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By this, the sun was out o' sight, An' darker gloaming brought the night! The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone; The kye stood row tin i' the loan; When up they gat, and shook their lugs, Rejoiced they were na men but dogs; An' cach took aff his several way, Resolved to meet some ither day.
DEATH AND DR. HORNBOOK. A TRUE STORY.
SOME books are lies frae end to end,
And some great lies were never penn❜d,
E'en ministers, they hae been kenn'd
In holy rapture,
A rousing whid, at times to vend,
And nail't wi' Scripture.
But this that I am gaun to tell,
Which lately on a night befell,
Is just as true's the deil's in h-ll
Or Dublin city:
That e'er he nearer comes oursel
'S a muckle pity.
The Clachan yill had made me canty,
I was na fou, but just had plenty;
I stacher'd whyles, but yet took tent aye
To free the ditches;
An' hillocks, stanes, an' bushes, kenn'd aye
Frae ghaists an' witches.
The rising moon began to glow'r
The distant Cumnock hills out-owre:
To count her horns, wi' a' my power,
I set mysel;
But whether she had three or four,
I cou'd na tell.
I was come round about the hill,
And toddlin down on Willie's mill,
Setting my staff wi' a' my skill,
To keep me sicker:
Though leeward whyles, against my will,
I took a bicker.
I there wi' something did forgather,
That put me in an eerie swither;
An awfu' sithe, out-owre ae showther,
A three-tae'd leister on the ither
Lay, large an' lang.
Its stature seem'd lang Scotch ells twa,
The queerest shape that e'er I saw,
For fient a wame it had ava!
And then, its shanks, They were as thin, as sharp an' sma' As cheeks o' branks.
"Guid-e'en," 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?"
*This rencounter happened in seed-time, 1785.
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:
I red ye weel, tak care o' skaith,
See, there's a gully!"
"Guidman," 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,
I wad na mind it, no, that spittle
Out-owre my beard."
"Well, 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 monie a gate
At monie a house."
"Ay, ay!" quo' he, an' shook his head,
"It's e'en a lang, lang time indeed
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
Sin' I was to the butching bred,
An' monie a scheme in vain's been laid,
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, Deil mak his king's-hood in a spleuchan! He's grown sae well acquaint wi' Buchan‡ An' ither chaps, That weans haud out their fingers laughin And pouk my hips.
"See, here's a sithe, and there's a dart,
They hae pierced mony a gallant heart;
But Doctor Hornbook, wi' his art,
And cursed skill,
Has made them baith not worth a f-t,
Damn'd haet they'll kill.
""Twas but yestreen, nae further gaen,
I threw a noble throw at ane;
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,
And had sae fortified the part,
That when I looked to my dart,
It was sae blunt,
Fient haet o't wad hae pierced the heart
Of a kail-runt.
*An epidemical fever was then raging in that country. This gentleman, Dr. Hornbook, is professionally, a brother of the sovereign order of the ferula; but, by intuition and inspiration, is at once an apothecary, surgeon, and physician.
Buchan's Domestic Medicine.
The creature grain'd an eldrich laugh,
And says, "Ye need na yoke the pleugh,
Kirkyards will soon be till'd eneugh,
Tak ye nae fear:
They'll a' be trench'd wi' monie a sheugh
In twa-three year.
"Whare I killed ane a fair strae-death,
By loss o' blood or want o' breath,
This night I'm free to tak my aith,
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 wee bred,
Gat tippence-worth to mend her head
When it was sair;
The wife slade cannie to her bed,
But ne'er spak mair.
"A kintra laird had ta'en the batts,
Or some curmurring in his guts,
His only son for Hornbook sets,
An' pays him well.
The lad, for twa guid gimmer pets,
Was laird himsel.
Shall he, nurst in the peasant's lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
By early poverty to hardship steel'd,
And train'd to arms in stern misfortune's field,
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
With all the venal soul of dedicating prose?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o'er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward.
Still, if some patron's generous care he trace,
Skill'd in the secret, to bestow with grace;
When B********* befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heartfelt throes his grateful bosom swells,
The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.
