W L Ferguson

I SITS AN FIDGES

I SITS an fidges, an scarts my lug;
My heid's a sodden clout, mon;
I snaps my chafts like Geordie's dug,
But fient a soond comes oot, mon!
I draps the pen an steers aboot,
Pacin the kitchen fluir, mon;
Yet deil a wird can I get oot
That's no been said afore, mon!
But when the Muse comes slippin ben,
An launds plump on my knee, mon;
O then my wuts taks wings, my pen
Fair flees awa wi me, mon!

LEDDY POUTERLANY

To H. E. W. S.

I'M seek o motor caur an train!
Mair traivellin I'll dae nae;
For noo I'm Leddy Chatelaine
O pleesant Pouterlany.
I'm sittin bi my ingle cheek,
Contentit wi my ainie;
Richt prood am I to sniff the reek
O auncient Pouterlany.
The Frainchman biggit wi a will
Its buirdly wa's an staney;
He hammer't an he hewed until
He hewed oot Pouterlany.
Noo let it blaw, or hail, or snaw,
Come wather fine or rainy,
I've kail an tatties in a raw
Ootby at Pouterlany.
Nae mair I'll leave its shelterin wa,
Or cross yon roarin mainie;
Losh mon! the vera wunds wad blaw
Me back to Pouterlany.
They've leukit oot ilk title-deed,
They've sortit ilka drainie:
I'm cockin i' the Frainchman's steed,
-I'm Leddy Pouterlany!

A RIEVER

WHAE is't that steals my tatties ilka mornin
Bi the licht o the daw,
An sattles his dowp on the bogle; scornin
The vera gun an a'?
Whae drinks oot o the auld waitter-barrel
At the back o the wa',
Or wi paitricks an dous hes a quarrel
Ower there i' the shaw?
An whae nabs the hens' meat?--it bates me to tell
Hoo the bruit gets awa;
For he's aither the muckle black Deil himsel
Or a Lammermuir craw.

THE LANE MILE

O ! THE muirlands is a' purple
Whaur the whaups flees up an circle
Wi a whurple, whurple, whurple
Frae the bosom o the lift;
An my hairt it's weel nigh brakkin
Wi the muisic they are makkin,
For their voices aye seems shakken
Bi a grief that wunna shift.
Yet it's there I'd sit an ponder,
While the bleatin hill sheep wander
Throu the heathery howes, or daunder,
Browsin roond ilk knowe an kame;
A' the blythesome muir a-thrangin
Wi their comin an their gangin,
An I'm weariet wi a langin
To bide there an be at hame.

HOMER--THE MERSE FARMER'S VERSION

AULD Homer was a wycht, they tell me,
That traivell' t Hellas far an wide,
Blinnd as a bat, an yet could tell ye
A gatepost frae a bull's backside.
A muckle braingin, bletherin billie,
Wi hoary heid an sichtless ee;
A cross atween oor Wanderin Wullie
An yon auld runt that ferms "the Lea."
He'd chant wi catgut a' in tune
Aboot yin Helen, a braw whore
That gaed aff wi some shepherd loon,
Settin the Greeks a' in a splore.
I canna mind the month an year o't,
But Homer spreid the scandal far,
Till Greece was bizzin wi the steer o't,
An sae begoud the Trojan War.
Grundin their teeth, they teuk the bit,
Syne chairged the Trojans mon to mon;
They rived an swore, they slashed an hit
Ilk ither till they couldna staun.
A' this commotion ower a wunch!
Troy lowin up like Blaikie's ferm
Yon hervest nicht!--Damn the hale bunch
O gangrel blades that warks sic herm!
To stots an stirks wi anxious care,
An no to rhymes I hae been bred:
Homer?--the carl was no a' there
To waste his time at sic a tred.
Rax me thon bottle, like a mon!
Bree o auld Scotland's beardit fruits!
Nane o yer trash frae Helicon!
Ailice, ye bitch!--pou aff my buits!

THE WHYS AN THE WHEREFORES

or ANIMADVERSIONS ON MAUTTIE THE CAUT, WI A CONCLUSION TOUCHIN MON'S DESTINY

CLEAR oot! ye murderin auld beldam!
Ye've left o Rabin scarce a feather;
Why steer the sparries up sae seldom,
That multiplees to fecht thegither?
Why dour wi keen an bluidy claws
The puddock lowpin i' the gress,
An spare the moose that nichtly gnaws
At the seed tatties i' the press?
Mauttie! ye've naither mense nor sense
For whiles ye're uisefu, whiles ye're no;
But dod! when a's been said, whae kens
The whys an wherefores here below?
For whiles I think aboot oorsels
Biggin braw hospitals an kirks,
To fecht an mak a thoosand hells
O toons an clachans, ferms an birks.
Awa, O Mon, frae this daft planet!
Sin thoo was born to slay thy brither,
Blaw up the hale place!--a' thing in it!
-Sparrie an caut, moose, mon an mither!

TEA

BAUD habits growes like weeds an busses,
An some folk turns oot cuifs an hussies:
Tho "clocks" an dockens haes nae uises
That I can see,
Yet Mon, frae weeds extrackin juices,
At last faund Tea.
O Tea!--the hoosewife's liquid leaven!
The meenister's foretaste o Heeven!
The beefy bureaucrat, sair driven,
Seeps at his ease;
The leeterary creetic even
Thy tonic prees.
Nae patriot daur dispute thy sway,
E'en tho there's muckle wark to dae,
Sae mony orra things to lay
Afore Wastminster;
"Pit mair on Tea?"--O dinna say
That to the spinster!

HEREDITY

DAVE, alang o his timmer leg,
Fearin a faither's cares,
Sat i' the pairlor while young Peg
In childbed wrocht upstairs.
The howdie she cam bustlin ben,
"Guess what the Lord's gien Peg?"
"Wumman," qo he, "Yae thing I'd ken,
-Hes't got a wudden leg?"

LINES ON A LATE GOSSIP

SAE here ye lie, ye bletherin bizom!
In life they ca'd ye Marget Chisholm;
But noo ye've met yer match, I see!
Daith's steek't yer chafts an taen the key!

THE FERM AT E'EN

THE muin rides oot abuin the hill,
Lichtin the cauldrif east,
While ower the fields the sunset still
Lowes reid on mon an beast.
The smell o neeps is i' the wund;
Hinds roond the doors is crackin;
A hungry hen still scarts the grund,
Syne, frichtit, flees aff squawkin.
The sou lies girnin i' the sty,
Cocks craws frae mile to mile;
An empty cairt gaes rummlin by;
Twae lovers lowps the stile.
Juicks frae the pownd returnin hame,
Come waddlin up the brae,
While pussy, prowlin on her wame,
Steals aff amang the strae.
A collie, racin on the hill,
Roonds up the silly sheep;
The kye are routin bi the mill
Whaur siller trooties sleeps.
An as the gloamin saftly draps
Its dews on leaf an bud,
A last auld loiterin hoodie flaps
His wey hame to the wud.

THE WEY TO BUNKLE KIRKYAIRD

NOTE.--My grandfaither uised to relate stories aboot Bunkle Kirkyaird in the time o the Resurrectionists. It's a solitary, low-lyin an raither weird place wi its gaunt Kirk an ancient Norman Apse.

The incident related here is a pure invention o my ain.

THE nicht's pit mirk, an a wat wund blaws,
Sabbin an moanin
Oot throu the black fir taps i' the cleuch,
An doon the loanin.
"Is this the wey to Bunkle Kirkyaird?"
-"Ay! strecht aheid;
But what's yer ploy on a nicht like this?
Whae is't that's deid?"
"Nae yin I ken o--to meet a lass
I'm gaun that gate."
"What! trystin a lass at a kirkyaird yett?
Faith ! ye're no blate.
To gallivant when wildfire capers
An storm cluds lowers
Yonder, whaur houlets on the heidstanes
Like demons glowers!
To meet a lass?--but whae gangs coortin
Wi spade an tools?
I dout ye're trystin a corp, my freend,
Amang the muils."
The nicht's pit mirk; an eerie wund
Soochs i' the howes,
Towslin the firs, while i' the lift
The lichtnin lowes.

