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TO THE REV. MR. JAMES STEVEN,1
On his Text, Malachi, iv. 2. "And ye shall go forth, and grow up as CALVES of the stall."
RIGHT, sir! your text I'll prove it true,
And should some patron be so kind,
I doubt na, sir, but then we'll find
1 Afterwards minister of one of the Scotch churches in London, and ultimately of Kilwinning, in Ayrshire. The tradition in the family of Mr. Gavin Hamilton is, that the poet, in passing to the church at Mauchline, called at Mr. Hamilton's, who, being confined with the gout, could not accompany him, but desired him, as parents do with children, to bring home a note of the text. At the conclusion of the service, Burns called again, and sitting down for a minute at Mr. Hamilton's business-table, scribbled these verses, by way of a compliance with the request. From a memorandum by Burns himself, it would appear that there was also a wager with Mr. Hamilton as to his producing a poem in a certain time, and that he gained it by inditing The Calf.
But if the lover's raptured hour
Though, when some kind, connubial dear,
And in your lug, most reverend James,
And when ye're numbered wi' the dead,
Wi' justice they may mark your head "Here lies a famous bullock!"
Mr. William Chalmers, writer in Ayr, who had drawn up an assignation of the bard's property, was in love, and it occurred to him to ask Burns to address the admired object in his behalf. The poet, who had seen the lady, but was scarcely acquainted with her,
readily complied by producing the following specimen of vicarious courtship.
Wr' braw new branks in mickle pride, bridle And eke a braw new brechan,
My Pegasus I'm got astride,
And up Parnassus pechin';
Then up he gets, and off he sets,
For sake o' Willie Chalmers.
I doubt na, lass, that weel-kenned name
I am nae stranger to your fame,
Your bonny face sae mild and sweet,
And faith ye'll no be lost a whit,
Auld Truth hersel' might swear ye're fair,
And ne'er a ane mistak' her:
Might fire even holy palmers ;
I doubt na fortune may you shore
His lexicons and grammars ;
Some gapin' glowrin' country laird
My bonny maid, before ye wed
Sic clumsy-witted hammers,
Forgive the Bard! my fond regard
TAM SAMSON'S ELEGY.1
"An honest man's the noblest work of God." - POPE.
HAS auld Kilmarnock seen the deil?
To preach and read?
Na, waur than a'!" cries ilka chiel -
Kilmarnock lang may grunt and grane,
In mourning weed;
To Death she's dearly paid the kane
The brethren o' the mystic level
1 Thomas Samson was one of the poet's Kilmarnock friends a nursery and seedsman of good credit, a zealous sportsman, and a good fellow.
2 A preacher, a great favourite with the million. See The Ordination, stanza ii. — B.
3 Another preacher, an equal favourite with the few, who was at that time ailing. For him also see The Ordination, stanza ix. B.
4 For a minister to read his sermons, as is often done by those of moderate denomination, is often a cause of great unpopularity in Scotland.