Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
The Two Dogs
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
’TWAS in that place o’ Scotland’s isle
That bears the name o’ auld King Coil,
Upon a bonnie day in June,
When wearin’ thro’ the afternoon,
Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame,        5
Forgather’d ance upon a time.
  The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Cæsar,
Was keepit for his Honour’s pleasure:
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
Show’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dogs;        10
But whalpit some place far abroad,
Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.
  His lockéd, letter’d, braw brass collar
Show’d him the gentleman an’ scholar;
But though he was o’ high degree,        15
The fient a pride, na pride had he;
But wad hae spent an hour caressin’
Ev’n wi’ a tinkler-gypsy’s messin:
At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,
Nae tawted tyke, tho’ e’er sae duddie,        20
But he wad stan’t, as glad to see him,
An’ stroan’t on stanes an’ hillocks wi’ him.
  The tither was a ploughman’s collie,
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,        25
And in his freaks had Luath ca’d him,
After some dog in Highland sang,
Was made lang syne—Lord knows how lang.
  He was a gash an’ faithfu’ tyke,
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke;        30
His honest, sonsie, baws’nt face
Ay gat him friends in ilka place;
His breast was white, his touzie back
Weel clad wi’ coat o’ glossy black;
His gawsie tail, wi’ upward curl,        35
Hung owre his hurdies wi’ a swirl.
Nae doubt but they were fain o’ ither,
An’ unco pack an’ thick thegither;
Wi’ social nose whiles snuff’d an’ snowkit;
Whiles mice an’ moudieworts they howkit;        40
Whiles scour’d awa’ in lang excursion,
An’ worry’d ither in diversion;
Till tir’d at last wi’ all their play,
They set them down their minds to say.
An’ there began a lang digression        45
About the “lords o’ the creation.”
  I’ve aften wonder’d, honest Luath,
What sort o’ life poor dogs like you have;
An’ when the gentry’s life I saw,
What way poor bodies liv’d ava.        50
  Our laird gets in his rackéd rents,
His coals, his kane, an’ a’ his stents;
He rises when he likes himsel’;
His flunkies answer at the bell;
He ca’s his coach; he ca’s his horse;        55
He draws a bonnie silken purse
As lang’s my tail, where, thro’ the steeks,
The yellow letter’d Geordie keeks.
  Frae morn to e’en it’s nought but toiling
At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;        60
An’ tho’ the gentry first are stechin,
Yet ev’n the ha’ folk fill their pechan
Wi’ sauce, ragouts, an’ sic like trashtrie,
That’s little short o’ downright wastrie.
Our whipper-in, wee, blasted wonner,        65
Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner
Better than ony tenant-man
His Honour has in a’ the lan’;
An’ what poor cot-folk pit their painch in,
I own it’s past my comprehension.        70
  Trowth, Cæsar, whiles they’re fash’t eneugh;
A cottar howkin in a sheugh,
Wi’ dirty stanes biggin’ a dyke,
Baring a quarry, an’ sic like;
Himsel’, a wife, he thus sustains,        75
A smytrie o’ wee duddie weans,
An’ nought but his han’-daurk, to keep
Them right an’ tight in thack an’ rape.
  An’ when they meet wi’ sair disasters,
Like loss o’ health or want o’ masters,        80
Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer,
An’ they maun starve o’ cauld an’ hunger:
But how it comes, I never kenn’d yet,
They’re maistly wonderfu’ contented;
An’ buirdly chiels, an’ clever hizzies,        85
Are bred in sic a way as this is.
  But then to see how ye’re negleckit,
How huff’d, an’ cuff’d, an’ disrespeckit!
Lord, man, our gentry care as little
For delvers, ditchers, an’ sic cattle;        90
They gang as saucy by poor folk,
As I wad by a stinkin’ brock.
  I’ve notic’d, on our laird’s court-day—
An’ mony a time my heart’s been wae—
Poor tenant bodies, scant o’ cash,        95
How they maun thole a factor’s snash;
He’ll stamp an’ threaten, curse an’ swear
He’ll apprehend them, poind their gear;
While they maun stan’, wi’ aspect humble,
An’ hear it a’, an’ fear an’ tremble!        100
  I see how folk live that hae riches;
But surely poor folk maun be wretches!
  They’re no sae wretched’s ane wad think,
Tho’ constantly on poortith’s brink;
They’re sae accustom’d wi’ the sight,        105
The view o’t gies them little fright.
  Then chance and fortune are sae guided,
They’re ay in less or mair provided;
An’ tho’ fatigued wi’ close employment,
A blink o’ rest’s a sweet enjoyment.        110
  The dearest comfort o’ their lives,
Their grushie weans, an’ faithfu’ wives;
The prattling things are just their pride,
That sweetens a’ their fireside.
  An’ whiles twalpennie worth o’ nappy        115
Can mak the bodies unco happy;
They lay aside their private cares,
To mind the Kirk and State affairs;
They’ll talk o’ patronage an’ priests,
Wi’ kindling fury i’ their breasts,        120
Or tell what new taxation’s comin’,
An’ ferlie at the folk in Lon’on.
