Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
The Cotter’s Saturday Night
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
 
(See full text.)
*        *        *        *        *
NOVEMBER chill blaws loud wi’ angry sugh;
  The short’ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
  The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose;
The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes,        5
  This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
  Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o’er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
 
At length his lonely cot appears in view,        10
  Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th’ expectant wee-things, toddlin stacher thro’,
  To meet their Dad, wi’ flichterin noise an’ glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily,
  His clane hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie’s smile,        15
The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
  Does all his weary carking cares beguile,
An’ makes him quite forget his labor an’ his toil.
*        *        *        *        *
Wi’ joy unfeign’d brothers and sisters meet,
  An’ each for other’s welfare kindly spiers:        20
The social hours, swift-winged, unnoticed fleet;
  Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears;
The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years,
  Anticipation forward points the view.
The mother, wi’ her needle and her shears,        25
  Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new;
The father mixes a’ wi’ admonition due.
 
Their master’s an’ their mistress’s command,
  The younkers a’ are warnèd to obey;
And mind their labors wi’ an eydent hand,        30
  And ne’er, tho’ out o’ sight, to jauk or play:
“And, oh! be sure to fear the Lord alway,
  And mind your duty, duly, morn and night!
Lest in temptation’s path ye gang astray,
  Implore his counsel and assisting might:        35
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright!”
 
But, hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
  Jenny, wha kens the meaning o’ the same,
Tells how a neebor lad cam o’er the moor,
  To do some errands, and convoy her hame.        40
The wily mother sees the conscious flame
  Sparkle in Jenny’s e’e, and flush her cheek;
Wi’ heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name,
  While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel pleas’d the mother hears, it’s nae wild worthless rake.        45
 
Wi’ kindly welcome Jenny brings him ben;
  A strappan youth; he takes the mother’s eye;
Blythe Jenny sees the visit’s no ill ta’en;
  The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
The youngster’s artless heart o’erflows wi’ joy,        50
  But, blate and laithfu’, scarce can weel behave;
The woman, wi’ a woman’s wiles, can spy
  What makes the youth sae bashfu’ an’ sae grave;
Weel pleas’d to think her bairn’s respected like the lave.
 
O happy love! where love like this is found!        55
  O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
I’ve pacèd much this weary, mortal round,
And sage experience bids me this declare—
“If Heav’n a draught of heav’nly pleasure spare,
  One cordial, in this melancholy vale,        60
’Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair,
  In other’s arms breathe out the tender tale,
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the ev’ning gale!”
*        *        *        *        *
But now the supper crowns their simple board,
  The halesome parritch, chief o’ Scotia’s food:        65
The soupe their only hawkie does afford,
  That ’yont the hallan snugly chows her cood;
The dame brings forth in complimental mood,
  To grace the lad, her weel-hain’d kebbuck, fell,
And aft he’s prest, and aft he calls it gude;        70
  The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell
How ’twas a towmond auld, sin’ lint was i’ the bell.
 
The cheerful supper done, wi’ serious face,
  They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
The sire turns o’er, wi’ patriarchal grace,        75
  The big ha’-Bible, ance his father’s pride:
His bonnet rev’rently is laid aside,
  His lyart haffets wearing thin an’ bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
  He wales a portion with judicious care;        80
And “Let us worship God!” he says, with solemn air.
 
They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
  They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;
Perhaps “Dundee’s” wild warbling measures rise,
  Or plaintive “Martyrs,” worthy of the name;        85
Or noble “Elgin” beats the heav’nward flame,
  The sweetest far of Scotia’s holy lays:
Compar’d with these, Italian trills are tame;
  The tickled ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
Nae unison hae they with our Creator’s praise.        90
 
The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
  How Abram was the friend of God on high;
Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage
  With Amalek’s ungracious progeny;
Or how the royal Bard did groaning lie        95
  Beneath the stroke of Heaven’s avenging ire:
Or Job’s pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
  Or rapt Isaiah’s wild, seraphic fire;
Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.
 
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,        100
  How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
  Had not on earth whereon to lay his head:
How his first followers and servants sped;
  The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:        105
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
  Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand;
And heard great Babylon’s doom pronounced by Heaven’s command.
 
Then kneeling down, to Heaven’s Eternal King,
  The saint, the father, and the husband prays:        110
Hope “springs exulting on triumphant wing,”
  That thus they all shall meet in future days:
There ever bask in uncreated rays,
  No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their Creator’s praise,        115
  In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere.
 
Compar’d with this, how poor religion’s pride,
  In all the pomp of method, and of art,
When men display to congregations wide        120
  Devotion’s ev’ry grace, except the heart!
The Power, incens’d, the pageant will desert,
  The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;
But haply, in some cottage far apart,
  May hear, well pleas’d, the language of the soul;        125
And in his book of life the inmates poor enrol.
 
Then homeward all take off their sev’ral way;
  The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
  And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,        130
That He who stills the raven’s clam’rous nest,
  And decks the lily fair in flow’ry pride,
Would, in the way his wisdom sees the best,
  For them and for their little ones provide;
But chiefly in their hearts with grace divine preside.        135
 
From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
  That makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings;
  “An honest man’s the noblest work of God:”
And certes, in fair virtue’s heavenly road,        140
  The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
What is a lordling’s pomp? a cumbrous load,
  Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d!
 
O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!        145
  For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
  Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
And, oh, may Heaven their simple lives prevent
  From luxury’s contagion, weak and vile!        150
Then, howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
  A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d isle.
 
O Thou! who pour’d the patriotic tide
  That stream’d thro’ Wallace’s undaunted heart;        155
Who dar’d to nobly stem tyrannic pride,
  Or nobly die, the second glorious part,
(The patriot’s God, peculiarly Thou art,
  His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)
O never, never Scotia’s realm desert;        160
  But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard,
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!
 
 
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