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Translation
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Elegy On Captain Matthew Henderson
A Gentleman who held the patent for his honours
immediately from Almighty God!

But now his radiant course is run,
For Matthew's course was bright:
His soul was like the glorious sun
A matchless, Heavenly light.

 

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

1.
O Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikle Devil wi' a woodie
Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie
O'er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie
Wi' thy auld sides!
2.
He's gane, he's gane! he's frae us torn,
The ae best fellow e'er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature's sel shall mourn,
By wood and wild,
Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn,
Frae man exil'd.
3.
Ye hills, near neebors o' the starns,
That proudly cock your cresting cairns!
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing yearns,
Where Echo slumbers!
Come join ye, Nature's sturdiest bairns,
My wailing numbers!
4.
Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Ye hazly shaws and briery dens!
Ye burnies, wimplin down the glens
Wi' toddlin din,
Or foaming, strang, wi' hasty stens,
Frae lin to lin!
5.
Mourn, little harebells o'er the lea;
Ye stately foxgloves, fair to see;
Ye woodbines, hanging bonilie
In scented bowers;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
The first o' flowers!
6.
At dawn, when every grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head;
At ev'n, when beans their fragrance shed
I' th' rustling gale;
Ye maukkins, whiddin through the glade;
Come join my wail!
7.
Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews, calling thro' a clud;
Ye whistling plover;
And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood:
He's gane for ever!
8.
Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi' airy wheels
Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
Rair for his sake!
9.
Mourn, clam'ring craiks, at close o' day,
'Mang fields o' flow'ring clover gay!
And when you wing your annual way
Frae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far warlds wha lies in clay,
Wham we deplore.
10.
Ye houlets, frae your ivy bower
In some auld tree, or eldritch tower,
What time the moon, wi' silent glowr,
Sets up her horn,
Wail thro' the dreary midnight hour
Till waukrife morn!
11.
O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains:
But now, what else for me remains
But tales of woe?
And frae my een the drapping rains
Maun ever flow.
12.
Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year!
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
Shoots up its head,
Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear
For him that's dead!
13.
Thou, Autumn, wi' thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear!
Thou, Winter, hurling thro' the air
The roaring blast,
Wide o'er the naked world declare
The worth we've lost!
14.
Mourn him, thou Sun, great source of light!
Mourn, Empress of the silent night!
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs he' taen his flight,
Ne'er to return.
15.
O Henderson! the man!! the brother!
And art thou gone, and gone for ever?
And hast thou crost that unknown river,
Life's dreary bound?
Like thee, where shall I find another,
The world around?
16.
Go to your sculptur'd tombs, ye Great,
In a' the tinsel trash o' state!
But by thy honest turf I'll wait,
Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellow's fate
E'er lay in earth!

The Epitaph

1.
Stop, passenger! my story's brief,
And truth I shall relate, man:
I tell nae common tale o' grief,
For Matthew was a great man.
2.
If thou uncommon merit hast,
Yet spurn'd at Fortune's door, man;
A look of pity hither cast,
For Matthew was a poor man.
3.
If thou a noble sodger art,
That passest by this grave, man;
There moulders here a gallant heart,
For Matthew was a brave man.
4.
If thou on men, their works and ways,
Canst throw uncommon light, man;
Here lies wha weel had won thy praise,
For Matthew was a bright man.
5.
If thou, at Friendship's sacred ca',
Wad life itself resign, man;
Thy sympathetic tear maun fa',
For Matthew was a kind man.
6.
If thou art staunch, without a stain,
Like the unchanging blue, man;
This was a kinsman o' thy ain,
For Matthew was a true man.
7.
If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire,
And ne'er guid wine did fear, man;
This was thy billie, dam, and sire,
For Matthew was a queer man.
8.
If onie whiggish, whingin sot,
To blame poor Matthew dare, man;
May dool and sorrow be his lot!
For Matthew was a rare man.


