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EPISTLE TO A YOUNG FRIEND.*
LANG hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho' it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento;
But how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine;
Perhaps, it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.
Ye'll try the world soon, my lad,
And Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye 'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end 's attained;
And a' your views may come to nought,
Where ev'ry nerve is strained.
* Andrew Aiken, of Ayr, son of the friend to whom Burns inscribed "The Cotter's Saturday Night."
I'll no say, men are villains a' :
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, Och! mankind are unco weak,
An' little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!
Yet they wha fa' in fortune's strife, Their fate we should na censure,
For still th' important end of life They equally may answer;
A man may hae an honest heart, Tho' poortith hourly stare him; A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
Aye free, aff-han' your story tell,
When wi' a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to ony.
Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
Frae critical dissection;
But keek thro' ev'ry other man,
Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.
The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th' illicit rove,
Tho' naething should divulge it;
I wave the quantum o' the sin,
The hazard o' concealing;
But Och! it hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!
To catch dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev'ry wile
That's justify'd by houour;
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train attendant; But for the glorious privilege Of being independent.
The fear o' hell's a hangman's whip,
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that aye be your border;
Its slightest touches, instant pause
Debar a' side pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
The great Creator to revere,
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
And evʼn the rigid feature;
Yet ne'er with wits profane to range,
Be complaisance extended;
An Atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
For Deity offended !
When ranting round in pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or, if she gie a random sting,
It may be a little minded;
But when on life we 're tempest-driv❜n,
A conscience but a canker —
A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n
Is sure a noble anchor !
Adieu, dear, amiable Youth!
Your heart can ne'er be wanting! May prudence, fortitude, and truth, Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, "God send you speed," Still daily to grow wiser;
And may you better reck the rede,
Than ever did th' Adviser!
ELEGY ON CAPTAIN MATTHEW HENDERSON,
A GENTLEMAN WHO HELD THE PATENT FOR HIS HONOURS IMMEDIATELY FROM ALMIGHTY GOD.
But now his radiant course is run,
For Matthew's course was bright:
His soul was like the glorious sun,
A matchless, Heav'nly Light.
DEATH! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikle devil wi' a woodie
Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie,
O'er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie
Wi' thy auld sides !
He's gane, he 's gane! he's frae us torn,
The ae best fellow e'er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature's sel shall mourn
By wood and wild,
Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn,
Frae man exil'd.