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Inscribed To The Right Hon. C. J. Fox

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

How Wisdom and Folly meet, mix, and unite,
How Virtue and Vice blend their black and their white,
How Genius, th' illustrious father of fiction,
Confounds rule and law, reconciles contradiction,
I sing. If these mortals, the critics, should bustle,
I care not, not I: let the critics go whistle!

But now for a Patron, whose name and whose glory
At once may illustrate and honor my story :-

Thou first of our orators, first of our wits,
Yet whose parts and acquirements seem mere lucky hits;
With knowledge so vast and with judgement so strong,
No man with the half of 'em e'er could go wrong;
With passions so potent and fancies so bright,
No man with the half of 'em e'er could go right;
A sorry, poor, misbegot son of the Muses,
For using thy name, offers fifty excuses.

Good Lord, what is Man! For as simple he looks,
Do but try to develop his hooks and his crooks!
With his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil,
All in all he's a problem must puzzle the Devil.

On his one ruling passion Sir Pope hugely labors,
That like th' old Hebrew walking-switch, eats up
its neighbours.
Human Nature's his show-box - your friend, would
you know him?
Pull the string, Ruling Passion - the picture will show him.
What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system,
One trifling particular - Truth - should have miss'd him!
For, spite of his fine theoretic positions,
Mankind is a science defies definitions.

Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe,
And think Human Nature they truly describe:
Have you found this, or t'other? There's more
in the wind,
As by one drunken fellow his comrades you'll find.
But such is the flaw, or the depth of the plan
In the make of that wonderful creature called Man,
No two virtues, whatever relations they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin brother to brother,
Possessing the one shall imply you've the other.

But truce with abstraction, and truce with a Muse
Whose rhymes you'll perhaps, Sir, ne'er deign to peruse!
Will you leave your justings, your jars, and your quarrels,
Contending with Billy for proud-nodding laurels?
My much-honour'd Patron, believe your poor Poet,
Your courage much more than your prudence, you show it.
In vain with Squire Billy for laurels you struggle:
He'll have them by fair trade - if not, he will smuggle;
Nor cabinets even of kings would conceal 'em,
He'd up the back-stairs, and by God he would
steal 'em!
Then feats like Squire Billy's, you ne'er can achieve 'em;
It is not, out-do him - the task is, out-thieve him!

 

How Wisdom and Folly meet, mix, and unite,
How Virtue and Vice blend their black and their white,
How Genius, the illustrious father of fiction,
Confounds rule and law, reconciles contradiction,
I sing. If these mortals, the critics, should bustle,
I care not, not I: let the critics go whistle!

But now for a Patron, whose name and whose glory
At once may illustrate and honor my story :-

You first of our orators, first of our wits,
Yet whose parts and acquirements seem mere lucky hits;
With knowledge so vast and with judgement so strong,
No man with the half of them ever could go wrong;
With passions so potent and fancies so bright,
No man with the half of them ever could go right;
A sorry, poor, miss-begot son of the Muses,
For using your name, offers fifty excuses.

Good Lord, what is Man! For as simple he looks,
Do but try to develop his hooks and his crooks!
With his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil,
All in all he is a problem must puzzle the Devil.

On his one ruling passion Sir Pope hugely labors,
That like the old Hebrew walking-stick, eats up
its neighbours.
Human Nature's his show-box - your friend, would
you know him?
Pull the string, Ruling Passion - the picture will show him.
What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system,
One trifling particular - Truth - should have missed him!
For, spite of his fine theoretic positions,
Mankind is a science defies definitions.

Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe,
And think Human Nature they truly describe:
Have you found this, or the other? There is more
in the wind,
As by one drunken fellow his comrades you'll find.
But such is the flaw, or the depth of the plan
In the make of that wonderful creature called Man,
No two virtues, whatever relations they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin brother to brother,
Possessing the one shall imply you have the other.

But truce with abstraction, and truce with a Muse
hose rhymes you will perhaps, Sir, never deign to peruse!
Will you leave your justings, your jars, and your quarrels,
Contending with Billy for proud-nodding laurels?
My much-honoured Patron, believe your poor Poet,
Your courage much more than your prudence, you show it.
In vain with Squire Billy for laurels you struggle:
He will have them by fair trade - if not, he will smuggle;
Nor cabinets even of kings would conceal them,
He would up the back-stairs, and by God he would
steal them!
Then feats like Squire Billy's, you never can achieve them;
It is not, out-do him - the task is, out-thieve him!

 

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