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Election Ballad

At Close Of The Contest For Representing The Dumfries Burghs, 1790

Addressed to Robert Graham of Fintry

 

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

1.
Fintry, my stay in worldly strife,
Friend o' my Muse, friend o' my life,
Are ye as idle's I am?
Come, then! Wi' uncouth kintra fleg
O'er Pegasus I'll fling my leg,
And ye shall see me try him!
2.
But where shall I gae rin or ride,
That I may splatter nane beside?
I wad na be uncivil:
In mankind's various paths and ways
There's ay some doytin body strays,
And I ride like a devil.
3.
Thus I break aff wi' a' my birr,
An' down yon dark, deep alley spur,
Where Theologics dander:
Alas! curst wi' eternal fogs,
And damn'd in everlasting bogs,
As sure's the Creed I'll blunder!
4.
I'll stain a band, or jaup a gown,
Or rin my reckless, guilty crown
Against the haly door!
Sair do I rue my luckless fate,
When, as the Muse an' Deil wad hae't,
I rade that road before!
5.
Suppose I take a spurt, and mix
Amang the wilds o' Politics -
Electors and elected -
Where dogs at Court (sad sons o' bitches!)
Septennially a madness touches,
Till all the land's infected?
6.
All hail, Drumlanraig's haughty Grace,
Discarded remnants of a race
Once godlike - great in story!
Thy fathers' virtues all contrasted,
The very name of Douglas blasted,
Thine that inverted glory!
7.
Hate, envy, oft the Douglas bore;
But thou hast superadded more,
And sunk them in contempt!
Follies and crimes have stain'd the name;
But, Queensberry, thine the virgin claim,
From aught that's good exempt!
8.
I'll sing the zeal Drumlanrig bears,
Who left the all-important cares
Of fiddlers, whores, and hunters,
And, bent on buying Borough Towns,
Came shaking hands wi' wabster-loons,
And kissing barefit bunters.
9.
Combustion thro' our boroughs rode,
Whistling his roaring pack abroad
Of mad unmuzzled lions,
As Queensberry buff-and-blue unfurl'd,
And Westerha' and Hopeton hurl'd
To every Whig defiance.
10.
But cautious Queensberry left the war
(Th' unmanner'd dust might soil his star;
Besides he hated bleeding),
But left behind him heroes bright,
Heroes in Caesarean fight
Or Ciceronian pleading.
11.
O, for a throat like huge Mons-Meg,
To muster o'er each ardent Whig,
Beneath Drumlanraig's banner!
Heroes and heroines commix,
All in the field of politics,
To win immortal honor!
12.
M'Murdo and his lovely spouse
(Th' enamour'd laurels kiss her brows!)
Led on the Loves and Graces:
She won each gaping burgess' heart,
While he, sub rosa, played his part
Among their wives and lasses.
13.
Craigdarroch led a light-arm'd core:
Tropes, metaphors, and figures pour,
Like Hecla streaming thunder.
Glenriddell, skill'd in rusty coins,
Blew up each Tory's dark designs
And bared the treason under.
14.
In either wing two champions fought:
Redoubted Staig, who set at nought
The wildest savage Tory;
And Welsh, who ne'er yet flinch'd his ground,
High-wav'd his magnum-bonum round
With Cyclopeian fury.
15.
Miller brought up th' artillery ranks,
The many-pounders of the Banks,
Resistless desolation!
While Maxwelton, that baron bold,
'Mid Lawson's port entrench'd his hold
And threaten'd worse damnation.
16.
To these what Tory hosts oppos'd,
With these what Tory warriors clos'd,
Surpasses my descriving:
Squadrons, extended long and large,
With furious speed rush to the charge,
Like furious devils driving.
17.
What verse can sing, what prose narrate
The butcher deeds of bloody Fate
Amid this mighty tulyie?
Grim Horror girn'd, pale Terror roar'd,
As Murther at his thrapple shor'd,
And Hell mix'd in the brulyie.
18.
As Highland craigs by thunder cleft,
When lightnings fire the stormy lift,
Hurl down with crashing rattle,
As flames among a hundred woods,
As headlong foam a hundred floods -
Such is the rage of Battle!
19.
The stubborn Tories dare to die:
As soon the rooted oaks would fly
Before th' approaching fellers!
The Whigs come on like Ocean's roar,
When all the wintry billows pour
Against the Buchan Bullers.
20.
Lo, from the shades of Death's deep night
Departed Whigs enjoy the fight,
And think on former daring!
The muffled murtherer of Charles
The Magna Charter flag unfurls,
All deadly gules its bearing.
21.
Nor wanting ghosts of Tory fame:
Bold Scrimgeour follows gallant Graham,
Auld Covenanters shiver ….
Forgive! Forgive! much-wrong'd Montrose!
Now Death and Hell engulph thy foes,
Thou liv'st on high for ever!
22.
Still o'er the field the combat burns;
The Tories, Whigs, give way by turns;
But Fate the word has spoken;
For woman's wit and strength o' man,
Alas! can do but what they can:
The Tory ranks are broken.

