Verse > Harvard Classics > Robert Burns > Poems and Songs
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Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
61. Second Epistle to J. Lapraik
 
 
April 21, 1785
 
 
WHILE new-ca’d kye rowte at the stake
An’ pownies reek in pleugh or braik,
This hour on e’enin’s edge I take,
                To own I’m debtor
To honest-hearted, auld Lapraik,        5
                For his kind letter.
 
Forjesket sair, with weary legs,
Rattlin the corn out-owre the rigs,
Or dealing thro’ amang the naigs
                Their ten-hours’ bite,        10
My awkart Muse sair pleads and begs
                I would na write.
 
The tapetless, ramfeezl’d hizzie,
She’s saft at best an’ something lazy:
Quo’ she, “Ye ken we’ve been sae busy        15
                This month an’ mair,
That trowth, my head is grown right dizzie,
                An’ something sair.”
 
Her dowff excuses pat me mad;
“Conscience,” says I, “ye thowless jade!        20
I’ll write, an’ that a hearty blaud,
                This vera night;
So dinna ye affront your trade,
                But rhyme it right.
 
“Shall bauld Lapraik, the king o’ hearts,        25
Tho’ mankind were a pack o’ cartes,
Roose you sae weel for your deserts,
                In terms sae friendly;
Yet ye’ll neglect to shaw your parts
                An’ thank him kindly?”        30
 
Sae I gat paper in a blink,
An’ down gaed stumpie in the ink:
Quoth I, “Before I sleep a wink,
                I vow I’ll close it;
An’ if ye winna mak it clink,        35
                By Jove, I’ll prose it!”
 
Sae I’ve begun to scrawl, but whether
In rhyme, or prose, or baith thegither;
Or some hotch-potch that’s rightly neither,
                Let time mak proof;        40
But I shall scribble down some blether
                Just clean aff-loof.
 
My worthy friend, ne’er grudge an’ carp,
Tho’ fortune use you hard an’ sharp;
Come, kittle up your moorland harp        45
                Wi’ gleesome touch!
Ne’er mind how Fortune waft and warp;
                She’s but a bitch.
 
She ’s gien me mony a jirt an’ fleg,
Sin’ I could striddle owre a rig;        50
But, by the L—d, tho’ I should beg
                Wi’ lyart pow,
I’ll laugh an’ sing, an’ shake my leg,
                As lang’s I dow!
 
Now comes the sax-an’-twentieth simmer        55
I’ve seen the bud upon the timmer,
Still persecuted by the limmer
                Frae year to year;
But yet, despite the kittle kimmer,
                I, Rob, am here.        60
 
Do ye envy the city gent,
Behint a kist to lie an’ sklent;
Or pursue-proud, big wi’ cent. per cent.
                An’ muckle wame,
In some bit brugh to represent        65
                A bailie’s name?
 
Or is’t the paughty, feudal thane,
Wi’ ruffl’d sark an’ glancing cane,
Wha thinks himsel nae sheep-shank bane,
                But lordly stalks;        70
While caps and bonnets aff are taen,
                As by he walks?
 
“O Thou wha gies us each guid gift!
Gie me o’ wit an’ sense a lift,
Then turn me, if thou please, adrift,        75
                Thro’ Scotland wide;
Wi’ cits nor lairds I wadna shift,
                In a’ their pride!”
 
Were this the charter of our state,
“On pain o’ hell be rich an’ great,”        80
Damnation then would be our fate,
                Beyond remead;
But, thanks to heaven, that’s no the gate
                We learn our creed.
 
For thus the royal mandate ran,        85
When first the human race began;
“The social, friendly, honest man,
                Whate’er he be—
’Tis he fulfils great Nature’s plan,
                And none but he.”        90
 
O mandate glorious and divine!
The ragged followers o’ the Nine,
Poor, thoughtless devils! yet may shine
                In glorious light,
While sordid sons o’ Mammon’s line        95
                Are dark as night!
 
Tho’ here they scrape, an’ squeeze, an’ growl,
Their worthless nievefu’ of a soul
May in some future carcase howl,
                The forest’s fright;        100
Or in some day-detesting owl
                May shun the light.
 
Then may Lapraik and Burns arise,
To reach their native, kindred skies,
And sing their pleasures, hopes an’ joys,        105
                In some mild sphere;
Still closer knit in friendship’s ties,
                Each passing year!
 

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