Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
The Daft Days
By Robert Fergusson (1750–1774)
 
[Corresponding in Scotland to Christmas holidays in England]

NOW mirk 1 December’s dowie 2 face
Glowrs 3 owr the rigs wi’ sour grimace,
While, thro’ his minimum of space,
                The bleer-ey’d sun,
Wi’ blinkin light and stealing pace,        5
                His race doth run.
 
From naked groves nae birdie sings;
To shepherd’s pipe nae hillock rings;
The breeze nae od’rous flavour brings
                From Borean cave;        10
And dwyning 4 Nature droops her wings,
                Wi’ visage grave.
 
Mankind but scanty pleasure glean
Frae snawy hill or barren plain,
Whan Winter, ’midst his nipping train,        15
                Wi’ frozen spear,
Sends drift owr a’ his bleak domain,
                And guides the weir. 5
 
Auld Reikie! 6 thou ’rt the canty 7 hole,
A bield 8 for mony caldrife 9 soul,        20
Wha snugly at thine ingle loll,
                Baith warm and couth; 10
While round they gar the bicker 11 roll
                To weet their mouth.
 
When merry Yule-day comes, I trow,        25
You ’ll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma’ are our cares, our stamacks fu’
                O’ gusty gear, 12
And kickshaws, strangers to our view,
                Sin’ fairn-year. 13        30
 
Ye browster 14 wives! now busk ye bra,
And fling your sorrows far awa’;
Then, come and gie ’s the tither blaw 15
                Of reaming 16 ale,
Mair precious than the Well of Spa,        35
                Our hearts to heal.
 
Then, tho’ at odds wi’ a’ the warl’,
Amang oursells we ’ll never quarrel;
Tho’ Discord gie a canker’d snarl
                To spoil our glee,        40
As lang ’s there ’s pith into the barrel
                We ’ll drink and ’gree.
 
Fiddlers! your pins 17 in temper fix,
And roset 18 weel your fiddlesticks,
But banish vile Italian tricks        45
                From out your quorum,
Nor fortes wi’ pianos mix—
                Gie ’s Tullochgorum. 19
 
For nought can cheer the heart sae weel
As can a canty Highland reel;        50
It even vivifies the heel
                To skip and dance:
Lifeless is he wha canna feel
                Its influence.
 
Let mirth abound; let social cheer        55
Invest the dawning of the year;
Let blithesome innocence appear
                To crown our joy;
Nor envy, wi’ sarcastic sneer,
                Our bliss destroy.        60
 
And thou, great god of aqua vitæ!
Wha sways the empire of this city—
When fou we ’re sometimes capernoity— 20
                Be thou prepar’d
To hedge us frae that black banditti,        65
                The City Guard.
 
Note 1. dark. [back]
Note 2. gloomy. [back]
Note 3. stares. [back]
Note 4. failing. [back]
Note 5. war. [back]
Note 6. Edinburgh. [back]
Note 7. cheerful. [back]
Note 8. shelter. [back]
Note 9. chilly. [back]
Note 10. social. [back]
Note 11. wooden goblet. [back]
Note 12. full of wind. [back]
Note 13. last year. [back]
Note 14. brewer. [back]
Note 15. jorum. [back]
Note 16. foaming. [back]
Note 17. pegs. [back]
Note 18. rosin. [back]
Note 19. Printed four years before Skinner’s ‘Tullochgorum.’ [back]
Note 20. ill-tempered. [back]
 
 
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