January 25, 1759; the birth of Scotland’s favorite bard, Robert Burns, who wrote many works celebrating love, life, friendship and drink and who was known to enjoy a “wee dram” himself. Ironically, he also earned his living for a while as an excise man, ensuring that the government was not bamboozled out of the tax due on spirits.
(Translations are given at the end of the poem for Scots’ words)
“Gie him strong drink, until he wink,
That’s sinking in despair;
An’ liquor guid to fire his bluid,
That’s prest wi’ grief an’ care;
There let him bouse, an’ deep carouse,
Wi’ bumpers flowing o’er,
Till he forgets his loves or debts,
An’ minds his griefs no more.”–SOLOMON’S PROVERB, xxxi. 6, 7.
[“I here enclose you,” said Burns, 20 March, 1786, to his friend
Kennedy, “my Scotch Drink; I hope some time before we hear the gowk,
to have the pleasure of seeing you at Kilmarnock: when I intend we
shall have a gill between us, in a mutchkin stoup.”]
Let other poets raise a fracas
‘Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ dru’ken Bacchus,
An’ crabbit names and stories wrack us,
An’ grate our lug,
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
In glass or jug.
O, thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch drink;
Whether thro’ wimplin’ worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream o’er the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink,
To sing thy name!
Let husky wheat the haughs adorn,
An’ aits set up their awnie horn,
An’ pease an’ beans, at e’en or morn,
Perfume the plain,
Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn,
Thou king o’ grain!
On thee aft Scotland chows her cood,
In souple scones, the wale o’ food!
Or tumblin’ in the boilin’ flood
Wi’ kail an’ beef;
But when thou pours thy strong heart’s blood,
There thou shines chief.
Food fills the wame an’ keeps us livin’;
Tho’ life’s a gift no worth receivin’
When heavy dragg’d wi’ pine an’ grievin’;
But, oil’d by thee,
The wheels o’ life gae down-hill, scrievin,’
Wi’ rattlin’ glee.
Thou clears the head o’ doited Lear;
Thou cheers the heart o’ drooping Care;
Thou strings the nerves o’ Labour sair,
At’s weary toil;
Thou even brightens dark Despair
Wi’ gloomy smile.
Aft, clad in massy, siller weed,
Wi’ gentles thou erects thy head;
Yet humbly kind in time o’ need,
The poor man’s wine,
His wee drap parritch, or his bread,
Thou kitchens fine.
Thou art the life o’ public haunts;
But thee, what were our fairs an’ rants?
Ev’n godly meetings o’ the saunts,
By thee inspir’d,
When gaping they besiege the tents,
Are doubly fir’d.
That merry night we get the corn in,
O sweetly then thou reams the horn in!
Or reekin’ on a new-year morning
In cog or dicker,
An’ just a wee drap sp’ritual burn in,
An’ gusty sucker!
When Vulcan gies his bellows breath,
An’ ploughmen gather wi’ their graith,
O rare! to see thee fizz an’ freath
I’ th’ lugget caup!
Then Burnewin comes on like Death
At ev’ry chap.
Nae mercy, then, for airn or steel;
The brawnie, bainie, ploughman chiel,
Brings hard owrehip, wi’ sturdy wheel,
The strong forehammer,
Till block an’ studdie ring an’ reel
Wi’ dinsome clamour.
When skirlin’ weanies see the light,
Thou maks the gossips clatter bright,
How fumblin’ cuifs their dearies slight;
Wae worth the name!
Nae howdie gets a social night,
Or plack frae them.
When neibors anger at a plea,
An’ just as wud as wud can be,
How easy can the barley-bree
Cement the quarrel!
It’s aye the cheapest lawyer’s fee,
To taste the barrel.
Alake! that e’er my muse has reason
To wyte her countrymen wi’ treason!
But monie daily weet their weason
Wi’ liquors nice,
An’ hardly, in a winter’s season,
E’er spier her price.
Wae worth that brandy, burning trash!
Fell source o’ monie a pain an’ brash!
Twins monie a poor, doylt, druken hash,
O’ half his days;
An’ sends, beside, auld Scotland’s cash
To her warst faes.
Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well,
Ye chief, to you my tale I tell,
Poor plackless devils like mysel’,
It sets you ill,
Wi’ bitter, dearthfu’ wines to mell,
Or foreign gill.
May gravels round his blather wrench,
An’ gouts torment him inch by inch,
Wha twists his gruntle wi’ a glunch
O’ sour disdain,
Out owre a glass o’ whiskey punch
Wi’ honest men;
O whiskey! soul o’ plays an’ pranks!
Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes–they rattle i’ their ranks
At ither’s a—-s!
Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost!
Scotland lament frae coast to coast!
Now colic grips, an’ barkin’ hoast,
May kill us a’;
For loyal Forbes’ charter’d boast,
Is ta’en awa.
Thae curst horse-leeches o’ th’ Excise,
Wha mak the whiskey stells their prize!
Haud up thy han’, Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
There, seize the blinkers!
An’ bake them up in brunstane pies
For poor d–n’d drinkers.
Fortune! if thou’ll but gie me still
Hale breeks, a scone, an’ whiskey gill,
An’ rowth o’ rhyme to rave at will,
Tak’ a’ the rest,
An’ deal’t about as thy blind skill
Directs thee best.
|crabbit=bad tempered, cross
Leeze me on=an expression of extreme pleasure
chows her cood=chews her cud
wale=the pick, choice
kail=a curly variety of cabbage
graith=harness for horses
lugget caup=cup with projecting handles
owrehip=striking metal by raising a hammer over the shoulder
studdie ring=anvil ring
skirlin’ weanies=screaming children
plack=a small copper coin (worth about one-third of a penny)
doylt, drucken hash=muddled, drunken mess