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Tam O'Shanter

 

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

A Tale.
Of Brownyis and of Bogolis
full is this book.

When Chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neebors neebors meet,
As market-days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An' getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like a gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam O Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae nicht did canter:
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonie lasses.)

O Tam, had'st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That ilka melder wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied, that, late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon,
Or catche'd wi' warlocks in the mirk
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

Ah! gentle dames, it gars me greet,
To think how monie counsels sweet,
How monie lengthene'd, sage advices
The husband frae the wife despises.

But to our tale:- Ae market-nicht,
Tam had got planted unco right,
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy cronie:
Tam lo'ed him like a vary brither;
They had been fou for weeks thegither;
The night drave on wi's sangs and clatter;
And ay the ale was growing better:
The land lady and Tam grew gracious
Wi' secret favours, sweet and precious:
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow'r, it's bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis, race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride:
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane
That dreary hour Tam mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.

Weel mounted on his grey meare Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'ring round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares:
Kirk-All oway was drawing nigh,
Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford,
Whare in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Whare drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Whare hunters fand the murdered bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Whare Mungo's mither hang'd hersel.
Before him Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders role:
When, glimmering tho' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze,
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounding mirth and dancing.

Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' Asquabae, we'll face the Devil!
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noodle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle.
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonishe'd,
She ventur'd forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillion, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat Auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A tousie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish cantraip sleight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light:
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murderer's banes, in gibbet-irons;
Twa span-long, wee, unchristen'd bairns;
A thief new-cutted frae a rape--
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks wi' bluid red-rusted;
Five scymitars wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled;
A knife a father's throat had mangled--
Whom his ain son o' life bereft--
The grey- hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair of horrible and awefu',
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.
Three lawyers' tongues, turned inside out,
Wi' lies seamed like a beggar's clout;
Three Priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking , vile, in every neuk.

As Tammie glower'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her dudies to the wark,
And linket at it in her sark!

Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens!
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!--
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o' guid blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!

But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,
Louping and flinging on a crummock,
I wonder did na turn thy stomach!

But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and wawlie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after kend on Carrick shore
(For monie a beast to dead she shot,
An' perish'd monie a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.
Ah! little kend thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,
Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour,
Sic flights as far beyond her power:
To sing how Nannie lap and flung
(A souple jad she was a strang);
And how Tam stood like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd;
Even Satan glower'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a' thegither,
And roars out: 'Weel done, Cutty-sark!'
And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market crowd,
When 'Catch the thief!' resounds aloud:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' monie an eldritch skriech and hollo.

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig;
There, at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross!
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilka man, and mother's son, take heed:
Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd,
Or cutty sarks run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy the joys o'er dear:
Remember Tam O Shanter's maere.

 

A Tale.
Of Brownies (fairies) and of Ghosts
full is this book.

When peddler fellows leave the street,
And thirsty neighbours neighbours meet,
As market-days are wearing late,
And people begin to take the gate (leave);
While we sit drinking at the ale,
And getting full (drunk) and mighty happy,
We think not on the long Scots miles,
The bogs, pools, breaches and stiles,
That lie between us and our home,
Where sits our sulky, sullen wife,
Gathering her forehead like a gathering storm,
Nursing her anger to keep it warm.

This truth found honest Tam O Shanter,
As he from Ayr one night did canter:
(Old Ayr, where never a town surpasses,
For honest men and lovely girls.)

O Tam, had you but been so wise,
As taken your own wife Kate's advice!
She told you well you was a good-for-nothing,
A chattering, blustering, drunken babbler;
That from November till October,
Each market-day you were not sober;
That each meal-grinding with the miller,
You sat as long as you had silver (money);
That every horse was shod a shoe on,
The smith and you got roaring drunk on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
You drank with Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied, that, late or soon,
You would be found deep drowned in Doon,
Or caught with warlocks (male witches) in the dark
By Alloway's old haunted church.

Ah! gentle ladies, it makes me weep,
To think how many counsels sweet,
How many lengthened, sage advises
The husband from the wife despises.

But to our tale:- One market-night,
Tam had got planted uncommonly right,
Fast by a fireplace blazing finely,
With foaming new ale, that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Cobbler Johnie,
His ancient, trusty, thirsty crony:
Tam loved him like a very brother;
They had been drunk for weeks to-gether;
The night drove on with songs and noise;
And always the ale was growing better:
The landlady and Tam grew gracious
With secret favours, sweet and precious:
The Cobbler told his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm outside might roar and rustle,
Tam did not mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man so happy,
Even drowned himself among the ale.
As bees fly home with lodes of treasure,
The minutes winged their way with pleasure:
Kings may be blest but Tam was glorious,
Over all the ills of life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, it's bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis (Northern Lights), race,
That flit before you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Vanishing amid the storm.
No man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam must ride:
That hour, of night's black arch the key-stone
That dreary hour Tam mounts his beast in;
And such a night he takes the road in,
As never poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as it would have blown its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed;
Loud, deep, and long the thunder bellowed:
That night, a child might understand,
The Devil had business on his hand.

