CreationEarth Nature Photos
Submit Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

Best Famous Robert Burns Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Robert Burns poems. This is a select list of the best famous Robert Burns poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Robert Burns poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of robert burns poems.

Search for the best famous Robert Burns poems, articles about Robert Burns poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Robert Burns poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also:

Written by Robert Burns |

A Red Red Rose

O, my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like a melodie That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair as thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I; And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi' the sun: I will love thess till, my dear, While the sands o' life shall run: And fare thee well, my only luve! And fare thee weel, a while! And I will come again, my luve, Tho' it ware ten thousand mile.

Written by Robert Burns |

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
          Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
          Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
          Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
          An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
          'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
          An' never miss't!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
          O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
          Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
          Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
          Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble Has cost thee mony a weary nibble! Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald, To thole the winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld! But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain For promised joy! Still thou art blest, compared wi' me! The present only toucheth thee: But och! I backward cast my e'e On prospects drear! An' forward, tho I canna see, I guess an' fear!

Written by Robert Burns |

403. The Soldier's Return: A Ballad

 WHEN wild war’s deadly blast was blawn,
 And gentle peace returning,
Wi’ mony a sweet babe fatherless,
 And mony a widow mourning;
I left the lines and tented field,
 Where lang I’d been a lodger,
My humble knapsack a’ my wealth,
 A poor and honest sodger.
A leal, light heart was in my breast, My hand unstain’d wi’ plunder; And for fair Scotia hame again, I cheery on did wander: I thought upon the banks o’ Coil, I thought upon my Nancy, I thought upon the witching smile That caught my youthful fancy.
At length I reach’d the bonie glen, Where early life I sported; I pass’d the mill and trysting thorn, Where Nancy aft I courted: Wha spied I but my ain dear maid, Down by her mother’s dwelling! And turn’d me round to hide the flood That in my een was swelling.
Wi’ alter’d voice, quoth I, “Sweet lass, Sweet as yon hawthorn’s blossom, O! happy, happy may he be, That’s dearest to thy bosom: My purse is light, I’ve far to gang, And fain would be thy lodger; I’ve serv’d my king and country lang— Take pity on a sodger.
” Sae wistfully she gaz’d on me, And lovelier was than ever; Quo’ she, “A sodger ance I lo’ed, Forget him shall I never: Our humble cot, and hamely fare, Ye freely shall partake it; That gallant badge-the dear cockade, Ye’re welcome for the sake o’t.
” She gaz’d—she redden’d like a rose— Syne pale like only lily; She sank within my arms, and cried, “Art thou my ain dear Willie?” “By him who made yon sun and sky! By whom true love’s regarded, I am the man; and thus may still True lovers be rewarded.
“The wars are o’er, and I’m come hame, And find thee still true-hearted; Tho’ poor in gear, we’re rich in love, And mair we’se ne’er be parted.
” Quo’ she, “My grandsire left me gowd, A mailen plenish’d fairly; And come, my faithfu’ sodger lad, Thou’rt welcome to it dearly!” For gold the merchant ploughs the main, The farmer ploughs the manor; But glory is the sodger’s prize, The sodger’s wealth is honor: The brave poor sodger ne’er despise, Nor count him as a stranger; Remember he’s his country’s stay, In day and hour of danger.

Written 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.

Written by Robert Burns |

25. My Father was a Farmer: A Ballad

 MY father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O;
He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne’er a farthing, O;
For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.
Then out into the world my course I did determine, O; Tho’ to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming, O; My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education, O: Resolv’d was I at least to try to mend my situation, O.
In many a way, and vain essay, I courted Fortune’s favour, O; Some cause unseen still stept between, to frustrate each endeavour, O; Sometimes by foes I was o’erpower’d, sometimes by friends forsaken, O; And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken, O.
Then sore harass’d and tir’d at last, with Fortune’s vain delusion, O, I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, and came to this conclusion, O; The past was bad, and the future hid, its good or ill untried, O; But the present hour was in my pow’r, and so I would enjoy it, O.
No help, nor hope, nor view had I, nor person to befriend me, O; So I must toil, and sweat, and moil, and labour to sustain me, O; To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, O; For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for Fortune fairly, O.
Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro’ life I’m doom’d to wander, O, Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O: No view nor care, but shun whate’er might breed me pain or sorrow, O; I live to-day as well’s I may, regardless of to-morrow, O.
But cheerful still, I am as well as a monarch in his palace, O, Tho’ Fortune’s frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O: I make indeed my daily bread, but ne’er can make it farther, O: But as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.
When sometimes by my labour, I earn a little money, O, Some unforeseen misfortune comes gen’rally upon me, O; Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my goodnatur’d folly, O: But come what will, I’ve sworn it still, I’ll ne’er be melancholy, O.
All you who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, O, The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther, O: Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O, A cheerful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you, O.

