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I stacher'd whyles, but yet took tent ay
To free the ditches;
An' hillocks, stanes, an' bushes kenn'd ay
Frae ghaists an' witches.
The rising moon began to glow'r
I was come round about the hill,
To keep me sicker;
I there wi' Something did forgather,
A three-tae'd leister on the ither
Lay, large an' lang.
Its stature seem'd lang Scotch ells twa,
They were as thin, as sharp an' sma'
And then, its shanks,
As cheeks o' branks.
'Guid-een,' quo' I; 'Friend! hae ye been mawin, 'When ither folk are busy sawin ?'*
It seem'd to mak a kind o' stan',
But naething spak;
At length, says I, 'Friend, whare ye gaun,
'Will ye go back?"
It spak right howe,- My name is Death, 'But be na fley'd.'-Quoth I, Guid faith, 'Ye're may be come to stap my breath;
'But tent me billie:
ye weel, tak care o' skaith.
'See, there's a gully!"
'Gudeman,' quo' he, 'put up your whittle, 'I'm no design'd to try its mettle;
'But if I did, I wad be kittle
To be mislear'd,
'Out-owre my beard.
'I wad na mind it, no, that spittle
'Weel, weel!' says I, ' a bargain be't;
'Come, gies your hand, an' sae we're gree't; 'We'll ease our shanks an' tak a seat,
'Come, gies your news;
'This while ye hae been mony a gate 'At mony a house.'
'Ay, ay!' quo' he, an' shook his head, 'It's e'en a lang, lang time indeed
This rencounter happened in seed-time, 1785.
+ An epidemical fever was then raging in that country.
Sin' I began to nick the thread,
'An' choke the breath:
'Folk maun do something for their bread,
'An' sae maun Death.
'Sax thousand years are near hand fled
To stap or scar me;
'Till ane Hornbook 's* ta'en up the trade,
An' faith, he'll waur me.
'Ye ken Jock Hornbook i' the Clachan,
'The weans haud out their fingers laughin
'And pouk my hips.
'See, here's a scythe, and there's a dart, 'They hae pierc'd mony a gallant heart; 'But Doctor Hornbook, wi' his art
'And cursed skill,
'Has made them baith no worth a f-t,
'Damn'd haet they'll kill.
"'Twas yestreen, nae farther gaen,
"I threw a noble throw at ane;
*This gentleman, Dr. Hornbook, is, professionally, a brother of the Sovereign Order of the Ferula ; but, by intuition and inspi. gration, is at once an Apothecary, Surgeon, and Physician. +Buchan's Domestic Medicine.
'Wi' less, I'm sure, I've hundreds slain;
'It just play'd dirl on the bane,
'But did nae mair.
'Hornbook was by, wi' ready art,
'It was sae blunt,
'Fient haet o't wad hae pierc'd the heart "Of a kail-runt.
'I drew my scythe in sic a fury,
"Withstood the shock;
'I might as weel have try'd a quarry
'O' hard whin rock.
'Ev'n them he canna get attended,
'As soon he smells't,
'Baith their disease, and what will mend it
'At once he tells't.
'And then a' doctor's saws and whittles,
'He's sure to hae;
'Calces o' fossils, earth, and trees; True Sal-marinum o' the seas;
The Farina of beans and pease,
He has't in plenty;
Aqua-fontis, what you please,
'He can content ye.
Forbye some new, uncommon weapons,
Or Mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings,
Distill'd per se ;
Sal-alkali o' Midge-tail-clippings,
And mony mae.'
Waes me for Johnny Ged's Hole" now,'
'Sae white and bonie,
Nae doubt they'll rive it wi' the plew;
They'll ruin Johnie !
The creature grain'd an eldritch laugh,
Tak ye nae fear:
Whare I kill'd ane a fair strae death,
"That Hornbook's skill Has clad a score i' their last claith,
By drap an' pill.
An honest Wabster to his trade,
Whase wife's twa nieves were scarce weel bred,
* The grave-digger.