Well mounted on his grey mare Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam spanked on through puddle and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Now holding fast his good blue bonnet,
Now crooning over some old Scots sonnet,
Now glowering round with prudent cares,
Lest ghosts catch him unawares:
Church-Alloway was drawing near,
Where ghosts and owls nightly cry.

By this time he was across the ford,
Where in the snow the peddler smothered;
And past the birches (trees) and big stone,
Where drunken Charlie broke his neck-bone;
And through the gorse, and by the pile of stones,
Where hunters found the murdered child;
And near the thorn, above the well,
Where Mungo's mother hanged herself.
Before him the river Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars through the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders role:
When, glimmering through the groaning trees,
Church-Alloway seemed in a blaze,
Through every crack the beams were glancing,
And loud resounding mirth and dancing.

Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn (whisky)!
What dangers you can make us scorn!
With ale, we fear no evil;
With whisky, we will face the Devil!
The ale so foamed in Tammie's head,
Fair play, he cared no devils a farthing (coin).
But Maggie stood, right sore astonished,
Untill, by the heel and hand admonished,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw a wondrous sight!

Wizards and witches in a dance:
No cotillion, brand new from France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A window seat in the east,
There sat the Old Devil, in shape of beast;
A shaggy dog, black, grim, and large,
To give them music was his charge:
He screwed the bagpipes and made them squeal,
Till roof and rafters all did ring.
Coffins stood around, like open cupboards,
That showed the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish magic device,
Each in its cold hand held a light:
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the holy table,
A murderer's bones, in gallows-irons;
Two span-long, little, unchristened children;
A thief new-cut from a gallows rope-
With his last gasp his mouth did gape (open);
Five tomahawks with blood red-rusted;
Five scimitars with murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled;
A knife a father's throat had mangled-
Whom his own son of life bereft-
The grey hairs still stuck to the heft;
With more of horrible and awful,
Which even to name would be unlawful.
Three lawyers' tongues, turned inside out,
With lies seamed like a beggar's cloth;
Three Priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck (wet earth),
Lay stinking , vile, in every corner.

As Tammie glowered, amazed, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reeled, they set, they crossed, they grasped hand
Till every old woman sweated and steamed,
And cast her rags to the work,
And tripped at it in her under-shirt!

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been young women,
All plump and strapping in their teens!
Their under-shirts, instead of greasy flannel,
Been snow-white seventeen hundred linen!-
These trousers of mine, my only pair,
That once were plush, of good blue hair,
I would have given them off my buttocks
For one amorous look of the lovely maidens!

But withered woman, old and wizened,
Ancient hags would wean a foal,
Leaping and flinging on a cudgel (walking stick),
I wonder did not turn thy stomach!

But Tam knew what was what full well:
There was one comely wench and choice,
That night enlisted in the company,
Long after known on Carrick shore
(For many an animal to death she shot,
And perished many a lovely boat,
And drank both much whisky and beer,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her short shift, of Paisley course cloth,
That as a young girl she had worn,
In length though very scanty (short),
It was her best, and she was proud.
Ah! little knew your reverend grandmother,
That under-vest she bought for her little Nannie,
With two pound Scots (it was all her riches),
Would ever (have) graced a dance of witches!

But here my Musing her winging must stop,
Such flights as far beyond her power:
To sing how Nannie leaped and kicked
(A supple old horse she was and strong);
And how Tam stood like one bewitched,
And thought his very eyes enriched;
Even Satan glowered, and fidgeted full fondly,
And jerked and blew with might and main;
Till first ane caper, then another,
Tam lost his reason all together,
And roars out: 'Well done, short-shift!'
And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees buzz out with angry fret,
When plundering hoards assail their hive;
As open hare's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market crowd,
When 'Catch the thief!' resounds aloud:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
With many an unearthly screech and cry.

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! you will get thy rights!
In hell they will roast thee like a herring!
In vain your Kate awaits your coming!
Kate soon will be a woeful woman!
Now, do your speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stone of the brig;
There, at them you your tail may toss,
A running stream they dare not cross!
But before the key-stone she could make,
The fiend a tail she had to shake;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam with furious aim;
But little was she Maggie's mettle!
One spring brought off her master whole,
But left behind her own grey tail:
The old woman clutched her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, who this tale of truth shall read,
Every man, and mother's son, take heed:
Whenever to drink you are inclined,
Or short shifts run in your mind,
Think! you may buy the joys over (too) dear:
Remember Tam O Shanter's mare.

 

 

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