’ll wad my new pleugh-pettle, Ye’ll see’t or lang, She’ll teach you, wi’ a reekin whittle, Anither sang.
This while she’s been in crankous mood, Her lost Militia fir’d her bluid; (Deil na they never mair do guid, Play’d her that pliskie!) An’ now she’s like to rin red-wud About her whisky.
An’ Lord! if ance they pit her till’t, Her tartan petticoat she’ll kilt, An’durk an’ pistol at her belt, She’ll tak the streets, An’ rin her whittle to the hilt, I’ the first she meets!
For God sake, sirs! then speak her fair, An’ straik her cannie wi’ the hair, An’ to the muckle house repair, Wi’ instant speed, An’ strive, wi’ a’ your wit an’ lear, To get remead.
Yon ill-tongu’d tinkler, Charlie Fox, May taunt you wi’ his jeers and mocks; But gie him’t het, my hearty cocks! E’en cowe the cadie! An’ send him to his dicing box An’ sportin’ lady.
Tell you guid bluid o’ auld Boconnock’s, 11 I’ll be his debt twa mashlum bonnocks, An’ drink his health in auld Nance Tinnock’s 12 Nine times a-week, If he some scheme, like tea an’ winnocks, Was kindly seek.
Could he some commutation broach, I’ll pledge my aith in guid braid Scotch, He needna fear their foul reproach Nor erudition, Yon mixtie-maxtie, queer hotch-potch, The Coalition.
Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue; She’s just a devil wi’ a rung; An’ if she promise auld or young To tak their part, Tho’ by the neck she should be strung, She’ll no desert.
And now, ye chosen Five-and-Forty, May still you mither’s heart support ye; Then, tho’a minister grow dorty, An’ kick your place, Ye’ll snap your gingers, poor an’ hearty, Before his face.
God bless your Honours, a’ your days, Wi’ sowps o’ kail and brats o’ claise, In spite o’ a’ the thievish kaes, That haunt St. Jamie’s! Your humble poet sings an’ prays, While Rab his name is.
POSTSCRIPTLET half-starv’d slaves in warmer skies See future wines, rich-clust’ring, rise; Their lot auld Scotland ne’re envies, But, blythe and frisky, She eyes her freeborn, martial boys Tak aff their whisky.
What tho’ their Phoebus kinder warms, While fragrance blooms and beauty charms, When wretches range, in famish’d swarms, The scented groves; Or, hounded forth, dishonour arms In hungry droves!
Their gun’s a burden on their shouther; They downa bide the stink o’ powther; Their bauldest thought’s a hank’ring swither To stan’ or rin, Till skelp—a shot—they’re aff, a’throw’ther, To save their skin.
But bring a Scotchman frae his hill, Clap in his cheek a Highland gill, Say, such is royal George’s will, An’ there’s the foe! He has nae thought but how to kill Twa at a blow.
Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him; Death comes, wi’ fearless eye he sees him; Wi’bluidy hand a welcome gies him; An’ when he fa’s, His latest draught o’ breathin lea’es him In faint huzzas.
Sages their solemn een may steek, An’ raise a philosophic reek, An’ physically causes seek, In clime an’ season; But tell me whisky’s name in Greek I’ll tell the reason.
Scotland, my auld, respected mither! Tho’ whiles ye moistify your leather, Till, whare ye sit on craps o’ heather, Ye tine your dam; Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither! Take aff your dram!
Note 1. This was written before the Act anent the Scotch distilleries, of session 1786, for which Scotland and the author return their most grateful thanks.—R. B. [back] Note 2. James Boswell of Auchinleck, the biographer of Johnson. [back] Note 3. George Dempster of Dunnichen. [back] Note 4. Sir Adam Ferguson of Kilkerran, Bart. [back] Note 5. The Marquis of Graham, eldest son of the Duke of Montrose. [back] Note 6. Right Hon. Henry Dundas, M. P. [back] Note 7. Probably Thomas, afterward Lord Erskine. [back] Note 8. Lord Frederick Campbell, second brother of the Duke of Argyll, and Ilay Campbell, Lord Advocate for Scotland, afterward President of the Court of Session. [back] Note 9. Sir Wm. Augustus Cunningham, Baronet, of Livingstone. [back] Note 10. Col. Hugh Montgomery, afterward Earl of Eglinton. [back] Note 11. Pitt, whose grandfather was of Boconnock in Cornwall. [back] Note 12. A worthy old hostess of the author’s in Mauchline, where he sometimes studies politics over a glass of gude auld Scotch Drink.—R. B. [back]