Written by Robert Burns |

112. A Dream

 GUID-MORNIN’ to our Majesty!
 May Heaven augment your blisses
On ev’ry new birth-day ye see,
 A humble poet wishes.
My bardship here, at your Levee On sic a day as this is, Is sure an uncouth sight to see, Amang thae birth-day dresses Sae fine this day.
I see ye’re complimented thrang, By mony a lord an’ lady; “God save the King” ’s a cuckoo sang That’s unco easy said aye: The poets, too, a venal gang, Wi’ rhymes weel-turn’d an’ ready, Wad gar you trow ye ne’er do wrang, But aye unerring steady, On sic a day.
For me! before a monarch’s face Ev’n there I winna flatter; For neither pension, post, nor place, Am I your humble debtor: So, nae reflection on your Grace, Your Kingship to bespatter; There’s mony waur been o’ the race, And aiblins ane been better Than you this day.
’Tis very true, my sovereign King, My skill may weel be doubted; But facts are chiels that winna ding, An’ downa be disputed: Your royal nest, beneath your wing, Is e’en right reft and clouted, And now the third part o’ the string, An’ less, will gang aboot it Than did ae day.
1 Far be’t frae me that I aspire To blame your legislation, Or say, ye wisdom want, or fire, To rule this mighty nation: But faith! I muckle doubt, my sire, Ye’ve trusted ministration To chaps wha in barn or byre Wad better fill’d their station Than courts yon day.
And now ye’ve gien auld Britain peace, Her broken shins to plaister, Your sair taxation does her fleece, Till she has scarce a tester: For me, thank God, my life’s a lease, Nae bargain wearin’ faster, Or, faith! I fear, that, wi’ the geese, I shortly boost to pasture I’ the craft some day.
I’m no mistrusting Willie Pitt, When taxes he enlarges, (An’ Will’s a true guid fallow’s get, A name not envy spairges), That he intends to pay your debt, An’ lessen a’ your charges; But, God-sake! let nae saving fit Abridge your bonie barges An’boats this day.
Adieu, my Liege; may freedom geck Beneath your high protection; An’ may ye rax Corruption’s neck, And gie her for dissection! But since I’m here, I’ll no neglect, In loyal, true affection, To pay your Queen, wi’ due respect, May fealty an’ subjection This great birth-day.
Hail, Majesty most Excellent! While nobles strive to please ye, Will ye accept a compliment, A simple poet gies ye? Thae bonie bairntime, Heav’n has lent, Still higher may they heeze ye In bliss, till fate some day is sent For ever to release ye Frae care that day.
For you, young Potentate o’Wales, I tell your highness fairly, Down Pleasure’s stream, wi’ swelling sails, I’m tauld ye’re driving rarely; But some day ye may gnaw your nails, An’ curse your folly sairly, That e’er ye brak Diana’s pales, Or rattl’d dice wi’ Charlie By night or day.
Yet aft a ragged cowt’s been known, To mak a noble aiver; So, ye may doucely fill the throne, For a’their clish-ma-claver: There, him 2 at Agincourt wha shone, Few better were or braver: And yet, wi’ funny, queer Sir John, 3 He was an unco shaver For mony a day.
For you, right rev’rend Osnaburg, Nane sets the lawn-sleeve sweeter, Altho’ a ribbon at your lug Wad been a dress completer: As ye disown yon paughty dog, That bears the keys of Peter, Then swith! an’ get a wife to hug, Or trowth, ye’ll stain the mitre Some luckless day! Young, royal Tarry-breeks, I learn, Ye’ve lately come athwart her— A glorious galley, 4 stem and stern, Weel rigg’d for Venus’ barter; But first hang out, that she’ll discern, Your hymeneal charter; Then heave aboard your grapple airn, An’ large upon her quarter, Come full that day.
Ye, lastly, bonie blossoms a’, Ye royal lasses dainty, Heav’n mak you guid as well as braw, An’ gie you lads a-plenty! But sneer na British boys awa! For kings are unco scant aye, An’ German gentles are but sma’, They’re better just than want aye On ony day.
Gad bless you a’! consider now, Ye’re unco muckle dautit; But ere the course o’ life be through, It may be bitter sautit: An’ I hae seen their coggie fou, That yet hae tarrow’t at it.
But or the day was done, I trow, The laggen they hae clautit Fu’ clean that day.
Note 1.
The American colonies had recently been lost.
[back] Note 2.
King Henry V.
—R.
B.
[back] Note 3.
Sir John Falstaff, vid.
Shakespeare.
—R.
B.
[back] Note 4.
Alluding to the newspaper account of a certain Royal sailor’s amour.
—R.
B.
This was Prince William Henry, third son of George III, afterward King William IV.
[back]