'Twas when the stacks get on their winter-hap, And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap; Potato-bings are snugged up frae skaith Of coming winter's biting, frosty breath;
The Lees, rejoicing o'er their summer toils,
Unnumber'd buds' an' flowers' delicious spoils,
Seal'd up with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom'd by man, that tyrant o'er the weak,
The death o' devils smoor'd wi' brimstone reek:
The thundering guns are heard on every side,
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide;
The feather'd field-mates, bound by nature's tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm, poetic heart, but inly bleeds,
And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flower in field or meadow springs;
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except, perhaps, the robin's whistling glee,
Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree :
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide
A noted tavern at the auld brig end.
The two steeples.
I doubt na, frien', ye'll think ye're nae sheep shank,
Ance ye were streekit o'er frae bank to bank;
But gin ye be a brig as auld as me,
Though faith that day, I doubt, ye'll never see,
There'll be, if that date come, I'll wad a boddle,
Some fewer whigmeleeries in your noddle.
While thick the gossamer waves wanton in the rays. Of sic an ugly Gothic hulk as you.
"Twas in that season, when a simple bard,
Unknown and poor, simplicity's reward:
Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr,
By whim inspired, or haply prest wi' care;
He left his bed, and took his wayward route,
And down by Simpson's* wheel'd the left about:
(Whether impell'd by all-directing fate,
To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander'd out, he knew not where nor why ;)
The drowsy dungeon-clockt had number'd two,
And Wallace towert had sworn the fact was true:
The tide-swoln Firth with sullen sounding roar,
Through the still night dash'd hoarse along the shore:
All else was hush'd as nature's closed e'e;
The silent moon shone high o'er tower and tree:
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept, gently crusting, o'er the glittering stream.—
When, lo! on either hand the listening bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air,
Swift as the gost drives on the wheeling hare;
Ane on th' auld brig his airy shape uprears,
The ither flutters o'er the rising piers:
Our warlock rhymer instantly descried
The sprites that owre the brigs of Ayr preside.
(That bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the spiritual fo'k ;
Fays, spunkies, kelpies, a', they can explain them,
And e'en the very deils they brawly ken them.)
Auld Brig appear'd of ancient Pictish race,
The vera wrinkles Gothic in his face :
He seem'd as he wi' time had warstled lang,
Yet teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.
New Brig was buskit in a braw new coat,
That he, at Lon'on, frae ane Adams got:
In's hand five taper staves as smooth's a bead,
Wi' virls and whirlygigums at the head.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch;
It chanced his new-come neebor took his e'e,
And e'en a vex'd and angry heart had he!
Wi' thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guideen
Auld Vandal, ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi' your scanty sense;
Will your poor, narrow footpath of a street,
Where twa wheelbarrows tremble when they meet,
Your ruin'd, formless bulk o' stane an' lime,
Compare wi' bonnie brigs o' modern time?
There's men o' taste would tak the Ducat-stream,*
Though they should cast the very sark an' swim,
Ere they would grate their feelings wi' the view
Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!
This monie a year I've stood the flood an' tide ;
And though wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!
As yet ye little ken about the matter,
But twa-three winters will inform you better,
When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains,
Wi' deepening deluges o'erflow the plains;
When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil,
Or stately Lugar's mossy fountains boil,
Or where the Greenock winds his moorland course,
Or haunted Garpalt draws his feeble source,
Aroused by blustering winds an' spotting thowes,
In mony a torrent down his sna-broo rowes;
While crashing ice, borne on the roaring speat,
Sweeps dams, an' mills, an' brigs, a' to the gate;
And from Glenbuck, down to the Rotton-key,§
Auld Ayr is just one lengthen'd, tumbling sea;
Then down ye hurl, deil nor ye never rise!
And dash the gumlie jaups up to the pouring skies:
A lesson sadly teaching, to your cost,
That architecture's noble art is lost!
Fine architecture! trowth, I needs must say't o't,
The L―d be thankit that we've tint the gate o't!
Gaunt, ghastly, ghaist-alluring edifices,
Hanging with threatening jut, like precipices,
O'er arching, mouldy, gloom-inspiring coves,
Supporting roofs fantastic, stony groves :
Windows and doors, in nameless sculpture drest,
With order, symmetry, or taste unblest;
Forms like some bedlam statuary's dream,
The crazed creations of misguided whim;
Forms might be worshipp'd on the bended knee,
And still the second dread command be free;
Their likeness is not found on earth, in air, or sea.
* A noted ford, just above the auld brig.