THE PRINGLE TRUST

WHEN gowden guineas chinks an jingles,
The Moray boys bless Maister Pringle;
While sanctimonious praises mingles
Wi fulsome din,
An luifs an fingers itches an tingles
To touch the "tin".
O ye frae wham sic bounties flow!
Gie nocht to thaim thats steepend's low,
But unto him that haes, let gae
Wi open purse;
An dinna gie a damn, e'en tho
The puirer curse.
For unto him that haes is given
A pickle mair--a gift frae Heeven;
-It's a' in Scriptur shure's I'm livin
An Pringle's deid!
-But oh, wae's me!--I dout we've driven
Clean throu the Creed!

WHAT THE VERTER SAYS

TO MY GRANDFATHER, ALEXANDER BROUN

NOTE.--The Verter or Langton Burn. A stream near Duns, in the Merse, sae-ca'd frae the mineral, or Virtue well that formerly existed on its banks.

CLEAR rins the Verter ower the stanes;
It glitters i' the hauch;
It loiters wi the plowterin weans;
It whuspers to the sauch;
An ilka puil an waitter-gate,
They 'mind me o some vainished mate.
Aside the mill it lies asleep,
While troot derts up an doon;
But suin it waukens wi a leap,
To wander on an on;
An as it threeds the leafy maze,
I stap to herken what it says.
"In yon deep, murky puil langsyne,
Or ere ye saw the licht,
Yer Grandsire, then a bairn o nine,
Rejoicin at the sicht,
Heukit the troot that sent him hame
A captive to the angler's gemme.
"Ye mind hoo, as a bairn yersel,
Ye played me mony a prank;
Flingin the chuckie stanes pell-mell
In shouers frae aff the bank;
Hoo efter butterflees ye chased,
Laundin in waitter to the waist.
"At Putton Mill I see ye still,
Stravagin wi the rest,
As up the souchin pine ye speel
To view the cushie's nest,
Or swingin on the waitter-gate,
To leave it in a sorry state.
"The ouzel, flittin to an fro,
Or sattlin on a stane,
Mingled his muisic wi the low,
Sweet murmur o my ain;
Till idle callants i' their quest
Tore doon wi cruel haunds his nest.
"The kye that drank beneath the brig
Are gane this mony a year;
The lintie swayin on the twig
Is heard nae langer here;
An as the swallaes seeks the Sooth,
Sae did the playmates o yer youth."
Verter, like Childhood an the Spring,
Slips by an leaves me wonderin
Why i' the Autumn I sude cling
To what Time's busy plunderin;
The hairt remembers when the heid
Scarce kens the leevin frae the deid.

SCOTLAND'S COMPLAYNT, 1945.

IN sic a warld o ups an doons
We're fashed wi ration-beuks an loons
That dabs their nebs an their lang spuins
Intil oor plaitter,
An spotches amang oor files an boxes
Wi een that pries like famished foxes,
Or plagues us wi their "blue form" proxies
-A pest e'en greater.
They yerk us up wi their reid tape
Till, like snared rabbits, we a' gape,
Clean oot o braith--sic damned rape
Oor thrapples nickin:
Syne wi the mainers o Whiteha'
They order, thraiten wi the Law,
Until they've rook't us yin an a',
An left us kickin.
Puir Scotland! happy was the time
When thoo wi bonnie France did climb
The tapmaist pinnacle sublime
O queenly glory!
Awa frae Lunnon toun's door-mats!
Leave Lunnon banks to Lunnon rats!
Redd up the hoose thysel!--But that's
Anither story.

THE GRAVEDIGGER AT C--

COBBLER an gravedigger in yin,
His snoot weel stapp't wi snuff an rozet,
Twa blackened stumps that gaur him grin,
A chin as ruch as ony grozet.
An auld claith cep pou'd ower his broo,
An een that twinkles cauld an blue,
Lugs that minds me o Sandy's sou
At Raecleughheid;
A muckle drooth-afflictit mou
That's aye in need.
He's growin stiff!--In Life's lang race
Few, few like him amang the lave!
Yae pair o haunds to sort oor case,
-To shue the shuin, or howk the grave.

THE DEPUTATION SEEKS ADVICE

THE meetin was in a fine-like swuther;
No kennin what to dae;
Some wanted yae thing, some anither;
Naebody wad gie wey.
Their mainers wis a fair disgrace,
Unceevil as could be,--
They dang the Meenits in oor face,
Seein they couldna 'gree.
The Clerk, he swore an stampit his heel--
Sic a hullabaloo!--
Telt us a' to gang to the Deil
Sae we've come to you!

AURORA

To E. W. B.

THE dreary nicht is wanin fast,
The starns is fadin frae the lift,
Cocks heralds, wi triumphant blast,
Aurora in her rosy shift.
The merles that flichters i' the breer
Joins i' the lusty chorus shrill,
For noo her gowden steeds appears
Abuin the Scots firs on the hill.
Dame Flora opes a droosy ee,
Blue as the violet bi the burn,
An steep't in dewy reverie,
Watches the gowden aixles turn.

DAUVIT

AFORE the ark a crazy king,
He's lowpin an he's flingin,
Wi Priests an Levites in a ring,
Priests an Levites, Priests an Levites,
Wi Priests an Levites in a ring,
A' chanterin an singin.
The weemen for the wundies fechts,
Ilk speerin what's come ower 'im,
Syne shoutherin wi a' their micht,
Rubbin their een to clear their sicht,
Qo yin--"the mannie's no juist richt!
He's blin to a' decorum!"

TAM GILLIES

A TALE O THE RESURRECTIONISTS

NOTE.--This tale is founded on fact. The main incidents were related to me many years ago and were then well known in Duns.

TAM GILLIES to the last resistit,
Fechtin the plague until nichtfa',
When Daith stapp't in an he was kistit
An buriet or the mornin daw.
Duil haed been chappin at the door
O mony a hame.--In a' Duns toon
Ye micht hae coontit nigh a score
O hooses wi the blins drawn doon.
Folk spak beneath their braith for fear,
Stealin like gaists alang the causey,
For aye the thocht o Daith was near;
-Here't was a faither, there a lassie.
I haed been warkin at the Knock,
An comin hame that nicht, I mind
The roads rang hard as the whun rock,
An dykes wi driftit snaw wis lined.
On Staney-muir it was lane an drear;
Derk cluds wis scuddin ower the muin;
When a' at yince there cam the steer
An clatter o a horse's shuin.
A gig an twa men drivin furious,
Wi something white atween the pair:
I turned, an hauf in jest, hauf curious,
Bawled oot--"Guid e'en t'ye, Burke an Hare!"
Lord! I stuid ruitit to the grund;
The twaesome scramml't frae the gig,
An ower the drystane dyke like wund,
To disappear ayont the rig.
Thocht I, thae chiels is far frae grace,
An ran to whaur the pownie stude;--
The waukrife muin haed veiled her face
Before a sicht that froze the bluid.
Something deid cauld wi steekit een
An sunken chafts lay girnin there;
Happ't i' the grave-claes o yestreen,
A fearsome corp wi grizzl't hair.
I lowp't intil the gig an leukit,
Dumbfoonert, on the deid mon's face:
God keep us!--it was Tam, new howkit
Frae his appyntit restin place.
I micht hae mindit o the plague,
But there lay Tam, my cronie--deid:
I felt the lump rise to my craig,
An turned aboot the pownie's heid.
She aunswer't to the reens fou croose,
A sonsie beast, an yin that flew
As tho she kent to what ill uise
She haed been pit bi yon fell crew.
Wellfield an Tannage Brae at last!
Tichtnin the reens as we gaed doon,
I haed nae thocht o what haed passed,
But aye kept ettlin for the toon.
A' seemed as silent as the grave
When we cam rattlin doon the street;
Some hooses shawed a licht--the lave
Cuist their black shaidaes at oor feet.
I lichtit doon an ca'd for help;
Heids at a wundie left their station;
Bolts rattl't, while a hameless whalp
Set up a waefu lamentation.
The toonsfolk gether't roond apace,
Dumb, for the plague was a' their care;
We brunt the gig i' the Merket Place,
An syne we buriet Tam yince mair.