Written by Robert Burns |

438. Impromptu on Mrs. Riddell's Birthday

 OLD Winter, with his frosty beard,
Thus once to Jove his prayer preferred:
“What have I done of all the year,
To bear this hated doom severe?
My cheerless suns no pleasure know;
Night’s horrid car drags, dreary slow;
My dismal months no joys are crowning,
But spleeny English hanging, drowning.
“Now Jove, for once be mighty civil.
To counterbalance all this evil; Give me, and I’ve no more to say, Give me Maria’s natal day! That brilliant gift shall so enrich me, Spring, Summer, Autumn, cannot match me.
” “’Tis done!” says Jove; so ends my story, And Winter once rejoiced in glory.

Written by Robert Burns |

201. Birthday Ode for 31st December 1787

 AFAR 1 the illustrious Exile roams,
 Whom kingdoms on this day should hail;
 An inmate in the casual shed,
 On transient pity’s bounty fed,
 Haunted by busy memory’s bitter tale!
 Beasts of the forest have their savage homes,
 But He, who should imperial purple wear,
Owns not the lap of earth where rests his royal head!
 His wretched refuge, dark despair,
 While ravening wrongs and woes pursue,
 And distant far the faithful few
 Who would his sorrows share.
False flatterer, Hope, away! Nor think to lure us as in days of yore: We solemnize this sorrowing natal day, To prove our loyal truth-we can no more, And owning Heaven’s mysterious sway, Submissive, low adore.
Ye honored, mighty Dead, Who nobly perished in the glorious cause, Your King, your Country, and her laws, From great DUNDEE, who smiling Victory led, And fell a Martyr in her arms, (What breast of northern ice but warms!) To bold BALMERINO’S undying name, Whose soul of fire, lighted at Heaven’s high flame, Deserves the proudest wreath departed heroes claim: Nor unrevenged your fate shall lie, It only lags, the fatal hour, Your blood shall, with incessant cry, Awake at last, th’ unsparing Power; As from the cliff, with thundering course, The snowy ruin smokes along With doubling speed and gathering force, Till deep it, crushing, whelms the cottage in the vale; So Vengeance’ arm, ensanguin’d, strong, Shall with resistless might assail, Usurping Brunswick’s pride shall lay, And STEWART’S wrongs and yours, with tenfold weight repay.
PERDITION, baleful child of night! Rise and revenge the injured right Of STEWART’S royal race: Lead on the unmuzzled hounds of hell, Till all the frighted echoes tell The blood-notes of the chase! Full on the quarry point their view, Full on the base usurping crew, The tools of faction, and the nation’s curse! Hark how the cry grows on the wind; They leave the lagging gale behind, Their savage fury, pitiless, they pour; With murdering eyes already they devour; See Brunswick spent, a wretched prey, His life one poor despairing day, Where each avenging hour still ushers in a worse! Such havock, howling all abroad, Their utter ruin bring, The base apostates to their God, Or rebels to their King.
Note 1.
The last birthday of Prince Charles Edward.
[back]

