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Best Famous Poverty Poems

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by Robert Burns |

257. Ode on the Departed Regency Bill

 DAUGHTER of Chaos’ doting years,
 Nurse of ten thousand hopes and fears,
 Whether thy airy, insubstantial shade
 (The rights of sepulture now duly paid)
 Spread abroad its hideous form
 On the roaring civil storm,
 Deafening din and warring rage
 Factions wild with factions wage;
Or under-ground, deep-sunk, profound,
 Among the demons of the earth,
With groans that make the mountains shake,
 Thou mourn thy ill-starr’d, blighted birth;
Or in the uncreated Void,
 Where seeds of future being fight,
With lessen’d step thou wander wide,
 To greet thy Mother—Ancient Night.
And as each jarring, monster-mass is past,
Fond recollect what once thou wast:
In manner due, beneath this sacred oak,
Hear, Spirit, hear! thy presence I invoke!
 By a Monarch’s heaven-struck fate,
 By a disunited State,
 By a generous Prince’s wrongs.
 By a Senate’s strife of tongues,
 By a Premier’s sullen pride,
 Louring on the changing tide;
 By dread Thurlow’s powers to awe
 Rhetoric, blasphemy and law;
 By the turbulent ocean—
 A Nation’s commotion,
 By the harlot-caresses
 Of borough addresses,
 By days few and evil,
 (Thy portion, poor devil!)
By Power, Wealth, and Show,
 (The Gods by men adored,)
By nameless Poverty,
 (Their hell abhorred,)
 By all they hope, by all they fear,
 Hear! and appear!


 Stare not on me, thou ghastly Power!
 Nor, grim with chained defiance, lour:
 No Babel-structure would I build
 Where, order exil’d from his native sway,
Confusion may the REGENT-sceptre wield,
 While all would rule and none obey:
 Go, to the world of man relate
 The story of thy sad, eventful fate;
 And call presumptuous Hope to hear
 And bid him check his blind career;
 And tell the sore-prest sons of Care,
 Never, never to despair!
 Paint Charles’ speed on wings of fire,
 The object of his fond desire,
 Beyond his boldest hopes, at hand:
 Paint all the triumph of the Portland Band;
 Mark how they lift the joy-exulting voice,
 And how their num’rous creditors rejoice;
 But just as hopes to warm enjoyment rise,
 Cry CONVALESCENCE! and the vision flies.
Then next pourtray a dark’ning twilight gloom,
 Eclipsing sad a gay, rejoicing morn,
While proud Ambition to th’ untimely tomb
 By gnashing, grim, despairing fiends is borne:
Paint ruin, in the shape of high D[undas]
 Gaping with giddy terror o’er the brow;
In vain he struggles, the fates behind him press,
 And clam’rous hell yawns for her prey below:
How fallen That, whose pride late scaled the skies!
And This, like Lucifer, no more to rise!
 Again pronounce the powerful word;
See Day, triumphant from the night, restored.


 Then know this truth, ye Sons of Men!
 (Thus ends thy moral tale,)
 Your darkest terrors may be vain,
 Your brightest hopes may fail.


by Robert Burns |

10. The Ronalds of the Bennals

 IN Tarbolton, ye ken, there are proper young men,
 And proper young lasses and a’, man;
But ken ye the Ronalds that live in the Bennals,
 They carry the gree frae them a’, man.


Their father’s laird, and weel he can spare’t,
 Braid money to tocher them a’, man;
To proper young men, he’ll clink in the hand
 Gowd guineas a hunder or twa, man.


There’s ane they ca’ Jean, I’ll warrant ye’ve seen
 As bonie a lass or as braw, man;
But for sense and guid taste she’ll vie wi’ the best,
 And a conduct that beautifies a’, man.


The charms o’ the min’, the langer they shine,
 The mair admiration they draw, man;
While peaches and cherries, and roses and lilies,
 They fade and they wither awa, man,


If ye be for Miss Jean, tak this frae a frien’,
 A hint o’ a rival or twa, man;
The Laird o’ Blackbyre wad gang through the fire,
 If that wad entice her awa, man.


The Laird o’ Braehead has been on his speed,
 For mair than a towmond or twa, man;
The Laird o’ the Ford will straught on a board,
 If he canna get her at a’, man.


