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The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer

Ye Irish lords, ye knights an' squires, Wha represent our Brughs an' Shires, An' doucely manage our affairs In Parliament, To you a simple poet's pray'rs Are humbly sent. Alas! my roupet Muse is haerse! Your Honors' hearts wi' grief 'twad pierce, To see her sittan on her arse Low i' the dust, And scriechan out prosaic verse, An' like to brust! Tell them wha hae the chief direction, Scotland an' me's in great affliction, E'er sin' they laid that curst restriction On Aqua-vitae; An' rouse them up to strong conviction, An' move their pity. Stand forth an' tell yon Premier Youth The honest, open, naked truth; Tell him o' mine an' Scotland's drouth, His servants humble: The muckle deevil blaw you south If ye dissemble! Does ony great man glunch an' gloom? Speak out, an' never fash your thumb! Let posts an' pensions sink or swoom Wi' them wha grant them: If honestly they canna come, Far better want them. In gath'rin votes you were na slack; Now stand as tightly by your tack: Ne'er claw your lug, an' fidge your back, An' hum an' haw; But raise your arm, an' tell your crack Before them a'. Paint Scotland greetin owre her thrissle; Her mutchkin stowp as toom's a whissle; An' damn'd Excise-men in a bussle, Seizin a Stell, Triumphant crushan't like a mussel Or laimpet shell. Then on the tither hand present her, A blackguard Smuggler, right behint her, An' cheek-for-chow, a chuffie Vintner, Colleaguing join, Picking her pouch as bare as Winter, Of a' kind coin. Is there, that bears the name o' Scot, But feels his heart's bluid rising hot, To see his poor, auld Mither's pot Thus dung in staves, An' plunder'd o' her hindmost groat, By gallows knaves? Alas! I'm but a nameless wight, Trode i' the mire out o' sight! But could I like Montgomeries fight, Or gab like Boswel, There's some sark-necks I wad draw tight, An' tye some hose well. God bless your Honors! can ye see't, The kind, auld cantie Carlin greet, An' no get warmly to your feet, An' gar them hear it, An' tell them wi' a patriot-heat, Ye winna bear it? Some o' you nicely ken the laws, To round the period an' pause, An' with rhetoric clause on clause To mak harangues; Then echo thro' Saint Stephen's wa's Auld Scotland's wrangs. Dempster, a true blue Scot I'se warran; Thee, aith-detesting, chaste Kilkerran; An' that glib-gabbit Highlan baron, The Laird o' Graham; An' ane, a chap that's damn'd auldfarran, Dundass his name. Erskine, a spunkie norland billie; True Campbels, Frederic and Ilay; An' Livistone, the bauld Sir Willie; An' mony ithers, Whom auld Demosthenes or Tully Might own for brithers. [See sodger Hugh, my watchman stented, If poets e'er are represented; I ken if that your sword were wanted, Ye'd lend a hand, But when there's ought to say anent it, Ye're at a stand.] Arouse, my boys! exert your mettle, To get auld Scotland back her kettle! Or faith! I'll wad my new pleugh-pettle, Ye'll see't or lang, She'll teach you, wi' a reekin whittle, Anither sang. This while she's been in crankous mood, Her lost Militia fir'd her bluid; (Deil na they never mair do guid, Play'd her that pliskie!) An' now she's like to rin red-wud About her Whisky. An' Lord! if ance they pit her till't, Her tartan petticoat she'll kilt, An' durk an' pistol at her belt, She'll tak the streets, An' rin her whittle to the hilt, I' th' first she meets! For God sake, Sirs! then speak her fair, An' straik her cannie wi' the hair, An' to the muckle house repair, Wi' instant speed, An' strive, wi' a' your Wit an' Lear, To get remead. Yon ill-tongu'd tinkler, Charlie Fox, May taunt you wi' his jeers and mocks; But gie him 't het, my hearty cocks! E'en cowe the cadie! An' send him to his dicing box, An' sportin' lady. Tell yon guid bluid o' auld Boconnock's, I'll be his debt twa mashlum bonnocks, An' drink his health in auld Nance Tinnock's Nine times a-week, If he some scheme, like tea an' winnocks, Wad kindly seek. Could he some commutation broach, I'll pledge my aith in guid braid Scotch, He needna fear their foul reproach Nor erudition, Yon mixtie-maxtie, queer hotch-potch, The Coalition. Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue; She's just a devil wi' a rung; An' if she promise auld or young To tak their part, Tho' by the neck she should be strung, She'll no desert. And now, ye chosen Five-and-Forty, May still your Mither's heart support ye; Then, tho' a Minister grow dorty, An' kick your place, Ye'll snap your fingers, poor an' hearty, Before his face. God bless your Honors, a' your days, Wi' sowps o' kail an' brats o' claise, In spite o' a' the thievish kaes, That haunt St. Jamie's! Your humble poet sings an' prays, While Rab his name is. Postscript Let half-starv'd slaves in warmer skies, See future wines, rich-clust'ring, rise; Their lot auld Scotland ne'er envies, But blythe an' frisky, She eyes her freeborn, martial boys, Tak aff their Whisky. What tho' their Phebus kinder warms, While Fragrance blooms and Beauty charms, When wretches range, in famish'd swarms, The scented groves; Or hounded forth, dishonour arms, In hungry droves. Their gun's a burden on their shouther; They downa bide the stink o' powther; Their bauldest thought's a hank'ring swither, To stan' or rin, Till skelp-a shot-they're aff, a' throu'ther, To save their skin. But bring a Scotchman frae his hill, Clap in his cheek a highlan gill, Say, such is royal George's will, An' there's the foe, He has nae thought but how to kill Twa at a blow. Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him; Death comes, wi' fearless eye he sees him; Wi' bluidy hand a welcome gies him; An' when he fa's, His latest draught o' breathin lea'es him In faint huzzas. Sages their solemn een may steek, An' raise a philosophic reek, An' physically causes seek, In clime an' season; But tell me Whisky's name in Greek I'll tell the reason. Scotland, my auld, respected Mither! Tho' whyles ye moistify your leather, Till when ye speak, ye aiblins blether; Yet deil-mak-matter! Freedom and Whisky gang thegither, Take aff your whitter.


Alex Norton
Eileen McCallum

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Alex Norton.

Themes for this poem

politics drink nationalism future

Selected for 04 February

On this day in 1941, the SS Politician ran aground between Barra and Eriskay. The islanders' canny alacrity in salvaging its cargo of uisge beatha inspired the book and film, 'Whisky Galore'. The easily-outwitted customs officials from the mainland proved no match for the cunning islanders. Here is Burns, before he himself joined their ranks, poking thirsty fun at 'damn'd Excise-men'. The poet's exasperation with what he took to be Parliament's bias against the national drink of his native land sums up too, his larger discontent with London's prejudice against the national interest. Isn't in Britain's interest to defeat France? 'Scotch' Acqua-Vitae maked for braver soldiers than French wine, he argues disingenuously. His complaint was provoked by the legislative attempts of the British parliament to disadvantage local distillers and those using domestic stills to provide a needful dram, without waiting for a shipwreck, to show that, 'Freedom and Whisky gang thegither'!

Donny O'Rourke

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