Epistle To The Rev. John M'math

Sept. 13, 1785.

Inclosing A Copy Of "Holy Willie's Prayer," Which He Had Requested, Sept. 17, 1785

      While at the stook the shearers cow'r      To shun the bitter blaudin' show'r,      Or in gulravage rinnin scowr      To pass the time,      To you I dedicate the hour      In idle rhyme.       My musie, tir'd wi' mony a sonnet      On gown, an' ban', an' douse black bonnet,      Is grown right eerie now she's done it,      Lest they should blame her,      An' rouse their holy thunder on it      An anathem her.       I own 'twas rash, an' rather hardy,      That I, a simple, country bardie,      Should meddle wi' a pack sae sturdy,      Wha, if they ken me,      Can easy, wi' a single wordie,      Lowse hell upon me.       But I gae mad at their grimaces,      Their sighin, cantin, grace-proud faces,      Their three-mile prayers, an' half-mile graces,      Their raxin conscience,      Whase greed, revenge, an' pride disgraces      Waur nor their nonsense.       There's Gaw'n, misca'd waur than a beast,      Wha has mair honour in his breast      Than mony scores as guid's the priest      Wha sae abus'd him:      And may a bard no crack his jest      What way they've us'd him?       See him, the poor man's friend in need,      The gentleman in word an' deed-      An' shall his fame an' honour bleed      By worthless, skellums,      An' not a muse erect her head      To cowe the blellums?       O Pope, had I thy satire's darts      To gie the rascals their deserts,      I'd rip their rotten, hollow hearts,      An' tell aloud      Their jugglin hocus-pocus arts      To cheat the crowd.       God knows, I'm no the thing I should be,      Nor am I even the thing I could be,      But twenty times I rather would be      An atheist clean,      Than under gospel colours hid be      Just for a screen.       An honest man may like a glass,      An honest man may like a lass,      But mean revenge, an' malice fause      He'll still disdain,      An' then cry zeal for gospel laws,      Like some we ken.       They take religion in their mouth;      They talk o' mercy, grace, an' truth,      For what?-to gie their malice skouth      On some puir wight,      An' hunt him down, owre right and ruth,      To ruin straight.       All hail, Religion! maid divine!      Pardon a muse sae mean as mine,      Who in her rough imperfect line      Thus daurs to name thee;      To stigmatise false friends of thine      Can ne'er defame thee.       Tho' blotch't and foul wi' mony a stain,      An' far unworthy of thy train,      With trembling voice I tune my strain,      To join with those      Who boldly dare thy cause maintain      In spite of foes:       In spite o' crowds, in spite o' mobs,      In spite o' undermining jobs,      In spite o' dark banditti stabs      At worth an' merit,      By scoundrels, even wi' holy robes,      But hellish spirit.       O Ayr! my dear, my native ground,      Within thy presbyterial bound      A candid liberal band is found      Of public teachers,      As men, as Christians too, renown'd,      An' manly preachers.       Sir, in that circle you are nam'd;      Sir, in that circle you are fam'd;      An' some, by whom your doctrine's blam'd      (Which gies you honour)      Even, sir, by them your heart's esteem'd,      An' winning manner.       Pardon this freedom I have ta'en,      An' if impertinent I've been,      Impute it not, good Sir, in ane      Whase heart ne'er wrang'd ye,      But to his utmost would befriend      Ought that belang'd ye.