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To William Simpson Of Ochiltree

May, 1785

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

 

1.
I gat your letter, winsome Willie;
Wi' gratefu' heart I thank you brawlie;
Tho' I maun say't, I wad be silly
And unco vain,
Should I believe, my coaxin billie,
Your flatterin strain.
2.
But I'se believe ye kindly meant it:
I sud be laith to think ye hinted
Ironic satire, sidelins sklented,
On my poor Musie;
Tho' in sic phraisin terms ye've penn'd it,
I scarce excuse ye.
3.
My senses wad be in a creel,
Should I but dare a hope to speel,
Wi' Allan or wi' Gilberfield,
The braes o' fame;
Or Fergusson, the writer-chiel,
A deathless name.
4.
(O Fergusson! thy glorious parts
Ill suited law's dry, musty arts!
My curse upon your whunstane hearts,
Ye E'nbrugh gentry!
The tythe o' what ye waste at cartes
Wad stow'd his pantry!)
5.
Yet when a tale comes i' my head,
Or lasses gie my heart a screed -
As whyles they're like to be my dead,
(O sad disease!)
I kittle up my rustic reed;
It gies me ease.
6.
Auld Coila, now, may fidge fu' fain,
She's gotten bardies o' her ain;
Chiels wha their chanters winna hain,
But tune their lays,
Till echoes a' resound again
Her weel-sung praise.
7.
Nae Poet thought her worth his while,
To set her name in measur'd style;
She lay like some unkend-of isle
Beside New Holland,
Or whare wild-meeting oceans boil
Besouth Magellan.
8.
Ramsay an' famous Fergusson
Gied Forth an' Tay a lift aboon;
Yarrow an' Tweed, to monie a tune,
Owre Scotland rings;
While Irwin, Lugar, Aye, an' Doon
Naebody sings.
9.
Th' Illissus, Tiber, Thames, an' Seine,
Glide sweet in monie a tunefu' line:
But, Willie, set your fit in mine,
An' cock your crest!
We'll gar our streams and burnies shine
Up wi' the best.
10.
We'll sing auld Coila's plains an' fells,
Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells,
Her banks an' braes, her dens an' dells,
Whare glorious Wallace
All bure the gree, as stories tell,
Frae Suthron billies.
11.
At Wallace' name, what Scottish blood
But boils up in a spring-tide flood?
Oft have our fearless fathers strode
By Wallace' side,
Still pressing onward, red-wat-shod,
Or glorious dy'd!
12.
O, sweet are Coila's haughs an' woods,
When lintwhites chant amang the buds,
And jinkin hares, in amorous whids,
Their loves enjoy;
While thro' the braes the cushat croods
With wailfu' cry!
13.
Ev'n winter bleak has charms to me,
When winds rave thro' the naked tree;
Or frosts on hills of Ochiltree
Are hoary gray;
Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee,
Dark'ning the day!
14.
O Nature! a' thy shews an' forms
To feeling, pensive hearts hae charms!
Whether the summer kindly warms,
Wi' life an' light;
Or winter howls, in gusty storms,
The lang, dark night!
15.
The Muse, nae poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel he learn'd to wander,
Adown some trottin burn's meander,
An' no think lang:
O, sweet to stray, an' pensive ponder
A heart-felt sang!
16.
The warly race may drudge and drive,
Hog-shouther, jundie, stretch, an' strive;
Let me fair Nature's face descrive,
And I, wi' pleasure,
Shall let the busy, grumbling hive
Bum owre their treasure.
17.
Fareweel, my rhyme-composing brither!
We've been owre lang unkend to ither:
Now let us lay our heads thegither,
In love fraternal:
May Envy wallop in a tether,
Black fiend infernal!
18.
While Highlandmen hate tolls an' taxes;
While moorlan' herds like guid, fat braxies;
While Terra Firma, on her axis,
Diurnal turns;
Count on a friend, in faith an' practice,
In Robert Burns.

