The present volume contains 43 of his finest poems and songs, reprinted unabridged from an authoritative tenth-century edition. Included are "The Twa Dogs," a deft satire of the Scottish upper classes; "To a Mouse," one of the poet's best known, most charming works; "Address to the Unco Guid," an attack on Puritan hypocrisy; "Holy Willie's Prayer," one of the great verse-satires of all times; as well as such favorites as "The Cotter's Saturday Night," "To a Mountain Daisy," "The Holy Fair," "Address to the Deil," "The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie," and many more.
In addition to his poetic undertakings, Burns almost single-handedly preserved and revived the traditional Scottish song, and this volume includes a rich selection of these works: "A Red, Red Rose," "Auld Lang Syne," "Comin' thro' the Rye," "My Heart's in the Highlands," "My Love, She's But a Lassie Yet," and a host of others.
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Poems and songs
By Robert Burns
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1991 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Twa Dogs
'T was in that place o' Scotland's isle That bears the name of auld King Coil, Upon a bonie day in June, When wearing thro' the afternoon, Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame, Forgathered ance upon a time.
The first I'll name, they ca'd him Cæsar, Was keepit for "his Honor's" pleasure: His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, Shew'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs; But whalpit some place far abroad, Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.
His lockèd, letter'd, braw brass collar Shew'd him the gentleman an' scholar; But tho' he was o' high degree, The fient a pride, nae pride had he; But wad hae spent an hour caressin, Ev'n wi' a tinkler-gipsy's messin; At kirk or market, mill or smiddie, Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er sae duddie, But he wad stan't, as glad to see him, An' stroan't on stanes an' hillocks wi' him.
The tither was a ploughman's collie, A rhyming, ranting, raving billie, Wha for his friend an' comrade had him, And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him, After some dog in Highland sang, Was made lang syne—Lord knows how lang.
He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke, As ever lap a sheugh or dyke. His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face Ay gat him friends in ilka place; His breast was white, his tousie back Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black; His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl, Hung owre his hurdies wi' a swirl.
Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, And unco pack an' thick thegither; Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd an' snowkit; Whyles mice an' moudieworts they howkit; Whyles scour'd awa' in lang excursion, An' worry'd ither in diversion; Till tir'd at last wi' monie a farce, They sat them down upon their arse, An' there began a lang digression About the "lords o' the creation."
I 've aften wonder'd, honest Luath, What sort o' life poor dogs like you have; An' when the gentry's life I saw, What way poor bodies liv'd ava.
Our laird gets in his rackèd rents, His coals, his kain, an' a' his stents: He rises when he likes himsel; His flunkies answer at the bell; He ca's his coach; he ca's his horse; He draws a bonie silken purse, As lang 's my tail, whare, thro' the steeks, The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks.
Frae morn to e'en it's nought but toiling, At baking, roasting, frying, boiling; An' tho' the gentry first are stechin, Yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their pechan Wi' sauce, ragouts, an sic like trashtrie, That's little short o' downright wastrie: Our whipper-in, wee, blastit wonner, Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner, Better than onie tenant-man His Honor has in a' the lan'; An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in, I own it's past my comprehension.
Trowth, Cæsar, whyles they 're fash't eneugh: A cotter howkin in a sheugh, Wi' dirty stanes biggin a dyke, Baring a quarry, an' sic like; Himsel, a wife, he thus sustains, A smytrie o' wee duddie weans, An' nought but his han' darg to keep Them right an' tight in thack an' rape.
An' when they meet wi' sair disasters, Like loss o' health or want o' masters, Ye maist wad think; a wee touch langer, An' they maun starve o' cauld and hunger: But how it comes, I never kend yet, They 're maistly, wonderfu' contented; An' buirdly chiels, an' clever hizzies, Are bred in sic a way as this is.
But then to see how ye 're negleckit, How huff'd, an' cuff'd, an' disrespeckit! Lord, man, our gentry care as little For delvers, ditchers, an' sic cattle; They gang as saucy by poor folk, As I wad by a stinking brock.
I 've notic'd, on our laird's court-day, (An' monie a time my heart 's been wae), Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash, How they maun thole a factor's snash: He'll stamp an' threaten, curse an' swear He'll apprehend them, poind their gear; While they maun staun', wi' aspect humble, An' hear it a', an' fear an' tremble!
I see how folk live that hae riches; But surely poor-folk maun be wretches!
They 're nae sae wretched's ane wad think: Tho' constantly on poortith's brink, They 're sae accustom'd wi' the sight, The view o't gies them little fright.
Then chance an' fortune are sae guided, They 're ay in less or mair provided; An' tho' fatigu'd wi' close employment, A blink o' rest's a sweet enjoyment.
The dearest comfort o' their lives, Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives; The prattling things are just their pride, That sweetens a' their fire-side.
