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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 flower, its bloom is shed
Or like the snowfall in the river,
A moment white then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,

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That fit 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 keystane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks 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 Deil had business on his hand.

Weel mounted on his gray mare, Meg, (A better never lifted leg,)

1 Candidior nivibus, tunc cum cecidere recentes,
In liquidas nondum quas mora vertit aquas.
Ovid, Amor. iii. 5, 11.

Tam skelpit on through dub and slapped-puddle


Despising wind, and rain, and fire;

Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,

Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots humming sonnet ;


Whiles glowering round wi' prudent cares, staring
Lest bogles catch him unawares :
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,1
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.



By this time he was cross the ford,
Where in the snaw the chapman smoored; smothered
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane ;
And through the whins, and by the cairn, gorse
Where hunters fand the murdered bairn ;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Where Mungo's mither hanged hersel'.
Before him Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars through the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders roll ;
When, glimmering through the groaning trees,


1" Alloway Kirk, with its little enclosed burial-ground, stands beside the road from Ayr to Maybole, about two miles from the former town. The church has long been roofless, but the walls are pretty well preserved, and it still retains its bell at the east end. Upon the whole, the spectator is struck with the idea that the witches must have had a rather narrow stage for the performance of their revels, as described in the poem." Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, 1833.

Kirk-Alloway seemed in a bleeze; Through ilka bore the beams were glancing,

And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn,

What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;

Wi' usquebae, we'll face the devil!
The swats sae reamed in Tammie's

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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 cotillon 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, shaggy dog
To gie them music was his charge;

He screwed the pipes and gart them skirl, scream
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 cantrip slight

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' bluid 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 gray hairs yet stack to the heft:
Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu',
Which even to name wad be unlawfu' !



As Tammie glow'red, amazed and curious, stared 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




Till ilka carline swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark, cast-clothes
And linket at it in her sark!

fell to

Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strappin' in their teens;
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen-hunder linen ! 1
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,




1 "The manufacturer's term for a fine linen, woven in a reed of 1700 divisions.” Cromek.

That ance were plush, o' guid blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonny burdies!
But withered beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags, wad spean a foal,
Louping and flinging on a cummock, short stick
I wonder didna turn thy stomach.




But Tam kenned what was what fu' brawlie; There was ae winsome wench and walie, goodly That night enlisted in the core,

(Lang after kenned on Carrick shore;

For monie a beast to dead she shot,

And perished monie a bonny boat,

And shook baith meikle corn and bear, barley

And kept the country-side in fear.)

Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn, short shift —huckaback
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude though 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 o' witches!1



1 A solitary-living woman, named Katie Steven, who dwelt at Laighpark, in the parish of Kirkoswald, and died there early in the present century, is thought to have been the personage represented under the character of Cutty-sark. She enjoyed the reputation of being a good fortune-teller, and was rather a favorite guest among her neighbors; yet with others, who knew her less, she was reputed a witch, addicted to those

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