23.
O, that my een were flowing burns;
My voice a lioness that mourns
Her darling cubs' undoing
That I might greet, that I might cry,
While Tories fall, while Tories fly
From furious Whigs pursuing!
24.
What Whig but melts for good Sir James,
Dear to his country by the names,
Friend, Patron, Benefactor?
Not Pulteney's wealth can Pulteney save;
And Hopeten falls - the generous, brave! -
And Stewart bold as Hector.
25.
Thou, Pitt, shalt rue this overthrow,
And Thurlow growl this curse of woe,
And Melville melt in wailing!
Now Fox and Sheridan rejoice,
And Burke shall sing:-- ' O Prince, arise!
Thy power is all prevailing!'
26.
For your dear friend, the Bard, afar
He sees and hears the distant war,
A cool spectator purely:
So, when the storm the forest rends,
The robin in the hedge descends,
And, patient, chirps securely.
27.
Now for my friends' and brethren's sakes,
And for my dear-lov'd Land o' Cakes,
I pray with holy fire:--
Lord, send a rough-shod troop o' Hell
O'er a' wad Scotland buy or sell,
To grind them in the mire!


Fintry, my stay in worldly strife,
Friend of my Muse, friend of my life,
Are you as idle as I am?
Come, then! With uncouth country action
Over Pegasus I will fling my leg,
And you shall see me try him!

But where shall I go run or ride,
That I may splash none beside?
I would not be uncivil:
In mankind's various paths and ways
There is always some doddering creature strays,
And I ride like a devil.

Thus I break off with all my force,
And down yonder dark, deep alley spur,
Where Theologies saunter:
Alas! cursed with eternal fogs,
And damned in everlasting bogs,
As sure as the Creed I will blunder!

I will stain a band, or splash a gown,
Or run my reckless, guilty crown
Against the holy door!
Sore do I rue my luckless fate,
When, as the Muse and Devil would have it,
I rode that road before!

Suppose I take a spurt, and mix
Among the wilds of Politics -
Electors and elected -
Where dogs at Court (sad sons of bitches!)
Septennially a madness touches,
Till all the land is infected?

All hail, Drumlanraig's haughty Grace,
Discarded remnants of a race
Once godlike - great in story!
Your fathers' virtues all contrasted,
The very name of Douglas blasted,
Yours that inverted glory!

Hate, envy, often the Douglas bore;
But you have super-added more,
And sunk them in contempt!
Follies and crimes have stained the name;
But, Queensberry, yours the virgin claim,
From anything that is good exempt!

I will sing the zeal Drumlanrig bears,
Who left the all-important cares
Of fiddlers, whores, and hunters,
And, bent on buying Borough Towns,
Came shaking hands with weaver rascals,
And kissing barefoot harlots.

