Third Epistle To J. Lapraik

Guid speed and furder to you, Johnie, Guid health, hale han's, an' weather bonie; Now, when ye're nickin down fu' cannie The staff o' bread, May ye ne'er want a stoup o' bran'y To clear your head. May Boreas never thresh your rigs, Nor kick your rickles aff their legs, Sendin the stuff o'er muirs an' haggs Like drivin wrack; But may the tapmost grain that wags Come to the sack. I'm bizzie, too, an' skelpin at it, But bitter, daudin showers hae wat it; Sae my auld stumpie pen I gat it Wi' muckle wark, An' took my jocteleg an whatt it, Like ony clark. It's now twa month that I'm your debtor, For your braw, nameless, dateless letter, Abusin me for harsh ill-nature On holy men, While deil a hair yoursel' ye're better, But mair profane. But let the kirk-folk ring their bells, Let's sing about our noble sel's: We'll cry nae jads frae heathen hills To help, or roose us; But browster wives an' whisky stills, They are the muses. Your friendship, Sir, I winna quat it, An' if ye mak' objections at it, Then hand in neive some day we'll knot it, An' witness take, An' when wi' usquabae we've wat it It winna break. But if the beast an' branks be spar'd Till kye be gaun without the herd, And a' the vittel in the yard, An' theekit right, I mean your ingle-side to guard Ae winter night. Then muse-inspirin' aqua-vitae Shall make us baith sae blythe and witty, Till ye forget ye're auld an' gatty, An' be as canty As ye were nine years less than thretty Sweet ane an' twenty! But stooks are cowpit wi' the blast, And now the sinn keeks in the west, Then I maun rin amang the rest, An' quat my chanter; Sae I subscribe myself' in haste, Yours, Rab the Ranter.


David Rintoul
Paul Young

About this work

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

More about this epistle

The Third Epistle was written during Burns's second harvest at Mossgiel. He claims to have been two months in debt to Lapraik for his last letter and takes the opportunity of harvest to redress this.

He teased Lapraik for his response to Burns' anti-clerical satire, defiant stating, 'But let the kirk-folk ring their bells, / Let's sing about our noble sells,' which provides a fitting subject for poetry.

He makes the traditional drinking pledge, that they will 'knot' their friendship over a glass of whisky at the ingle-side, a familiar scene of poetic imagery among cottier poets, where they may forget their cares:

Then muse-inspirin' aqua-vitae
Shall make us baith sae blythe an' witty,
Till ye forget ye're auld an' gutty,
An' be as canty
As ye were nine year less than thretty,
Sweet ane an' twenty!

He signs off as 'Rab the Ranter', the name of the piping singer in Francis Sempill's popular Maggie Lauder who, fittingly, makes the 'lasses loup as they were daft'.

Jennifer Orr

Themes for this epistle

poetry friendship

Selected for 13 September

Burns was as lively and skilful a composer of letters in rhyme as any poet before or since. Here he is on top epistolary form again, in a poem dated September 13th, 1785.

Donny O'Rourke

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