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Epistle to Davie, a Brother Poet.

 

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

1.
While winds frae aff Ben-Lomond blaw,
And bar the doors wi' drivin' snaw,
And hing us owre the ingle,
I set me down to pass the time,
And spin a verse or twa o' rhyme,
In hamely, westlin jingle:
While Frosty winds blaw in the drift,
Ben to the chimla lug,
I grudge a wee the great-folk's gift,
That live sae bien an' snug:
I tent less, and want less
Their roomy fire-side;
But hanker, and canker,
To see their cursed pride.
2.
It's hardly in a body's pow'r,
To keep, at times, frae being sour,
To see how things are shar'd;
How best o' chiels are whyles in want,
While coofs on countless thousands rant,
And ken na how to ware't;
But, Davie, lad, ne'er fash your head,
Tho' we hae little gear;
We're fit to win our daily bread,
As lang's we're hale and fier:
'Mair spier na, nor fear na',
Auld age ne'er mind a feg;
The last o't, the warst o't,
Is only but to beg.
3.
To lie in kilns and barns at e'en,
When banes are craz'd, and bluid is thin,
Is, doubtless, great distress!
Yet then content could make us blest;
E'en then, sometimes, we'd snatch a taste
Of truest happiness.
The honest heart that's free frae a'
Intended fraud or guile,
However Fortune kick the ba',
Has ay some cause to smile;
And mind still, you'll find still,
A comfort this nae sma';
Nae mair then, we'll care then,
Nae further can we fa'.
4.
What tho', like commoners of air,
We wander out, we know not where,
But either house or hal'?
Yet Nature's charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all.
In days when daisies deck the ground,
And blackbirds whistle clear,
With honest joy our hearts will bound,
To see the coming years:
On braes when we please then,
We'll sit an' sowth a tune;
Syne rhyme till't we'll time till't,
An' sing't when we hae done.
5.
It's no in titles nor in rank:
It's no in wealth like Lon'on Bank,
To purchase peace and rest.
It's no in makin muckle, mair;
It's no in books, it's no in lear,
To make us truly blest:
We may be wise, or rich, or great,
But never can be blest!
Nae treasures nor pleasures
Could make us happy lang;
The heart ay's the part ay
That makes us right or wrang.
6.
Think ye, that sic as you and I,
Wha drudge and drive thro' wet and dry,
Wi' never ceasing toil;
Think ye, are we less blest than they,
Wha scarcely tent us in their way,
As hardly worth their while?
Alas! how oft, in haughty mood,
God's creatures they oppress!
Or else, neglecting a' that's guid,
They riot in excess!
Baith careless and fearless
Of either Heaven or Hell;
Esteeming and deeming
It a' an idle tale!
7.
Then let us chearfu' acquiesce,
Nor make our scanty pleasures less
By pining at our state:
And, even should misfortunes come,
I here wha sit hae met wi' some,
An's thankfu' for them yet,
They gie the wit of age to youth;
They let us ken oursel;
They make us see the naked truth,
The real guid and ill:
Tho' losses and crosses
Be lessons right severe,
There's wit there, ye'll get there,
Ye'll find nae other where.
8.
But tent me, Davie, ace o' hearts!
(To say aught less wad wrang the cartes,
And flatt'ry I detest)
This life has joys for you and I;
And joys that riches ne'er could buy,
And joys the very best.
There's a' the pleasures o' the heart,
The lover an' the frien':
Ye hae your Meg, your dearest part,
And I my darling Jean!
It warms me, it charms me
To mention but her name:
It heats me, it beets me,
And sets me a' on flame!
9.
O all ye Pow'rs who rule above!
O Thou whose very self art love!
Thou know'st my words sincere!
The life-blood streaming thro' my heart,
Or my more dear immortal part,
Is not more fondly dear!
When heart-corroding care and grief
Deprive my soul of rest,
Her dear idea brings relief
And solace to my breast.
Thou Being All-seeing,
O, hear my fervent pray'r!
Still take her, and make her
Thy most peculiar care!
10.
All hail! ye tender feelings dear!
The smile of love, the friendly tear,
The sympathetic glow!
Long since, this world's thorny ways
Had number'd out my weary days,
Had it not been for you!
Fate still has blest me with a friend
In every care and ill;
And oft a more endearing band,
A tie more tender still.
It lightens, it brightens
The tenebrific scene,
To meet with, and greet with
My Davie or my Jean!
11.
O, how that Name inspires my style!
The words come skelpin' rank an' file,
Amaist before I ken!
The ready measure rins as fine,
As Phoebus and the famous Nine
Were glowrin owre my pen.
My spaviet Pegasus will limp,
Till ance he's fairly het;
And then he'll hilch, an' stilt, an' jimp,
And rin an unco fit;
But least then, the beast then
Should rue this hasty ride,
I'll light now, and dight now
His sweaty, wizen'd hide.

