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Contains some strong language

Scotch Drink

Let other poets raise a fracas "Bout vines, an' wines, an' drucken Bacchus, An' crabbit names an'stories wrack us, An' grate our lug: I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us, In glass or jug. O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink! Whether thro' wimplin worms thou jink, Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink, In glorious faem, Inspire me, till I lisp an' wink, To sing thy name! Let husky wheat the haughs adorn, An' aits set up their awnie horn, An' pease and beans, at e'en or morn, Perfume the plain: Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn, Thou king o' grain! On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, In souple scones, the wale o'food! Or tumblin in the boiling flood Wi' kail an' beef; But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood, There thou shines chief. Food fills the wame, an' keeps us leevin; Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin, When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin; But, oil'd by thee, The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin, Wi' rattlin glee. Thou clears the head o'doited Lear; Thou cheers ahe heart o' drooping Care; Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair, At's weary toil; Though even brightens dark Despair Wi' gloomy smile. Aft, clad in massy siller weed, Wi' gentles thou erects thy head; Yet, humbly kind in time o' need, The poor man's wine; His weep drap parritch, or his bread, Thou kitchens fine. Thou art the life o' public haunts; But thee, what were our fairs and rants? Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts, By thee inspired, When gaping they besiege the tents, Are doubly fir'd. That merry night we get the corn in, O sweetly, then, thou reams the horn in! Or reekin on a New-year mornin In cog or bicker, An' just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in, An' gusty sucker! When Vulcan gies his bellows breath, An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith, O rare! to see thee fizz an freath I' th' luggit caup! Then Burnewin comes on like death At every chap. Nae mercy then, for airn or steel; The brawnie, banie, ploughman chiel, Brings hard owrehip, wi' sturdy wheel, The strong forehammer, Till block an' studdie ring an reel, Wi' dinsome clamour. When skirling weanies see the light, Though maks the gossips clatter bright, How fumblin' cuiffs their dearies slight; Wae worth the name! Nae howdie gets a social night, Or plack frae them. When neibors anger at a plea, An' just as wud as wud can be, How easy can the barley brie Cement the quarrel! It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee, To taste the barrel. Alake! that e'er my muse has reason, To wyte her countrymen wi' treason! But mony daily weet their weason Wi' liquors nice, An' hardly, in a winter season, E'er Spier her price. Wae worth that brandy, burnin trash! Fell source o' mony a pain an' brash! Twins mony a poor, doylt, drucken hash, O' half his days; An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash To her warst faes. Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well! Ye chief, to you my tale I tell, Poor, plackless devils like mysel'! It sets you ill, Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell, Or foreign gill. May gravels round his blather wrench, An' gouts torment him, inch by inch, What twists his gruntle wi' a glunch O' sour disdain, Out owre a glass o' whisky-punch Wi' honest men! O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks! Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks! When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks Are my poor verses! Thou comes - they rattle in their ranks, At ither's arses! Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost! Scotland lament frae coast to coast! Now colic grips, an' barkin hoast May kill us a'; For loyal Forbes' charter'd boast Is ta'en awa? Thae curst horse-leeches o' the' Excise, Wha mak the whisky stells their prize! Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice! There, seize the blinkers! An' bake them up in brunstane pies For poor damn'd drinkers. Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill, An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will, Tak a' the rest, An' deal't about as thy blind skill Directs thee best.


David Rintoul

Stephen Duffy

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1785 and is read here by David Rintoul.

More about this poem

It is part of Burns mythology that Burns liked a drink or three, although this may be used as an excuse for those holding Burns suppers to do likewise. Whether this is true or no what is undeniable is that Burns saw Scotch whisky as holding a special symbolic and fiscal significance for Scotland.

This poem, when read in alignment with The Author's Earnest Cry shows not only Burns regard for whisky, but the future excise man's disdain for London's taxation on Scotland's national drink.

Alistair Braidwood

Themes for this poem

drink friendship nationalism

Selected for 23 January

In just a couple of days, amidst quips, sips and nips, glasses will be raised to the immortal memory of Robert Burns. Here, in anticipation, is a toast to Scotch Drink. It makes a good companion piece to 'To a Haggis'. Like his poem in praise of our national dish (served up tomorrow), this salute to whisky, 'soul o' plays and pranks', adroitly deploys the characteristic Burns stanza to tremendous, and affectionate, comic effect.

Donny O'Rourke

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