1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

J. R—d, "Epistle to Mr. Robert Burns" Scots Magazine 50 (December 1788) 608.



SIR, Observing in your last an epistle to Mr. R. Burns, which seemed to me rather severe, I hope you will do me equal justice with your other Correspondent, and insert the following EPISTLE TO MR. ROBERT BURNS.

O fam'd an' hi' renowned Rabbie,
Nane after thee may shaw his gabie,
Bit yet my muse, tho' unco shabby,
Wad fain be in,
To shaw the frolics o' a' baby,
Wi' wanton din.

She disna' mean to lord it o'er ye,
Or frae the list o' poets score ye,
For a' o' auld or modern story,
Ye tak' the lead;
She hum'ly tharfor dis implore ye
To hear her creed.

Your bra' epistles fan I read,
They gar me smile an' claw my head,
To think that ane, in kintry bred,
Wi' little lear',
Wha at a pleugh-tail earns his bread,
Sud craw sae clear.

Your verse fu' sleek it glides alang,
Wi' canty glee an' cherefu' clang,
Sublime ide'as ye mix amang
Your orat'ry,
That gars it hae a finer chang
In poetry.

Wi Homer great thee I compare,
For fancie's mood ye shaw fu' fair,
O' Horace wit ye want nae skair,
To glibe awa',
Gars gouks like us baith gape an' stare,
An' clap our paw.

The rural scenes ye paint so fine,
In fairest hue the colours shine;
An' mony ither things the Nine
Has stor'd ye wi',
That deeper o' Parnassian wine
Nane mayna pri'.

Bit here, my friend, I'm at a stand,
Whilk way to lend my helpin' hand,
Gin I your pleugh had i' my hand,
I'd ablins till,
An' ans'er ilka hard demand
O' priest or d—l.

Wi' Clergymen ye're fairly out,
I read wi' them ye've ha'en a bout,
For ane has lent you sic a rout,
I see in print,
That frae the blaw ye've cause to lout,
An' tak' good tent.

Bit o' their censures ha'e nae fear,
Ye ken fat sud fa' to your share,
If i' your breast ye penance bear
For ony crime
It dis the birden much impair
O' mispent time.

If e'er the D—l wis in wi' you,
'Twas very right to gi'm his due,
Gin't may be ca'd a fau't, for now
I kenna better,
Bit deep philosophy you shew
Into the matter.

'Bout modes o' faith fouk needna fike,
Lat ilk ane follow fat they like,
An' he that thinks he's free to speak,
Maun get his will,
If ill proceeds, his mou' lat's steek
Wi' Reason's bill.

Fat else is in Religion's view,
Bit to mak's faithfu', good, an' true,
Fat conscience dictates for to do
Is — fat we can,
The leave trust to Him wha' kens how
To help ilk man.

I'm blythe to find ye are nae quaker,
Modern religious hum-drum cracker,
Nor pedant, pedagogue, nor hawker
In politics,
Sic like, nae scoundrel hallanshaker
Can shaw his tricks.

Like Patie Pindar ye can whistle,
An ' shaw they're fools for a' their bustle,
Nae gentry knight o' the Scots Thistle
Ye need envy;
While at the pleugh ye tug an' wirstle,
Bid them good b'ye.

If e'er a simmer's day I see,
I'll tak' a trip to your kintry,
An' gin ye i' the body be
Expect that I'll com',
For well I ken your charity
Will mak' me welcum'.