Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
The Court of Equity
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
(c. 1796; from an autograph copy in the British Museum)

IN Truth and Honour’s name.—Amen.
Know all men by these presents plain,
The twelfth of May, at Mauchline given,
The year ’tween eighty-five and seven;
We, old practitioners by profession,        5
As per extracts frae Books o’ Session,
In way and manner here narrated,
All con amore congregated,
Are by our brethren constituted
A Court of Equity; deputed,        10
With special authorised direction
To take within our strict protection
The open stay-laced quondam maiden,
With growing life, and anguish laden,
Who by the miscreant is denied        15
That led her thoughtless steps aside.
He who disowns the ruin’d fair one
And for her wants and woes doth care none;
The wretch who can deny subsistence
To life he raked into existence;        20
The coof wha stands on clishmaclaver,
When lasses halflins offer favour;
The sneak wha, at a lasses by-job
Defrauds her wi’ a frig or dry-bob;
The knave who takes a private stroke        25
Beneath his sanctimonious cloak—
In short, all who in any manner,
Shall stain the Fornicator’s Honour,—
To take cognizance there anent,
We are the judges competent.        30
First,—poet BURNS he takes the chair,
Allow’d by all, his title’s clear;
He shows a duplicate pretension
To pass nem. con—without dissension.
Next, merchant Smith, our trusty fiscal,        35
To cow each pertinacious rascal;
In this his very foes admit
His merit is conspicuous great.
Richmond, the third, our worthy clerk,
Our minutes he will duly mark;        40
A fit dispenser o’ the law,
In absence o’ the other twa.
And fourth, our messenger at arms,
When failing a’ the milder terms,
Hunter, a willing, hearty brither,        45
Weel skilled in dead and living leather.
Without preamble less or more said,
We—body politic aforesaid—
Shall now, wi’ due “whereas” and “wherefore,”
Dispatch the business we cam here for,        50
And punish contravening truants,
At instance of our constituents;
And thus, by proper regulation,
We’ll purge the lists of fornication.
Our fiscal here, by his petition        55
Informs us there is strong suspicion
That coachman Dow, and clocky Brown
Baith residenters in this town,—
In other words, you, Jock and Sandy,
Hae been at warks o’ Houghmagandie;        60
And now when facts are brought to light,
Those facts ye baith deny outright.
First, clocky Brown, there’s witness borne,
And affidavit made and sworn
Last Mauchline February Fair        65
That Jeanie’s masts ye laid them bare;
For ye had furled up her sails
And was at play o’ heads and tails
And that ye wroucht a hurly-burly
In Jeanie Mitchell’s tirly-wurly:        70
That ye her pend’lum tried to alter
And graizled at her regulator:
And further still, ye cruel vandal!—
A tale might e’en in hell be scandal—
That ye hae made repeated trials        75
Wi’ dregs and droggs in doctor’s vials
Mixt, as ye thought, in fell infusion,
Your ain-begotten wean to poison;
And yet ye are sae scant o’ grace
As daur to lift your brazen face        80
And offer there to give your aith
Ye never lifted Jeanie’s claith.
Next, Sandy Dow, ye are indicted—
As publicly ye hae been wyted—
For aft clandestinely up-whirlin’        85
The petticoats of Maggy’s Borlan’;
And gien her cannister a rattle
That months hereafter winna settle,
And yet, ye loon, ye still protest,
Ye never herried Maggy’s nest;        90
Tho’ it’s weel-kenn’d that at her gyvel
Ye’ve done what Time will soon unravel.
Then, Brown and Dow, above designed
For clags and claims hereto subjoined
The Court aforesaid cite and summon        95
That on the fourth of June just comin’,
The hour of cause, in our court-ha’
At Whitefoord Arms, ye’ll answer a’;
Exculpate proof ye needna bring
For we’re resolved about the thing,—        100
Yet, as reluctantly we punish,
And rather would with zeal admonish,
We, for that ancient secret sake
You have the honour to partake,
And for that noble badge you wear,—        105
You, Sandy Dow, our brother dear,
We give you, as a man and mason,
This serious, sober, friendly lesson:
Your crime, a manly deed we trow it,
As man alone can rightly do it,        110
And he’s nae man that won’t avow’t.
Therefore, confess, and join our core
And keep reproach outside the door.
The best o’ men hae been surprised,
The doucest women been advised,        115
The cleverest lads hae had a trick o’t,
The boniest lasses taen a lick o’t;
Kings hae been proud our name to own—
The brightest jewel in their crown;
The rhyming sons o’ bleak Parnassus,        120
Were ay red-wud about the lasses,
And soul and body, all would venture,
Rejoicing in our list to enter;
E’en (wha wad trow’t?)—the cleric order
Aft slyly break the hallow’d border,        125
And show-in [kittle/certain] time and place—
They are as scant a’ boasted grace,
As ony o’ the human race.
So, Brother Dow, be not ashamed
In sic a quorum to be named,        130
But lift a dauntless brow upon it,
And say, “I am the man has done it,—
I, Sandy Dow, gat Meg wi’ bairn,
An’ fit to do as much again!”
For you, John Brown, sae black your faut is,        135
Sae double-dyed, we gie you notice,
Without ye, by a quick repentance,
Acknowledge Jean’s and your acquaintance
Remember this shall be your sentence:—
Our beagles to the Cross shall tak ye        140
And there shall mither-naked mak ye;
Around the rump a rope they’ll tak,
And tye your hands ahint your back,
Wi’ jist an ell of string allow’d
To jink and hide ye frae the crowd;        145
There shall ye stand a lawful seizure,
Induring Jeanie Mitchell’s pleasure,
So be her pleasure don’t surpass
Five turnings o’ a hauf-hour glass;
Nor shall it in her pleasure be        150
To turn you loose in less than three.
This our futurum esse decreet,
We mean not to be kept a secret,
But in our Summons here insert it
And whoso dare—let him subvert it!        155
Thus, marked above, the date and place is,
Sigillum est, per Burns the presis;
This Summons, wi’ the Signet mark,
Extractum est, per Richmond clerk;
At Mauchline, idem date of May        160
’Tween four and five, decline of day,
You twa, in propria personæ,
Before designed, Sandy and Johnie,
This Summons, legally you’ve got it,
As vide witness under-noted,        165
Within the house of John Dow, vintner,
Nunc facia hoc GULLELMUS HUNTER.

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