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The Deil's awa wi' the Exciseman


The deil cam fiddlin' thro' the town, And danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman; And ilka wife cries, Auld Mahoun, I wish you luck o' the prize, man. The deil's awa the deil's awa, The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman, He's danc'd awa he's danc'd awa He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman. We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink, We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man; And mony braw thanks to the meikle black deil, That danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman. The deil's awa the deil's awa, The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman, He's danc'd awa he's danc'd awa He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman. There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels, There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man, But the ae best dance ere came to the Land Was, the deil's awa wi' the Exciseman. The deil's awa the deil's awa , The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman, He's danc'd awa he's danc'd awa He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.

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Clare Grogan
John Bett

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1792 and is read here by Clare Grogan.

More about this song

The song, 'The Deil's awa wi' th' Exciseman' first appeared in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum in 1792. Burns himself was employed as an Exciseman from 1789 until his death in 1796.

As crown employees who collected taxes for the government and intercepted illegal goods, Excisemen were generally unpopular among eighteenth-century communities.

Burns was keenly aware of this and composed this humorous song from the perspective of one such community who revel in the absence of the loathed Exciseman (who has been taken by Satan to hell) and defiantly reject governmental regulation: 'We'll mak our maut and we'll brew our drink,/ We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man'.

Certainly, it is difficult to reconcile Burns's occupation as an Exciseman with the poet's seemingly republican political outlook.

Burns's employers were aware of his political predilections, and were forced to pay attention to his writing and activities during the term of his employment - particularly when the poet was accused of leading a cry of 'Ça ira!' (the French Revolutionary cry) at the Dumfries playhouse in October of 1792.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this song

drink supernatural

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