Written by Robert Burns |

39. Ballad on the American War

 WHEN Guilford good our pilot stood
 An’ did our hellim thraw, man,
Ae night, at tea, began a plea,
 Within America, man:
Then up they gat the maskin-pat,
 And in the sea did jaw, man;
An’ did nae less, in full congress,
 Than quite refuse our law, man.
Then thro’ the lakes Montgomery takes, I wat he was na slaw, man; Down Lowrie’s Burn he took a turn, And Carleton did ca’, man: But yet, whatreck, he, at Quebec, Montgomery-like did fa’, man, Wi’ sword in hand, before his band, Amang his en’mies a’, man.
Poor Tammy Gage within a cage Was kept at Boston-ha’, man; Till Willie Howe took o’er the knowe For Philadelphia, man; Wi’ sword an’ gun he thought a sin Guid Christian bluid to draw, man; But at New York, wi’ knife an’ fork, Sir-Loin he hacked sma’, man.
Burgoyne gaed up, like spur an’ whip, Till Fraser brave did fa’, man; Then lost his way, ae misty day, In Saratoga shaw, man.
Cornwallis fought as lang’s he dought, An’ did the Buckskins claw, man; But Clinton’s glaive frae rust to save, He hung it to the wa’, man.
Then Montague, an’ Guilford too, Began to fear, a fa’, man; And Sackville dour, wha stood the stour, The German chief to thraw, man: For Paddy Burke, like ony Turk, Nae mercy had at a’, man; An’ Charlie Fox threw by the box, An’ lows’d his tinkler jaw, man.
Then Rockingham took up the game, Till death did on him ca’, man; When Shelburne meek held up his cheek, Conform to gospel law, man: Saint Stephen’s boys, wi’ jarring noise, They did his measures thraw, man; For North an’ Fox united stocks, An’ bore him to the wa’, man.
Then clubs an’ hearts were Charlie’s cartes, He swept the stakes awa’, man, Till the diamond’s ace, of Indian race, Led him a sair faux pas, man: The Saxon lads, wi’ loud placads, On Chatham’s boy did ca’, man; An’ Scotland drew her pipe an’ blew, “Up, Willie, waur them a’, man!” Behind the throne then Granville’s gone, A secret word or twa, man; While slee Dundas arous’d the class Be-north the Roman wa’, man: An’ Chatham’s wraith, in heav’nly graith, (Inspired bardies saw, man), Wi’ kindling eyes, cry’d, “Willie, rise! Would I hae fear’d them a’, man?” But, word an’ blow, North, Fox, and Co.
Gowff’d Willie like a ba’, man; Till Suthron raise, an’ coost their claise Behind him in a raw, man: An’ Caledon threw by the drone, An’ did her whittle draw, man; An’ swoor fu’ rude, thro’ dirt an’ bluid, To mak it guid in law, man.

Written by Robert Burns |

130. Nature's Law: A Poem

 LET other heroes boast their scars,
 The marks of sturt and strife:
And other poets sing of wars,
 The plagues of human life:
Shame fa’ the fun, wi’ sword and gun
 To slap mankind like lumber!
I sing his name, and nobler fame,
 Wha multiplies our number.
Great Nature spoke, with air benign, “Go on, ye human race; This lower world I you resign; Be fruitful and increase.
The liquid fire of strong desire I’ve pour’d it in each bosom; Here, on this had, does Mankind stand, And there is Beauty’s blossom.
” The Hero of these artless strains, A lowly bard was he, Who sung his rhymes in Coila’s plains, With meikle mirth an’glee; Kind Nature’s care had given his share Large, of the flaming current; And, all devout, he never sought To stem the sacred torrent.
He felt the powerful, high behest Thrill, vital, thro’ and thro’; And sought a correspondent breast, To give obedience due: Propitious Powers screen’d the young flow’rs, From mildews of abortion; And low! the bard—a great reward— Has got a double portion! Auld cantie Coil may count the day, As annual it returns, The third of Libra’s equal sway, That gave another Burns, With future rhymes, an’ other times, To emulate his sire: To sing auld Coil in nobler style With more poetic fire.
Ye Powers of peace, and peaceful song, Look down with gracious eyes; And bless auld Coila, large and long, With multiplying joys; Lang may she stand to prop the land, The flow’r of ancient nations; And Burnses spring, her fame to sing, To endless generations!