1.
While winds from off Ben-Lomond blow, (Ben a hill)
And bar the doors with driving snow,
And hang us over the fireplace,
I set me down to pass the time,
And spin a verse or two of rhyme,
In homely, westland jingle:
While Frosty winds blow in the drift,
Through to the chimney corner,
I grudge a little the great-folk's gift,
That live so prosperous and snug:
I value less, and want less
Their roomy fire-side;
But yearn, and consumes,
To see their cursed pride.
2.
It is hardly in a person's power,
To keep, at times, from being sour,
To see how things are shared;
How best of young fellows are sometimes in want,
While dolts on countless thousands roister,
And know not how to spend it;
But, Davie, lad, never trouble your head,
Though we have little wealth;
We are fit to win our daily bread,
As long as we are whole and sound:
'More ask not, nor fear not,
Old age never mind a fig;
The last of it, the worst of it,
Is only but to beg.
3.
To lie in kilns and barns at evening,
When bones are crazed, and blood is thin,
Is, doubtless, great distress!
Yet then content could make us blest;
Even then, sometimes, we would snatch a taste
Of truest happiness.
The honest heart that is free from all
Intended fraud or guile,
However Fortune kick the ball,
Has always some cause to smile;
And mind still, you'll find still,
A comfort this not small;
No more then, we will care then,
No further can we fall.
4
What though, like commoners of air,
We wander out, we know not where,
But without house or hall?
Yet Nature's charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all.
In days when daisies deck the ground,
And blackbirds whistle clear,
With honest joy our hearts will bound,
To see the coming years:
On hill sides when we please then,
We will sit and hum a tune;
Then rhyme unto it we will time unto it,
And sing it when we have done.
5.
It is not in titles nor in rank:
It is not in wealth like London Bank,
To purchase peace and rest.
It is not in making much, more;
It is not in books, it is not in learning,
To make us truly blessed:
We may be wise, or rich, or great,
But never can be blessed!
No treasures nor pleasures
Could make us happy long;
The heart always is the part always
That makes us right or wrong.
6.
Think you, that such as you and I,
Who drudge and drive through wet and dry,
With never ceasing toil;
Think you, are we less blessed than they,
Who scarcely consider us in their way,
As hardly worth their while?
Alas! how often, in haughty mood,
God's creatures they oppress!
Or else, neglecting all that is good,
They riot in excess!
Both careless and fearless
Of either Heaven or Hell;
Esteeming and deeming
It is all an idle tale.
7.
Then let us cheerfully acquiesce,
Nor make our scanty pleasures less
By pining at our state:
And, even should misfortunes come,
I here who sit have met with some,
And am thankful for them yet,
They give the wit of age to youth;
They let us know ourselves;
They make us see the naked truth,
The real good and ill:
Though losses and crosses
Be lessons right severe,
There is wit there, you will get there,
You will find no other where.
8.
But listen to me, Davie, ace of hearts!
(To say anything less would wrong the cards,
And flattery I detest)
This life has joys for you and I;
And joys that riches never could buy,
And joys the very best.
There is all the pleasures of the heart,
The lover and the friend:
You have your Meg, your dearest part,
And I my darling Jean!
It warms me, it charms me
To mention but her name:
It heats me, it kindles me,
And sets me all on flame!
9.
O all you Powers who rule above!
O You whose very self art love!
You know my words are sincere!
The life-blood streaming through my heart,
Or my more dear immortal part,
Is not more fondly dear!
When heart-corroding care and grief
Deprive my soul of rest,
Her dear idea brings relief
And solace to my breast.
Thou Being All-seeing,
O, hear my fervent prayer!
Still take her, and make her
Thy most peculiar care!
10.
All hail! your tender feelings dear!
The smile of love, the friendly tear,
The sympathetic glow!
Long since, this world's thorny ways
Had numbered out my weary days,
Had it not been for you!
Fate still has blessed me with a friend
In every care and ill;
And often a more endearing band,
A tie more tender still.
It lightens, it brightens
The gloomy scene,
To meet with, and greet with
My Davie or my Jean!
11.
O, how that Name inspires my style!
The words come spanking rank and file,
Almost before I know!
The ready measure runs as fine,
As Phoebus and the famous Nine
Were looking over my pen.
My spavined Pegasus will limp,
Until once he is fairly hot;
And then he will hobble, and limp, and jump,
And run an uncommon burst;
But least then, the beast then
Should rue this hasty ride,
I will light now, and wipe now
His sweaty, wizened hide.

 

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