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Index

Epistle To A Young Friend.

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation



1.
I lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho' it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine:
Perhaps it may turn out a sang;
Perhaps, turn out a sermon.
2.
Ye'll try the world soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end's attained;
And a' your views may come to nought,
Where ev'ry nerve is strained.
3.
I'll no say, men are villains a':
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, och! Mankind are unco weak
An' little to be trusted;
If Self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!
4.
Yet they wha fa' in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we should na censure;
For still, th' important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho' poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
5.
Ay free, aff han', your story tell,
When wi' a bosom cronie;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to onie:
Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
Frae critical dissection:
But keek thro' ev'ry other man
Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.
6.
The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th' illicit rove,
Tho' naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o' the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, och! it hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!
7.
To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev'ry wile
That's justify'd by honor:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Not for a train-attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent.
8.
The fear o' Hell's a hangman's whip
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that ay be your border:
Its slightest touches, instant pause --
Debar a' side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
Uncaring consequences.
9.
The great Creator to revere
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
And ev'n the rigid feature:
Yet ne'er with wits profane to range
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
For Deity offended!
10.
When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
It may be little minded;
But when on Life we're tempest-driv'n --
A conscience but a canker --
A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n
Is sure a noble anchor!
11.
Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, 'God send you speed,'
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
Than ever did th' adviser!



1.
I long have thought, my youthful friend,
Of something to have sent you,
Though it should serve no other end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject theme may go,
Let time and chance determine:
Perhaps it may turn out a song;
Perhaps, turn out a sermon.
2.
You will try the world soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
You will find mankind an strange squad,
And much they may grieve you:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Even when your end is attained;
And all your views may come to nothing,
Where every nerve is strained.
3.
I will not say, men are villains all:
The real, hardened wicked,
Who have no check but human law,
Are to a few restricted;
But, oh! Mankind are mighty weak
And little to be trusted;
If Self the wavering balance shake,
It is rarely right adjusted!
4.
Yet they who fall in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we should not censure;
For still, the important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may have an honest heart,
Though poverty hourly stare him;
A man may take a neighbours part,
Yet have no cash to spare him.
5
Always free, off hand, your story tell,
When with a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yourself
You scarcely tell to anybody:
Conceal yourself as well as you can
From critical dissection:
But pry through every other man
With sharpened, sly inspection.
6.
The sacred flame of well placed love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never attempt the illicit rove,
Though nothing should divulge it:
I waive the quantum of the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, oh! it hardens all within,
And petrifies the feeling!
7.
To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduously wait upon her;
And gather wealth by every wile
That is justified by honour:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Not for a train-attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent.
8.
The fear of Hell is a hangman's whip
To hold the wretch in order;
But where you feel your honour grip,
Let that always be your border:
Its slightest touch, instantly pause -
Debar all side pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
Uncaring (of) consequences.
9.
The great Creator to revere
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching can not forbear,
And even the rigid feature:
Yet never with wits profane to range
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist's laugh is a poor exchange
For Deity offended!
10.
When frolicking round in Pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gives a random sting,
It may be little minded;
But when on Life we are tempest driven -
A conscience but a canker -
A correspondence fixed with Heaven
Is sure a noble anchor!
11.
Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
Your heart can never be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, 'God send you speed,'
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may you better heed the counsel,
Than ever did the adviser!

 

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