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Second Epistle To J. Lapraik
April 21, 1785

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation



1.
While new-ca'd kye rowte at the stake
An' pownies reek in pleugh or braik,
This hour on e'enin's edge I take,
To own I'm debtor
To honest-hearted, auld Lapraik,
For his kind letter.
2.
Forjesket sair, with weary legs,
Rattlin the corn out-owre the rigs,
Or dealing thro' amang the naigs
Their ten-hours' bite,
My awkart Muse sair pleads and begs,
I would na write.
3.
The tapetless, ramfeezl'd hizzie,
She's saft at best an' something lazy:
Quo' she: 'Ye ken we've been sae busy
This month an' mair,
That trowth, my head is grown right dizzie,
An' something sair."
4.
Her dowff excuses pat me mad:
'Conscience,' says I, 'ye thowless jad!
I'll write, an' that a hearty blaud,
This vera nitht;
So dinna ye affront your trade,
But rhyme it right.
5.
'Shall bauld Lapraik, the king o' hearts,
Tho' mankind were a pack o' cartes,
Roose you sae weel for your deserts,
In terms sae friendly;
Yet ye'll neglect to shaw your parts
An' thank him kindly?'
6.
Sae I gat paper in a blink,
An' down gaed stumpie in the ink:
Quoth I: 'Before I sleep a wink,
I vow I'll close it:
An' if ye winna mak it clink,
By Jove, I'll prose it!'
7.
Sae I've begun to scrawl, but whether
In rhyme, or prose, or baith thegither,
Or some hotch-potch that's rightly neither,
Let time mak proof;
But I shall scribble down some blether
Just clean aff-loof.
8.
My worthy friend, ne'er grudge an' carp,
Tho' Fortune use you hard an' sharp;
Come, kittle up your moorland harp
Wi' gleesome touch!
Ne'er mind how Fortune waft an' warp;
She's but a bitch.
9.
She's gien me monie a jirt an' fleg,
Sin' I could striddle owre a rig;
But, by the Lord, tho' I should beg
Wi' lyart pow,
I'll laugh an' sing, an' shake my leg,
As lang's I dow!
10.
Now comes the sax-an-twentieth simmer
I've seen the bud upo' the timmer,
Still persecuted by the limmer
Frae year to year;
But yet, despite the kittle kimmer.
11.
Do ye envy the city gent,
Behint a kist to lie an' sklent;
Or purse-proud, big wi' cent. per cent.
An' muckle wame,
In some bit brugh to represent
A bailie's name?
12.
Or is't the paughty feudal thane,
Wi' ruffl'd sark an' glancing cane,
Wha thinks himsel nae sheep-shank bane,
But lordly stalks;
While caps an' bonnets aff are taen,
As by he walks?
13.
'O Thou wha gies us each guid gift!
Gie me o' wit an' sense a lift,
Then turn me, if Thou please, adrift
Thro' Scotland wide;
Wi' cits nor lairds I wadna shift,
In a' their pride!'
14.
Were this the charter of our state,
'On pain o' hell be rich an' great,'
Damnation then would be our fate,
Beyond remead;
But, thanks to heaven, that's no the gate
We learn our creed.
15.
For thus the royal mandate ran,
When first the human race began,'
' The social, friendly, honest man,
Whate'er he be,
'Tis he fulfils great Nature's plan,
And none but he.'
16.
O mandate glorious and divine!
The followers o' the ragged Nine --
Poor, thoughtless devils! - yet may shine
In glorious light;
While sordid sons o' Mammon's line
Are dark as night!
17.
Tho' here they scrape, an' squeeze, an' growl,
Their worthless neivefu' of a soul
May in some future carcase howl,
The forest's fright;
Or in some day-detesting owl
May shun the light.
18.
Then may Lapraik and Burns arise,
To reach their native, kindred skies,
And sing their pleasures, hopes an' joys,
In some mild sphere;
Still closer knit in friendship's ties,
Each passing year!




While new-driven cattle low at the stake
And horses steam in plough or harrow,
This hour on evening's edge I take,
To own I am debtor
To honest-hearted, old Lapraik,
For his kind letter.

Jaded sore, with weary legs,
Rattling the corn out-over the ridges,
Or distributing through among the horses
Their ten-hours' bite (food),
My awkward Muse sore pleads and begs,
I would not write.

The feckless, exhausted girl,
She is soft at best and something lazy:
Quoth (Said) she: 'You know we have been so busy
This month and more,
That truth, my head is grown right dizzy,
And something sore."

Her dull excuses put (makes) me mad:
'Conscience,' says I, 'you lazy old woman!
I will write, and that a hearty screed,
This very night;
So do not you affront your trade,
But rhyme it right.

'Shall bold Lapraik, the king of hearts,
Though mankind were a pack of cards,
Praise you so well for your deserts,
In terms so friendly;
Yet you will neglect to show your parts
And thank him kindly?'

So I got paper in a twinkling,
And down went stumpie in the ink:
Quoth (said) I: 'Before I sleep a wink,
I vow I will close it:
And if you will not make it rhyme,
By Jove (the god Jupiter), I will prose it!'

So I have begun to scrawl, but whether
In rhyme, or prose, or both together,
Or some hotch-potch (mixture) that is rightly neither,
Let time make proof;
But I shall scribble down some nonsense
Just clean off-hand.

My worthy friend, never grudge and complain,
Thouhg Fortune use you hard and sharp;
Come, tickle up your moorland harp
With gleesome touch!
Never mind how Fortune waft and warp;
She is but a bitch.

She has given me many a jerk and scare,
Since I could straddle over a (corn) ridge;
But, by the Lord, though I should beg
With grey head,
I will laugh and sing, and shake my leg (dance),
As long as I can!

Now comes the six-and-twentieth summer
I have seen the bud upon the timber (trees),
Still persecuted by the mistress
From year to year;
But yet, despite the fickle gossip.

Do you envy the city gent,
Behind a kiss to lie and cheat;
Or purse-proud, big with cent. per cent.
And large stomach,
In some bit borough to represent
A baillie's (magistrate's) name?

Or is it the haughty feudal thane,
With ruffled shirt and shining cane,
Who thinks himself no sheep shank bone,
But lordly stalks;
While caps and bonnets off are taken


'O You who gives us each good gift!
Give me of wit and sense a load,
Then turn me, if You please, adrift
Through Scotland wide;
With merchants nor lairds I would not exchange places,
In all their pride!'

Were this the charter of our state,
'On pain of hell be rich and great,'
Damnation then would be our fate,
Beyond remedy;
But, thanks to heaven, that is not the way
We learn our creed.

For thus the royal mandate ran,
When first the human race began,'
' The social, friendly, honest man,
Whatever he be,
'It is he fulfils great Nature's plan,
And none but he.'

O mandate glorious and divine!
The followers of the ragged Nine -
Poor, thoughtless devils! - yet may shine
In glorious light;
While sordid sons of Mammon's line
Are dark as night!

Though here they scrape, and squeeze, and growl,
Their worthless fistful of a soul
May in some future carcass howl,
The forest's fright;
Or in some day-detesting owl
May shun the light.

Then may Lapraik and Burns arise,
To reach their native, kindred skies,
And sing their pleasures, hopes and joys,
In some mild sphere;
Still closer knit in friendship's ties,
Each passing year!

 

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