Then Anna comes in, the pride o’ her kin,
 The boast of our bachelors a’, man:
Sae sonsy and sweet, sae fully complete,
 She steals our affections awa, man.


If I should detail the pick and the wale
 O’ lasses that live here awa, man,
The fau’t wad be mine if they didna shine
 The sweetest and best o’ them a’, man.


I lo’e her mysel, but darena weel tell,
 My poverty keeps me in awe, man;
For making o’ rhymes, and working at times,
 Does little or naething at a’, man.


Yet I wadna choose to let her refuse,
 Nor hae’t in her power to say na, man:
For though I be poor, unnoticed, obscure,
 My stomach’s as proud as them a’, man.


Though I canna ride in weel-booted pride,
 And flee o’er the hills like a craw, man,
I can haud up my head wi’ the best o’ the breed,
 Though fluttering ever so braw, man.


My coat and my vest, they are Scotch o’ the best,
 O’ pairs o’ guid breeks I hae twa, man;
And stockings and pumps to put on my stumps,
 And ne’er a wrang steek in them a’, man.


My sarks they are few, but five o’ them new,
 Twal’ hundred, as white as the snaw, man,
A ten-shillings hat, a Holland cravat;
 There are no mony poets sae braw, man.


I never had frien’s weel stockit in means,
 To leave me a hundred or twa, man;
Nae weel-tocher’d aunts, to wait on their drants,
 And wish them in hell for it a’, man.


I never was cannie for hoarding o’ money,
 Or claughtin’t together at a’, man;
I’ve little to spend, and naething to lend,
 But deevil a shilling I awe, man.


by Robert Burns |

202. On the Death of Robert Dundas Esq. of Arniston

 LONE on the bleaky hills the straying flocks
Shun the fierce storms among the sheltering rocks;
Down from the rivulets, red with dashing rains,
The gathering floods burst o’er the distant plains;
Beneath the blast the leafless forests groan;
The hollow caves return a hollow moan.
Ye hills, ye plains, ye forests, and ye caves,
Ye howling winds, and wintry swelling waves!
Unheard, unseen, by human ear or eye,
Sad to your sympathetic glooms I fly;
Where, to the whistling blast and water’s roar,
Pale Scotia’s recent wound I may deplore.


O heavy loss, thy country ill could bear!
A loss these evil days can ne’er repair!
Justice, the high vicegerent of her God,
Her doubtful balance eyed, and sway’d her rod:
Hearing the tidings of the fatal blow,
She sank, abandon’d to the wildest woe.


Wrongs, injuries, from many a darksome den,
Now, gay in hope, explore the paths of men:
See from his cavern grim Oppression rise,
And throw on Poverty his cruel eyes;
Keen on the helpless victim see him fly,
And stifle, dark, the feebly-bursting cry:
Mark Ruffian Violence, distained with crimes,
Rousing elate in these degenerate times,
View unsuspecting Innocence a prey,
As guileful Fraud points out the erring way:
While subtle Litigation’s pliant tongue
The life-blood equal sucks of Right and Wrong:
Hark, injur’d Want recounts th’ unlisten’d tale,
And much-wrong’d Mis’ry pours the unpitied wail!


Ye dark waste hills, ye brown unsightly plains,
Congenial scenes, ye soothe my mournful strains:
Ye tempests, rage! ye turbid torrents, roll!
Ye suit the joyless tenor of my soul.
Life’s social haunts and pleasures I resign;
Be nameless wilds and lonely wanderings mine,
To mourn the woes my country must endure—
That would degenerate ages cannot cure.


by Robert Burns |

499. Song—A Man’s a Man for a’ that

 IS there for honest Poverty
 That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
 We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
 Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
 The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.


What though on hamely fare we dine,
 Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
 A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
 Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
 Is king o’ men for a’ that.


Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
 Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
 He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
 His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
 He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.


A prince can mak a belted knight,
 A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
 Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
 Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
 Are higher rank than a’ that.


Then let us pray that come it may,
 (As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
 Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
 It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
 Shall brothers be for a’ that.


by Robert Burns |

319. Lament for James Earl of Glencairn

 THE WIND blew hollow frae the hills,
 By fits the sun’s departing beam
Look’d on the fading yellow woods,
 That wav’d o’er Lugar’s winding stream:
Beneath a craigy steep, a Bard,
 Laden with years and meikle pain,
In loud lament bewail’d his lord,
 Whom Death had all untimely ta’en.