Combustion through our boroughs rode,
Whistling his roaring pack abroad
Of mad un-muzzled lions,
As Queensberry buff-and-blue unfurled,
And Westerhall and Hopeton hurled
To every Whig defiance.

But cautious Queensberry left the war
(The unmannered dust might soil his star;
Besides he hated bleeding),
But left behind him heroes bright,
Heroes in Caesarean fight
Or Ciceronian pleading.

O, for a throat like huge Mons-Meg,
To muster over each ardent Whig,
Beneath Drumlanraig's banner!
Heroes and heroines commix,
All in the field of politics,
To win immortal honour!

M'Murdo and his lovely spouse
(The enamoured laurels kiss her brows!)
Led on the Loves and Graces:
She won each gaping burgess' heart,
While he, sub rosa, played his part
Among their wives and lasses.

Craigdarroch led a light-armed company:
Tropes, metaphors, and figures pour,
Like Hecla streaming thunder.
Glenriddell, skilled in rusty coins,
Blew up each Tory's dark designs
And bared the treason under.

In either wing two champions fought:
Redoubted Staig, who set at naught
The wildest savage Tory;
And Welsh, who never yet flinched his ground,
High-waved his double quart of ale round
With Cyclopeian fury.

Miller brought up the artillery ranks,
The many-pounders of the Banks,
Resistless desolation!
While Maxwelton, that baron bold,
Amid Lawson's port entrenched his hold
And threatened worse damnation.

To these what Tory hosts opposed,
With these what Tory warriors closed,
Surpasses my describing:
Squadrons, extended long and large,
With furious speed rush to the charge,
Like furious devils driving.

What verse can sing, what prose narrate
The butcher deeds of bloody Fate
Amid this mighty tussle?
Grim Horror snarled, pale Terror roared,
As Murder at his throat threatened,
And Hell mixed in the quarrel.

As Highland crags by thunder cleft,
When lightnings fire the stormy sky,
Hurl down with crashing rattle,
As flames among a hundred woods,
As headlong foam a hundred floods -
Such is the rage of Battle!

The stubborn Tories dare to die:
As soon the rooted oaks would fly
Before the approaching fellers!
The Whigs come on like Ocean's roar,
When all the wintry billows pour
Against the Buchan Bullers (a district).

Lo, from the shades of Death's deep night
Departed Whigs enjoy the fight,
And think on former daring!
The muffled murder of Charles
The Magna Charter flag unfurls,
All deadly gules its bearing.

Nor wanting ghosts of Tory fame:
Bold Scrimgeour follows gallant Graham,
Old Covenanters shiver ….
Forgive! Forgive! much-wronged Montrose!
Now Death and Hell engulf your foes,
You live on high for ever!

Still over the field the combat burns;
The Tories, Whigs, give way by turns;
But Fate the word has spoken;
For woman's wit and strength of man,
Alas! can do but what they can:
The Tory ranks are broken


O, that my eyes were flowing brooks;
My voice a lioness that mourns
Her darling cubs' undoing
That I might weep, that I might cry,
While Tories fall, while Tories fly
From furious Whigs pursuing!

What Whig but melts for good Sir James,
Dear to his country by the names,
Friend, Patron, Benefactor?
Not Pulteney's wealth can Pulteney save;
And Hopeten falls - the generous, brave! -
And Stewart bold as Hector.

You, Pitt, shall rue this overthrow,
And Thurlow growl this curse of woe,
And Melville melt in wailing!
Now Fox and Sheridan rejoice,
And Burke shall sing:-- ' O Prince, arise!
Your power is all prevailing!'

For your dear friend, the Bard, afar
He sees and hears the distant war,
A cool spectator purely:
So, when the storm the forest rends,
The robin in the hedge descends,
And, patient, chirps securely.

Now for my friends' and brethren's sakes,
And for my dear-loved Land of Cakes,
I pray with holy fire:--
Lord, send a rough-shod troop of Hell
Over all would Scotland buy or sell,
To grind them in the mire!

 

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