THE SWARRY

THE gas jets winkin roond the wa's,
The steamin plaister an the raws
O bairnies i' their Saubbath braws
Frae daecent hames,
Gulphin het tea that scauds their maws
An tans their wames.
Raxin their necks like Hielant stirks,
The curran lafe gaes doon in jerks;
A war o chafts they wage like Turks
Roond ilka tray;
An unco sicht for U.P. kirks
This time o day!
In sic a heat auld wifes is hoastin;
Auld carls in flannel serks is roastin;
A meenister wi jokes is coastin
Ower ner the wund;
While some wi holy zeal are boastin
Oor Mission Fund.
An neist comes solos, recitations
As varied as denominations
The pews is lood wi acclamations
Ower verse an sang;
E'en tho she stuck, yon brat's relations
Her praise prolangs.
Noo to the rostrum up he hies,
His coat-tails fleein to the skies:
The Reverend Maister X replies
Wi animation
To his guid neebor Maister Y's
"Kind invitation."
Yet tho the inner-mon's contentit,
Some wifes, their corsets weel distendit,
Smiles to themsels, nae whut repentit
O sic black evil
As filchin curran lafe intendit
For some puir deevil.
At last the auld harmonium brays,
Leadin the congregation's praise
"For a' the blessins Yirth displays,"
Health, hame an gear,
Linkin their psalms to hiecher lays
Unheard doon here.

HYDRO-ELECTROMANIA

GOD made o Scotland a braw place,
Wi knowes an howes an burns that race
Doon mountain sides wi foamy grace
To meet the tarns
That i' their azure depths embrace
The gowden starns.
But cunnin chiels frae Babylon
Maun turn Creation upside doon;
God's solitude becomes a toon
Wi mills a' birlin;
Its reekin lums maks nicht o nuin,
-An a' for sterlin!
Thae Babylonians, oot for gain,
Wad rin oor rivers throu a drain,
Or pit a loch whaur there was nane;
A strath, they'd move it!
Oh! gowd can mak ruch places plain,--
Thae chiels'll prove it!
Commerce an Industry an Lear
Hae lang been Mon's chief end doon here,
But noo he something's fand, I fear
'll blast an blaw
Himsel, his schemes, pouer, plant an gear
To smithers a'!

THE MAGIC LEAF

TO CHARLES RATTRAY

(On receiving frae him a gift o tobacco)

WHEN ye're feelin fair duin, an yer hair's comin oot;
When ye're sair a' ower wi rheumatics;
Capernoity; hauf blin like thae houlets that hoots;
Juist a curio fit for the attics:
Then sit doon bi the ingle an tak oot yer pipe;
-It's a blessin that nane mey deny ye:
Wi sic magical mixtur frae Pairth ye can wipe
Aff the sklate a' the troubles that tries ye.
Fowk ca's her "the weed"!--Losh! I'd ca' her the quean
Can change a' yer prose into metre;
She'll waft ye to regions ye've never yet seen;
But mind! -'t maun be Chairlie's "Repeater."

THE CANON'S LOOD REPORT

AS HEARD IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF DUNFERMLINE

(Where a clergyman of the Church of Scotland was forbidden to preach in a certain Abbey Church by the Canon law of the Scottish Episcopal Church).

I MAUNNA preach in your kirk!
I daurna preach in your kirk!
It wad be a sin to mak a din
An bang the Beuk in your kirk!
Let ilk yin pause afore he blaws
Aboot oor closer union;
For Canon laws they steek oor jaws,
Forbiddin a' communion.
It's true the speeritual scene
Leuks gey an melancholy;
We've played the Pharisee an been
A hantle aye ower holy.
But why should sic ungodly bree
Defile oor "cup an plaitter"?
-Juist leave the lairnit Bishop Bee
To redd up the hale maiter.
Meanwhile, I'm no for your kirk!
Na! Na! I'm no for your kirk!
It wad be a maist by-ordnar crime
To preach the Wird in your kirk!

AULD AGE

A PAIR o breeks in time weers oot,
An rhymes an verses haes an end;
On breeks ye still mey clap a clout,
But an auld mind--it wunna mend!

FAITHERLESS

AN EPISODE IN THE CHILDHOOD OF JOHN BROWN, M.D. (1735-1788)

ROOND Bunkle Kirk the swaird growes green
On mony a humble grave,
An i' the sun wi dauncin sheen
The noddin tree-taps waves.
The bees is busy 'mang the flouers,
The rooks amang the planes,
While Peace, companion o the oors,
Broods ower the moulderin stanes.
Lang or the fierce Brunonian blast
Gart mony a wordy fray
Its infant author aft haed pass't
The kirkyaird in his play.
But noo a faither's shuttle fa's
For ever frae the loom;
A stillness haunts the cottage wa's,--
The stillness o the tomb.
"Yer Sire's in Heeven," the neebors said,
Dichtin the orphan's teir:
But suin a notion filled his heid,
-He'd gang to Heeven an speer.
For as he roamed aboot forlorn,
Something he couldna name
Tugged at his hairt-strings till yae morn
They missed him frae his hame.
Bi brimmin Tweed they fand the bairn,
An hame, bewulder't brocht him;
Uncomforted for a' his farin,
Tho mither love haed socht him.

***

The years rowed by. Wi eager feet
The peth o Fame he press't,
Till 'neath a roarin Lunnon street
His restless saul fand Rest.

CRAW WUSDOM

To H. an N. C.

A CRAW, new lichtit on a tree,
Glowered frae the birken bous;
"I've been to Wastminster," qo he,
"Whaur fowk kicks up sic rowes!
"O a' the feckless cuifs that clouts
Auld Britain's Ship o State,
Thon chiels, like donnert kye that routs,
Daes naething else but prate!
"An while the 'Heids' in Lunnon dings
Fresh holes in oor auld ark,
The lave try ony mortal thing
Except the thing ca'd Wark!
"O wad ye a' but dae like me,
An turn ilk yin his syle!
For men, like craws, maun howk to pree
The halesome fruits o Toil."
He flapped awa ower field an shaw
Wi routh o warnin wirds.--
Div ye no think thon muckle craw
The wysest o a' birds?

CREMATION

A CHIEL they ca' Meade
Frae sooth o the Tweed,
Lays doon a heretical law,
For he thinks when he's deid
He can cheat Hell insteed
O feedin the Grave's hungry maw,
Insteed
O feedin the Grave's muckle maw.
An sae wi an oven
In place o a coffin,
He'd roast a puir sowel to a cinder;
Hame-made hell an blazes
He'd gie for the daisies
An ca' it mair Christian to brander
The Deid,
An ca' it mair Christian to brander.
But yae day, my billie,
Ye'll gang, willy-nilly,
In Satan's grim kitchen to yell,
For yince ye're weel roastit
Up here, ye'll be postit
To feenish yer frizzlin in Hell
My braw billie,
To feenish yer frizzlin in Hell.

