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What signifies his barren shine
Or some auld pagan heathen,
In guid time comes an antidote
rational mode of preaching, but the friends of the divine regarded the stanza as calculated to injure his popularity.
1 The Rev. Mr. (afterwards Dr.) William Peebles, minister of Newton-upon-Ayr, often called, from its geographical situation, the Water-fit. He was in great favor at Ayr among the orthodox party, though much inferior in ability to the moderate ministers of that ancient burgh.
2 The Cowgate is a street running off the main one of Mauchline, exactly opposite the entrance to the church-yard. The sense of the passage might be supposed allegorical, and this is the theory which the present editor is inclined to adopt. He must, however, state that a more literal sense is attached to it by the best-informed persons in Mauchline. It is said that Mr. Mackenzie, the surgeon of the village, and a friend of Burns, had recently written on some controversial topic
Wee Miller1 niest the guard relieves,
Now but and ben the change-house fills, throughout Wi' yill-caup commentators;
Here's crying out for bakes and gills, biscuits And there the pint-stoup clatters ;
While thick and thrang, and loud and lang,
Wi' logic and wi' scripture,
They raise a din, that, in the end,
Is like to breed a rupture
under the title of Common Sense. On the particular day which Burns is supposed to have had in view, Mackenzie was engaged to join Sir John Whitefoord of Ballochmyle, and go to Dumfries House, in Auchinleck parish, in order to dine with the Earl of Dumfries. The doctor, therefore, after attending church, and listening to some of the out-door harangues, was seen to leave the assembly, and go off along the Cowgate, on his way to Ballochmyle, exactly as Peebles ascended the rostrum.
1 The Rev. Mr. Miller, afterwards minister of Kilmaurs. He was of remarkably low stature, but enormous girth. Burns believed him at the time to lean at heart to the moderate party. This stanza, virtually the most depreciatory in the whole poem, is said to have retarded Miller's advancement.
Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair Commend to
Than either school or college:
It pangs us fou o' knowledge.
It never fails, on drinking deep,
The lads and lasses, blithely bent
Sit round the table weel content,
And steer about the toddy.
On this ane's dress, and that ane's leuk,
While some are cozie i̇' the neuk,
But now the L-'s ain trumpet touts,
And echoes back return the shouts
1 The Rev. John Russell, at this time minister of the Chapelof-Ease, Kilmarnock, afterwards minister of Stirling, one of the heroes of The Twa Herds. A correspondent says: "He was the most tremendous man I ever saw: Black Hugh Macpherson was a beauty in comparison. His voice was like thunder, and his sentiments were such as must have shocked any class of hearers in the least more refined than those whom he usually addressed."
His piercing words, like Highland swords,
A vast, unbottomed, boundless pit,
And think they hear it roarin',
"Twas but some neebor snorin', Asleep that day.
'Twad be owre lang a tale to tell
And how they crowded to the yill,
And cheese and bread, frae women's laps,
And dauds that day.
How drink gaed round, in cogs and caups, pails Amang the forms and benches:
In comes a gaucy, gash guidwife, fat-talkative And sits down by the fire,
Syne draws her kebbuck and her knife; cheese
1 Shakspeare's Hamlet.
The lasses they are shyer.
Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass,
On sic a day!
soil with meal
Now Clinkumbell,1 wi' rattlin' tow,
Some swagger hame, the best they dow,
How monie hearts this day converts
"Now Robin Gib," etc.
At slaps the billies halt a blink,
-Till lasses strip their shoon :
For crack that day.