Verse > Harvard Classics > Robert Burns > Poems and Songs
Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
88. The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer
To the Right Honourable and Honourable Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons. 1
Dearest of distillation! last and best——
——How art thou lost!——
YE Irish lords, ye knights an’ squires,
Wha represent our brughs an’ shires,
An’ doucely manage our affairs
                    In parliament,
To you a simple poet’s pray’rs        5
                    Are humbly sent.
Alas! my roupit Muse is hearse!
Your Honours’ hearts wi’ grief ’twad pierce,
To see her sittin on her arse
                    Low i’ the dust,        10
And scriechinh out prosaic verse,
                    An like to brust!
Tell them wha hae the chief direction,
Scotland an’ me’s in great affliction,
E’er sin’ they laid that curst restriction        15
                    On aqua-vit&æ;
An’ rouse them up to strong conviction,
                    An’ move their pity.
Stand forth an’ tell yon Premier youth
The honest, open, naked truth:        20
Tell him o’ mine an’ Scotland’s drouth,
                    His servants humble:
The muckle deevil blaw you south
                    If ye dissemble!
Does ony great man glunch an’ gloom?        25
Speak out, an’ never fash your thumb!
Let posts an’ pensions sink or soom
                    Wi’ them wha grant them;
If honestly they canna come,
                    Far better want them.        30
In gath’rin votes you were na slack;
Now stand as tightly by your tack:
Ne’er claw your lug, an’ fidge your back,
                    An’ hum an’ haw;
But raise your arm, an’ tell your crack        35
                    Before them a’.
Paint Scotland greetin owre her thrissle;
Her mutchkin stowp as toom’s a whissle;
An’ d—mn’d excisemen in a bussle,
                    Seizin a stell,        40
Triumphant crushin’t like a mussel,
                    Or limpet shell!
Then, on the tither hand present her—
A blackguard smuggler right behint her,
An’ cheek-for-chow, a chuffie vintner        45
                    Colleaguing join,
Picking her pouch as bare as winter
                    Of a’ kind coin.
Is there, that bears the name o’ Scot,
But feels his heart’s bluid rising hot,        50
To see his poor auld mither’s pot
                    Thus dung in staves,
An’ plunder’d o’ her hindmost groat
                    By gallows knaves?
Alas! I’m but a nameless wight,        55
Trode i’ the mire out o’ sight?
But could I like Montgomeries fight,
                    Or gab like Boswell, 2
There’s some sark-necks I wad draw tight,
                    An’ tie some hose well.        60
God bless your Honours! can ye see’t—
The kind, auld cantie carlin greet,
An’ no get warmly to your feet,
                    An’ gar them hear it,
An’ tell them wi’a patriot-heat        65
                    Ye winna bear it?
Some o’ you nicely ken the laws,
To round the period an’ pause,
An’ with rhetoric clause on clause
                    To mak harangues;        70
Then echo thro’ Saint Stephen’s wa’s
                    Auld Scotland’s wrangs.
Dempster, 3 a true blue Scot I’se warran’;
Thee, aith-detesting, chaste Kilkerran; 4
An’ that glib-gabbit Highland baron,        75
                    The Laird o’ Graham; 5
An’ ane, a chap that’s damn’d aulfarran’,
                    Dundas his name: 6
Erskine, a spunkie Norland billie; 7
True Campbells, Frederick and Ilay; 8        80
An’ Livistone, the bauld Sir Willie; 9
                    An’ mony ithers,
Whom auld Demosthenes or Tully
                    Might own for brithers.
See sodger Hugh, 10 my watchman stented,        85
If poets e’er are represented;
I ken if that your sword were wanted,
                    Ye’d lend a hand;
But when there’s ought to say anent it,
                    Ye’re at a stand.        90
Arouse, my boys! exert your mettle,
To get auld Scotland back her kettle;
Or faith! I’ll wad my new pleugh-pettle,
                    Ye’ll see’t or lang,
She’ll teach you, wi’ a reekin whittle,        95
                    Anither sang.
This while she’s been in crankous mood,
Her lost Militia fir’d her bluid;
(Deil na they never mair do guid,
                    Play’d her that pliskie!)        100
An’ now she’s like to rin red-wud
                    About her whisky.
An’ Lord! if ance they pit her till’t,
Her tartan petticoat she’ll kilt,
An’durk an’ pistol at her belt,        105
                    She’ll tak the streets,
An’ rin her whittle to the hilt,
                    I’ the first she meets!