Written by Robert Burns |

118. A Bard's Epitaph

 IS there a whim-inspirèd fool,
Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool,
 Let him draw near;
And owre this grassy heap sing dool,
 And drap a tear.
Is there a bard of rustic song, Who, noteless, steals the crowds among, That weekly this area throng, O, pass not by! But, with a frater-feeling strong, Here, heave a sigh.
Is there a man, whose judgment clear Can others teach the course to steer, Yet runs, himself, life’s mad career, Wild as the wave, Here pause—and, thro’ the starting tear, Survey this grave.
The poor inhabitant below Was quick to learn the wise to know, And keenly felt the friendly glow, And softer flame; But thoughtless follies laid him low, And stain’d his name! Reader, attend! whether thy soul Soars fancy’s flights beyond the pole, Or darkling grubs this earthly hole, In low pursuit: Know, prudent, cautious, self-control Is wisdom’s root.

Written by Robert Burns |

Tam OShanter

 A Tale

"Of Brownyis and of Bogilis full is this Buke.
" —Gawin Douglas.
When chapman billies leave the street, And drouthy neebors neebors meet, As market-days are wearing late, An' folk begin to tak' the gate; While we sit bousing at the nappy, An' getting fou and unco happy, We think na on the lang Scots miles, The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles, That lie between us and our hame, Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame, Gathering her brows like gathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
This truth fand honest Tam o'Shanter, As he frae Ayr ae night did canter, (Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonie lasses).
O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise, As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice! She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum, That frae November till October, Ae market-day thou was nae sober; That ilka melder, wi' the miller, Thou sat as lang as thou had siller; That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on, The smith and thee gat roarin fou on; That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday, Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied that, late or soon, Thou would be found deep drowned in Doon; Or catched wi' warlocks in the mirk, By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, To think how mony counsels sweet, How mony lengthened sage advices, The husband frae the wife despises! But to our tale: Ae market-night, Tam had got planted unco right; Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely; And at his elbow, Souter Johnny, His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony; Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither; They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter; And aye the ale was growing better: The landlady and Tam grew gracious, Wi' favours, secret, sweet, and precious: The Souter tauld his queerest stories; The landlord's laugh was ready chorus: The storm without might rair and rustle, Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.
Care, mad to see a man sae happy, E'en drowned himself amang the nappy; As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure, The minutes winged their way wi' pleasure: Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, O'er a' the ills o' life victorious! But pleasures are like poppies spread, You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed; Or like the snow falls in the river, A moment white—then melts for ever; Or like the borealis race, That flit ere you can point their place; Or like the rainbow's lovely form Evanishing amid the storm.
— Nae man can tether time or tide; The hour approaches Tam maun ride; That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane, That dreary hour he mounts his beast in; And sic a night he tak's the road in, As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last; The rattling showers rose on the blast; The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed; Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellowed: That night, a child might understand, The De'il had business on his hand.
Weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg, A better never lifted leg, Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire, Despising wind, and rain, and fire; Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet; Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet; Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares, Lest bogles catch him unawares; Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
By this time he was cross the ford, Whare in the snaw the chapman smoored; And past the birks and meikle stane, Whare drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane; And thro' the whins, and by the cairn, Whare hunters fand the murdered bairn; And near the thorn, aboon the well, Whare Mungo's mither hanged hersel'.