POSTSCRIPT
19.
My memory's no worth a preen:
I had amaist forgotten clean,
Ye made me write you what they mean
By this New-Light,
'Bout which our herds sae aft hae been
Maist like to fight.
20.
In days when mankind were but callan;
At grammar, logic, an' sic talents,
They took nae pains their speech to balance,
Or rules to gie;
But spak their thoughts in plain braid Lallans,
Like you or me.
21.
In thae auld times, they thought the moon,
Just like a sark, or pair o' shoon,
Wore by degrees, till her last roon
Gaed past their viewin;
An' shortly after she was done,
They gat a new and.
22.
This past for certain, undisputed;
It ne'er cam i' their heads to doubt it,
Till chiels gat up an' wad confute it,
An' ca'd it wrang;
An' muckle din there was about it,
Baith loud an' lang.
23.
Some herds, weel learn'd upo' the Beuk,
Wad threap auld folk the thing misteuk;
For 'twas the auld moon turn'd a neuk
An' out of sight.
An' backlins-comin to the leuk,
She grew mair bright.
24.
This was deny'd, it was affirm'd;
The herds and hissels were alarm'd;
The rev'rend gray-beards rav'd an' storm'd,
That beardless laddies
Should think they better were inform'd
Than their auld daddies.
25.
Frae less to mair, it gaed to sticks;
Frae words an' aiths, to clours an' nicks;
An' monie a fallow gat his licks,
Wi' hearty crunt;
An some, to learn them for their tricks,
Were hang'd an' brunt.
26.
This game was play'd in monie lands,
An' Auld-Light caddies bure sic hands,
That faith, the youngsters took the sands
Wi' nimble shanks
Till lairds forbade, by strict commands,
Sic bluidy pranks.
27.
But New-Light herds gat sic a cowe,
Folk thought them ruin'd stick-an-stowe;
Till now, amaist on ev'ry knowe
Ye'll find ane placed;
An' some, their New-Light fair avow,
Just quite barefac'd.
28.
Nae doubt the Auld-Light flocks are bleatin;
Their zealous herds are vex'd and sweatin;
Myself, I've even seen them greetin
Wi' girnin spite,
To hear the moon sae sadly lie'd on
By word an' write.
29.
But shortly they will cowe the louns!
Some Auld-Light herds in neebor touns
Are mind't, in things they ca' balloons,
To tak a flight,
An' stay ae month amang the moons
An' see them right.
30.
Guid observation they will gie them;
An' when the auld moon's gaun to lea'e them,
The hindmost shaird, they'll fetch it wi' them,
Just i' their pouch;
An' when the New-Light billies see them,
I think they'll crouch!
31.
Sae, ye observe that a' this clatter
Is naething but a ' moonshine matter';
But tho' dull prose-folk Latin splatter
In logic tulzie,
I hope we, Bardies, ken some better
Than mind sic brulzie.

 

 


I got your letter, winsome Willie;
With grateful heart I thank you handsomely;
Though I must say it, I would be silly
And uncommonly vain,
Should I believe, my coaxing comrade,
Your flattering strain.

But I will believe you kindly meant it:
I should be loath to think you hinted
Ironic satire, sideways squinted,
On my poor Muse;
Though in such phrasing terms you have penned it,
I scarce excuse you.

My senses would be in a creel (basket),
Should I but dare a hope to climb,
With Allan or with Gilberfield,
The slopes of fame;
Or Fergusson, the lawyer fellow,
A deathless name.

(O Fergusson! your glorious parts
Ill suited law's dry, musty arts!
My curse upon your whinstone (hard granite) hearts,
You Edinburgh gentry!
The tithe (tenth) of what you waste at cards
Would have stored his pantry!)

Yet when a tale comes in my head,
Or girls give my heart a tear -
As sometimes they are like to be my death,
(O sad disease!)
I tickle up my rustic reed (pen);
It gives me ease.

Old Coila, now, may tingle with delight,
She has gotten poets of her own;
Comrades who their chanters would not spare,
But tune their lays,
Till echoes all resound again
Her well-sung praise.

No Poet thought her worth his while,
To set her name in measured style;
She lay like some unknown-of isle
Beside New Holland,
Or where wild-meeting oceans boil
South of Magellan.

Ramsay and famous Fergusson
Gave Forth and Tay a lift above (lift up);
Yarrow and Tweed, to many a tune,
Over Scotland rings;
While Irwin, Lugar, Aye, and Doon
Nobody sings.

The Illissus, Tiber, Thames, and Seine,
Glide sweet in many a tuneful line:
But, Willie, set your foot in mine,
And cock your crest!
We will make our streams and brooklets shine
Up with the best.