For God sake, sirs! then speak her fair,
An’ straik her cannie wi’ the hair,        110
An’ to the muckle house repair,
                    Wi’ instant speed,
An’ strive, wi’ a’ your wit an’ lear,
                    To get remead.
Yon ill-tongu’d tinkler, Charlie Fox,        115
May taunt you wi’ his jeers and mocks;
But gie him’t het, my hearty cocks!
                    E’en cowe the cadie!
An’ send him to his dicing box
                    An’ sportin’ lady.        120
Tell you guid bluid o’ auld Boconnock’s, 11
I’ll be his debt twa mashlum bonnocks,
An’ drink his health in auld Nance Tinnock’s 12
                    Nine times a-week,
If he some scheme, like tea an’ winnocks,        125
                    Was kindly seek.
Could he some commutation broach,
I’ll pledge my aith in guid braid Scotch,
He needna fear their foul reproach
                    Nor erudition,        130
Yon mixtie-maxtie, queer hotch-potch,
                    The Coalition.
Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue;
She’s just a devil wi’ a rung;
An’ if she promise auld or young        135
                    To tak their part,
Tho’ by the neck she should be strung,
                    She’ll no desert.
And now, ye chosen Five-and-Forty,
May still you mither’s heart support ye;        140
Then, tho’a minister grow dorty,
                    An’ kick your place,
Ye’ll snap your gingers, poor an’ hearty,
                    Before his face.
God bless your Honours, a’ your days,        145
Wi’ sowps o’ kail and brats o’ claise,
In spite o’ a’ the thievish kaes,
                    That haunt St. Jamie’s!
Your humble poet sings an’ prays,
                    While Rab his name is.        150

LET half-starv’d slaves in warmer skies
See future wines, rich-clust’ring, rise;
Their lot auld Scotland ne’re envies,
                    But, blythe and frisky,
She eyes her freeborn, martial boys        155
                    Tak aff their whisky.
What tho’ their Phoebus kinder warms,
While fragrance blooms and beauty charms,
When wretches range, in famish’d swarms,
                    The scented groves;        160
Or, hounded forth, dishonour arms
                    In hungry droves!
Their gun’s a burden on their shouther;
They downa bide the stink o’ powther;
Their bauldest thought’s a hank’ring swither        165
                    To stan’ or rin,
Till skelp—a shot—they’re aff, a’throw’ther,
                    To save their skin.
But bring a Scotchman frae his hill,
Clap in his cheek a Highland gill,        170
Say, such is royal George’s will,
                    An’ there’s the foe!
He has nae thought but how to kill
                    Twa at a blow.
Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him;        175
Death comes, wi’ fearless eye he sees him;
Wi’bluidy hand a welcome gies him;
                    An’ when he fa’s,
His latest draught o’ breathin lea’es him
                    In faint huzzas.        180
Sages their solemn een may steek,
An’ raise a philosophic reek,
An’ physically causes seek,
                    In clime an’ season;
But tell me whisky’s name in Greek        185
                    I’ll tell the reason.
Scotland, my auld, respected mither!
Tho’ whiles ye moistify your leather,
Till, whare ye sit on craps o’ heather,
                    Ye tine your dam;        190
Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither!
                    Take aff your dram!
Note 1. This was written before the Act anent the Scotch distilleries, of session 1786, for which Scotland and the author return their most grateful thanks.—R. B. [back]
Note 2. James Boswell of Auchinleck, the biographer of Johnson. [back]
Note 3. George Dempster of Dunnichen. [back]
Note 4. Sir Adam Ferguson of Kilkerran, Bart. [back]
Note 5. The Marquis of Graham, eldest son of the Duke of Montrose. [back]
Note 6. Right Hon. Henry Dundas, M. P. [back]
Note 7. Probably Thomas, afterward Lord Erskine. [back]
Note 8. Lord Frederick Campbell, second brother of the Duke of Argyll, and Ilay Campbell, Lord Advocate for Scotland, afterward President of the Court of Session. [back]
Note 9. Sir Wm. Augustus Cunningham, Baronet, of Livingstone. [back]
Note 10. Col. Hugh Montgomery, afterward Earl of Eglinton. [back]
Note 11. Pitt, whose grandfather was of Boconnock in Cornwall. [back]
Note 12. A worthy old hostess of the author’s in Mauchline, where he sometimes studies politics over a glass of gude auld Scotch Drink.—R. B. [back]


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