The banks of Garpal Water is one of the few places in the west of Scotland, where those fancy-scaring beings, known by the name of ghaists, still continue pertinaciously to inhabit.
The source of the river Ayr.
§ A small landing place above the large key.
Mansions that would disgrace the building taste
any mason, reptile, bird, or beast;
Fit only for a doited monkish race,
Or frosty maids forsworn the dear embrace,
Or cuifs of later times, wha held the notion
That sullen gloom was sterling, true devotion;
Fancies that our guid brugh denies protection,
And soon may they expire, unblest with resurrec-
O ye, my dear-remember'd, ancient yealings, Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings! Ye worthy proveses, an' mony a bailie, Wha in the paths o' righteousness did toil aye; Ye dainty deacons, and ye douce conveners, To whom our moderns are but causey-cleaners; Ye godly councils wha hae blest this town, Ye godly brethren of the sacred gown, Wha meekly gie your hurdies to the smiters; And (what would now be strange) ye godly writers:
A' ye douce folk I've borne aboon the broo, Were ye but here, what would ye say or do ? How would your spirits groan in deep vexation, To see each melancholy alteration;
And, agonizing, curse the time and place
When ye begat the base, degenerate race!
Nae langer reverend men, their country's glory,
In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid story;
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an' douce,
Meet owre a pint, or in the council-house;
But staumrel, corky-headed, graceless gentry,
The herryment and ruin of the country;
Men, three parts made by tailors and by barbers,
Wha waste your well-hain'd gear on d-d new
brigs and harbours!
Now haud you there! for faith ye've said enough, And muckle mair than ye can mak to through; As for your priesthood, I shall say but little, Corbies and clergy are a shot right kittle: But under favour o' your langer beard, Abuse o' magistrates might weel be spared: To liken them unto your auld-warld squad, I must needs say, comparisons are odd. In Ayr, wag-wits nae mair can hae a handle To mouth "a citizen" a term o' scandal:
Nae mair the council waddles down the street,
In all the pomp of ignorant conceit;
Men wha grew wise priggin owre hops an' raisins,
Or gather'd liberal views in bonds and seisins.
If haply knowledge, on a random tramp,
Had shored them with a glimmer of his lamp,
And would to common sense for once betray'd them,
Plain, dull stupidity stept kindly in to aid them.
What farther clishmaclaver might been said, What bloody wars, if sprites had blood to shed, No man can tell: but, all before their sight, A fairy train appear'd in order bright: Adown the glittering stream they featly danced, Bright to the moon their various dresses glanced; They footed o'er the watery glass so neat, The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet: While arts of minstrelsy among them rung, And soul-ennobling bards heroic ditties sung.
The genius of the stream in front appears,
A venerable chief advanced in years;
His hoary head with water-lilies crown'd,
His manly leg with garter tangle bound.
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring,
Sweet female beauty hand in hand with spring;
Then, crown'd with flowery hay, came rural joy,
with his fervid-beaming eye:
All-cheering plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow autumn wreathed with nodding corn;
Then winter's time-bleach'd locks did hoary show,
By hospitality with cloudless brow.
Next follow'd courage with his martial stride,
From where the feal wild-woody coverts hide;
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,
A female form, came from the towers Stair:
Learning and worth in equal measures trode
From simple Catrine, their long-loved abode :
Last, white-robed peace, crown'd with a hazel
To rustic agriculture did bequeath
The broken iron instruments of death,
At sight of whom our sprites forgat their kindling wrath.
THE DEATH AND DYING WORDS OF POOR
THE AUTHOR'S ONLY PET YOWE.
AN UNCO MOURNFU' TALE.
As Mailie an' her lambs thegither Were ae day nibbling on the tether, Upon her cloot she coost a hitch, An' owre she warsl'd in the ditch. There, groaning, dying, she did lie, When Hughoct he cam doytin by.
Wi' glowrin een, and lifted hans,
Poor Hughoc like a statue stans;
He saw her days were near-hand ended,
But, waes my heart! he could na mend it!
He gaped wide, but naething spak!
At length poor Mailie silence brak.
"O thou, whase lamentable face Appears to mourn my woefu' case! My dying words attentive hear, An' bear them to my master dear.
A well known performer of Scottish music on the violin.
† A neebor herd-callan.