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INSCRIBED TO JOHN BALLANTYNE, ESQ., A YR.
The simple bard, rough at the rustic plough,
Learning his tuneful trade from every bough ;
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush,
Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the green-thorn bush ;
The soaring lark, the perching redbreast shrill,
Or deep-toned plovers, gray, wild-whistling o'er the hill :
Shall he, nurst in the peasant's lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
By early poverty to hardship steeld,
And train'd to arms in stern Misfortune's field-
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes ?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
With all the venal soul of dedicating prose ?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o'er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward!
Still, if some patron's generous care he trace,
Skill'd in the secret, to bestow with grace;
When Ballantyne befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heart-felt throes his grateful bosom swells,
The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.
'Twas when the stacks get on their winter-hap, And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap; Potato-bings are snuggèd up frae skaith O' coming Winter's biting, frosty breath ;
The bees, rejoicing o'er their summer toils, i
Unnumber'd buds' and flowers' delicious spoils
Seald up with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom'd by man, that tyrant o'er the weak,
The death o' devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone reek:
The thundering guns are heard on every side ; .
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide;
The feather'd field-mates, bound by Nature's tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm, poetic heart, but inly bleeds,
And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flower in field or meadow springs,
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except, perhaps, the robin's whistling glee,
Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree:
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide blaze,
While thick the gossamer waves wanton in the rays.
'Twas in that season, when a simple bard, Unknown and poor, simplicity's reward, Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr, By whim inspired, or haply prest wi' care, He left his bed, and took his wayward route, And down by Simpson's wheel'd the left about : (Whether impell’d by all-directing Fate, To witness what I after shall narrate; Or penitential pangs for former sins, Led him to rove by quondam Merran Dins; Or whether, rapt in meditation high, He wander'd out, he knew not where nor why.) The drowsy Dungeon clock had number'd two, And Wallace Tower had sworn the fact was true: The tide-swoln Firth, wi' sullen sounding roar, Through the still night dash'd hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush'd as Nature's closed ee:
The silent moon shone high o'er tower and tree :
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept, gently-crusting, o'er the glittering stream,
When, lo! on either hand the listening bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard ;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air,
Swift as the gos drives on the wheeling hare ;
Ane on the Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The ither flutters o'er the rising piers :
Our warlock rhymer instantly descried
The sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the spiritual folk ;
Fays, spunkies, kelpies, a', they can explain them,
And even the very deils they brawly ken them.)
Auld Brig appear'd o' ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles Gothic in his face:
He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstled lang,
Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.
New Brig was buskit in a braw new coat,
That he at Lon'on frae ane Adams got ;
In's hand five taper staves as smooth's a bead,
Wi' virls and whirlygigums at the head.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch ;-
It chanced his new-come neibor took his ee,
And e'en a vex'd and angry heart had he!
Wi thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guid e'en :-
I doubt na, frien', ye'll think ye're nae sheepshank, Ance ye were streekit owre frae bank to bank! But gin ye be a brig as auld as meThough, faith, that date I doubt ye'll never seeThere'll be, if that date come, I'll wad a boddle, Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle.
Auld Vandal, ye but show your little mense, Just much about it, wi' your scanty sense; Will your poor narrow footpath of a streetWhere twa wheelbarrows tremble when they meet -Your ruin'd, formless bulk o'stane and lime, Compare wi' bonny brigs o' modern time ? There's men o' taste would tak the Ducat Stream, Though they should cast the very sark and swim, Ere they would grate their feelings wi' the view ()'sic an ugly Gothic hulk as you.