Robert Nicoll

The Provost

A BARE-LEGGIT callant came out o' the north,
    And set himself down in our borough,
The loon had a dour and a miserly look,
    Folk said he'll no leave in a hurry.
He was twenty-first cousin to some Highland laird,
    His tartan was o' the chief's colour;
But nae sort o' wark cam' a-jee to the Celt
    If ye made him but sure o' the siller!

He was toiling and earning baith early and late,
    Though lazy folk tried to deride him;
He was a' body's servant and a' body's jest—
    Fient cared he, if a' body paid him.
His kilt he exchanged for a braw pair o' breeks,
    The Gaelic nae langer did snivel;
He began to be likit—had Satan been rich,
    To Satan he would ha'e been civil.

He gat him a carritch, and set him to spell
    The clans are but so-so at reading;
He soon was a clerk, and a clerk o' the best—
    Dour devil! he a' thing cam' speed in!
He bowed and he becket, till by a bit desk
    He had come to a safe kind o' anchor;
And ere lang our slee callant was aff to the kirk
    Wi' the dochter o' Guineas the banker!

He could lee like an apple-wife—cheat like the deil,
    He was surely created for rising:
Although he had died in a baronet's chair
    It wadna been naething surprising.
Our Provost was old—he was dotard and blind,
    And death took him aff in a hurry:
Syne Banker M'Turk, wi' his pouchfu's o' gowd,
    Was exalted to rule o'er the borough.

The Provost had power, and the Provost had sense;
    Great folk ga'e him places by dozens;—
He sold them his vote, and they quartered a score
    Of his lang-leggit, bare Highland cousins.
He ruled a' the council—the bailies an' a'—
    To the land-loupers acted like Nero;
The Provost was siccar—wha lost or wha wan,
    Number ane was aye taken gude care o'.

But Death leuket ben wi' a grim angry leuk,
    And the wily auld Provost was ended:
Twa opinions divided the feck o' the toun
    As to whilk way his spirit had wended.
An auld doited weaver misca'd him fu' sair,
    And said he deserved the wae woodie:
He said that o' a Provost!—I'm sure you'll agree,
    He maun been but a kae-witted bodie!

English Poetry - E-mail