Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, the Author’s Only Pet Yowe
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
 
AN UNCO MOURNFU’ TALE.

AS Mailie 1 an’ her lambs thegither
Were ae day nibbling on the tether,
Upon her cloot 2 she coost 3 a hitch, 4
An’ owre she warsl’d 5 in the ditch:
There groaning, dying, she did lie,        5
When Hughoc 6 he cam doytin by.
  Wi’ glowrin een, an’ lifted han’s,
Poor Hughoc like a statue stan’s;
He saw her days were near-hand ended,
But, waes my heart! he could na mend it.        10
He gaped wide, but naething spak.
At length poor Mailie silence brak.
  ‘O thou, whase lamentable face
Appears to mourn my woefu’ case!
My dying words attentive hear,        15
An’ bear them to my Master dear.
  ‘Tell him, if e’er again he keep
As muckle gear as buy a sheep,
O, bid him never tie them mair
Wi’ wicked strings o’ hemp or hair!        20
But ca’ them out to park or hill,
An’ let them wander at their will;
So may his flock increase, an’ grow
To scores o’ lambs, an’ packs o’ woo’! 7
  ‘Tell him, he was a Master kin’,        25
An’ ay was guid to me an’ mine;
An’ now my dying charge I gie him,
My helpless lambs, I trust them wi’ him.
  ‘O, bid him save their harmless lives,
Frae dogs, an’ tods, 8 an’ butchers’ knives!        30
But gie them guid cow-milk their fill,
Till they be fit to fend 9 themsel:
An’ tent 10 them duly, e’en an’ morn,
Wi’ taets 11 o’ hay, an’ ripps 12 o’ corn.
  ‘An’ may they never learn the gaets 13        35
Of ither vile, wanrestfu’ 14 pets!
To slink thro’ slaps 15 an’ reave 16 an’ steal,
At stacks o’ pease, or stocks o’ kail.
So may they, like their great forbears, 17
For monie a year come thro’ the sheers;        40
So wives will gie them bits o’ bread,
An’ bairns greet 18 for them when they ’re dead.
  ‘My poor toop 19-lamb, my son an’ heir,
O, bid him breed him up wi’ care!
An’ if he live to be a beast,        45
To pit some havins 20 in his breast!
  An’ warn him, what I winna name;
To stay content wi’ yowes 21 at hame;
An’ no to rin an’ wear his cloots,
Like other menseless, 22 graceless brutes.        50
  ‘An’ niest my yowie, 23 silly thing,
Gude keep thee frae a tether string!
O, may thou ne’er forgather up
Wi’ ony blastit, moorland toop;
But ay keep mind to moop 24 an’ mell 25        55
Wi’ sheep o’ credit like thysel!
  ‘And now, my bairns, wi’ my last breath,
I lea’e my blessin wi’ you baith:
An’ when you think upo’ your Mither,
Mind to be kind to ane anither.        60
  ‘Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail,
To tell my Master a’ my tale;
An’ bid him burn this cursed tether,
An’, for thy pains, thou’se get my blather.’ 26
 
  This said, poor Mailie turned her head,        65
An’ closed her een amang the dead!
 
Note 1. Yowe = ewe. [back]
Note 2. hoof. [back]
Note 3. cast. [back]
Note 4. loop. [back]
Note 5. tumbled. [back]
Note 6. A neibor herd-callan about three-fourths as wise as other folk. [back]
Note 7. wool. [back]
Note 8. foxes. [back]
Note 9. make shift. [back]
Note 10. tend. [back]
Note 11. small quantities. [back]
Note 12. handfuls. [back]
Note 13. ways. [back]
Note 14. restless. [back]
Note 15. gaps in fences. [back]
Note 16. rob. [back]
Note 17. forefathers. [back]
Note 18. weep. [back]
Note 19. tup. [back]
Note 20. good manners. [back]
Note 21. ewes. [back]
Note 22. mannerless. [back]
Note 23. ewe. [back]
Note 24. fondle. [back]
Note 25. meddle. [back]
Note 26. bladder. [back]
 
 
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