Before him Doon pours all his floods; The doubling storm roars thro' the woods; The lightnings flash from pole to pole; Near and more near the thunders roll; When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees, Kirk-Alloway seemed in a bleeze; Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing; And loud resounded mirth and dancing.
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! What dangers thou canst mak' us scorn! Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil; Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil! The swats sae reamed in Tammie's noddle, Fair play, he cared na deils a boddle.
But Maggie stood right sair astonished, Till, by the heel and hand admonished, She ventured forward on the light; And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight! Warlocks and witches in a dance; Nae cotillion, brent new frae France, But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels, Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east, There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast; A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large, To gie them music was his charge: He screwed the pipes and gart them skirl, Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.
— Coffins stood round, like open presses, That shawed the Dead in their last dresses; And by some devilish cantraip sleight Each in its cauld hand held a light, By which heroic Tam was able To note upon the haly table, A murderer's banes in gibbet-airns; Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns; A thief, new-cutted frae a rape, Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape; Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted; Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted; A garter, which a babe had strangled; A knife, a father's throat had mangled, Whom his ain son o' life bereft, The grey hairs yet stack to the heft; Wi' mair of horrible and awfu', Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.
As Tammie glowered, amazed and curious, The mirth and fun grew fast and furious: The Piper loud and louder blew; The dancers quick and quicker flew; They reeled, they set, they crossed, they cleekit, Till ilka carlin swat and reekit, And coost her duddies to the wark, And linket at it in her sark! Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans, A' plump and strapping in their teens; Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen, Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!— Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair, That ance were plush, o' gude blue hair, I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies, For ae blink o' the bonie burdies! But withered beldams, auld and droll, Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal, Lowping and flinging on a crummock, I wonder didna turn thy stomach.
But Tam kenned what was what fu' brawlie: `There was ae winsome wench and waulie', That night enlisted in the core (Lang after kenned on Carrick shore; For mony a beast to dead she shot, And perished mony a bonie boat, And shook baith meikle corn and bear, And kept the country-side in fear); Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn, That while a lassie she had worn, In longitude tho' sorely scanty, It was her best, and she was vauntie.
Ah! little kenned thy reverend grannie, That sark she coft for her wee Nannie, Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches), Wad ever graced a dance of witches! But here my Muse her wing maun cour, Sic flights are far beyond her power; To sing how Nannie lap and flang, (A souple jade she was and strang), And how Tam stood, like ane bewitched, And thought his very een enriched; Even Satan glowered, and fidged fu' fain, And hotched and blew wi' might and main: Till first ae caper, syne anither, Tam tint his reason a' thegither, And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!" And in an instant all was dark: And scarcely had he Maggie rallied, When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke, When plundering herds assail their byke; As open pussie's mortal foes, When, pop! she starts before their nose; As eager runs the market-crowd, When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud; So Maggie runs, the witches follow, Wi' mony an eldritch screech and hollow.
Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin! In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin! In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin! Kate soon will be a woefu' woman! Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg, And win the key-stane of the brig; There at them thou thy tail may toss, A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make, The fient a tail she had to shake! For Nannie, far before the rest, Hard upon noble Maggie prest, And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle; But little wist she Maggie's mettle— Ae spring brought off her master hale, But left behind her ain grey tail: The carlin claught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read, Ilk man and mother's son, take heed: Whene'er to drink you are inclined, Or cutty-sarks run in your mind, Think, ye may buy the joys o'er dear, Remember Tam o'Shanter's mare.

