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Give energy to life, and soothe his latest breath With many a filial tear circling the bed of death!
I CALL no goddess to inspire my strains,
A fabled muse may suit a bard that feigns;
Friend of my life! my ardent spirit burns,
And all the tribute of my heart returns,
For boons accorded, goodness ever new,
The gift still dearer, as the giver, you.
Thou orb of day! thou other paler light!
And all the other sparkling stars of night;
If aught that giver from my mind efface;
If I that giver's bounty e'er disgrace,
Then roll to me along your wandering spheres,
Only to number out a villain's years!
EPISTLE TO HUGH PARKER.
In this strange land, this uncouth clime,
A land unknown to prose or rhyme;
Where words ne'er crost the muse's heckles,
Nor limpit in poetic shackles ;
A land that prose did never view it,
Except when drunk he stacher't through it:
Here, ambushed by the chimla cheek,
Hid in an atmosphere of reek,
I hear a wheel thrum i' the neuk,
I hear it-for in vain I leuk,
The red peat gleams, a fiery kernel,
Enhusked by a fog infernal:
Here, for my wonted rhyming raptures,
I sit and count my sins by chapters;
For life and spunk like ither Christians,
I'm dwindled down to mere existence;
Wi' nae converse but Gallowa' bodies,
Wi' nae kenned face but Jenny Geddes.
Jenny, my Pegasean pride!
Dowie she saunters down Nithside,
And aye a westlin leuk she throws,
While tears hap o'er her auld brown nose!
Was it for this, wi' canny care,
Thou bure the bard through many a shire?
At howes or hillocks never stumbled,
And late or early never grumbled?
Oh, had I power like inclination,
I'd heeze thee up a constellation,
To canter with the Sagitarre,
Or loup the ecliptic like a bar;
Or turn the pole like any arrow;
Or, when auld Phoebus bids good morrow,
Down the zodiac urge the race,
And cast dirt on his godship's face;
For I could lay my bread and kail
He'd ne'er cast saut upo' thy tail.-
Wi' a' this care and a' this grief,
And sma', sma' prospect of relief,
And nought but peat-reek i' my head,
How can I write what ye can read?—
Tarbolton, twenty-fourth o' June,
Ye'll find me in a better tune;
But till we meet and weet our whistle,
Tak this excuse for nae epistle.
FROM ESOPUS TO MARIA.*
FROM those drear solitudes and frowsy cells, Where infamy with sad repentance dwells; Where turnkeys make the jealous mortal fast,
Esopus was Williamson the actor: Maria, Mrs. Riddel
And deal from iron hands the spare repast;
Where truant 'prentices, yet young in sin,
Blush at the curious stranger peeping in ;
Where strumpets, relics of the drunken roar,
Resolve to drink, nay, half to whore, no more;
Where tiny thieves, not destined yet to swing,
Beat hemp for others, riper for the string:
From these dire scenes my wretched lines I date,
To tell Maria her Esopus' fate.
'Alas! I feel I am no actor here!'
'Tis real hangmen real scourges bear!
Prepare, Maria, for a horrid tale
Will turn thy very rouge to deadly pale;
Will make thy hair, though erst from gipsy polled,
By barber woven, and by barber sold,
Though twisted smooth with Harry's nicest care,
Like hoary bristles to erect and stare.
The hero of the mimic scene, no more
I start in Hamlet, in Othello roar ;
Or haughty chieftain, mid the din of arms,
In Highland bonnet woo Malvina's charms;
Whilst sans culottes stoop up the mountain high,
And steal from me Maria's prying eye.
Blest Highland bonnet! once my proudest dress
Now prouder still, Maria's temples press.
I see her wave thy towering plumes afar,
And call each coxcomb to the wordy war;
I see her face the first of Ireland's sons,
And even out-Irish his Hibernian bronze;
The crafty colonel leaves the tartaned lines,
For other wars, where he a hero shines;
The hopeful youth, in Scottish senate bred,
Who owns a Bushby's heart without the head;
Comes, mid a string of coxcombs, to display
That veni, vidi, vici, is his way;
The shrinking bard adown an alley skulks,
And dreads a meeting worse than Woolwich hulks :
Though there, his heresies in church and state
Might well award him Muir and Palmer's fate:
Still she, undaunted, reels and rattles on,
And dares the public like a noontide sun.
(What scandal called Maria's jaunty stagger
The ricket reeling of a crooked swagger?
Whose spleen e'en worse than Burns's venom when
He dips in gall unmixed his eager pen,
And pours his vengeance in the burning line;
Who christened thus Maria's lyre divine-
The idiot strum of vanity bemused,
And even th' abuse of poesy abused?
Who called her verse a parish workhouse, made
For motley, foundling fancies, stol'n or strayed?)
A workhouse! ha, that sound awakes my woes,
And pillows on the thorn my racked repose!
In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
And all my frowsy couch in sorrow steep!
That straw where many a rogue has lain of yore,
And vermined gipsies littered heretofore.
Why, Lonsdale, thus, thy wrath on vagrants pour,
Must earth no rascal save thyself endure?
Must thou alone in guilt immortal swell,
And make a vast monopoly of hell?
Thou know'st the virtues cannot hate thee worse,
The vices also, must they club their curse?
Or must no tiny sin to others fall,
Because thy guilt's supreme enough for all?
Maria, send me too thy griefs and cares;
In all of thee sure thy Esopus shares.
As thou at all mankind the flag unfurls,
Who on my fair one satire's vengeance hurls?
Who calls thee pert, affected, vain coquette,
A wit in folly, and a fool in wit?
Who says, that fool alone is not thy due,
And quotes thy treacheries to prove it true?
Our force united, on thy foes we 'll turn,
And dare the war with all of woman born:
For who can write and speak as thou and I?
My periods that decyphering defy,
And thy still matchless tongue that conquers all reply.
DEDICATION TO GAVIN HAMILTON.
EXPECT na, sir, in this narration,
A fleechin, fletherin dedication,
To roose you up, an' ca' you guid,
An' sprung o' great an' noble bluid,
Because ye 're surnamed like his Grace;
Perhaps related to the race;
Then when I'm tired-and sae are ye,
Wi' mony a fulsome, sinfu' lie,
Set up a face, how I stop short,
For fear your modesty be hurt.
This may do-maun do, sir, wi' them wha
Maun please the great folk for a wamefou;
For me! sae laigh I needna bow,
For, Lord be thankit, I can plough:
And when I downa yoke a naig,
Then, Lord be thankit, I can beg;
Sae I shall say, an' that's nae flatterin',
It's just sic poet, an' sic patron.
poet, some guid angel help him,
Or else, I fear some ill ane skelp him!