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Trowth, Cæsar, whyles they're fash't eneugh;
A cotter howkin in a sheugh,
Wi' dirty stanes biggin a dyke,
Baring a quarry, and siclike,
Himsel, a wife, he thus sustains,
A smytrie o' wee duddie weans,
An' nought but his han' darg, to keep
Them right and tight in thack an' rape.
An' when they meet wi' sair disasters,
Like loss o' health, or want o masters,
Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer,
An' they maun starve o' cauld and hunger ;
But, how it comes, I never kent yet,
They're maistly wonderfu' contented;
An' buirdly chiels an' clever hizzies
Are bred in sic a way as this is.
But then to see how ye're negleckit,
How huff'd, an' cuff’d, an' disrespeckit !
Lord, man, our gentry care as little
For delvers, ditchers, an' sic cattle,
They gang as saucy by poor folk,
As I wad by a stinking brock.
I've notic'd, on our Laird's court-day,
An' mony a time my heart's been wae,
Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash,
How they maun thole a factor's snash :
He'll stamp an' threaten, curse an’ swear,
He'll apprehend them, poind their gear;
While they maun stan’ wi' aspect humble,
An' hear it a', an' fear and tremble !
I see how folk live that hae riches :
But surely poor folk maun be wretches.
They're nae sae wretched's ane wad think, Tho' constantly on poortith's brink :
They're sae accustom'd wi’ the sight,
The view o't gies them little fright.
Then chance an' fortune are sae guided,
They're ay in less or mair provided ;
An' tho' fatigu'd wi' close employment,
A blink o' rest's a sweet enjoyment.
The dearest comfort o' their lives,
Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives ;
The prattling things are just their pride,
That sweetens a' their fire-side.
An' whyles twalpennie worth o’ nappy
Can mak the bodies unco happy;
They lay aside their private cares,
To mind the Kirk and State affairs ;
They'll talk o'patronage an' priests
Wi' kindling fury in their breasts,
Or tell what new taxation's comin,
An' ferlie at the folk in Lon'on.
As bleak-fac'd Hallowmass returns,
They get the jovial, ranting kirns,
When rural life, o ev'ry station,
Unite in common recreation ;
Love blinks, Wit slaps, an' social Mirth
Forgets there's Care upo' the earth.
That' merry day the year begins
They bar the door on frosty win's ;
The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream,
An' sheds a heart-inspiring steam;
The luntin pipe an sneeshin mill
Are handed round wi' right guid will ;
The cantie auld folks crackin crouse,
The young anes rantin thro’ the house, -
My heart has been sae fain to see them,
That I for joy hae barket wi' them.
Still it's owre true that ye hae said,
Sic game is now owre aften play'd.
There's monie a creditable stock
O’ decent, honest, fawsont folk
Are riven out baith root an' branch,
Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench,
Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster
In favour wi' some gentle Master,
Wha, ablins, thrang a parliamentin,
For Britain's guid his saul indentin-
Haith, lad, ye little ken about it ; For Britain's guid ! guid faith! I doubt it. Say rather, gaun as Premiers lead him, An’ saying aye or no's they bid him : At operas an' plays parading, Mortgaging, gambling, masqueradling : Or maybe, in a frolic daft, To Hague or Calais taks a waft, To make a tour an' tak a whirl, To learn bon ton an' see the worl'.
There, at Vienna or Versailles, * He rives his father's auld entails;
Or by Madrid he taks the rout,
To thrum guitars, an' fecht wi' nowt;
Or down Italian vista startles,
Love-making among groves o' myrtles :
Then bouses drumly German water,
To mak himsel look fair and fatter.
For Britain's guid ! for her destruction !
Wi' dissipation, feud, an' faction !
LUATH. Hech, man! dear sirs ! is that the gate They waste sae mony a braw estate ! Are we sae foughten an' harass'd For gear to gang that gate at last?
O would they stay aback frae courts, An' please themsels wi' countra sports, It wad for ev'ry ane be better, The Laird, the Tenant, an' the Cotter! For thae frank, rantin, ramblin billies, Fient haet o' them's ill-hearted fellows : Except for breaking o' their timmer, Or speaking lightly o’ their limmer, Or shootin o' a hare or moor-cock, The ne'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk.
But will ye tell me, Master Cæsar, Sure great folk's life's a life o' pleasure ?
Nae cauld nor hunger e'er can steer them,
The vera thought o't need na fear them.
Lord, man, were ye but whyles whare I am,
The gentles ye wad ne'er envy 'em.
It's true, they need na starve or sweat,
Thro’ winter's cauld, or simmer's heat ;
They've nae sair wark to craze their banes,
An' fill auld age wi' grips an' granes :
But human bodies are sic fools,
For a' their colleges and schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them,
They mak enow themsels to vex them ;
An' ay the less they hae to sturt them
In like proportion less will hurt them.
A country fellow at the pleugh,
His acre's till’d, he's right eneugb ;
A country girl at her wheel,
Her dizzen's done, she's unco weel :
But Gentlemen, an' Ladies warst,
Wi' ev'ndown want o'wark are curst.
They loiter, lounging, lank, an' lazy ;
Tho' deil haet ails them, yet uneasy :
Their days insipid, dull, an' tasteless;
Their nights unquiet, lang, an' restless;
An' even their sports, their balls an' races,
Their galloping thro’ public places,
There's sic parade, sic pomp an' art,
The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
The men cast out in party-matches,
Then sowther a' in deep debauches.
Ae night they're mad wi' drink an' roaring,
Niest day their life is past enduring.
The Ladies arm-in-arm in clusters,
As great an' gracious a' as sisters;
But hear their absent thoughts o'ither,
They're a' run deils an' jads thegither.
Whyles o'er the wee bit cup an' platie
They sip the scandal potion pretty ;
Or lee-lang nights wi' crabbit leuks
Pore owre the devil's pictur'd beuks ;
Stake on a chance a farmer's stackyard,
An' cheat like ony unhang'd blackguard.
There's some exception, man an’ woman;
But this is Gentry's life in common.
By this, the sun was out o'sight,
An' darker gloamin brought the night ;
The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone,
The kye stood rowtin i' the loan ;
When up they gat, an' shook their lugs,
Rejoic'd they were na men but dogs ;
An' each took aff his several way,
Resolv'd to meet some ither day.