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Scots Prologue For Mrs. Sutherland

ON HER BENEFIT-NIGHT AT THE THEATRE, DUMFRIES, MARCH 3RD, 1790

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation


What needs this din about the town o' Lon'on,
How this new play an' that new song is comin?
Why is outlandish stuff sae meikle courted?
Does Nonsense mend like brandy - when imported?
Is there nae poet, burning keen for fame,
Will bauldly try to gie us plays at hame?
For Comedy abroad he need na toil:
A knave and fool are plants of every soil.
Nor need he stray as far as Rome or Greece
To gather matter for a serious piece:
There's themes enow in Caledonian story
Would show the tragic Muse in a' her glory.

Is there no daring Bard will rise and tell
How glorious Wallace stood, how hapless fell?
Where are the Muses fled that could produce
A drama worthy o' the name o' Bruce?
How here, even here, he first unsheath'd the sword
'Gainst mighty England and her guilty lord,
And after monie a bloody, deathless doing,
Wrench'd his dear country from the jaws of Ruin!
O, for a Shakespeare, or an Otway scene
To paint the lovely, hapless Scottish Queen!
Vain all th' omnipotence of female charms
'Gainst headlong, ruthless, mad Rebellion's arms!
She fell, but fell with spirit truly Roman,
To glut the vengeance of a rival woman:
A woman (tho' the phrase may seem uncivil)
As able - and as cruel - as the Devil!
One Douglas lives in Home's immortal page,
But Douglasses were heroes every age;
And tho' your fathers, prodigal of life,
A Douglas followed to the martial strife,
Perhaps, if bowls row right, and Right succeeds,
Ye may yet follow where a Douglas leads!

As ye hae generous done, if a' the land
Would take the Muses' servants by the hand;
Not only hear, but patronize, befriend them,
And where ye justly can commend, commend them;
And aiblins, when they winna stand the test,
Wink hard, and say: ' The folks hae done their best!'
Would a' the land do this, then I'll be caition
Ye'll soon hae Poets o' the Scottish nation
Will gar Fame blaw until her trumpet crack,
And warsle Time, an' lay him on his back!

For us and for our stage, should onie spier: -
' Whase aught thae chiels maks a' this bustle here?'
My best leg foremost, I'll set up my brow: -
' We have the honor to belong to you!'
We're your ain bairns, e'en guide us as ye like,
But like good mithers, shore before ye strike;
And gratefu' still, I trust ye'll ever find us
For gen'rous patronage and meikle kindness
We've got frae a' professions, setts an' ranks:
God help us! we're but poor - ye'se get but thanks!

 


What needs this din about the town of London,
How this new play and that new song is coming?
Why is outlandish stuff so much courted?
Does Nonsense mend like brandy - when imported?
Is there no poet, burning keen for fame,
Will boldly try to give us plays at home?
For Comedy abroad he need not toil:
A knave and fool are plants of every soil.
Nor need he stray as far as Rome or Greece
To gather matter for a serious piece:
There is themes enough in Caledonian story
Would show the tragic Muse in all her glory.

Is there no daring Bard will rise and tell
How glorious Wallace stood, how hapless fell?
Where are the Muses fled that could produce
A drama worthy of the name of Bruce?
How here, even here, he first unsheathed the sword
Against mighty England and her guilty lord,
And after many a bloody, deathless doing,
Wrenched his dear country from the jaws of Ruin!
O, for a Shakespeare, or an Otway scene
To paint the lovely, hapless Scottish Queen!
Vain all the omnipotence of female charms
Against headlong, ruthless, mad Rebellion's arms!
She fell, but fell with spirit truly Roman,
To glut the vengeance of a rival woman:
A woman (though the phrase may seem uncivil)
As able - and as cruel - as the Devil!
One Douglas lives in Home's immortal page,
But Douglasses were heroes every age;
And though your fathers, prodigal of life,
A Douglas followed to the martial strife,
Perhaps, if bowls roll right, and Right succeeds,
You may yet follow where a Douglas leads!

As you have generously done, if all the land
Would take the Muses' servants by the hand;
Not only hear, but patronize, befriend them,
And where you justly can commend, commend them;
And possibly, when they will not stand the test,
Wink hard, and say: ' The folks have done their best!'
Would all the land do this, then I will be bail
You will soon have Poets of the Scottish nation
Will make Fame blow until her trumpet crack,
And wrestle Time, and lay him on his back!

For us and for our stage, should any ask: -
' Who owns these fellows makes all this bustle here?'
My best leg foremost, I will set up my brow: -
' We have the honour to belong to you!'
We are your own children, even guide us as you like,
But like good mothers, warn before you strike;
And grateful still, I trust you will ever find us
For generous patronage and much kindness
We have got from all professions, groups and ranks:
God help us! we are but poor - you will get but thanks!

 

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