He lean’d him to an ancient aik,
 Whose trunk was mould’ring down with years;
His locks were bleached white with time,
 His hoary cheek was wet wi’ tears!
And as he touch’d his trembling harp,
 And as he tun’d his doleful sang,
The winds, lamenting thro’ their caves,
 To Echo bore the notes alang.


“Ye scatter’d birds that faintly sing,
 The reliques o’ the vernal queir!
Ye woods that shed on a’ the winds
 The honours of the agèd year!
A few short months, and glad and gay,
 Again ye’ll charm the ear and e’e;
But nocht in all-revolving time
 Can gladness bring again to me.


“I am a bending agèd tree,
 That long has stood the wind and rain;
But now has come a cruel blast,
 And my last hald of earth is gane;
Nae leaf o’ mine shall greet the spring,
 Nae simmer sun exalt my bloom;
But I maun lie before the storm,
 And ithers plant them in my room.


“I’ve seen sae mony changefu’ years,
 On earth I am a stranger grown:
I wander in the ways of men,
 Alike unknowing, and unknown:
Unheard, unpitied, unreliev’d,
 I bear alane my lade o’ care,
For silent, low, on beds of dust,
 Lie a’ that would my sorrows share.


“And last, (the sum of a’ my griefs!)
 My noble master lies in clay;
The flow’r amang our barons bold,
 His country’s pride, his country’s stay:
In weary being now I pine,
 For a’ the life of life is dead,
And hope has left may aged ken,
 On forward wing for ever fled.


“Awake thy last sad voice, my harp!
 The voice of woe and wild despair!
Awake, resound thy latest lay,
 Then sleep in silence evermair!
And thou, my last, best, only, friend,
 That fillest an untimely tomb,
Accept this tribute from the Bard
 Thou brought from Fortune’s mirkest gloom.


“In Poverty’s low barren vale,
 Thick mists obscure involv’d me round;
Though oft I turn’d the wistful eye,
 Nae ray of fame was to be found:
Thou found’st me, like the morning sun
 That melts the fogs in limpid air,
The friendless bard and rustic song
 Became alike thy fostering care.


“O! why has worth so short a date,
 While villains ripen grey with time?
Must thou, the noble, gen’rous, great,
 Fall in bold manhood’s hardy prim
Why did I live to see that day—
 A day to me so full of woe?
O! had I met the mortal shaft
 That laid my benefactor low!


“The bridegroom may forget the bride
 Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
The monarch may forget the crown
 That on his head an hour has been;
The mother may forget the child
 That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
But I’ll remember thee, Glencairn,
 And a’ that thou hast done for me!”


by Robert Burns |

97. To John Kennedy Dumfries House

 NOW, Kennedy, if foot or horse
E’er bring you in by Mauchlin corse,
(Lord, man, there’s lasses there wad force
 A hermit’s fancy;
An’ down the gate in faith they’re worse,
 An’ mair unchancy).


But as I’m sayin, please step to Dow’s,
An’ taste sic gear as Johnie brews,
Till some bit callan bring me news
 That ye are there;
An’ if we dinna hae a bouze,
 I’se ne’er drink mair.


It’s no I like to sit an’ swallow,
Then like a swine to puke an’ wallow;
But gie me just a true good fallow,
 Wi’ right ingine,
And spunkie ance to mak us mellow,
 An’ then we’ll shine.


Now if ye’re ane o’ warl’s folk,
Wha rate the wearer by the cloak,
An’ sklent on poverty their joke,
 Wi’ bitter sneer,
Wi’ you nae friendship I will troke,
 Nor cheap nor dear.


But if, as I’m informèd weel,
Ye hate as ill’s the very deil
The flinty heart that canna feel—
 Come, sir, here’s to you!
Hae, there’s my haun’, I wiss you weel,
 An’ gude be wi’ you.ROBT. BURNESS.MOSSGIEL, 3rd March, 1786.


by Robert Burns |

133. The Brigs of Ayr

 THE SIMPLE Bard, rough at the rustic plough,
Learning his tuneful trade from ev’ry bough;
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush,
Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the green thorn bush;
The soaring lark, the perching red-breast shrill,
Or deep-ton’d plovers grey, wild-whistling o’er the hill;
Shall he—nurst in the peasant’s lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
By early poverty to hardship steel’d.
And train’d to arms in stern Misfortune’s field—
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
With all the venal soul of dedicating prose?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o’er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the Bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward.
Still, if some patron’s gen’rous care he trace,
Skill’d in the secret, to bestow with grace;
When Ballantine befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heartfelt throes his grateful bosom swells,
The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.