SPOILT PAPERS

THEY'LL suin be closin! whuskey's scarce
An no worth a bodle forby!
Mon, I'm that tired an bet an haerse
I could drink the Whutadder dry!
Hech! but it's a sair road I've traivell't
Up here frae the Waitterloo;
Wisna my legs an wuts that raivell't,
I micht wun on to the Ploo.
Yon muin that skulks laich i' the shaw, Wattie,--
I thocht was a bogle at first!
It's gart me to stummle an fa', Wattle,
But O mon! that isna the warst!--
Thae dem'd divots! they've tint me my cuttie,
An I'm feelin that sweir to staund;
But juist gang on yer hauns an knees, Wattie,
An keep strikin lichts till it's faund.
What's that ye're sayin ?--"A' in pieces?"--O mon,
Was ever sic hellish vexation!
For a smoke clears my heid when I'm thinkin upon
The troubles an cares o the Nation.
A' thae politeecians, they mak sic a mess
O this warld whaur they bicker an quarrels,
That folk wad dae weel juist to up an suppress
The hale regiment, lock, stock an barrel.
Sae oot wi the Reid Flag doon at the Toll!
It's been a graund day for Labour--that's clear!
But--whaur's my bus ticket hame frae the Poll?--
An my ballot paper!--What's it daein here?

PAN AN SYRINX

AHINT the bountree silvan Pan,
Yae hauf a goat, the tither man,
Dotes on young Syrinx wi an ee
Wad fain see what it shouldna see.
Gliff't oot her wuts, she rins wi speed--
Fleeter than a' yer Tam o Shanters;
But praised be Pan! she's noo a reed,
An mither to Scots pipes an chanters!

"MISSIN"

SUGGESTED BY THE PROSPECT OF A SECOND "VICTORY PARADE"

O! I'M wearit waitin, waitin
Bi the lum cheek a' my lane,
An tho birds ootby are matin,
An the sun glints throu the pane,
Yet the hoose hauds nocht but sorrow,--
It's "the bairn" I'm missin sair;
An the thocht o ilka morrow
Gaurs my heid growe grey wi care.
Like a nest lang, lang desertit,
Lies his room;--frae ilka airt
A'thing speaks o joy depertit;
-Naething there to ease the hairt!
For when hinmaist hopes is dwinin
Fa's a nicht folk ca's Despair:
O! it's juist yon dreary twinin;
An a thocht I daurna share.

DISGRUNTL'T

READ Philosophy?--Na! it's juist
Sae mony corbies in a mist;
Div ye no hear this auld Nation
Rowtin like a bull o Bashan?
Politics?--a fair scunner!
Noo I'm "reid"--an nae wunner!
Pouer bi sel-interest grabbit,
An the Kirk--juist a habit.
Law an Order?--nane ava!
Gane like pussy ower the wa';
Science?--in a warld astray,
Hastenin the Juidgment Day!

AULD "CRUTCHIE" TO HIS CRONIE

A LETTER

ARE ye aye "busy," ye lazy auld deevil?
It's lang sin I got yer last letter;
But herken a wee, gin I thocht ye less ceevil,
I'd sen ye to whaur ye'd feel hetter!
Are ye sleepin or waukin, ye idle tyke?
There's an end to my patience; hoobeit
I'm writin yince mair wi yae finger on strike,
An the lave a' in sympathy wi it.
No a scart o yer pen for a twalmonth an mair!
-I'm worrit aboot ye, an pinin
For the sicht o a scribble to say hoo ye fare;--
Nae wunner I'm whungin an whinin!
But there's naething like Tact--a wird i' yer lug
To gaur ye sit up; I've a notion
That, e'en sude ye ca' this a' haivers, humbug,
It aiblins micht set ye in motion.
Fare ye weel, Tam, an mind!--I'm expeckin thon screed,
Sae dinna be keepin me wonderin;
For I'm auld, an that donnert, an suin I'll be deid;
Gey suin the last threeds'll be sunderin.
-Whae's that at the door?--some bit lassie nae dout,
Hauf sterved an in search o a denner;
But haud on a meenit until I keek oot;--

* * *

Lord bless me!--yersel?--ye auld sinner!

OOTSIDE THE MISSION

THE preacher's doon on the likes o me,
For says he--"Ye're a' lost kimmers!
-Some mair o thae ongauns, an ye'll dree
A weird wi the Damned, ye limmers!"
The preacher's wirds cam fierce an het
Till my hair stuid up on end;
"Ye'll burn an bleeze like stubble yet,
Gin ye'll no tak tent an mend."
Thinks I to mysel--the prospec's wae
Sude ye dale in forbidden fruit;
But what's a lassie like me to dae,
An sae mony laddies aboot?

THE DEIL AT BETTY PERK'S

To S. P. C. A.

IT was up at Crainshaes.--We were bidin
Wi yon auld bizom Betty Perk;
Her byre was hard-up i' the riggin,
An sae we fell to sklatin wark.
Her hoosie was weel harl't an theekit,
A cosy bield whaur wunds blew saft;
We denner't i' the bodie's pairlor
An beddit nichtly i' the laft.
Her caut, I mind, haed yae bad trick
O lowpin on the denner table
'mang forks an plates to wave her tail
An adverteese her ain hint gable.
Yae day het kail, a mutton bane
An tatties claimed ilk yin's attention;
But Deil a sowp could we get doon
For Pussy's constant intervention.
Said Jock--"I'll gaur her reef her sail"
An raxin for the mustard spuin
He plaister't--but we'll draw the veil,
-Ye'll guess the placie gey an suin!
Puir Baudrons faund oot juist at yince!
An tried the afflictit pairt to ease;
But dod! it made things ten times waur,--
The cure was waur nor the disease!
She stappit intil Saundy's kail
An noo it was rinnin like a river;
She fuff't an spat, birl't roond an roond,--
I niver saw sic ongauns--niver!
Het at baith ends at the yae time!
Puir Baudrons' plicht was unco sair;
She cleared the lum shelf at yae lowp
O cheeny dugs an mugger ware.
Ower the piany syne she rattl't,
Till doon cam photy frames galore;
While gless flew up in a' directions,
Betty cam hirplin to the door.
But Puss gaed throu atween her legs
Like the fork't lichtnin an was seen
Nae mair ava aboot the place.
-Auld Bet still thinks it was the Foul Fien'.

"DUNS DINGS A'"

WHAE hesna read in Border lore
That Duns o ferlies hauds a store,
-Her Castel, Hen Poo', Bogs an Law;
Whae disna ken that Duns dings a'?
Whae hesna heard o Doctor Broun,
O John Duns Scotus, lairnit loon,
O Tammas Bouston, auld McCrie,
An lesser lichts-like you-an me?
In thocht we daunder i' the morn
Throu rosy duds o blossomin thorn,
While Leslie's men, abuin the Law,
Soonds frae their bugles "Duns dings a'."
Gif she some crookit wey micht mend,
O Lord, to sic a worthy end,
Gie the public fou instructions,
Keep the Cooncil free frae ructions.
Mak oor toon a shinin pattern,--
Far abuin a' catter-batterin;
Pluck the beam frae oot her ee,--
Cock-ee'd she maun never be.
Gin the Meenister detect her,
Or the Sanitary Inspector,
In some faut wad file her name,
Mind her o her auncient fame.

***

Rummle the drum an toot the trump,
Gaur Bouston's auld "Drumclogger" thump,
Till a' oor cocks flee up an craw
Wi lusty thrapple, "Duns dings a'"

FORGOTTEN DAYS

I

YON pyot yatterin i' the tree;
The sparries fechtin as they flee;
The cocks drum-majorin an free
Amang their hennies;
The youngsters shoutin i' their glee
"We've got oor pennies!"
Auld Pete, the gairdner, stiff wi age,
Howkin the weeds an reid wi rage;
Young Betty keekin throu the hedge
Or hingin claes;
Reca's in Life's brief pilgrimage
Forgotten days.