Written by Robert Burns |

83. The Cotter's Saturday Night

 MY lov’d, my honour’d, much respected friend!
 No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
 My dearest meed, a friend’s esteem and praise:
 To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
The lowly train in life’s sequester’d scene,
 The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah! tho’ his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!


November chill blaws loud wi’ angry sugh;
 The short’ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
 The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose:
 The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes,—
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
 Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o’er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
At length his lonely cot appears in view, Beneath the shelter of an aged tree; Th’ expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through To meet their dead, wi’ flichterin noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie, His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie’s smile, The lisping infant, prattling on his knee, Does a’ his weary kiaugh and care beguile, And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.
Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in, At service out, amang the farmers roun’; Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin A cannie errand to a neibor town: Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthfu’ bloom-love sparkling in her e’e— Comes hame, perhaps to shew a braw new gown, Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee, To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.
With joy unfeign’d, brothers and sisters meet, And each for other’s weelfare kindly speirs: The social hours, swift-wing’d, unnotic’d fleet: Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.
The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years; Anticipation forward points the view; The mother, wi’ her needle and her shears, Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new; The father mixes a’ wi’ admonition due.
Their master’s and their mistress’ command, The younkers a’ are warned to obey; And mind their labours wi’ an eydent hand, And ne’er, tho’ out o’ sight, to jauk or play; “And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway, And mind your duty, duly, morn and night; Lest in temptation’s path ye gang astray, Implore His counsel and assisting might: They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.
” But hark! a rap comes gently to the door; Jenny, wha kens the meaning o’ the same, Tells how a neibor lad came o’er the moor, To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
The wily mother sees the conscious flame Sparkle in Jenny’s e’e, and flush her cheek; With heart-struck anxious care, enquires his name, While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak; Weel-pleased the mother hears, it’s nae wild, worthless rake.
Wi’ kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben; A strappin youth, he takes the mother’s eye; Blythe Jenny sees the visit’s no ill ta’en; The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
The youngster’s artless heart o’erflows wi’ joy, But blate an’ laithfu’, scarce can weel behave; The mother, wi’ a woman’s wiles, can spy What makes the youth sae bashfu’ and sae grave, Weel-pleas’d to think her bairn’s respected like the lave.
O happy love! where love like this is found: O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare! I’ve paced much this weary, mortal round, And sage experience bids me this declare,— “If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare— One cordial in this melancholy vale, ’Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair In other’sarms, breathe out the tender tale, Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.
” Is there, in human form, that bears a heart, A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth! That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art, Betray sweet Jenny’s unsuspecting youth? Curse on his perjur’d arts! dissembling smooth! Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exil’d? Is there no pity, no relenting ruth, Points to the parents fondling o’er their child? Then paints the ruin’d maid, and their distraction wild? But now the supper crowns their simple board, The halesome parritch, chief of Scotia’s food; The sowp their only hawkie does afford, That, ’yont the hallan snugly chows her cood: The dame brings forth, in complimental mood, To grace the lad, her weel-hain’d kebbuck, fell; And aft he’s prest, and aft he ca’s it guid: The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell How t’was a towmond auld, sin’ lint was i’ the bell.
The cheerfu’ supper done, wi’ serious face, They, round the ingle, form a circle wide; The sire turns o’er, with patriarchal grace, The big ha’bible, ance his father’s pride: His bonnet rev’rently is laid aside, His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare; Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide, He wales a portion with judicious care; And “Let us worship God!” he says with solemn air.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise, They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim; Perhaps Dundee’s wild-warbling measures rise; Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name; Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame; The sweetest far of Scotia’s holy lays: Compar’d with these, Italian trills are tame; The tickl’d ears no heart-felt raptures raise; Nae unison hae they with our Creator’s praise.
The priest-like father reads the sacred page, How Abram was the friend of God on high; Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage With Amalek’s ungracious progeny; Or how the royal bard did groaning lie Beneath the stroke of Heaven’s avenging ire; Or Job’s pathetic plaint, and wailing cry; Or rapt Isaiah’s wild, seraphic fire; Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme, How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed; How He, who bore in Heaven the second name, Had not on earth whereon to lay His head: How His first followers and servants sped; The precepts sage they wrote to many a land: How he, who lone in Patmos banished, Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand, And heard great Bab’lon’s doom pronounc’d by Heaven’s command.
Then, kneeling down to Heaven’s Eternal King, The saint, the father, and the husband prays: Hope “springs exulting on triumphant wing,” 1 That thus they all shall meet in future days, There, ever bask in uncreated rays, No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear, Together hymning their Creator’s praise, In such society, yet still more dear; While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere Compar’d with this, how poor Religion’s pride, In all the pomp of method, and of art; When men display to congregations wide Devotion’s ev’ry grace, except the heart! The Power, incens’d, the pageant will desert, The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole; But haply, in some cottage far apart, May hear, well-pleas’d, the language of the soul; And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.
Then homeward all take off their sev’ral way; The youngling cottagers retire to rest: The parent-pair their secret homage pay, And proffer up to Heaven the warm request, That he who stills the raven’s clam’rous nest, And decks the lily fair in flow’ry pride, Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best, For them and for their little ones provide; But chiefly, in their hearts with grace divine preside.
From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs, That makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad: Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God;” And certes, in fair virtue’s heavenly road, The cottage leaves the palace far behind; What is a lordling’s pomp? a cumbrous load, Disguising oft the wretch of human kind, Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d! O Scotia! my dear, my native soil! For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent, Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content! And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent From luxury’s contagion, weak and vile! Then howe’er crowns and coronets be rent, A virtuous populace may rise the while, And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d isle.
O Thou! who pour’d the patriotic tide, That stream’d thro’ Wallace’s undaunted heart, Who dar’d to nobly stem tyrannic pride, Or nobly die, the second glorious part: (The patriot’s God peculiarly thou art, His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!) O never, never Scotia’s realm desert; But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard! Note 1.
Pope’s “Windsor Forest.
”—R.
B.
[back]

