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And ilka auld wife cried, Auld Mahoun,
luck o' the prize, man.
The deil's awa wi' the exciseman ;
He's danced awa wi' the exciseman!
We'll mak our maut, we'll brew our drink,
We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man;
That danced awa wi' the exciseman.
There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels,
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man; But the ae best dance e'er cam to the land,
Was, The deil's awa wi' the exciseman.*
* Mr Lockhart, in his excellent Life of Burns, gives the following account of the composition of this poem :" At that period, (1792), a great deal of contraband traffic, chiefly from the Isle of Man, was going on along the coasts of Galloway and Ayrshire, and the whole of the revenueofficers from Gretna to Dumfries, were placed under the orders of a superintendent residing in Annan, who exerted himself zealously in intercepting the descent of the smuggling vessels. On the 27th of February, a suspicious-looking brig was discovered in the Solway Frith, and Burns was one of the party whom the superintendent conducted to watch her motions. She got into shallow water the day afterwards, and the officers were enabled to discover that her crew were numerous, armed, and not likely to yield without a struggle. Lewars, a brother exciseman, an intimate friend of our poet, was accordingly sent to Dumfries for a guard of dragoons ; the superintendent, Mr Crawford, proceeded himself on a similar errand to Ecclefechan, and Burns was left, with some men under his orders, to watch the brig, and prevent landing or escape. From the private journal of one of the excisemen, (now in my hands,) it appears that Burns mani. fested considerable impatience while thus occupied, being left for many hours in a wet salt-marsh, with a force which he knew to be inadequate for the purpose it was meant to fulfil. One of his friends hearing him abuse Lewars in particular, for being slow about his journey, the man answered, that he also wished the devil had him for his pains, and that Burns, in the meantime, would do well to indite a song upon the sluggard. Burns said nothing; but after taking a few strides by himself among the reeds and shingle, rejoined his party, and chanted to them the wellknown ditty, 'The Deil's awa wi' the Exciseman.' Lewars arrived shortly after with the dragoons; and Burns, putting himself at their head, waded, sword in hand, to the brig, and was the first to board her. The crew lost heart, and submitted, though their numbers were greater than those of the assailing force. The vessel was condemned, and, with all her arms and stores, sold by auction next day at Dumfries; upon which occasion Burns, whose behaviour had been highly commended, thought fit to purchase four zarronades, by way of trophy. But his glee,” continues Mr Lockhart, .. went a step farther; he sent the guns with a letter to the French Coni
TO DANTON ME.
TUNE-To danton me.
The blude-red rose at Yule may blaw,
To danton me, and me sae young,
For a' his meal, for a' his maut,
He hirples twa-fauld, as he dow,
vention, requesting that body to accept them as a mark of his admiration and respect. The present, and its accompaniment, were intercepted at the customhouse at Dover; and here, there appears to be little room to doubt, was the principal circumstance that drew on Burns the notice of his jealous superiors. We were not, it is true, at war with France; but every one knew and felt that we were to be so ere long; and nobody can pretend that Burns was not guilty, on this occasion, of a most absurd and presumptuous breach of decorum."
linge From Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. II. 1788.
TO DANTON ME.
To danton me, and me sae young,
hand, My blue bonnet abune my bree, And shaw me the man that'll danton me !
It's nae the battle's deadly stoure,
0, I hae scarce to lay me on,
'Twas in that season of the year,
and sweet appear,
Awake, sweet Muse! The breathing spring
O look, my love ! on every spray
Oh, come, my love! Thy Colin's lay
O! hither haste, and with thee bring
'Twas when the wan leaf frae the birk-tree was fa'in', And Martinmas dowie bad wound
ир year, That Lucy row'd up her wee kist wi' her a' in't,
And left her auld maister and neebours sae dear : For Lucy had served in the Glen a' the simmer;
She cam there afore the flower blumed on the pea; An orphan was she, and they had been kind till her,
Sure that was the thing brocht the tear to her eo.
She gaed by the stable where Jamie was stannin';
Richt sair was his kind heart, the flittin' to see : Fare ye weel, Lucy! quo Jamie, and ran in ;
The gatherin' tears trickled fast frae his ee.
Fare ye weel, Lucy! was ilka bird's sang;
And Robin was chirpin't the brown leaves amang.
Oh, what is't that pits my puir heart in a flutter?
And what gars the tears come sae fast to my ee?
Richard Hewit, the author of this song, was employed by the blind poet Blacklock to act as his leader or guide during his residence in Cumberland; and for some years afterwards he served him as his amanuensis. I have not been able to perceive the song in any older collection than that of Herd, 1776. The air was composed by Oswald, about the beginning of the eighteenth century.
It is a somewhat remarkable circumstance regarding this exquisitely pathetic and beautiful little poem, that its author has written hardly any other thing of any description.