1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Samuel Thomson, "Epistle to Mr. Robert Burns" 1792; Poems, on different Subjects, partly in the Scottish Dialect (1793) 85-89.



Sweet Scottish Bard! still as I read
Thy bonie, quaint, harmonious lays,
I aft exulting bless thy head,
That weel deserves to wear the bays.

"'Tis long indeed since Scotia's plain
Cou'd boast of such melodious lays—"
'Twould take, O Burns! an able pen
To match thy merit and due praise.

Tho' Allan Ramsay blythly ranted,
An' tun'd his reed wi' merry glee;
Yet faith that something ay he wanted,
That makes my Burns sae dear to me.

Possest of sic uncommon skill,
Horatian fire at command;
Thou, easy can'st teach Dogs at will,
What's human life at ance to scan!

An' whan got in a merry vein,
Thou tun'st thy reed to auld Scotch drink:
I've aften lang'd, and lang'd again
To see my Burns's social wink.

L—d man, I aften think on you!
Whan to the kirk our saints forgather!
A hypocritic, senseless crew!
It puts ane mad to hear sic blether!

Likewise the Aesculapian rout,
Vile sinners! faith thou has na spar'd them:
I wish this fourscore years a' out,
Baith you an' I may disregard them.

Your bonie lines on Halloween,
I afaten read whan I'm at leisure;
The weel depicted, countra' scene
Affords to me, the greatest pleasure.

HOMER I've read, an' VIRGIL too,
With HORACE, MILTON, YOUNG, and GAY,
Auld SPENCER, POPE and DRYDEN thro',
Sweet THOMSON, SHENSTONE, GOLDSMITH, GRAY.

I've aften read their pages a'
An' monie mair o' deep ingine:
But frae a' the verses e'er I saw,
Your Cotter fairly takes the shine.

Your Dream and Vision mak me fistle:
Right monie a time I'm made to laugh
At the comic turn o' ilk epistle,
Likewise your ecclesiastic cawf.

And wha the devil wadna praise ye,
That has impartial, read ilk sonnet,
That ye hae sung to mouse an' daisy,
An' louse upon my lady's bonnet!

An whan ye bid farewell to Ayr,
Your wonted vales an' verdant hills,
An' to your brethren o' the square,
With warmest throws my bosom fills.

Than greening wife mair lang I think,
To get my e'en for ance upon ye,
To see ye smile an' laugh an' drink
Wi' you in antient Caledonia.

The road is lang an' unco dreigh,
And roaring seas do intervene;
And cauld-rife mountains, wild an' hiegh,
Erect their joyless brows atween.

But yet that hour may come to pass,
That in some thrang perchance I'll see ye,
An' hap'ly treat ye to a glass,
An' likely grow familiar wi' ye.

Farewell sweet bard! may Heavenly powers
Frae a' that's ill for ay deffend ye;
Health, joy an' peace be ever yours;
And happiness for ay attend ye.

And when your spirit quits her clay,
May angels be her dear convoy
To regions of eternal day—
To fountains of eternal joy.

POSTSCRIPT,
WITH A BOUND OF SNUFF.
Take not, my dear Sir, my present amiss,
You may open at once and see what it is:
Or I'll tell you in short tho' I merit a cuff,
'Tis a pound of the best of old Lundy Foot's snuff;
'Tis B—d they call it, I'm told in the city,
'Mong people of fashion that fain wou'd be witty;
But here in the north, we call it Rappee:
D—l sniffle the odds! there's a pound o't to thee.

I sent for't to Dublin, an' mist it — at last
I heard that I might have a pound in Belfast:
I ask'd for a sample before that he weigh'd it,
The old fellow swore by the L—d he cou'd eat it!
I try'd it so rash, — set my opticks a springing:
It stichel'd me so that I straight fell a singing—
Here take it, an' use it, an G—d gie ye gude o't,
An' may it inspire your Muse, if it cou'd do't,
In bonie braid Scotch to sing me a sonnet,
On receipt of which, I would dance on my bonnet:
I'd rather I vow, than a ton o' sic priming,
That I had your musical talents for rhyming!
In the mean time gude night, an' may Providence bless ye,—
Ye'd no be ill-fair'd if as weel as I wiss ye.