Lament For The Absence Of William Creech, Publisher


Auld chuckie Reekie's sair distrest, Down droops her ance weel burnish'd crest, Nae joy her bonie buskit nest Can yield ava, Her darling bird that she lo'es best - Willie's awa! O Willie was a witty wight, And had o' things an unco' sleight, Auld Reekie aye he keepit tight, And trig an' braw: But now they'll busk her like a fright, - Willie's awa! The stiffest o' them a' he bow'd, The bauldest o' them a' he cow'd; They durst nae mair than he allow'd, That was a law: We've lost a birkie weel worth gowd; Willie's awa! Now gawkies, tawpies, gowks and fools, Frae colleges and boarding schools, May sprout like simmer puddock-stools In glen or shaw; He wha could brush them down to mools - Willie's awa! The brethren o' the Commerce-chaumer May mourn their loss wi' doolfu' clamour; He was a dictionar and grammar Among them a'; I fear they'll now mak mony a stammer; Willie's awa! Nae mair we see his levee door Philosophers and poets pour, And toothy critics by the score, In bloody raw! The adjutant o' a' the core - Willie's awa! Now worthy Gregory's Latin face, Tytler's and Greenfield's modest grace; Mackenzie, Stewart, such a brace As Rome ne'er saw; They a' maun meet some ither place, Willie's awa! Poor Burns ev'n Scotch Drink canna quicken, He cheeps like some bewilder'd chicken Scar'd frae it's minnie and the cleckin, By hoodie-craw; Grieg's gien his heart an unco kickin, Willie's awa! Now ev'ry sour-mou'd girnin blellum, And Calvin's folk, are fit to fell him; Ilk self-conceited critic skellum His quill may draw; He wha could brawlie ward their bellum Willie's awa! Up wimpling stately Tweed I've sped, And Eden scenes on crystal Jed, And Ettrick banks, now roaring red, While tempests blaw; But every joy and pleasure's fled, Willie's awa! May I be Slander's common speech; A text for Infamy to preach; And lastly, streekit out to bleach In winter snaw; When I forget thee, Willie Creech, Tho' far awa! May never wicked Fortune touzle him! May never wicked men bamboozle him! Until a pow as auld's Methusalem He canty claw! Then to the blessed new Jerusalem, Fleet wing awa!

Listen

Hannah Gordon

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Hannah Gordon.

More about this poem

William Creech (1745-1815) was Burns's publisher and a bookseller in Edinburgh. Creech was notoriously tight-fisted, and Burns had to visit the city in December 1787 to gain his rightful remuneration. The lament was written before their argument over money, during the period when Burns was touring in the borders.

Stanza seven alludes to several enlightenment figures active in Edinburgh: Dr James Gregory (1753-1821) Professor of Medicine, the historian Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813), Professor of Rhetoric William Greenfield (d. 1827), Henry Mackenzie, lawyer and author (1745-1831), and Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) Professor of Moral Philosophy.

Ralph Richard McLean

Themes for this poem

humour friendship regret

Selected for 13 May

Burns owed the printer and publisher William Creech a lot, not, however as much as Creech owed the poet. The expanded Edinburgh Edition of the Bard’s work made its author a national celebrity and an international sensation. But it failed to make him much money and he blamed the hard to like, easy to distrust, Creech, a man about whom few had a good word to say, the poet being no exception. Burns may only slowly and partially, have got what he was due from this unscrupulous opportunist. Ah, but Creech, on the other hand was certainly paid back... That vengeful verse, we’ll look at elsewhere. The present poem bears today’s date in 1787 and was written in happier and less quarrelsome times.

Donny O'Rourke

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