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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 gossamer 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 inspired, or haply prest wi' care,
He left his bed, and took his wayward route,
And down by Simpson's* wheel'd the left about :
(Whether impell’d by all-directing Fate,
To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or penitential pangs for former sins,
Led him to rove by quondam Merran Dins;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander'd out, he knew not where nor why)
The drowsy Dungeon clockt had number'd two,
And Wallace Tower I had sworn the fact was true :
The tide-swoln Firth, wi' sullen sounding roar,
Through the still night dash'd hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush'd as Nature's closed ee:
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 listening bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard ;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air,
Swift as the gos g drives on the wheeling hare ;
Ane on the Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The ither flutters o'er the rising piers :
Our warlock rhymer instantly descried
The sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the spiritual folk;
Fays, spunkies, kelpies, a', they can explain them,
And even the very deils they brawly ken? them.)
Auld Brig appear'd o' ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles Gothic in his face :
He seem'd as he wi’ Time had warstled 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.
1 Well know. 2 Toughly obdurate. 3 He endured a mighty blow,
* A noted tavern at the Auld Brig end.-B.
† A clock in a steeple connected with the old jail of Ayr.
The clock in the Wallace Tower--an anomalous piece of antique inasonry surmounted by a spire, which formerly stood in the High Street of Ayr
$ The goshawk, or falcon.-B.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch ;-
It chanced his new-come neibor took his ee,
And e'en a vex'd and angry heart had he !
Wi' thieveless2 sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guid e'en :-
I doubt na, frien', ye'll think ye're nae sheepshank, 2 Ance ye were streekit owre frae bank to bank! But gin ye be a brig as auld as meThough, faith, that date I doubt ye'll never seeThere'll be, if that date come, l'll wad a boddle, Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle.
Auld Vandal, ye but show your little mense, 3 Just much about it, wi' your scanty sense ; Will your poor narrow footpath of a streetWhere twa wheelbarrows tremble when they meetYour ruin'd, formless bulk o'stane and lime, Compare wi' bonny brigs o' modern time? There's men o' taste would tak the Ducat Stream, * Though they should cast the very sark and swim, Ere they would grate their feelings wi' the view O'sic an ugly Gothic hulk as you.
Conceited gowk !' puff’d up wi' windy pride !
This mony a year I've stood the flood and tide ;
And though wi' crazy eild 5 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 and spotting thowes,
In mony a torrent down his snaw-broo rowes;
While crashing ice, borne on the roaring spate,
Sweeps dams, and mills, and brigs, a' to the gate ;
And from Glenbuck, I down to the Ratton-key, S 1 Spiteful.
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 !
Fine Architecture, trowth, I needs must say o't,
The Lord be thankit that we've tint the gate o't!
Gaunt, ghastly, ghaist-alluring edifices,
Hanging with threatening jut, like precipices;
O'erarching, mouldy, gloom-inspiring coves,
Supporting roofs fantastic, stony groves ;
Windows and doors, in nameless sculpture drest,
With order, symmetry, or taste unblest;
Forms like some bedlam statuary's dream,
The crazed 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 3 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 with resurrection!
O ye, my dear-remember'd ancient yealings,
Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings !
Ye worthy proveses, and 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 gae your burdies to the smiters;
And (what would now be strange) ye godly writers ;
A’ye douce folk I've born aboon the broo, 6
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, degenerate race !
Nae langer reverend men, their country's glory,
In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid story!
Nae langer thrifty citizens and 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 damn'd new brigs and
Now haud you there! for faith ye've said enough,
And muckle mair than ye can mak to through ; 2
That's aye a string auld doited gray-beards harp on,
A topic for their peevishness to carp on.
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 spared :
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;
No difference but bulkiest or tallest,
With comfortable dulness in for ballast ;
Nor shoals nor currents need a pilot's caution,
For regularly slow, they only witness motion ;
Men wha grew wise priggin' owre hops and raisins,
Or gather'd liberal views in bonds and seisins.
If haply Knowledge, on a random tramp,
Had shored 3 them wi' 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 further clishmaclaver might 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 danced ; Bright to the moon their various dresses glanced : They footed o'er the watery 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. Oh, had M‘Lachlan,* thairm 4-inspiring sage, Been there to hear this heavenly band engage, When through his dear strathspeys they bore with Highland
Or when they struck old Scotia's melting airs,
The lover's raptured joys or bleeding cares;
How would his Highland lug? been nobler fired,
And even his matchless hand with finer touch inspired !
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 advanced 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 flowery hay, came Rural Joy,
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye :
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow Autumn, wreathed with nodding corn ;
Then Winter's time-bleach'd locks did hoary show,
By Hospitality with cloudless brow.
Next follow'd Courage, with his martial stride,
From where the Feal * wild-woody coverts hide ;
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,
A female form came from the towers of Stair :t
Learning and Worth in equal measures trode
From simple Catrine, their long-loved abode : I
Last, white-robed Peace, crowned 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.
ON MEETING WITH LORD DAER. WRITTEN after dining with his Lordship under the hospitable roof of Professor Dugald Stewart. This was prior to his first visit to Edinburgh, and the poet suffered from a natural embarrassment, which soon departed in the genial company of his friend, the learned professor, and the amiable Lord Daer.
This wot ye all whom it concerns,
I, Rhymer Robin, alias Burns,
A ne'er-to-be-forgotten day!
Sae far I sprachledo up the brae,