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Thou art divine, fair Lesley,

The hearts o' men adore thee.

The deil he couldna scaith thee,

Or aught that wad belang thee;
He'd look into thy bonny face,


say I canna wrang thee!"

The powers aboon will tent thee;
Misfortune sha' na steer thee;
Thou'rt like themselves sae lovely,
That ill they'll ne'er let near thee.

Return again, fair Lesley,

Return to Caledonie !

That we may brag we hae a lass
There's nane again sae bonny.1


care for


1 Miss Lesley Baillie became Mrs. Cumming of Logie, and died in Edinburgh, July, 1843.



There may be some flaw in the anecdote so far as this poem is concerned. At least it seems certain that Burns had other prompting for the composition besides his impatience with Lewars, for not only do we see that it is general in its application, but it also had a decided prototype in a poem written many years before, and with which Burns might well be acquainted.

"There lived, more than a century ago, a rhymer named Thomas Whittell, whose chief haunt was at East Shafto, in Northumberland, and who was buried at Hartburn in the same county, 19th April, 1736. His poems, as a ballad-book, have been extensively sold among the country people in the district in which he resided, and I have known them these sixty years. In 1815, they were published in a handsome form by Mr. William Robson, school-master of Morpeth, and from this copy I send you the following extract:

"Did you not hear of a new-found dance, That lately was devised on,

And how the Devil was tired out

By dancing with an Exciseman?

"He toes, he trips, he skips, he leaps,

As if he would bruise his thighs, man; Sometimes the Devil made the better dance, And sometimes the Exciseman.

"The music was an enchanted pipe,
With which the piper plies on;
Betwixt them there was many a wipe,
The Devil was in the Exciseman.

"For sarabands, antics, minuets, jigs,
Or any dance you could devise on,
Although the Devil did dance them well,
He came not near the Exciseman.

66 6

They vaulted, leaped, and capers cut,

blow (?)

As if they would mount the skies, man; The Devil to all his trumps was put,

To hold stick with the Exciseman.

"The devil a dance e'er came from France,
But he had them before his eyes, man;
Had you beheld, I'd have been felled,
If you e'er saw one like the Exciseman.

"It put the Devil beside his wits,

66 6

Whene'er he saw him rise, man; There was the Devil upon Two Sticks Betwixt him and the Exciseman.

They danced so long that from their snout
Sweat drops like dew from the skies, man;

The Devil ne'er had such a dancing-bout,
As this was with the Exciseman.

"At last the Devil began to faint,

And saw he would lose the prize, man;
And, like a dull jade that had a taint,
The other had cleared his eyes, man.

"He stood like a mot,1 and could not play toot,2 He could neither vault nor rise, man;

But when the Devil was tired out,
He carried away the Exciseman.

"He that will take such a revel,

For me shall have the prize, man; 'Tis equal to me, I like to be civil, Such company I despise, man.

"For he that danceth with the Devil,
I count him not a wise man;

His company is not fit for any,
Except it be an Exciseman."

Extract from a Letter of Mr. Edward Riddle,
Greenwich, July, 1852.

It seems fair to conjecture, that Whittell had written this rough ballad at the time when the Excise was instituted by Sir Robert Walpole, 1733.

1 A mark for players at quoits.

2 Devil (?)


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