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Epistle To Mrs. Scott

Gudewife of Wauchope—House, Roxburghshire.

     Gudewife,

     I Mind it weel in early date,
     When I was bardless, young, and blate,
     An' first could thresh the barn,
     Or haud a yokin' at the pleugh;
     An, tho' forfoughten sair eneugh,
     Yet unco proud to learn:
     When first amang the yellow corn
     A man I reckon'd was,
     An' wi' the lave ilk merry morn
     Could rank my rig and lass,
     Still shearing, and clearing
     The tither stooked raw,
     Wi' claivers, an' haivers,
     Wearing the day awa.

     E'en then, a wish, (I mind its pow'r),
     A wish that to my latest hour
     Shall strongly heave my breast,
     That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
     Some usefu' plan or book could make,
     Or sing a sang at least.
     The rough burr-thistle, spreading wide
     Amang the bearded bear,
     I turn'd the weeder-clips aside,
     An' spar'd the symbol dear:
     No nation, no station,
     My envy e'er could raise;
     A Scot still, but blot still,
     I knew nae higher praise.

     But still the elements o' sang,
     In formless jumble, right an' wrang,
     Wild floated in my brain;
     'Till on that har'st I said before,
     May partner in the merry core,
     She rous'd the forming strain;
     I see her yet, the sonsie quean,
     That lighted up my jingle,
     Her witching smile, her pawky een
     That gart my heart-strings tingle;
     I fired, inspired,
     At every kindling keek,
     But bashing, and dashing,
     I feared aye to speak.

     Health to the sex! ilk guid chiel says:
     Wi' merry dance in winter days,
     An' we to share in common;
     The gust o' joy, the balm of woe,
     The saul o' life, the heaven below,
     Is rapture-giving woman.
     Ye surly sumphs, who hate the name,
     Be mindfu' o' your mither;
     She, honest woman, may think shame
     That ye're connected with her:
     Ye're wae men, ye're nae men
     That slight the lovely dears;
     To shame ye, disclaim ye,
     Ilk honest birkie swears.

     For you, no bred to barn and byre,
     Wha sweetly tune the Scottish lyre,
     Thanks to you for your line:
     The marled plaid ye kindly spare,
     By me should gratefully be ware;
     'Twad please me to the nine.
     I'd be mair vauntie o' my hap,
     Douce hingin owre my curple,
     Than ony ermine ever lap,
     Or proud imperial purple.
     Farewell then, lang hale then,
     An' plenty be your fa;
     May losses and crosses
     Ne'er at your hallan ca'!
R. Burns
March, 1787

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