Verse > Harvard Classics > Robert Burns > Poems and Songs
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Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
307. Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson
 
 
A Gentleman who held the Patent for his Honours immediately from Almighty God.
“Should the poor be flattered?”—Shakespeare.
 
 
O DEATH! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikle devil wi’ a woodie
Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie,
              O’er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o’er his studdie        5
              Wi’ thy auld sides!
 
He’s gane, he’s gane! he’s frae us torn,
The ae best fellow e’er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature’s sel’ shall mourn,
              By wood and wild,        10
Where haply, Pity strays forlorn,
              Frae man exil’d.
 
Ye hills, near neighbours o’ the starns,
That proudly cock your cresting cairns!
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing earns,        15
              Where Echo slumbers!
Come join, ye Nature’s sturdiest bairns,
              My wailing numbers!
 
Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Ye haz’ly shaws and briery dens!        20
Ye burnies, wimplin’ down your glens,
              Wi’ toddlin din,
Or foaming, strang, wi’ hasty stens,
              Frae lin to lin.
 
Mourn, little harebells o’er the lea;        25
Ye stately foxgloves, fair to see;
Ye woodbines hanging bonilie,
              In scented bow’rs;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
              The first o’ flow’rs.        30
 
At dawn, when ev’ry grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head,
At ev’n, when beans their fragrance shed,
              I’ th’ rustling gale,
Ye maukins, whiddin thro’ the glade,        35
              Come join my wail.
 
Mourn, ye wee songsters o’ the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews, calling thro’ a clud;
              Ye whistling plover;        40
And mourn, we whirring paitrick brood;
              He’s gane for ever!
 
Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi’ airy wheels        45
              Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
              Rair for his sake.
 
Mourn, clam’ring craiks at close o’ day,
’Mang fields o’ flow’ring clover gay;        50
And when ye wing your annual way
              Frae our claud shore,
Tell thae far warlds wha lies in clay,
              Wham we deplore.
 
Ye houlets, frae your ivy bow’r        55
In some auld tree, or eldritch tow’r,
What time the moon, wi’ silent glow’r,
              Sets up her horn,
Wail thro’ the dreary midnight hour,
              Till waukrife morn!        60
 
O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains;
But now, what else for me remains
              But tales of woe;
And frae my een the drapping rains        65
              Maun ever flow.
 
Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year!
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
              Shoots up its head,        70
Thy gay, green, flow’ry tresses shear,
              For him that’s dead!
 
Thou, Autumn, wi’ thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear!
Thou, Winter, hurling thro’ the air        75
              The roaring blast,
Wide o’er the naked world declare
              The worth we’ve lost!
 
Mourn him, thou Sun, great source of light!
Mourn, Empress of the silent night!        80
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
              My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs he’s ta’en his flight,
              Ne’er to return.
 
O Henderson! the man! the brother!        85
And art thou gone, and gone for ever!
And hast thou crost that unknown river,
              Life’s dreary bound!
Like thee, where shall I find another,
              The world around!        90
 
Go to your sculptur’d tombs, ye Great,
In a’ the tinsel trash o’ state!
But by thy honest turf I’ll wait,
              Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellow’s fate        95
              E’er lay in earth.
 

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