  As bleak-fac’d Hallowmass returns,
They get the jovial, rantin kirns,
When rural life, of ev’ry station,        125
Unite in common recreation;
Love blinks, Wit slaps, an’ social Mirth
Forgets there’s Care upo’ the earth.
  That merry day the year begins,
They bar the door on frosty win’s;        130
The nappy reeks wi’ mantling ream,
An’ sheds a heart-inspiring steam;
The luntin’ pipe, an’ sneeshin mill,
Are handed round wi’ right guid will;
The cantie auld folks crackin’ crouse,        135
The young anes rantin’ thro’ the house—
My heart has been sae fain to see them,
That I for joy hae barkit wi’ them.
  Still it’s ower true that ye hae said,
Sic game is now ower aften play’d;        140
There’s mony a creditable stock
O’ decent, honest, fawsont folk,
Are riven out baith root an’ branch,
Some rascal’s pridefu’ greed to quench,
Wha thinks to knit himsel’ the faster        145
In favour wi’ some gentle master,
Wha, aiblins thrang a parliamentin’,
For Britain’s guid his saul indentin’.
  Haith, lad, ye little ken about it.
For Britain’s guid! Guid faith, I doubt it!        150
Say rather, gaun as Premiers lead him:
An’ saying aye or no they bid him.
At operas an’ plays parading,
Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading;
Or maybe, in a frolic daft,        155
To Hague or Calais takes a waft,
To mak a tour an’ tak a whirl,
To learn bon ton, an’ see the worl’.
  There, at Vienna, or Versailles,
He rives his father’s auld entails;        160
Or by Madrid he takes the rout,
To thrum guitars, an’ fecht wi’ nowt;
Or down Italian vista startles,
Whore-hunting amang groves o’ myrtles:
Then bowses drumlie German-water,        165
To mak himsel’ look fair an’ fatter,
An’ clear the consequential sorrows,
Love-gifts of carnival signoras.
  For Britain’s guid!—for her destruction!
Wi’ dissipation, feud, an’ faction.        170
  Hech, man! dear sirs! is that the gate
They waste sae mony a braw estate!
Are we sae foughten an’ harass’d
For gear to gang that gate at last?
  Oh, would they stay aback frae courts,        175
An’ please themsel’s wi’ country sports,
It wad for ev’ry ane be better,
The laird, the tenant, an’ the cotter!
For thae frank, rantin’, ramblin’ billies,
Feint haet o’ them’s ill-hearted fellows;        180
Except for breakin’ o’ their timmer,
Or speakin’ lightly o’ their limmer,
Or shootin’ of a hare or moor-cock,
The ne’er-a-bit they’re ill to poor folk.
  But will ye tell me, Master Cæsar,        185
Sure great folk’s life’s a life o’ pleasure?
Nae cauld nor hunger e’er can steer them;
The vera thought o’t need na fear them.
  It’s true, they needna starve or sweat,
Thro’ winter’s cauld, or simmer’s heat;        190
They’ve nae sair wark to craze their banes,
An’ fill auld age wi’ grips an’ granes:
But human bodies are sic fools,
For a’ their colleges an’ schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them,        195
They mak enow themsel’s to vex them;
An’ ay the less they hae to sturt them,
In like proportion, less will hurt them.
  A country fellow at the pleugh,
His acre’s till’d, he’s right eneugh;        200
A country girl at her wheel,
Her dizzen’s dune, she’s unco weel;
But gentlemen, an’ ladies warst,
Wi’ ev’n-down want o’ wark are curst.
They loiter, lounging, lank, an’ lazy;        205
Tho’ deil-haet ails them, yet uneasy;
Their days insipid, dull, an’ tasteless;
Their nights unquiet, lang, an’ restless.
  An’ ev’n their sports, their balls an’ races,
Their galloping through public places,        210
There’s sic parade, sic pomp an’ art,
The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
  The men cast out in party-matches,
Then sowther a’ in deep debauches.
Ae night they’re mad wi’ drink an’ swearing,        215
Neist day their life is past the bearing.
  The ladies arm-in-arm in clusters,
As great an’ gracious a’ as sisters;
But hear their absent thoughts o’ ither,
They’re a’ run-deils an’ jads thegither.        220
Whiles, o’er the wee bit cup an’ platie,
They sip the scandal-potion pretty;
Or lee-lang nights, wi’ crabbit leuks
Pore ower the devil’s pictur’d beuks;
Stake on a chance a farmer’s stackyard,        225
An’ cheat like ony unhanged blackguard.
The bum-clock humm’d wi’ lazy drone;
The kye stood rowtin’ i’ the loan;
When up they gat an’ shook their lugs,
Rejoic’d they werena men, but dogs;        230
An’ each took aff his several way,
Resolv’d to meet some ither day.

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