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THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.

BY ROBERT BURNS, --1759-96.

[ROBERT BURNS, the son of a farmer, was born in the parish of Alloway, near Ayr, on the 25th of January, 1759. His father, a man of sterling worth and intelligence, gave him a sound education. The first edition of Robert Burns' poems was published at Kilmarnock, in 1786. Various circumstances caused him to think of trying his fortune in the West Indies, and he was on the point of sailing for Jamaica when he was induced to go to Edinburgh. There he was received with unexampled popularity, and a second edition of his poems realized upwards of gool. With a portion of this, Burns took the farm of Ellisland on the Nith, Dumfriesshire, married his “bonny Jean,” and commenced his new occupation on Whitsunday, 1788. He had obtained an appointment as an exciseman, and the duties of his office, together with his careless and convivial habits, so interfered with the management of his farm, that in three years he was glad to abandon it. In 1791, he removed to the town of Dumfries, subsisting entirely on his salary as exciseman, which yielded him about 701, a year. He died at Dumfries on the 21st of July, 1796, aged thirty-seven years and six months. Ilis poems are too well known and appreciated to require any enumeration ; they circulate throughout all lands, and in every shape, and have not yet “ gathered all their fame."]

Y loved, my honour'd, much-respected friend !
W No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,

My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise :
To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,

The lowly train in life's sequester’d scene; The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;

What Aiken in a cottage would have been ; Ah! though his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween! November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh ;

The shortening winter-day is near a close ; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh ;

The blackening trains o' craws to their repose : The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes,

This night his weekly moil is at an end, Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,

Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary, o'er the muir, his course does hameward bend. At length his lonely cot appears in view,

Beneath the shelter of an aged tree ;
Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin', stacher through

To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin' bonnilie,

His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
The lisping infant prattling on his knee,

Does a' his weary carkin' cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.

Belyve the elder bairns come drappin'in,

At service out amang the farmers roun';
Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin

A cannie errand to a peebor town:
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown,

In youthfu' bloom, love sparklin' in her e'e,
Comes hame, perhaps, to show a braw new gown,

Or deposit her sair-won penny fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

Wi' joy unfeign'd brothers and sisters meet,

And each for other's weelfare kindly spiers : The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnoticed fleet ;

Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears;
The parents, partial, eye their hopefu' years :

Anticipation forward points the view :
The Mother, wi' her needle and her shears,

Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new;
The Father mixes a' wi' admonition due.

Their masters' and their mistresses' command

The younkers a' are warned to obey ;
And mind their labours wi' an eydent hand,

And ne'er, though out o' sight, to jauk or play ; “And O! be sure to fear the LORD alway!

And mind your duty duly morn and night! Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,

Implore His counsel and assisting might : They never sought in vain that sought the LORD aright.”

But, hark! a rap comes gently to the door :

Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same, Tells how a neebor lad cam'o'er the moor,

To do some errands, and convoy her hame. The wily mother sees the conscious flame

Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and Aush her cheek; With heart-struck anxious care inquires his name,

While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak : Weel pleased the mother hears it's nae wild worthless rake.

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Wi' kindly welcome Jenny brings him ben :

A strappin' youth ! he tak's the mother's eye ;

Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill-ta'en ;

The father cracks o' horses, pleughs, and kye. The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy,

But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave ; The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy

What mak's the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave : Weel pleased to think her bairn's respectit like the lave.

O happy love! where love like this is found !

O heartfelt raptures ! bliss beyond compare ! I've paced much this weary, mortal round,

And sage experience bids me this declare“ If Heav'n a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,

One cordial in this melancholy vale, 'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair,

In other's arms breathe out the tender tale, Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.”

Is there, in human form, that bears a heart

A wretch ! a villain ! lost to love and truth !
That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,

Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth ?
Curse on his perjured arts ! dissembling smooth !

Are honour, virtue, conscience, all exiled ?
Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,

Points to the parents fondling o'er their child ! Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction wild ?

But now the supper crowns their simple board,

The halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food; The sowp their only hawkie does afford,

That 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood; The dame brings forth in complimental mood,

To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell,
And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it gude;

The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell,
How 'twas a towmond auld, sin' lint was i' the bell.

The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face,

They round the ingle form a circle wide ; The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,

The big ha’-Bible, ance his father's pride;
His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,

His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare ;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,

He wales a portion with judicious care,
And “ Let us worship God!” he siys, with solemn air.

They chant their artless notes in simple guise :

They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim : Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,

Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name ; Or noble Elgin beets the heav'nward flame,

The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays : Compared wi' these, Italian trills are tame;

The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise ; Nae unison ha’e they wi' our Creator's praise.

The priest-like father reads the sacred page,

How Abram was the friend of God on high : Or Moses bade eternal warfare wage

With Amalek's ungracious progeny ; Or how the royal bard did groaning lie

Beneath the stroke of Heavn's avenging ire ;
Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;

Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire ;
Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.

Perbaps the Christian volume is the theme,

How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed ; How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,

Had not on earth whereon to lay his head : How His first followers and servants sped ;

The precepts sage they wrote to many a land : How he, who lone in Patmos banished,

Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand; And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounced by Heaven's command.

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