II

O gress wi twinklin daisies dichtit,
Whaur blue-eed bairns romps unaffrichtit,
Lie saft an green on yon benichtit
An wayward wean!
For i' the grave a' wrangs are richtit,
A' fauts forgie'n.
A braith o simmer flouers is blawin;
The distant rookeries is cawin
Faint steals the oor, risin an fa'in
On brazen wing;
In field an glebe the men is mawin,
An throstles sings.

THE RAGGED BATTALION

A WASHIN hings at the pulley-hees,
Flappin an flichterin i' the breeze;
Randy wifes frae the tenements leans,
Sunnin themsels like cats on a green.
The coalmen are roarin at the close mooth,
Blacker than hell an wi dooble its drooth;
A reid-nebbit hussy slinks by i' the glaur
To sind oot her thrapple yince mair--ye ken whaur.
The urchins, like fleas, jump aboot i' the gutters,
A' tousy an lousy an needin the tub,
A joyous battalion that shouts as it scatters
Throu pends an up closes, past pawnshop an pub.

THE HAUF-WUT

GIBBERIN to himsel, he staps--
Jirkin his fingers in his mou;
A pail in ae haund fou o scraps
An tattie peelins for the sou!
He tries his whup, an gaurs it crack,
Turnin to see what laddie's thon;
Syne in his oxter pits it back,
As doon the road he hobbles on.
They're efter him wi taunt an jeer,
The callants that torment him sair;
An noo he's routin like a steer,
Chairgin an lashin at the air.
For there's nae peety i' the breest
O the wild crew that treats him ill,
An sae they hoond him like a beast,--
Drivin the madman madder still.
Noo calmed wi coppers, see him staund,
Doon at the train, beside the bell,
Waitin a wave o the gaird's haund,
Thinkin he sterts the train himsel.

NOEY'S TROUBLES

To A. J. F.
FORGIN aheid wi Noey on the brig,
His auld ramshackle ark's noo doonward sookit--
Yet faith! she richts hersel an comes up trig,
Plungin ram-stam sair banged aboot an drookit.
But noo she lurches, listin ower to starboard,
An Noey in a feck o trouble's plantit;
For wi the gliff the beas' a' rin to larboard;
Wae's me for his auld tub when neist she's cantit!
Sic a stramash was never kent afore!
The beas' are routin like the vera deevil!
An as for Noey, him that never swore,
His orders noo are no juist awfu ceevil.
Wi sic a routh o ballast--a' this dung,
The skipper an his crew is warslin sair;
Yet spite o shovels an a burstin lung,
This damned menagerie juist piles up mair!

THE DElL'S PAIRLOR

THE hettest howf in a' Hell's Wynd!
It flickers wi an awesome flame,
Blue as the lichtenin sheets that blinds
The drucken wastrel reelin hame.
A waefu hole! whaur folk like you
Mey laund yersels gin ye're no carefu,
Amang yon same teetotal crew
That warned ye wi a leuk sae prayerfu.
O sirs! a fearsome den whaur Lust
An his bauld strumpets never twines;
It's there ye'll meet yon lassie--juist
Whaur ye haed hustled her lang syne.

AULD JEANIE

A Tortoise-Shell
A CAT rampages up an doon
Inside my heid,--she'll fuff an scart,
Raisin her birse at lass or loon,--
A limmer that wad brik yer hert.
Braingin aboot, for flesh or fin,
She's seldom purrin at her ease;--
A jaud if ever there was yin!
A cankert cratur, ill to please!
Roond a' the Merse's thoosand barns
There's no a dourer bruit than she;
The mair ye bittle her auld harns,
The waur she bleezes oot at ye!

THOWLESS TAM

THAT muckle hash, he's left the rake
Oot i' the weet, the donnert cratur!
A heap o tatties on the breck
Lies rottin 'mang the mud an waitter.
His thowlessness'II drive me wud!
He staunds an blaws intil his fingers,
Lets fa' the spade wi seekenin thud,
Syne scarts his heid,--an leuks--an lingers!
I wush to peace I'd got anither
To dae the gairden an the green!
O a' thae gomerils pit thegither,
He's the maist fuiterin fuil I've seen!
"Sax o the clock!--time to gang hame!"
Yin mair he's filed o Natur's pages;
Yet he's no laith to sign his name
When it's a maiter o his wages!

MY PLANTIN,

I KEN a plantin bi a burn,--
A plantin fou o cruinin cushies;
The sunbeams, frae their gowden urn,
Filters amang its trees an busses.
The wearied wings is faulded there;
The swayin nests is fou o sang;
A scent o spruces fills the air,
An there the burnie loiters lang.
Its leafy glooms, its traceried wa's
Gie it an air o consecration;
The cushies an the grey jakedaws
Alane composes its congregation.
Its incense, like a praecious thocht,
Fills the seek mind wi balms that cure;
Like something loed yince fondly socht,
Its memory gaurs the hairt endure.

* * * * *

But noo the dirges o the blast
Souch throu the ruins o my fane;
Its Dies Irae cam at last;--
The wudmen struck--my plantin's gane!

THE GOWDEN AGE

THE Greeks teuk wine in unco doses,
Giein to Bacchus a' the praise;
Clapped on their heids braw wreaths o roses,
An played the fuil in ither weys.
That limmer Sappho wi her lyre
Chases young Phaon roond the yirth,
Syne speels a heuch like a kirk spire,
To fling hersel intil a firth.
Yon slee auld carl frae up abuin
Bears aff Europa on the back
O his Black Angus--gey an suin
His "better hauf" gets on his track.
Adonis' crime was waur than heinous!
The mon was but a muckle mule!
To follow hoonds insteed o Venus
Was juist the cantrip o a fuil!
Silenus, ridin on his cuddy,
'Mid wine an dance an cymbals bricht,
Bids a' yon wild Bacchantes hurry
To gie him mair, altho he's ticht!
The Greeks--like bairns that gethers posies,--
Speeled mony pheelosophic braes,
Yet fandna lowin buss, like Moses,
To licht them to mair wycelike weys.

LESBIA'S SPARRIE

To J. W. O.
O! WHILES I think on Lesbia's sparrie,
Happin aboot her but an ben;
A stawsome bird--Catullus' sorrow!
Hoo he tholed it I dinna ken!
Nestlin upon her breest an cheepin,
It taks the crumbs frae oot her mou,
Or keeps her paramour frae sleepin
When Samian wines haes filled him fou.
It flees atween him an her lips,
Forestalls him on her bosom saft;
Caws ower the gless juist as he seeps,
Or plagues him at his poet-craft.
Whiles it'll hap ontil her finger
Wi roguish een an peevish cry,
As tho to oust this rival singer,
Fylin the coonterpane forby.
Poets is leears, ilka yin!
The sparrie dees!--Catullus' pen
Praises its virtues wi a din
Wad scandaleeze maist honest men!

THE TRAMP

I

SOLILOQUY

Doon i' the dumps! Doon i' the dumps!
O for a crust to rax my stumps!
O for a pint o guid broun yil,
An some auld cronie to fit the bill
Doon i' the dumps!--in tattered duds,
Sellin laces an collar-studs;
In a hind's auld breeks, a serk yince a wummun's,
The trunk on my back fou o preens an ribbons!
Oot i' the glaur! Oot i' the snaw!
Oot i' the mirk whaur the cauld wunds blaws,
Oot i' the stour an the glarin sun,
Trampin the roads till my trampin's duin!
Doon i' the dumps! Doon i' the dumps!
O for a crust to rax my stumps! -
Life,--the road that a' maun tramp;
Daith,--a wundy wi'oot a lamp!

