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Tam Samson's Elegy
An honest man's the noblest work of God.
POPE

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation


1.
Has auld Kilmarnock seen the Deil?
Or great Mackinlay thrawn his heel?
Or Robertson again grown weel
To preach an' read?
'Na, waur than a'!' cries ilka chiel,
'Tam Samson's dead!'
2.
Kilmarnock lang may grunt an' grane,
An' sigh, an' sab, an' greet her lane,
An' cleed her bairns - man, wife an' wean -
In mourning weed;
To Death she's dearly pay'd the kain:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
3.
The Brethren o' the mystic level
May hing their head in woefu' bevel,
While by their nose the tears will revel,
Like onie bead;
Death's gien the Lodge an unco devel:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
4.
When Winter muffles up his cloak,
And binds the mire like a rock;
When to the loughs the curlers flock,
Wi' gleesome speed,
Wha will they station at the cock? -
'Tam Samson's dead!'
5.
He was the king of a' the core,
To guard, or draw, or wick a bore,
Or up the rink like Jehu roar
In time o' need;
But now he lags on Death's hog-score:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
6.
Now safe the stately sawmont sail,
And trouts bedropp'd wi' crimson hail,
And eels, weel-kend for souple tail,
And geds for greed,
Since, dark in Death's fish-creel, we wail,
'Tam Samson's dead!'
7.
Rejoice, ye birring paitricks a';
Ye cootie moorcocks, crousely craw;
Ye maukins, cock your fud fu' braw
Withouten dread;
Your mortal fae in now awa:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
8.
That woefu' morn be ever mourn'd,
Saw him in shootin graith adorn'd,
While pointers round impatient burn'd,
Frae couples free'd;
But och! he gaed and ne'er return'd:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
9.
In vain auld-age his body batters,
In vain the gout his ancles fetters,
In vain the burns cam down like waters,
An acre braid!
Now ev'ry auld wife, greetin, clatters:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
10.
Owre monie a weary hag he limpit,
An' ay the tither shot he thumpit,
Till coward Death behint him jumpit,
Wi' deadly feide;
Now he proclaims wi' tout o' trumpet:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
11.
When at his heart he felt the dagger,
He reel'd his wonted bottle-swagger,
But yet he drew the mortal trigger
Wi' weel-aim'd heed;
'Lord, five!' he cry'd, an' owre did stagger -
'Tam Samson's dead!'
12.
Ilk hoary hunter mourn'd a brither;
Ilk sportsman-youth bemoan'd a father;
Yon auld gray stane, amang the heather,
Marks out his head;
Whare Burns has wrote, in rhyming blether:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
13.
There low he lies in lasting rest;
Perhaps upon his mould'ring breast
Some spitefu' moorfowl bigs her nest,
To hatch an' breed:
Alas! nae mair he'll them molest:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
14.
When August winds the heather wave,
And sportsmen wander by yon grave,
Three volleys let his memory crave
O' pouther an' lead,
Till Echo answers frae her cave:
'Tam Samson's dead!'
15.
'Heav'n rest his saul whare'er he be!'
Is th' wish o' monie mae than me:
He had twa fauts, or maybe three,
Yet what remead?
Ae social, honest man want we:

THE EPITAPH
Tam Samson's wee'-worn clay here lies:
Ye canting zealots, spare him!
If honest worth in Heaven rise,
Ye'll mend or ye win near him.

PER CONTRA
Go, Fame, an' canter like a filly
Thro' a' the streets an neuks o' Killie;
Tell ev'ry social honest billie
To cease his grievin;
For, yet unskaith'd by Death's gleg gullie,
Tam Samson's leevin!



Has old Kilmarnock seen the Devil?
Or great Mackinlay thrown his heel?
Or Robertson again grown well
To preach and read?
'No, worse than all' cries every fellow,
'Tam Samson is dead!'

Kilmarnock long may grunt and groan,
And sigh, and sob, and weep alone,
An clothe her children - man, wife and small ones -
In mourning weed (dress);
To Death she's dearly paid the rent in kind:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

The Brethren of the mystic level
May hang their head in woeful bevel,
While by their nose the tears will revel,
Like any bead;
Death has given the Lodge an uncommon blow:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

When Winter muffles up his cloak,
And binds the mire like a rock;
When to the ponds the curlers flock,
With gleeful speed,
Who will they station at the cock (mark)? -
'Tam Samson is dead!'

He was the king of all the company,
To guard, or draw, or wick a bore,
Or up the rink like Jehu (biblical driver) roar
In time of need;
But now he lags on Death's hog-score:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

Now safe the stately salmon sail,
And trout bedropped with crimson hail,
And eels, well known for supple tail,
And pikes for greed,
Since, dark in Death's fish-creel, we wail,
'Tam Samson is dead!'

Rejoice, you whirring partridges all;
You leg-plumed moorcocks, confidently crow;
You hares, cock your tail full well
Without dread;
Your mortal foe in now away:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

That woeful morning be ever mourned,
Saw him in shooting attire adorned,
While pointers round impatient burned,
From leashes freed;
But och (oh)! he went and never returned:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

In vain old age his body batters,
In vain the gout his ankles fetters,
In vain the brooks came down like lakes,
An acre broad!
Now every old woman, weeping, chatters:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

Over many a weary moss (bog) he limped,
And always the other shot he thumped,
Till coward Death behind him jumped,
With deadly feud;
Now he proclaims with blast of trumpet:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

When at his heart he felt the dagger,
He reeled his accustomed bottle-swagger,
But yet he drew the mortal trigger
With well aimed heed;
'Lord, five!' he cried, and over did stagger -
'Tam Samson is dead!'

Each hoary hunter mourned a brother;
Each sportsman-youth bemoaned a father;
Yonder old gray stone, among the heather,
Marks out his head;
Where Burns has wrote, in rhyming babble:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

There low he lies in lasting rest;
Perhaps upon his mouldering breast
Some spiteful moor-fowl builds her nest,
To hatch and breed:
Alas! no more he will them molest:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

When August winds the heather wave,
And sportsmen wander by yon grave,
Three volleys let his memory crave
Of powder and lead,
Till Echo answers from her cave:
'Tam Samson is dead!'

'Heaven rest his soul wherever he be!'
Is the wish of many more than me:
He had two faults, or maybe three,
Yet what remedy?
One social, honest man want we:


Tam Samson's well-worn clay here lies:
You canting zealots, spare him!
If honest worth in Heaven rise,
You will mend before you win near him.


Go, Fame, and canter like a filly
Through all the streets and corners of Killie (Kilmarnock)
Tell every social honest fellow
To cease his grieving;
For, yet unscathed by Death's quick knife,
Tam Samson is living!

 

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