An' whyles twalpennie worth o' nappy Can mak the bodies unco happy: They lay aside their private cares, To mind the Kirk and State affairs; They'll talk o' patronage an' priests, Wi' kindling fury i' their breasts, Or tell what new taxation's comin, An' ferlie at the folk in Lon'on.
As bleak-fac'd Hallowmass returns, They get the jovial, ranting kirns, When rural life, of ev'ry station, Unite in common recreation; Love blinks, Wit slaps, an' social Mirth Forgets there's Care upo' the earth.
That merry day the year begins, They bar the door on frosty win's; The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream, An' sheds a heart-inspiring steam; The luntin pipe, an' sneeshin mill, Are handed round wi' right guid will; The cantie auld folks crackin crouse, The young anes ranting thro' the house— My heart has been sae fain to see them, That I for joy hae barkit wi' them.
Still it's owre true that ye hae said Sic game is now owre aften play'd; There's monie a creditable stock O' decent, honest, fawsont folk, Are riven out baith root an' branch, Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench, Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster In favor wi' some gentle master, Wha, aiblins thrang a parliamentin', For Britain's guid his saul indentin'—
Haith, lad, ye little ken about it: For Britain's guid! guid faith! I doubt it. Say rather, gaun as Premiers lead him—: An' saying aye or no's they bid him: At operas an' plays parading, Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading: Or maybe, in a frolic daft, To Hague or Calais taks a waft, To mak a tour an' tak a whirl, To learn bon ton, an' see the worl'.
There, at Vienna or Versailles; He rives his father's auld entails; Or by Madrid he taks the rout, To thrum guitars an' fecht wi' nowt; Or down Italian vista startles, Whore-hunting amang groves o' myrtles Then bowses drumlie German-water, To mak himsel look fair an' fatter, An' clear the consequential sorrows, Love-gifts of Carnival signoras.
For Britain's guid! for her destruction! Wi' dissipation, feud an' faction.
Hech, man! dear sirs! is that the gate They waste sae monie a braw estate! Are we sae foughten an' harass'd For gear ta gang that gate at last?
O would they stay aback frae courts, An' please themsels wi' countra sports, It wad for ev'ry ane be better, The laird, the tenant, an' the cotter! For thae frank, rantin, ramblin billies, Fient haet o' them's ill-hearted fellows: Except for breakin o' their timmer, Or speakin lightly o' their limmer, Or shootin of a hare or moor-cock, The ne'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk.
But will ye tell me, master Cæsar: Sure great folk's life's a life o' pleasure? Nae cauld nor hunger e'er can steer them, The vera thought o't need na fear them.
Lord, man, were ye but whyles whare I am, The gentles, ye wad ne'er envý 'em!
It's true, they need na starve or sweat, Thro' winter's cauld, or simmer's heat; They 've nae sair wark to craze their banes, An' fill auld-age wi' grips an' granes: But human bodies are sic fools, For a' their colleges an' schools, That when nae real ills perplex them, They mak enow themsels to vex them; An' ay the less they hae to sturt them, In like proportion, less will hurt them.
A countra fellow at the pleugh, His acre's till'd, he's right eneugh; A countra girl at her wheel, Her dizzen's done, she's unco weel; But gentlemen, an' ladies warst, Wi' ev'n down want o' wark are curst: They loiter, lounging, lank an' lazy; Tho' deil-haet ails them, yet uneasy: Their days insipid, dull an' tasteless; Their nights unquiet, lang an' restless.
An' ev'n their sports, their balls an' races, Their galloping through public places, There's sic parade, sic pomp an' art, The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
The men cast out in party-matches, Then sowther a' in deep debauches; Ae night they 're mad wi' drink an' whoring, Niest day their life is past enduring.
The ladies arm-in-arm in clusters, As great an' gracious a' as sisters; But hear their absent thoughts o' ither, They 're a' run deils an' jads thegither. Whyles, owre the wee bit cup an' platie, They sip the scandal-potion pretty; Or lee-lang nights, wi' crabbit leuks Pore owre the devil's pictur'd beuks; Stake on a chance a farmer's stackyard, An' cheat like onie unhang'd blackguard.
There's some exceptions, man an' woman; But this is Gentry's life in common.
By this, the sun was out o' sight, An' darker gloamin brought the night; The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone; The kye stood rowtin i' the loan; When up they gat, an' shook their lugs, Rejoic'd they were na men, but dogs; An' each took aff his several way, Resolv'd to meet some ither day.
Gie him strong drink until he wink, That's sinking in despair; An' liquor guid to fire his bluid, That's prest wi' grief an' care: There let him bowse, and deep carouse, Wi' bumpers flowing o'er, Till he forgets his loves or debts, An' minds his griefs no more.
SOLOMON'S PROVERBS, xxxi. 6, 7.
Let other poets raise a fracas 'Bout vines, an' wines, an' drucken Bacchus, An' crabbit names an' stories wrack us, An' grate our lug: I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us, In glass or jug.
O thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch drink! Whether thro' wimplin worms thou jink, Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink, In glorious faem, Inspire me, till I lisp an' wink, To sing thy name!
Let husky wheat the haughs adorn, An' aits set up their awnie horn, An' pease an' beans, at e'en or morn, Perfume the plain: Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn, Thou king o' grain!
On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, In souple scones, the wale o' food! Or tumbling in the boiling flood Wi' kail an' beef; But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood, There thou shines chief.
Food fills the wame, an' keeps us livin; Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin, When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin; But oil'd by thee, The wheels o' life guy down-hill, scrievin, Wi' rattlin glee.
Thou clears the head o' doited Lear, Thou cheers the heart o' drooping Care; Thou strings the nerves o' Labor sair, At's weary toil; Thou ev'n brightens dark Despair Wi' gloomy smile.
Aft, clad in massy siller weed, Wi' gentles thou erects thy head; Yet, humbly kind in time o' need, The poor man's wine: His wee drap parritch, or his bread, Thou kitchens fine.
Thou art the life o' public haunts: But thee, what were our fairs and rants? . Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts, By thee inspir'd, When, gaping, they besiege the tents, Are doubly fir'd.
That merry night we get the corn in, O sweetly, then, thou reams the horn in! Or reekin on a New-Year mornin In cog or bicker, An' just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in, An' gusty sucker!
When Vulcan gies his bellows breath, An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith, O rare! to see thee fizz an' freath I' th' lugget caup! Then Burnewin comes on like death At ev'ry chaup.
Nae mercy, then, for aim or steel: The brawnie, bainie, ploughman chiel, Brings hard owrehip, wi' sturdy wheel, The strong forehammer, Till block an' studdie ring an' reel, Wi' dinsome clamour.
When skirlin weanies see the light, Thou maks the gossips clatter bright, How fumbling cuifs their dearies slight; Wae worth the name! Nae howdie gets a social night, Or plack frae them.
When neebors anger at a plea, An' just as wud as wud can be, How easy can the barley-brie Cement the quarrel! It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee, To taste the barrel.
Alake! that e'er my Muse has reason, To wyte her countrymen wi' treason! But monie daily weet their weason Wi' liquors nice, An' hardly, in a winter season, E'er spier her price.
Wae worth that brandy, burnin trash! Fell source o' monie a pain an' brash! Twins monie a poor, doylt, drucken hash, O' half his days; An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash To her warst faes.
Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well! Ye chief, to you my tale I tell, Poor, plackless devils like mysel! It sets you ill, Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell, Or foreign gill.
May gravels round his blather wrench, An' gouts torment him, inch by inch, Wha twists his gruntle wi' a glunch O' sour disdain, Out owre a glass o' whisky-punch Wi' honest men!
O Whisky! soul o' plays an' pranks! Accept a Bardie's gratefu' thanks! When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks Are my poor verses! Thou comes—they rattle i' their ranks At ither's arses!
Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost! Scotland lament frae coast to coast! Now colic grips, an' barkin hoast May kill us a'; For loyal Forbés' chartered boast Is taen awa!
Thae curst horse-leeches o' th' Excise, Wha mak the whisky stells their prize! Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice! There, seize the blinkers! An' bake them up in brunstane pies For poor damn'd drinkers.
Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill, An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will, Tak a' the rest, An' deal't about as thy blind skill Directs thee best.
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Table of ContentsFrom Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1786
The Two Dogs
The Holy Fair
Address to the Devil
The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie
The Cotter's Saturday Night
To a Mouse
To a Mountain Daisy
Epistle to a Young Friend
To a Louse
Song: "It Was Upon a Lammas Night"
From the Additions in the Edinburgh Edition of 1787
Address to the Unco Guid
Green Grow the Rashes, O
From the Additions in the Edinburgh Edition of 1793
On the Late Captain Grose's Peregrinations thro' Scotland
From the Posthumous Pieces
Holy Willie's Prayer
Songs from Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803) and Thomson's Scottish Airs (1793-1818)
O, Whistle an' I'll Come to Ye, My Lad
I'm O'er Young to Marry Yet
The Birks of Aberfeldie
O'er the Water to Charlie
My Love, She's But a Lassie Yet
The Silver Tassie
Of A' the Airts
Whistle O'er the Lave o't
My Heart's in the Highlands
John Anderson My Jo
Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes
Willie Brew'd a Peck o' Maut
Ae Fond Kiss
The Banks o' Doon
The Deil's Awa wi' th' Exciseman
A Red, Red Rose
Auld Lang Syne
Comin thro' the Rye
Charlie He's My Darling
O, Lay Thy Loof in Mine, Lass
Open the Door to Me, O
Scots, Wha Hae
There Was a Lad
O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast
Alphabetical List of Titles
Alphabetical List of First Lines