Beginners
Experts
Burns Supper
Top Features
Discussion Forum
Newsletter
Poems & Songs
The Letters
Federation
E- Membership
Schools
Contributions
Links
Search the Site
Scottish History
The Burns Shop

Translation
Index

The Cotter's Saturday Night.

Inscribed to R. Aiken, Esq.
A cotter was a peasant occupying a cot or cottage
for which he has to give service in lieu of rent.

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor Gray.

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

1.
My lov'd, my honor'd, much respected friend!
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise:
To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there I
ween!
2.
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh;
The short'ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose:
The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes --
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o'er the moor, his course does
hameward bend.
3.
At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through
To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
His lisping infants, prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labor and his toil.
4.
Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,
At service out, amang the farmers roun';
Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin
A cannie errand to a neebor town:
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e,
Comes hame; perhaps, to shew a braw new gown,
Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.
5.
With joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet,
And each for other's weelfare kindly spiers:
The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnotic'd fleet;
Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.
The parents partial eye their hopeful years;
Anticipation forward points the view;
The mother, wi' her needle and her sheers,
Gars auld claes look amainst as weel's the new;
The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.
6.
Their master's and their mistress's command
The younkers a' are warned to obey
And mind their labors wi' an eydent hand,
And ne'er, tho' out o' sight, to jauk or play:
'And O! be sure to fear the Lord always,
And mind your duty, duly, morn and night;
Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
Implore His counsel and assisting might:
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.'
7.
But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same,
Tells how a neebor lad came o'er the moor,
To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
The wily mother sees the conscious flame
Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek;
With heart-struck anxious care, enquires his name,
While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel-pleas'd the mother hears, it's nae wild
worthless rake.
8.
With kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;
A strappin' youth, he takes the mother's eye;
Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill taen;
The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy,
But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave;
The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy
What makes the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave;
Weel-pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like the lave.
9.
O happy love! where love like this is found:
O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
I've paced much this weary, mortal round,
And sage experience bids me this declare:-
'If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
One cordial in this melancholy vale,
'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair,
In other's arms, breathe out the tender tale
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the
ev'ning gale.'
10.
Is there, in human form, that bears a heart,
A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth!
That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth?
Curse on his perjur'd arts! dissembling, smooth!
Are honor, virtue, conscience, all exil'd?
Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,
Points to the parents fondling o'er their child?
Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction
wild?
11.
But now the supper crowns their simple board,
The healsome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food;
The soupe their only hawkie does afford,
That, 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood;
The dame brings forth, in complimental mood,
To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell;
And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid;
The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell,
How 'twas a towmond auld, sin' lint was i'
the bell.

12.
The chearfu' supper done, wi' serious face,
They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,
The big ha'-Bible, ance his father's pride.
His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care,
And 'Let us worship God!' he says, with solemn air.
13.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise,
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;
Perhaps Dundee's wild-warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame,
The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays:
Compar'd with these, Italian trills are tame;
The tickl'd ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
Nae unison hae they, with our Creator's praise.
14.
The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
How Abram was the friend of God on high;
Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny;
Or, how the royal Bard did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire;
Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire;
Or other holy Seers that tune the sacred lyre.
15.
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme:
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
Had not on earth whereon to lay His head;
How His first followers and servants sped;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,
And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounc'd by
Heaven's command.
16.
Then kneeling down to Heaven's Eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays:
Hope 'springs exulting on triumphant wing.'
That thus they all shall meet in future days,
There, ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.
17.
Compar'd with this, how poor Religion's pride,
In all the pomp of method, and of art;
When men display to congregations wide
Devotion's ev'ry grace, except the heart!
The Power, incens'd, the pageant will desert,
The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole:
But haply, in some cottage far apart,
May hear, well-pleas'd, the language of the soul,
And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.
18.
Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way;
The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
That He who stills the raven's clam'rous nest,
And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride,
Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
For them and for their little ones provide;
But, chiefly, in their hearts with Grace Divine preside.
19.
From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs
That makes her lov'd at home, rever'd abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
'An honest man's the noble(st) work of God';
And certes, in fair Virtue's heavenly road,
The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load,
Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
Studied in arts of Hell, in wickedness refin'd!
20.
O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From Luxury's contagion, weak and vile!
Then, howe'er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov'd Isle.
21.
O Thou! who pour'd the patriotic tide,
That stream'd thro' Wallace's undaunted heart,
Who dar'd to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride,
Or nobly die, the second glorious part:
(The patriot's God, peculiarly Thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)
O never, never Scotia's realm desert;
But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

 


My loved, my honored, much respected friend!
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
My dearest reward, a friend's esteem and praise:
To you I sing, in simple Scottish lyrics,
The lowly train in life's sequestered scene;
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah! though his worth unknown, far happier there I fancy!

November chill blows loud with angry wail;
The shortening winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating from the plough;
The blackening trains of crows to their repose:
The toil-worn Cotter from his labour goes -
This night his weekly toil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his pickaxes, and his hoes,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, over the moor, his course does
homeward bend.