We will sing old Coila's plains and hills,
Her moors red-brown with heather bells,
Her banks and slopes, her dens and dells,
Where glorious Wallace
All bore the highest honours, as stories tell,
From Southern fellows.

At Wallace' name, what Scottish blood
But boils up in a spring-tide flood?
Often have our fearless fathers strode
By Wallace' side,
Still pressing onward, red-wet-shod,
Or gloriously died!

O, sweet are Coila's hollows and woods,
When linnets chant among the buds,
And sporting hares, in amorous gambols,
Their loves enjoy;
While through the hillsides the wild pigeon coos
With wailing cry!

Even winter bleak has charms to me,
When winds rave through the naked tree;
Or frosts on hills of Ochiltree
Are hoary gray;
Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee,
Darkening the day!

O Nature! all your shows and forms
To feeling, pensive hearts have charms!
Whether the summer kindly warms,
With life and light;
Or winter howls, in gusty storms,
The long, dark night!

The Muse, no poet ever found her,
Till by himself he learned to wander,
Down some trotting brook's meander,
And not think long:
O, sweet to stray, and pensive ponder
A heart-felt sang!

The worldly race may drudge and drive,
Push with the shoulder, jostle, stretch, and strive;
Let me fair Nature's face describe,
And I, with pleasure,
Shall let the busy, grumbling hive
Hum over their treasure.

Farewell, my rhyme-composing brother!
We have been too long unknown to others:
Now let us lay our heads together,
In love fraternal:
May Envy dangle in a rope,
Black fiend infernal!

While Highland men hate tolls and taxes;
While moorland herds like good, fat sheep;
While Terra Firma, on her axis,
Diurnal turns;
Count on a friend, in faith and practice,
In Robert Burns.



My memory is not worth a pin:
I had almost forgotten clean,
You made me write you what they mean
By this New-Light,
About which our shepherds so often have been
Most likely to fight.

In days when mankind were but youngsters;
At grammar, logic, and such talents,
They took no pains their speech to balance,
Or rules to give;
But spoke their thoughts in plain broad Scots vernacular,
Like you or me.

In those old times, they thought the moon,
Just like a shirt, or pair of shoes,
Wore by degrees, till her last round
Went past their viewing;
And shortly after she was done,
They got a new one.

This past for certain, undisputed;
It never came into their heads to doubt it,
Till persons got up and would confute it,
And called it wrong;
And much din there was about it,
Both loud and long.

Some shepherds, well learned upon the Book (Bible),
Would maintain old folk the thing mistaken;
Fot it was the old moon turned a corner
And out of sight.
And backwards-coming to the look,
She grew more bright.

This was denied, it was affirmed;
The shepherds and flocks were alarmed;
The reverend gray-beards raved and stormed,
That beardless youths
Should think they better were informed
Than their old fathers (elders).

From less to more, it went to sticks;
From words and oaths, to bumps and cuts;
And many a fellow got his punishment,
With hearty blow;
An some, to learn them for their tricks,
Were hanged and burnt.

This game was played in many lands,
And Old-Light servants bore such hands,
That faith, the youngsters took the sands
With nimble legs
Till lairds (land owners) forbade, by strict commands,
Such bloody pranks.

But New-Light shepherds got such a scare,
Folk thought them ruined completely;
Till now, almost on every hillock
You will find one placed;
And some, their New-Light fair avow,
Just quite barefaced (openly).

No doubt the Old-Light flocks are bleating;
Their zealous shepherds are vexed and sweating;
Myself, I have even seen them weeping
With whining spite,
To hear the moon so sadly lied on
By word and written arguments.

But shortly they will scare the rascals!
Some Old-Light shepherds in neighbour towns
Are reminded, in things they call balloons,
To take a flight,
And stay one month among the moons
And see them right.

Good observation they will give them;
And when the old moon is going to leave them,
The last shard, they will take it with them,
Just in their pocket;
And when the New-Light fellows see them,
I think they will crouch!

So, you observe that all this clatter
Is nothing but a ' moonshine matter';
But though dull prose-folk Latin splatter
In logic squabble,
I hope we, Poets, know some better
Than mind such a brawl.

 

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