—————— ’Twas when the stacks get on their winter hap,
And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap;
Potatoe-bings are snuggèd up frae skaith
O’ coming Winter’s biting, frosty breath;
The bees, rejoicing o’er their summer toils,
Unnumber’d buds an’ flow’rs’ delicious spoils,
Seal’d up with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom’d by Man, that tyrant o’er the weak,
The death o’ devils, smoor’d wi’ brimstone reek:
The thundering guns are heard on ev’ry side,
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide;
The feather’d field-mates, bound by Nature’s tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm, poetic heart but inly bleeds,
And execrates man’s savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flow’r in field or meadow springs,
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except perhaps the Robin’s whistling glee,
Proud o’ the height o’ some bit half-lang tree:
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide blaze,
While thick the gosamour waves wanton in the rays.


 ’Twas in that season, when a simple Bard,
Unknown and poor-simplicity’s reward!—
Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr,
By whim inspir’d, or haply prest wi’ care,
He left his bed, and took his wayward route,
And down by Simpson’s 1 wheel’d the left about:
(Whether impell’d by all-directing Fate,
To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander’d out, he knew not where or why:)
The drowsy Dungeon-clock 2 had number’d two, and Wallace Tower 3 had sworn the fact was true:
The tide-swoln firth, with sullen-sounding roar,
Through the still night dash’d hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush’d as Nature’s closèd e’e;
The silent moon shone high o’er tower and tree;
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept, gently-crusting, o’er the glittering stream—


 When, lo! on either hand the list’ning Bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air;
Swift as the gos 4 drives on the wheeling hare;
Ane on th’ Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The other flutters o’er the rising piers:
Our warlock Rhymer instantly dexcried
The Sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the sp’ritual folk;
Fays, Spunkies, Kelpies, a’, they can explain them,
And even the very deils they brawly ken them).
“Auld Brig” appear’d of ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles Gothic in his face;
He seem’d as he wi’ Time had warstl’d lang,
Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.
“New Brig” was buskit in a braw new coat,
That he, at Lon’on, frae ane Adams got;
In ’s hand five taper staves as smooth ’s a bead,
Wi’ virls and whirlygigums at the head.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch;
It chanc’d his new-come neibor took his e’e,
And e’en a vexed and angry heart had he!
Wi’ thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guid-e’en:—


AULD BRIG“I doubt na, frien’, ye’ll think ye’re nae sheepshank,
Ance ye were streekit owre frae bank to bank!
But gin ye be a brig as auld as me—
Tho’ faith, that date, I doubt, ye’ll never see—
There’ll be, if that day come, I’ll wad a boddle,
Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle.”


NEW BRIG “Auld Vandal! ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi’ your scanty sense:
Will your poor, narrow foot-path of a street,
Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they meet,
Your ruin’d, formless bulk o’ stane and lime,
Compare wi’ bonie brigs o’ modern time?
There’s men of taste wou’d tak the Ducat stream, 5
Tho’ they should cast the very sark and swim,
E’er they would grate their feelings wi’ the view
O’ sic an ugly, Gothic hulk as you.”


AULD BRIG “Conceited gowk! puff’d up wi’ windy pride!
This mony a year I’ve stood the flood an’ tide;
And tho’ wi’ crazy eild I’m sair forfairn,
I’ll be a brig when ye’re a shapeless cairn!
As yet ye little ken about the matter,
But twa-three winters will inform ye better.
When heavy, dark, continued, a’-day rains,
Wi’ deepening deluges o’erflow the plains;
When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil,
Or stately Lugar’s mossy fountains boil;
Or where the Greenock winds his moorland course.
Or haunted Garpal draws his feeble source,
Aroused by blustering winds an’ spotting thowes,
In mony a torrent down the snaw-broo rowes;
While crashing ice, borne on the rolling spate,
Sweeps dams, an’ mills, an’ brigs, a’ to the gate;
And from Glenbuck, 6 down to the Ratton-key, 7
Auld Ayr is just one lengthen’d, tumbling sea—
Then down ye’ll hurl, (deil nor ye never rise!)
And dash the gumlie jaups up to the pouring skies!
A lesson sadly teaching, to your cost,
That Architecture’s noble art is lost!”


