Robert Burns ( )


Epistle to John Lapraix, An Old Scottish Bard


WHILE briers an woodbines budding green,
An paitricks scraichin loud at een,
An morning poussie whiddin seen,
    Inspire my Muse,
This freedom, in an unknown frien,
    I pray excuse.

On Fasten-een we had a rockin,
To ca the crack and weave our stockin;
And there was muckle fun and jokin,
    Ye need na doubt;
At length we had a hearty yokin
    At sang about.

There was ae sang, amang the rest,
Aboon them a it pleasd me best,
That some kind husband had addrest
    To some sweet wife:
It thirld the heart-strings thro the breast,
    A to the life.

Ive scarce heard ought describd sae weel,
What genrous, manly bosoms feel;
Thought I Can this be Pope, or Steele,
    Or Beatties wark!
They tauld me twas an odd kind chiel
    About Muirkirk.

It pat me fidgin fain to hear t,
And sae about him there I spierd;
Then a that kennd him round declard
    He had ingine,
That nane excelld it, few cam neart,
    It was sae fine.

That, set him to a pint of ale,
An either douce or merry tale,
Or rhymes an sangs hed made himsel,
    Or witty catches,
Tween Inverness and Teviotdale,
    He had few matches.

Then up I gat, an swoor an aith,
Tho I should pawn my pleugh and graith,
Or die a cadger pownies death,
    At some dyke-back,
A pint an gill Id gie them baith
    To hear your crack.

But, first an foremost, I should tell,
Amaist as soon as I could spell,
I to the crambo-jingle fell;
    Tho rude an rough,
Yet crooning to a bodys sel,
    Does weel eneugh.

I am nae poet, in a sense,
But just a rhymer, like, by chance,
An hae to learning nae pretence,
    Yet what the matter?
Wheneer my Muse does on me glance,
    I jingle at her.

Your critic-folk may cock their nose,
And say How can you eer propose,
You wha ken hardly verse frae prose,
    To mak a sang?
But, by your leaves, my learned foes,
    Yere maybe wrang.

Whats a your jargon o your schoole,
Your Latin names for horns an stools;
If honest nature made you fools,
    What sairs your grammars?
Yed better taen up spades and shools,
    Or knappin-hammers.

A set o dull conceited hashes
Confuse their brains in college classes!
They gang in stirks, and come out asses,
    Plain truth to speak;
An syne they think to climb Parnassus
    By dint o Greek!

Gie me ae spark o Natures fire,
Thats a the learning I desire;
Then tho I drudge thro dub an mire
    At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, though hamely in attire,
    May touch the heart.

O for a spunk o Allans glee,
Or Fergussons, the bauld an slee,
Or bright Lapraiks, my friend to be,
    If I can hit it!
That would be lear eneugh for me,
    If I could get it.

Now, sir, if ye hae friends enow,
Tho real friends, I blieve, are few,
Yet, if your catalogue be fou,
    Ise no insist,
But gif ye want ae friend thats true,
    Im on your list.

I winna blaw about mysel,
As ill I like my fauts to tell;
But friends, an folks that wish me well,
    They sometimes roose me;
Tho I maun own, as mony still
    As far abuse me.

Theres ae wee faut they whiles lay to me,
I like the lasses-Gude forgie me!
For mony a plack they wheedle frae me,
    At dance or fair;
Maybe some ither thing they gie me
    They weel can spare.

But Mauchline race, or Mauchline fair,
I should be proud to meet you there;
Wese gie as nights discharge to care,
    If we forgather,
An hae a swap o rhymin-ware
    Wi ane anither.

The four-gill chap, wese gar him clatter,
An kirsen him wi reekin water;
Syne well sit down an tak our whitter,
    To cheer our heart;
An faith, wese be acquainted better
    Before we part.

Awa, ye selfish warly race,
Wha think that havins, sense, an grace,
Evn love an friendship, should give place
    To catch-the-plack!
I dinna like to see your face,
    Nor hear your crack.

But ye whom social pleasure charms,
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
    Each aid the others,
Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
    My friends, my brothers!

But to conclude my lang epistle,
As my auld pens worn to the gristle;
Twa lines frae you wad gar me fissle,
    Who am, most fervent,
While I can either sing, or whistle,
    Your friend and servant.



Robert Burns's other poems:
  1. To the Beautiful Eliza J n
  2. , ́ To Mr. Mackenzie, Surgeon, Mauchline
  3. , , Addressed To A Lady Whom The Author Feared He Had Offended
  4. , Lines Written on a Tumbler
  5. Tam Glen


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