1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

James Macaulay, "To Mr. R***** B****, Ayrshire" Macaulay, Poems on Various Subjects, in Scots and English (1788) 195-200.



"Its Education maks the genius bright."
RAMSAY.

Weel, Rab, thestreen I read your buik,
Frae end to end, an' ne'er forsook
The canty rhimes, till I cou'd brook
To pore nae mair;
For Sleep, the weary wight, o'ertook
An' vex'd me fair.

I never like to mak a fraise,
Or yet be lovich o' my praise,
But I'd maist gi'e my duds o' claes,
Gin I cou'd spare them,
Cou'd I but warble furth sic lays,
An' like you skair them:

For rich an' poor, an' kirk an' state,
By turns partake your love an' hate;
An' mony times you are no blate
To curse an' bann,
An' speak obscene (ill miss your pate!)
That's no the plan.

But whan you crack about the Nine,
An' how to you they've been sae kin',
By helping you the-day to shine
'Mang Scottish Worthies,
Than you work up a tale fu' fine,
Wi' weel-wal'd wordies.

But still for a' the blast that's made,
I doubt you are some sleekit blade,
That never handled shool or spade,
Or yet the pleugh,
Unless it were to hae it said,—
An' that's eneugh:

For by the scraps o' French an' Latin,
That's flung athort your buik fu' thick in,
It's easy seen you've aft been flitting
Frae school to school;
An' nae thanks to your head an' wittin',
Tho' you're nae fool.

I'm no for riving aff your brow,
The laurel folk may think your due;
But gin a while you left the pleu'
To tend the College,
What need you smoor the thing that's true,
Wi' a' your knowledge:

The prints — newspapers an' reviews,
Frae time to time may aft you rouse,
An' say you're Heaven-taught — your views
Are clear an' fair,
An' a' your ain, gi'en by The Muse
O' the Banks o' Ayr;

But, waesuck, that 'ill no gae down
Wi' ilka chiel about this town
That struts in black, an' eke a gown;
Na, na, they canna
Believe that poets fa' aroun',
Like flakes o' manna!

In days o' yore, folk aft were fleec'd;
But miracles lang syne hae ceas'd,
Amang the gentry here, at least,
Wha ne'er can think
A bard, direct frae heav'n, can feast,
An' write, an' drink.

In a' thing that's in our possession,
We may discern a due progression,
Whilk forces frae us this confession,
Man didna fa'
Down frae the lift without transgression,
Or yet a flaw.

You've surely notic'd this yoursell,
Afore we read, we aye maun spell;
An' till the chucky leave the shell
Whar it was hidden,
It canna soun' the morning bell
Upo' your midden.

The grain you t'ither day did saw
Ayont the knowe, was smoor'd wi' snaw;
An' summer suns maun gar it blaw,
Ere it be ready
For Autumn's sonsy lassies braw,
To mak it teddy.

Ilk thing in Nature has a time,
Whan ane may say, it's in its prime,
An' disna in a hurry climb
To real perfection,
But maun gae thro' its ilka clime,
An' ain direction.

It's just the same, for ought I ken,
Amang the folk that lifts the pen,
To write on kingdoms, brutes, or men:
Ane's brain's sae stappit,
Mony a owk on lear we spen',
To clear our caput.

This being than a settled case,
Ne'er try to put things out o' place;
But own your intellects you brace
Wi' solid lore,
As mony a ane, wi' honest face,
Has done before.