II

THE SIESTA

AHINT the dyke he lies an snores
In lousy duds an borrow't breeks,
His gapin buits betrays his sores--
The man's been on the road for weeks.
A butterflee wi comic pose
Dances an capers ower his face,--
It's taen his reid neb for a rose,
Spotchin for sweets i' the wrang place.
An as he snores--oot i' the field
The larks is lowpin on the wing;
But larks, like Joy, suin flees their bield,
In ither skies to soar an sing.
He's sleepin aff the drink he socht
Frae pub to pub i' the last toon;--
Obleevion's gey easy bocht,
But misery!--it's hard to droon.

III

A DILEMMA

I'M in the howe o fell despair!
I'm stuck at Burnhooses!--
I've lost the soles o baith my buits;
Life's fou o sic-like crosses.
Buits wi'oot soles, an lamed forby,--
A desperate seetuation!
An no a cairt on a' the road
To guarantee salvation.
My corns is hurtin maist atrocious,--
I'm sittin bi the burn;
Hoo I'm to get to Duns the nicht
Passes my wuts to lairn!

THE SAUBBATH SCHUIL PICNIC

"Duns Sooth" Saubbath Schuil's awa
Up the road wi herness jinglin;
Bairns in cairtloads, yin an a'
Cheerin till yer lugs is tinglin.
Fun an banter ilka airt!
Ye can hear their dirdum still!
What they're singin in yon cairt
Wisna lairnt at Saubbath Schuil!
Clydesdales, braw wi denty streamers,
Reests, or champs the bit an nickers:
Mithers flytin on late-corners,
Grabs their weans--the pace growes quicker.
Davie, bi the hinmaist cairt,
Lichts his cutty, syne clims up;
Gies auld Jess the wird to stert.--
Jess that never kent a whup.
Sooth Kirk hurdies on the strae,
Joltin, jostlin yin anither,
Rummlin up the Tannage Brae,
Tak the road--deil tak the wauther!

THE MAIRCH HIRIN

To J. M. H.
THE Merket Place, it's waur than Lunnon!
Ye canna see the street for folk;
Hinds, fermers, bondagers a' stannin,
Stapped ticht like sweeties in a poke!
Inns is fou o clash an clatter;
Freens forgetherin wi freens;
Gigs an dugcairts rams an scatters
Hind an maister, glowerin weans.
Ye canna hear a wird ye're sayin--
Hobby horses birlin roond;
Stearn-ca'd swutchback organs brayin
In a whurlpool o soond.
A' the show folk bawlin, skirlin;
Lavins at his boxin tent:
Sic a rattlin! Sic a dirlin
Sic a din was never kent!
"Are ye bidin? "--" Na! I'm leavin."
"Losh! but ye're a bonnie quean!
The last train, it's no till seeven
What aboot the swing-boats, Jean?"

THE CORBIE O HARDENS

A CORBIE sat on a deid tree
Yae snawy wunter's day;
Black as Beelzebub sat he
Abuin the Hardens brae.
He croak't an flapped his wings wi glee
To see the lift sae grey;
The sheep wis couerin i' the lee,--
The snaw haed driftit sae.
He keekit East, he keekit Wast
Frae Eildon to Cocklaw,
An aye the souchin o the blast,
The whusper o the snaw.
His black wings fluffert i' the air
Like plumes abuin a hearse:
I clapped my nither't nivs to scare
This troubler o the Merse.
He glowered at me frae heid to heel
Wi een that follow't far:
Wae's me! yon bird I ken ower weel!--
Its name?--they ca' it "War"

"ARNOLD'S"*

To C.R.
THE Saubbah bells haes ceased their din;
The birds ootby sits scared an dumb
To hear the praise o God begin
Wi girns frae the harmonium.
The gowden robe o flamin June
Fa's roond the pews, whaur folk sits sweetin,
While "Arnold's ", wheezin up an doon,
Comes oot in jerks, brayin an bleatin.
Some Papish oratorio
Micht turn a sinner frae his wey;
But broken-wunded "Arnold's"! Oh!
I daurna think what that micht dae!
The Saubbath bells haes ceased their din;
The birds ootby sits scared an dumb
To hear the praise o God begin
Wi girns frae the harmonium.

*A psalm tune bi Samuel Arnold, 1740-1802.

NEVER MAIR

OXENDEAN an Chalkielaw,
Oatleycleugh, the Knock an Hoardweel;
Marygold an Hammerha',
Weetywa's an Wundy Wun'shiel.
Names that I hae loed fou lang,
Maks the mind their roostin-place;
Like the craws that nichtly thrangs
A' the trees on Peelie Braes.
Hame! the burden o my verse!--
A' my thochts is gether't there,
I hae kent the joys o Merse;
I sall ken them never mair!

"I SAW THE SUN"

I SAW the sun conquer the lift,
Sae black an starless yester-nicht
I saw the muin keek throu a rift,
Fludin the mirk wi silvery Iicht.
I saw the gress beside a cairn
Brak forth in flouers beneath the rain:
I saw a mither ower her bairn,
Coax into smiles its infant pain.
I saw the saul at grips wi Daith,
At grips wi Daith that rules the Yirth,
Mount on the wings o the last braith,
An Daith become a saicont Birth.

LOVE AN THE SWEEP

AN IDYLL

To clean oot lums is my profession!
I'm juist a chumley-soopin loon;
The clertiest job, it's my confession,
'tween Lesmahagow an the muin.
"Hehee!--hehee! "--Tam unnerstauns--
My chum up there amang the cans.
Doon comes the brush, the rattlin ba',
Doon comes the sit richt i' the poke;
The cook's aye gled when we're awa,
But Peg, the hoosemaid, likes a joke.
"Hehee!--hehee! " she unnerstauns
That sweeps haes hairts as weel as hauns.
Soopin the lums, week in, week oot,
It's no a job ye'd Ca' genteel;
Sax days in seeven amang sit,
Gaurs Cupid leuk mair like the Deil:
But "hee!--hehee!" Peg unnerstauns
The gemme that ends in mairiage banns.
Coortin a lass--I like it fine!
But fou o sit frae heid to fit,
Sax days in seeven I maun pine,
Till Saubbath morn comes roond; I pit
The brushes by, my een to steep,
An Peg forgets I'm still the sweep.

IN THE LAICH KIRK

GIN ye could shift her lugs a wee,
Dootless her mou ye micht mak bigger;
But it's her ee--her rovin ee
That speers at ye wi sic a vigour.
Her mind--an she hae gotten yin,--
Gies ne'er a thocht to fell damnation;
Nae solemn psalm nor sense o sin
Maun hamper her investigation!

TO A BORE

WHEN ye hae sattlt yer bit things,
Signed the last legal paper,
An taen yon lanesome road that brings
The saul afore its Makar;--
Kind freends'll murmur ower yer cley,
"Thank God! we'll hae some peace the day!"

THE KIRK-SKAILIN

IT'S been a puir turn-oot the day!--
The kirk gey thin:
Drookit umbrellies taks the brae,
While yin bi yin,
Their faces dour as thunner cluds--
The men in blacks,
The weemen, kiltin their bit duds
Ower glaury tracks--
The glum procession warsles on
Throu wund an weet;
Noo Mirren's lassie's slipped an fa'en,
An sterts to greet.
Her minnie launds her sic a skelp
Aside the heid;--
Maist unexpeckit kind o help
In time o need.
What was he on the day?--Nae maiter!-
They've praised the Lord;
In spite o glaur an wund an waitter,
They've heard His Wird.