NEW BRIG “Fine architecture, trowth, I needs must say’t o’t,
The L—d be thankit that we’ve tint the gate o’t!
Gaunt, ghastly, ghaist-alluring edifices,
Hanging with threat’ning jut, like precipices;
O’er-arching, mouldy, gloom-inspiring coves,
Supporting roofs, fantastic, stony groves;
Windows and doors in nameless sculptures drest
With order, symmetry, or taste unblest;
Forms like some bedlam Statuary’s dream,
The craz’d creations of misguided whim;
Forms might be worshipp’d on the bended knee,
And still the second dread command be free;
Their likeness is not found on earth, in air, or sea!
Mansions that would disgrace the building taste
Of any mason reptile, bird or beast:
Fit only for a doited monkish race,
Or frosty maids forsworn the dear embrace,
Or cuifs of later times, wha held the notion,
That sullen gloom was sterling, true devotion:
Fancies that our guid Brugh denies protection,
And soon may they expire, unblest wi’ resurrection!”


AULD BRIG “O ye, my dear-remember’d, ancient yealings,
Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings!
Ye worthy Proveses, an’ mony a Bailie,
Wha in the paths o’ righteousness did toil aye;
Ye dainty Deacons, and ye douce Conveners,
To whom our moderns are but causey-cleaners
Ye godly Councils, wha hae blest this town;
ye godly Brethren o’ the sacred gown,
Wha meekly gie your hurdies to the smiters;
And (what would now be strange), ye godly Writers;
A’ ye douce folk I’ve borne aboon the broo,
Were ye but here, what would ye say or do?
How would your spirits groan in deep vexation,
To see each melancholy alteration;
And, agonising, curse the time and place
When ye begat the base degen’rate race!
Nae langer rev’rend men, their country’s glory,
In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid story;
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an’ douce,
Meet owre a pint, or in the Council-house;
But staumrel, corky-headed, graceless Gentry,
The herryment and ruin of the country;
Men, three-parts made by tailors and by barbers,
Wha waste your weel-hain’d gear on d—’d new brigs and harbours!”


NEW BRIG “Now haud you there! for faith ye’ve said enough,
And muckle mair than ye can mak to through.
As for your Priesthood, I shall say but little,
Corbies and Clergy are a shot right kittle:
But, under favour o’ your langer beard,
Abuse o’ Magistrates might weel be spar’d;
To liken them to your auld-warld squad,
I must needs say, comparisons are odd.
In Ayr, wag-wits nae mair can hae a handle
To mouth ’a Citizen,’ a term o’ scandal;
Nae mair the Council waddles down the street,
In all the pomp of ignorant conceit;
Men wha grew wise priggin owre hops and raisins,
Or gather’d lib’ral views in Bonds and Seisins:
If haply Knowledge, on a random tramp,
Had shor’d them with a glimmer of his lamp,
And would to Common-sense for once betray’d them,
Plain, dull Stupidity stept kindly in to aid them.”


 What farther clish-ma-claver aight been said,
What bloody wars, if Sprites had blood to shed,
No man can tell; but, all before their sight,
A fairy train appear’d in order bright;
Adown the glittering stream they featly danc’d;
Bright to the moon their various dresses glanc’d:
They footed o’er the wat’ry glass so neat,
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet:
While arts of Minstrelsy among them rung,
And soul-ennobling Bards heroic ditties sung.


 O had M’Lauchlan, 8 thairm-inspiring sage,
Been there to hear this heavenly band engage,
When thro’ his dear strathspeys they bore with Highland rage;
Or when they struck old Scotia’s melting airs,
The lover’s raptured joys or bleeding cares;
How would his Highland lug been nobler fir’d,
And ev’n his matchless hand with finer touch inspir’d!
No guess could tell what instrument appear’d,
But all the soul of Music’s self was heard;
Harmonious concert rung in every part,
While simple melody pour’d moving on the heart.