At length his lonely cottage appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
The expectant little ones, toddling, totter through
To meet their dad, with fluttering noise and glee.
His little bit fire, blinking bonily,
His clean hearth-stone, his thrifty wife's smile,
His lisping infants, prattling on his knee,
Does all his weary distressing cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.

By and by, the elder children come dropping in,
At service out, among the farmers round;
Some work the plough, some herd, some heedful run
A quiet errand to a neighbouring town:
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
In youthful bloom, love sparkling in her eye,
Comes home; perhaps, to show a lovely new gown,
Or deposit her sore won penny fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

With joy unfeigned, brothers and sisters meet,
And each for other's welfare kindly asks:
The social hours, swift-winged, unnoticed fleet;
Each tells the wonders that he sees or hears.
The parents partial eye their hopeful years;
Anticipation forward points the view;
The mother, with her needle and her sheers,
Makes old clothes look almost as well as the new,
The father mixes all with admonition due.

Their master's and their mistress's command
The youngsters all are warned to obey
And attend to their labours with an diligent hand,
And never, although out of sight, to trifle or play:
'And O! be sure to revere the Lord always,
And attend your duty, duly, morning and night;
Lest in temptation's path you go astray,
Implore His counsel and assisting might:
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.'

But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
Jenny, who knows the meaning of the same,
Tells how a neighbour lad came over the moor,
To do some errands, and convoy her home.
The wily mother sees the conscious flame
Sparkle in Jenny's eye, and flush her cheek;
With heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name,
While Jenny half is afraid to speak;
Well pleased the mother hears, it is not a wild
worthless rake.

With kindly welcome, Jenny brings him inside;
A strapping youth, he takes the mother's eye;
Blithe Jenny sees the visit is not ill taken;
The father chats of horses, ploughs, and cattle.
The youngster's artless heart overflows with joy,
But shy and sheepish, scarce can well behave;
The mother, with a woman's wiles, can spy
What makes the youth so bashful and so grave;
Well pleased to think her child is respected like the rest.

O happy love! where love like this is found:
O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
I have paced much this weary, mortal round,
And sage experience bids me this declare:-
'If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
One cordial in this melancholy vale,
It is when a youthful, loving, modest pair,
In (each) other's arms, breathe out the tender tale
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the
evening bogmyrtle.'

Is there, in human form, that bears a heart,
A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth!
That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth?
Curse on his perjured arts! dissembling, smooth!
Are honor, virtue, conscience, all exiled?
Is there no pity, no relenting remorse,
Points to the parents fondling over their child?
Then paints the ruined maid, and their distraction wild?

But now the supper crowns their simple board,
The wholesome porridge, chief of Scotia's food;
The liquid (milk) their only cow does afford,
That, beyond the wall snugly chews her cud;
The dame brings forth, in complimental mood,
To grace the lad, her well-saved cheese, pungent;
And often he is pressed, and often he says it is good;
The frugal wife, garrulous, will tell,
How it was a twelve-month old, since flax was in the
flower.


The cheerful supper done, with serious face,
They, round the fire, form a circle wide;
The sire turns over, with patriarchal grace,
The big hall-Bible, once his father's pride.
His bonnet reverently is laid aside,
His grey side-locks wearing thin and bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He selects a portion with judicious care,
And 'Let us worship God!' he says, with solemn air.

They chant their artless notes in simple manner,
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;
Perhaps Dundee's wild-warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame,
The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lyrics:
Compared with these, Italian trills are tame;
The tickled ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
No unison have they, with our Creator's praise.

The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
How Abram was the friend of God on high;
Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny;
Or, how the royal Bard (King David) did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire;
Or Job's pathetic lamentation, and wailing cry;
Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic (angelic) fire;
Or other holy Seers that tune the sacred lyre.

Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme:
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
Had not on earth whereon to lay His head;
How His first followers and servants sped;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,
And heard great Babylon's doom pronounced by
Heaven's command.

Then kneeling down to Heaven's Eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays:
Hope 'springs exulting on triumphant wing.'
That thus they all shall meet in future days,
There, ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.

Compared with this, how poor Religion's pride,
In all the pomp of method, and of art;
When men display to congregations wide
Devotion's every grace, except the heart!
The Power, incensed, the pageant will desert,
The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole:
But happily, in some cottage far apart,
May hear, well pleased, the language of the soul,
And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.

Then homeward all take off their several way;
The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
The parent pair their secret homage pay,
And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
That He who stills the raven's clamorous nest,
And decks the lily fair in flowery pride,
Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
For them and for their little ones provide;
But, chiefly, in their hearts with Grace Divine preside.

From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
'An honest man's the noble(st) work of God';
And certainly, in fair Virtue's heavenly road,
The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load,
Disguising often the wretch of human kind,
Studied in arts of Hell, in wickedness refined!

O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
Long may your hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blessed with health, and peace, and sweet content!
And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From Luxury's contagion, weak and vile!
Then, however crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much loved Isle.

O Thou! who poured the patriotic tide,
That streamed through Wallace's undaunted heart,
Who dared to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride,
Or nobly die, the second glorious part:
(The patriot's God, peculiarly Thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!)
O never, never Scotia's realm desert;
But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

 

2004 WBC. Under no circumstances can any  of the contents of this site be copied, reproduced,  or represented without prior written consent.