IN PRAISE O MERSE

Nae mair I'll sing yon birslt lands
That blinnd ye wi their bleerin sands;
For "palmy plains" an" coral strands"
I hae nae uise:
Gie me the Merse, juist as she stands,
Canny an croose!
I've seen the feck o furrin places,
Whaur Blackamoors, ne'er fashed wi braces,
Whummle their leemons an molasses
Aboard oor ships:
Gie me the Merse wi a' her graces,--
Tatties an neeps.
It's no that I wad scorn the Nile; ---
Oor streams, they hae nae crocodile!
Yet Cockburn Law mey brawly smile
Wi prood disdain
On puny Pyramids that piles
Their bits o stane.
Ye've aiblins heard o Julius Caesar
That dwalt somewhaur aboot the Teeber,
An set a' Europe in a fever,--
A dell-ma-care:
But what aboot bauld Hume, the riever,
An mony mair?
I hae been jostlt in bazaars;
I've daunert roond their Alcazars,
Been whurlt aboot in motor cars
At sic a pace,
That suns an planets, muins an stars,
Flew i' my face.
The fack o the hale maiter's this--
E'en Naples wi her bawdy kiss
Is juist yae ferlie ye mey miss
Afore ye dee:
Doon i' the Merse there's routh o bliss
For you an me.

Envoi

WE'VE hed oor Makars throu the ages,
Oor Border poets an oor sages,
But Ferguson wi his wheen pages
O doggerel verse!--
Wull nae yin stap this scribbler's wages,
An spare the Merse?

MERSE MEMORIES

I

ABUIN THE TOON

O MERSE! what muisic's i' the name!
To sing o thee's to sing my hame;
Nae wizard at this liltin gemme
That folk ca's rhyme,
Yet for thy sake I'll try the same
An tak my time.
For cockin on Duns Law I see,
Atween the distant tides an me,
A' that is bonniest in thee,
Thoo Queen o Edens;
The vera dugs is lood wi glee,
The cocks on middens.
A simmer sun is i' the lift,
On simmer airs the white duds drifts,
Ower field an ferm their shedows shifts
Beneath the gaze,
While Cheviot veils ilk scaur an rift
Far i' the haze.
Spreid at my feet the slumberin toon,
Its ruifs an gables in a swoon
Beneath the fiery braith o nuin;
Nae echoes fa's
Save when the oor comes tinklin doon
Frae the Toon Ha'.
Some truant laddies spiels the dyke
Or bates the busses for a byke;
Amang their feet a terrier tyke
Rins in an oot,
Yappin at him that fain wad strike
Its eager snoot.
Sae pleesant are the paths o Error
The tinglin tawse haes lost their terror;
The morn's mornin, creepin nearer
Frae oot Time's luif,
Mey cost rampagin loon nae dearer
Than tell-tale cuif.
The shoutin laddies--a' are gane,
Peace fa's yince mair on law an plain;
Ayont the Covenanters' stane
Lie ripenin crops,
An here, whaur Leslie drilled his men,
A rabbit pops.

II

THE HOULET

(On bein shown a deid oul bi an auld poacher)

GOD made a fleein cat to prey
At nicht upon the vermin,
Tho why He should elect to slay
His ain, I'll no determine.
An sae it chaunced, ae wunter's nicht,
Houlie, in murderous fettle,
Swoops frae the steeple's dizzy hicht
Upon a buryin beetle.
Sae choice a morsel he's no laith
To bury in his wame,
When bang!--a poacher, dealin daith,
Nails him, an taks him hame.
God made the beetles, burrowin ben,
He made the hungry houlets,
But whatna deil, I'd like to ken
Made poachers an their bullits?

III

GLOAMIN
THE roads is glaur frae side to side,
It rains as tho the lift wad fa';
To blurred horizons far an wide
The sodden landscape fades awa.
The burns in spate rins reid an foamin
Oot ower the hauchs on ilka haun,
An in the grey licht o the gloamin
The leafless trees leuks wae an wan.
Craws fidgets on the nakit bous,
Their black wings rufflt wi the blast,
An by the dyke where ragwort growes
A roosty couter's crumblin fast.
The cottage doors is steek't an barred,
An here an there a lichted wundy
Begins to glower on its kail-yaird
Reekin an streamin like a cundie.
Nae soond but the dour, drookin rain--
An whiles a souchin i' the brainches
Like speerits o the Damned in pain
Tossin their airms abuin their haunches.
Nicht pits an end to darksome day!--
In gairdens the last flouers is rottin,
While roond the kirk abuin the brae
The Deid lies, silent an forgotten.

IV

THE KNOCK

I LOE thy grave, auld-farrand face,
Glowerin frae its weel polished case;
Lang mey thy posies, limned wi grace,
Defy the stour,
Thy girnin guts, lang mey they trace
The fleetin oor.
A wonderin wean, I've gazed on thee,--
Thoo was sae solemn an sae hie;
Thy hollow wame was aye to me
The goblin's den:
To keek inside or tirl the key
Micht bring him ben!
For i' the derk I've heard him squeal,
Or scamper on ilk gut an wheel,
An tho there couldna be a deil
In sic a box,
Yet fou o fear, to bed I'd steal,
An dream o clocks.
The mystery was but a moose
Thy soondin boards haed been its hoose;
An noo Time's turned the goblin lowse
That held me braithless
I smile to think that sic a ruse
Keepit thee scaithless.

V

CAULD COMFORT

THE congregation o the Lord
Assembles in its blacks
To herken to His Holy Wird
An a' the neebors' cracks:
On horny luif the beadle bears
Aloft the sacred Beuk,
A wee thing blate he taks the stairs
As grave as ony rook
On Peelie Braes.*
He launds the Bible wi a bang
That raises up the stour;
The youngsters, thinkin something's wrang,
Starts geeglin as they glower:
Or ye can wink he's doon again,
An suin the twa appears--
Auld "Blethers" pechin i' the van,
He, bringin up the rear
Wi dour respeck.
The preacher frae his perch, abuin,
Reproves wi patient ee
The hinmaist waggin tongue, an suin
Their lugs is cockin hie,
For the prezentor, on his feet,
His tunin fork a-dirlin,
Yerks oot Kilmernock wi a bleat,
That sets the meetin skirlin
Wi a' its micht.
Some weemen picks their neebor's hat
To pieces as they sing,
Or tries to pacify the brat
They'd little sense to bring;
An when at last the guid mon prays,
While lads at lassies peeps,
The deif, no hearin what he says,
Is temptit sair to sleep
In spite o a'.
A hush o expectation fa's
When oot the text he gies,
An suin the nakit saul he claws
For speeritual fleas
The bottle an the harlot baith
Come in for condemnation--
The guilty sich wi baited braith,
The sleepy wi vexation
At bein roused.
It's no in mortal mon to gie
The substance o his rantin,
An tho to giddy hichts he'd flee,
Yet praisently he's pantin--
For see!--he plods the Nerrow Wey
An aft inclined to greet is
The while the bairns wi pennies plays
Or settles doon to sweeties
An siclike trash.
In mental mist they sit like craws--
A patient congregation--
His seeventh heid nae dout the cause
O muckle speculation,
Till signs appear he's drawin near
The end o his lang tether,
An rustlin hymn-beuks maks it clear
They're weary o his blether
An wantin hame.
An noo they're feelin for their hats
Or trampin on folk's taes--
A hoosewife thinkin on her pats,
A sinner on his weys:
Syne oot an doon the steps they poor,--
His dreich harangue forgotten--
For wames reminds them o the oor
An hameward sets them trottin
To sup their kail.

*A rookery near Duns.