 The Genius of the Stream in front appears,
A venerable Chief advanc’d in years;
His hoary head with water-lilies crown’d,
His manly leg with garter-tangle bound.
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring,
Sweet female Beauty hand in hand with Spring;
Then, crown’d with flow’ry hay, came Rural Joy,
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye;
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow Autumn wreath’d with nodding corn;
Then Winter’s time-bleach’d locks did hoary show,
By Hospitality with cloudless brow:
Next followed Courage with his martial stride,
From where the Feal wild-woody coverts hide; 9
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,
A female form, came from the tow’rs of Stair; 10
Learning and Worth in equal measures trode,
From simple Catrine, their long-lov’d abode: 11
Last, white-rob’d Peace, crown’d with a hazel wreath,
To rustic Agriculture did bequeath
The broken, iron instruments of death:
At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their kindling wrath.


 Note 1. A noted tavern at the Auld Brig end.—R. B. [back]
Note 2. The two steeples.—R. B. [back]
Note 3. The two steeples.—R. B. [back]
Note 4. The Gos-hawk, or Falcon.—R. B. [back]
Note 5. A noted ford, just above the Auld Brig.—R. B. [back]
Note 6. The source of the River Ayr.—R. B. [back]
Note 7. A well-known performer of Scottish music on the violin.—R. B. [back]
Note 8. A well-known performer of Scottish music on the violin.—R. B. [back]
Note 9. A compliment to the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, on the Feal or Faile, a tributary of the Ayr. [back]
Note 10. Mrs. Stewart of Stair, an early patroness of the poet. [back]
Note 11. The house of Professor Dugald Stewart. [back]


by Robert Burns |

395. Sonnet on the Author’s Birthday

 SING on, sweet thrush, upon the leafless bough,
 Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain,
 See aged Winter, ’mid his surly reign,
At thy blythe carol, clears his furrowed brow.


So in lone Poverty’s dominion drear,
 Sits meek Content with light, unanxious heart;
 Welcomes the rapid moments, bids them part,
Nor asks if they bring ought to hope or fear.


I thank thee, Author of this opening day!
 Thou whose bright sun now gilds yon orient skies!
 Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys—
What wealth could never give nor take away!


Yet come, thou child of poverty and care,
The mite high heav’n bestow’d, that mite with thee I’ll share.


by Robert Burns |

For a that and a that

 Is there, for honest Poverty
 That hings his head, and a' that;
 The coward-slave, we pass him by,
 We dare be poor for a' that!
 For a' that, and a' that,
 Our toils obscure, and a' that,
 The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
 The Man 's the gowd for a' that. -

 What though on hamely fare we dine,
 Wear hoddin grey, and a' that.
 Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
 A Man 's a Man for a' that.
 For a' that, and a' that,
 Their tinsel show, and a' that;
 The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
 Is king o' men for a' that. -

 Ye see yon birkie ca'd, a lord,
 Wha struts, and stares, and a' that,
 Though hundreds worship at his word,
 He 's but a coof for a' that.
 For a' that, and a' that,
 His ribband, star and a' that,
 The man of independant mind,
 He looks and laughs at a' that. -

 A prince can mak a belted knight,
 A marquis, duke, and a' that;
 But an honest man 's aboon his might,
 Gude faith he mauna fa' that!
 For a' that, and a' that,
 Their dignities, and a' that,
 The pith o' Sense, and pride o' Worth,
 Are higher rank than a' that. -

 Then let us pray that come it may,
 As come it will for a' that,
 That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
 Shall bear the gree, and a' that.
 For a' that, and a' that,
 Its comin yet for a' that,
 That Man to Man the warld o'er,
 Shall brothers be for a' that.


by Robert Burns |

66. Elegy on the Death of Robert Ruisseaux

 NOW Robin 1 lies in his last lair,
He’ll gabble rhyme, nor sing nae mair;
Cauld poverty, wi’ hungry stare,
 Nae mair shall fear him;
Nor anxious fear, nor cankert care,
 E’er mair come near him.


To tell the truth, they seldom fash’d him,
Except the moment that they crush’d him;
For sune as chance or fate had hush’d ’em
 Tho’ e’er sae short.
Then wi’ a rhyme or sang he lash’d ’em,
 And thought it sport.


Tho’he was bred to kintra-wark,
And counted was baith wight and stark,
Yet that was never Robin’s mark
 To mak a man;
But tell him, he was learn’d and clark,
 Ye roos’d him then!


 Note 1. Ruisseaux is French for rivulets or “burns,” a translation of his name. [back]