Written by Robert Burns |

466. Ode for General Washington's Birthday

 NO Spartan tube, no Attic shell,
 No lyre Æolian I awake;
’Tis liberty’s bold note I swell,
 Thy harp, Columbia, let me take!
See gathering thousands, while I sing,
A broken chain exulting bring,
 And dash it in a tyrant’s face,
And dare him to his very beard,
And tell him he no more is feared—
 No more the despot of Columbia’s race!
A tyrant’s proudest insults brav’d,
They shout—a People freed! They hail an Empire saved.
Where is man’s god-like form? Where is that brow erect and bold— That eye that can unmov’d behold The wildest rage, the loudest storm That e’er created fury dared to raise? Avaunt! thou caitiff, servile, base, That tremblest at a despot’s nod, Yet, crouching under the iron rod, Canst laud the hand that struck th’ insulting blow! Art thou of man’s Imperial line? Dost boast that countenance divine? Each skulking feature answers, No! But come, ye sons of Liberty, Columbia’s offspring, brave as free, In danger’s hour still flaming in the van, Ye know, and dare maintain, the Royalty of Man! Alfred! on thy starry throne, Surrounded by the tuneful choir, The bards that erst have struck the patriot lyre, And rous’d the freeborn Briton’s soul of fire, No more thy England own! Dare injured nations form the great design, To make detested tyrants bleed? Thy England execrates the glorious deed! Beneath her hostile banners waving, Every pang of honour braving, England in thunder calls, “The tyrant’s cause is mine!” That hour accurst how did the fiends rejoice And hell, thro’ all her confines, raise the exulting voice, That hour which saw the generous English name Linkt with such damned deeds of everlasting shame! Thee, Caledonia! thy wild heaths among, Fam’d for the martial deed, the heaven-taught song, To thee I turn with swimming eyes; Where is that soul of Freedom fled? Immingled with the mighty dead, Beneath that hallow’d turf where Wallace lies Hear it not, WALLACE! in thy bed of death.
Ye babbling winds! in silence sweep, Disturb not ye the hero’s sleep, Nor give the coward secret breath! Is this the ancient Caledonian form, Firm as the rock, resistless as the storm? Show me that eye which shot immortal hate, Blasting the despot’s proudest bearing; Show me that arm which, nerv’d with thundering fate, Crush’d Usurpation’s boldest daring!— Dark-quench’d as yonder sinking star, No more that glance lightens afar; That palsied arm no more whirls on the waste of war.

Written by Robert Burns |

11. Song—Here's to thy health my bonie lass

 HERE’S to thy health, my bonie lass,
 Gude nicht and joy be wi’ thee;
I’ll come nae mair to thy bower-door,
 To tell thee that I lo’e thee.
O dinna think, my pretty pink, But I can live without thee: I vow and swear I dinna care, How lang ye look about ye.
Thou’rt aye sae free informing me, Thou hast nae mind to marry; I’ll be as free informing thee, Nae time hae I to tarry: I ken thy frien’s try ilka means Frae wedlock to delay thee; Depending on some higher chance, But fortune may betray thee.
I ken they scorn my low estate, But that does never grieve me; For I’m as free as any he; Sma’ siller will relieve me.
I’ll count my health my greatest wealth, Sae lang as I’ll enjoy it; I’ll fear nae scant, I’ll bode nae want, As lang’s I get employment.
But far off fowls hae feathers fair, And, aye until ye try them, Tho’ they seem fair, still have a care; They may prove waur than I am.
But at twal’ at night, when the moon shines bright, My dear, I’ll come and see thee; For the man that loves his mistress weel, Nae travel makes him weary.