O Death! you tyrant cruel and bloody!
The great Devil with a wooden stick
Drag you home to his black smithy
Over hedgehog hides,
And like stock-fish come over his anvil
With your old sides!

He is gone, he is gone! He is from us torn,
The one best fellow ever was born!
You, Matthew, Nature's self shall mourn,
By wood and wild,
Where, by chance, Pity strays forlorn,
From man exiled.

You hills, near neighbours of the stars,
That proudly cock your cresting monds!
You cliffs, the haunts of sailing eagles,
Where Echo slumbers!
Come join you, Nature's sturdiest children,
My wailing numbers!

Mourn, every grove the wild pigeon knows!
You hazel woods and briery dens!
You brooklets, winding down the glens
With toddling din,
Or foaming, strong, with hasty wild leaps,
From waterfall to waterfall!

Mourn, little harebells over the meadow;
You stately foxgloves, fair to see;
You woodbines, hanging lovely
In scented bowers;
You roses on your thorny tree,
The first of flowers!

At dawn, when every grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head;
At evening, when beans their fragrance shed
In the rustling gale;
You hares, scudding through the glade;
Come join my wail!

Mourn, you little songsters of the wood;
You grouse that crop the heather bud;
You curlews, calling through a cloud;
You whistling plover;
And mourn, you whirring partridge brood:
He has gone for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
You fisher herons, watching eels;
You duck and drake, with airy wheels
Circling the lake;
You bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
Roar for his sake!

Mourn, clamouring corncrakes, at close of day,
Among fields of flowering clover gay!
And when you wing your annual way
From our cold shore,
Tell those far worlds who lie in clay,
Whom we deplore.

You owls, from your ivy bower
In some old tree, or unearthly tower,
What time the moon, with silent stare,
Sets up her horn,
Wail through the dreary midnight hour
Till wakeful morning!

O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Often have you heard my cheerful strains:
But now, what else for me remains
But tales of woe?
And from my eyes the dropping rains
Must ever flow.

Mourn, Spring, you darling of the year!
Each cowslip cup shall catch a tear:
You, Summer, while each corn spear
Shoots up its head,
Your gay, green, flowery tresses shear
For him that is dead!

You, Autumn, with your yellow hair,
In grief your sallow mantle tear!
You, Winter, hurling throug the air
The roaring blast,
Wide over the naked world declare
The worth we have lost!

Mourn him, you Sun, great source of light!
Mourn, Empress of the silent night!
And you, you twinkling starlets bright,
My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs he has taken his flight,
Never to return.

O Henderson! the man!! the brother!
And are you gone, and gone for ever?
And have you crossed that unknown river,
Life's dreary bound?
Like you, where shall I find another,
The world around?

Go to your sculptured tombs, you Great,
In all the tinsel trash of state!
But by your honest turf I will wait,
You man of worth!
And weep the one best fellow's fate
Ever lay in earth




Stop, passenger! my story is brief,
And truth I shall relate, man:
I tell no common tale of grief,
For Matthew was a great man.

If you uncommon merit have,
Yet spurned at Fortune's door, man;
A look of pity hither cast,
For Matthew was a poor man.

If you a noble soldier are,
That passes by this grave, man;
There moulders here a gallant heart,
For Matthew was a brave man.

If you on men, their works and ways,
Can throw uncommon light, man;
Here lies who well had won your praise,
For Matthew was a bright man.

If you, at Friendship's sacred call,
Would life itself resign, man;
Your sympathetic tear must fall,
For Matthew was a kind man.

If you are staunch, without a stain,
Like the unchanging blue, man;
This was a kinsman of your own,
For Matthew was a true man.

If you have wit, and fun, and fire,
And never good wine did fear, man;
This was your brother, dam (mother), and sire (father),
For Matthew was a queer man.

If any Whiggish, whining dolt,
To blame poor Matthew dare, man;
May woe and sorrow be his lot!
For Matthew was a rare man.

 

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