Duan First[1]

     The sun had clos'd the winter day,
     The curless quat their roarin play,
     And hunger'd maukin taen her way,
     To kail-yards green,
     While faithless snaws ilk step betray
     Whare she has been.

     The thresher's weary flingin-tree,
     The lee-lang day had tired me;
     And when the day had clos'd his e'e,
     Far i' the west,
     Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie,
     I gaed to rest.

     There, lanely by the ingle-cheek,
     I sat and ey'd the spewing reek,
     That fill'd, wi' hoast-provoking smeek,
     The auld clay biggin;
     An' heard the restless rattons squeak
     About the riggin.

     All in this mottie, misty clime,
     I backward mus'd on wasted time,
     How I had spent my youthfu' prime,
     An' done nae thing,
     But stringing blethers up in rhyme,
     For fools to sing.

     Had I to guid advice but harkit,
     I might, by this, hae led a market,
     Or strutted in a bank and clarkit
     My cash-account;
     While here, half-mad, half-fed, half-sarkit.
     Is a' th' amount.

     I started, mutt'ring, "blockhead! coof!"
     And heav'd on high my waukit loof,
     To swear by a' yon starry roof,
     Or some rash aith,
     That I henceforth wad be rhyme-proof
     Till my last breath—

     When click! the string the snick did draw;
     An' jee! the door gaed to the wa';
     An' by my ingle-lowe I saw,
     Now bleezin bright,
     A tight, outlandish hizzie, braw,
     Come full in sight.

     Ye need na doubt, I held my whisht;
     The infant aith, half-form'd, was crusht
     I glowr'd as eerie's I'd been dusht
     In some wild glen;
     When sweet, like honest Worth, she blusht,
     An' stepped ben.

     Green, slender, leaf-clad holly-boughs
     Were twisted, gracefu', round her brows;
     I took her for some Scottish Muse,
     By that same token;
     And come to stop those reckless vows,
     Would soon been broken.

     A "hair-brain'd, sentimental trace"
     Was strongly marked in her face;
     A wildly-witty, rustic grace
     Shone full upon her;
     Her eye, ev'n turn'd on empty space,
     Beam'd keen with honour.

     Down flow'd her robe, a tartan sheen,
     Till half a leg was scrimply seen;
     An' such a leg! my bonie Jean
     Could only peer it;
     Sae straught, sae taper, tight an' clean—
     Nane else came near it.

     Her mantle large, of greenish hue,
     My gazing wonder chiefly drew:
     Deep lights and shades, bold-mingling, threw
     A lustre grand;
     And seem'd, to my astonish'd view,
     A well-known land.

     Here, rivers in the sea were lost;
     There, mountains to the skies were toss't:
     Here, tumbling billows mark'd the coast,
     With surging foam;
     There, distant shone Art's lofty boast,
     The lordly dome.

     Here, Doon pour'd down his far-fetch'd floods;
     There, well-fed Irwine stately thuds:
     Auld hermit Ayr staw thro' his woods,
     On to the shore;
     And many a lesser torrent scuds,
     With seeming roar.

     Low, in a sandy valley spread,
     An ancient borough rear'd her head;
     Still, as in Scottish story read,
     She boasts a race
     To ev'ry nobler virtue bred,
     And polish'd grace.[2]

     By stately tow'r, or palace fair,
     Or ruins pendent in the air,
     Bold stems of heroes, here and there,
     I could discern;
     Some seem'd to muse, some seem'd to dare,
     With feature stern.

     My heart did glowing transport feel,
     To see a race heroic[3] wheel,
     And brandish round the deep-dyed steel,
     In sturdy blows;
     While, back-recoiling, seem'd to reel
     Their Suthron foes.

     His Country's Saviour,[4] mark him well!
     Bold Richardton's heroic swell;[5]
     The chief, on Sark who glorious fell,[6]
     In high command;
     And he whom ruthless fates expel
     His native land.

     There, where a sceptr'd Pictish shade
     Stalk'd round his ashes lowly laid,[7]
     I mark'd a martial race, pourtray'd
     In colours strong:
     Bold, soldier-featur'd, undismay'd,
     They strode along.

     Thro' many a wild, romantic grove,[8]
     Near many a hermit-fancied cove
     (Fit haunts for friendship or for love,
     In musing mood),
     An aged Judge, I saw him rove,
     Dispensing good.

     With deep-struck, reverential awe,
     The learned Sire and Son I saw:[9]
     To Nature's God, and Nature's law,
     They gave their lore;
     This, all its source and end to draw,
     That, to adore.

     Brydon's brave ward[10] I well could spy,
     Beneath old Scotia's smiling eye:
     Who call'd on Fame, low standing by,
     To hand him on,
     Where many a patriot-name on high,
     And hero shone.

Duan, a term of Ossian's for the different divisions of a digressive poem. See his Cath-Loda, vol. 2 of M'Pherson's translation.—R. B.


The seven stanzas following this were first printed in the Edinburgh edition, 1787. Other stanzas, never published by Burns himself, are given on p. 180.


The Wallaces.—R. B.


William Wallace.—R.B.


Adam Wallace of Richardton, cousin to the immortal preserver of Scottish independence.—R.B.


Wallace, laird of Craigie, who was second in command under Douglas, Earl of Ormond, at the famous battle on the banks of Sark, fought anno 1448. That glorious victory was principally owing to the judicious conduct and intrepid valour of the gallant laird of Craigie, who died of his wounds after the action.—R.B.


Coilus, King of the Picts, from whom the district of Kyle is said to take its name, lies buried, as tradition says, near the family seat of the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, where his burial—place is still shown.—R.B.


Barskimming, the seat of the Lord Justice— Clerk.—R.B.


Catrine, the seat of the late Doctor and present Professor Stewart.—R.B.


Colonel Fullarton.—R.B. This gentleman had travelled under the care of Patrick Brydone, author of a well-known "Tour Through Sicily and Malta."