VI
CHILDHOOD'S HAME
THE reek o burnin tattie shaws
Drifts throu the privet hedge, or fa's
In a blue haze on ruif an wa's,
An sends me postin
To seek some shelter,--
It's the cause o a' this hoastin.
The gairdner turns to clink the yett,
His day's darg duin--it's growin late;
A mavis ca'in to his mate
Staps short to listen;
On rockeries weel tent an nait
The dewdraps glistens.
Belated jeckdaws fleein ower
Is answered frae the Boston Touer
Bi a wheen brethren wi a shouer
O angry taunts--
(To wauken folk at sic an oor
Wad try the saunts).
A braith o Autumn stirs the air,
Deid leaves on grevel paths declares
The fashious truith--the gairden's bare,
Its grozets duin,
The aiples, pou'd wi jealous care
Is gether't in.
The curfew's ringin up the toon,
Auld Katie's skirlin--"It'll suin
Be bedtime," for the hervest muin
Glowers like a clock;
But to the happy, carefree loon
Time hes nae stroke.
Wi you an me it's itherwice--
The years haes pilfered mony a prize,
Yet hairts aye turns whaur childhood lies--
A played-oot gemme;
Shades i' the gloamin seems to rise
An ca' us Hame.

FORFOUCHEN

WAS ever mon in sic a mood,
Warslin wi rhymes that wunna come!
The Deil confoond the stubborn brood
That gaurs me claw my cranium
For hoors on end until the sweet
Rins doon my haffet like a burn;
The Muse's gleg poetic feet
Ootstrips my wuts at ilka turn.
Wi a' the cogs in this auld pate
I still come hirplin far ahint,
For ye maun ken she haes me bate--
She beckons when my braith I've tint!

ITHER FOLK

Oor poet hopes this grim review
Provides fuid for reflection;
Thae "ither folk" he sees in you,
For he himsel's perfection!
SOME folk maks gods o their ain bellies,
Aye gloatin ower the pat an pan,
Puddins, an pastries, beef an jellies--
A puir releegion for a man!
Some glorifies the god o siller,
They bless the brazen haunds that gies,
But aye ignores the real Giver
Till Nick draps in an claims his fee.
Some flees to whuskey as a saviour
Frae miseries they daurna tell;
The gossips, watchin folk's behaviour
Wi clash suin hurries them to hell.
A plague on wifes that catter-batters,
That rattles on wi micht an main;
Deivin folk wi din an clatter--
The tapmaist tongues is aye their ain!
An some puir doitit, feckless bodies
Spends a' their time ower claes an gear,
An lays sic stress on what the mode is--
They juidge ye bi the breeks ye wier.
An some attends baith kirk an meetin,
For it's genteel to praise an pray,
Some ower their pains or griefs is greetin
For want o something else to dae.
An some, they'll gie ye saxpence farthin
As tho it were the Holy Grail,
Ithers, the hale o their life's warslin
Wi hauns that speaks, but lips that fails.

PROGRESS

A QUEER warld this we live in noo,
Nae kind o place for me an you,--
Buses an motors chairgin throu
'Mang scuttlin folk,
Wi squealin brakes to gaur ye grue
An fumes that chokes.
Gin ye're no scomfished bi their stink,
They'll rin ye ower or ye can think
Hoo best to circumvent or jink
This cursed speed
In spite o coloured lichts that blinks,
They'll ding ye deid.
Abuin oor heids, wi bummin din,
Thae fleein furies derts or rins
A' ower the lift while gomerils grins,
An thinks it graund;
Wae's me! the Deil's amang his kin
An taen commaund.
Noo, in oor hooses, shops an banks,
This bottlt lichtenin plays its pranks,
Turns nicht to day, or sets oor cranks
An wheels in motion;
Gaun to the kirk, it saves oor shanks,
An aids devotion.
The eternal mysteries o God
Throu keekin telescopes they'll prod!
Even the Scripturs wi a rod
They'll try to meesure!--
A' their consaits but scart the sod
An miss the Treasure.
Oor days is fou o noisy trams,
O telephones an telegrams,
O croodit causies, weans in prams,--
A perfect staw
Green fields o childhood wi their lambs
Seems far awa.
An noo to end this brief summation,
Folk droons their cares in dissipation
Releegion's lost her reputation
A' ower the laun
Fear's busy drillin tribe an nation
On ilka haun.

GREYFRIARS CATS

SHE staun's, a buirdly Hoose o God,
Fowersquare to ilka wund that blaws,
A sitty but a classic sod
Surroonds her covenantin wa's.
An tho her Gospel barn's gey tuim
She's no wi'oot her mice an rats;
But e'en the Plagues o Egyp looms
As nocht aside her plague o cats.
They're lowpin on the auld heidstanes,
Or caterwaulin on a thruch,
Syne scuttlin aff ower martyrs' banes
To speel some wa' as hie's a heuch.
A tortoiseshell--a mangy bruit
Wi Maister Carstares* taks her nap,
Ithers wi Henderson**'ll sit
An sair defile that guid mon's lap.
Bluidy Mackenzie an the lave
Can get nae peace for their wild pranks,
Bi day an nicht, on ilka grave
They yell like wutches i' the branks.
They've pitched on Adam's mausoleum
To cairy oot their deevilish rites,
An ony nicht ye like ye'll see 'em
Desecratin oor sacred sites.
In a' this haly grund there's no
A spot but scabbit dowps hae sat on't,
Frae Jinglin Geordie's to the Raw***
There's no a stane but hes its cat on't.
But to the cure!--Gin I'd a gun
Amang the sancts I'd stalk the sinners,
I'd see the guid wark truly duin
An Greyfriars cats wad dee in hunners.

*William Carstares (1649-1715): the Presbyterian divine; friend an Scottish adviser of William Ill.

**Alexander Henderson (1583?-1646): leader of the Scottish church at the time of the National Covenant and the subsequent Civil War.

*** From Heriot's Hospital to Candlemaker Row.

A SNUFFBOX HUNT

To E.M.S.
STEERIN aboot the toon ae day
In search o curious baubles,
I turnt an Antiqarian tae
Up Leddy Lawson's cobbles:
Speirin for boxes here an there
Frae Laurencekirk or Mauchline,
'Mang jougs an Portobello ware,
'Mid gless an pewter trauchlin
The wily Jew.
While thus I nosed aboot an pree'd--
Wi sudden joy I kent it!--
A Mauchline snuffbox I espied
In tartan brawly pentit.
Turnin it roond wi careless mien--
"'It's rubbit sair an scartit,
In sic a state no worth a preen,"
I said, an aff I startit
To spotch yince mair.
Ahint, the eager Israelite
Follow't like ony duggie
To whaur, hauf-hidden frae my sicht,
A box frae Laurencekirk lay.
I flourished banknotes ower his pate,
Nigh speechless wi emotion,
Fishin wi siller for a bait
I played him oot wi caution
That fatefu day.
Twa bonnie boxes for my pains
I thocht wis unco treasure;
The Hebrew, coontin up his gains,
Was bouin low wi plaesur.
O happy is the mon an blest,
Thrice happier the wummun,
That picks the prize an ends the quest
Or ithers thinks o comin
To speir that gait.

THE DRUNKEN PIPER

BLAW up yer pipes an gaur them skirl!
Throu cuts an hechems* cairy on!
Set a' the lassies in a whirl
Wi springs like "Pretty Marion."
Blaw till the skirts flees roond aboot,
An petticoats provokes yer ee,
Till eichtsomes, twirlin in an oot,
Wi skreichs an hoochin faster flees.
Tune in yer drones an dinna stint--
Their heels is youkin for the fluir;
Blaw till yer hinmaist braith's nigh tint,
Deil damn yer chanter gin ye spare!
Blaw till the sets is oot o braith,
An suin or syne ye'll hae yer dram--
But, Lord preserve us!--shuir as daith
The mon's aboot as fou as I am.

*Muisical terms used in pipin.